SMART Recovery - A Guest Post by Kevin Geary of The Rebooted Body
This is a guest post from Kevin Geary, creator of The Rebooted Body blog and host of The Rebooted Body Podcast. Kevin shows people how to reprogram their body and mind for rapid weight loss, vibrant health, and peak performance. I wanted to give him an opportunity to share with you some of his advice on bouncing back from injury and think he did a great job showing how you can be SMART with your recovery!
Last week I called to check in with a brand new client of mine who was in his second week of my Total Body Reboot program.
"Brendan, how's it going so far?" The voice on the other end of the line wasn't sounding too confident. Without hesitation he replied, "I'm out."
"What do you mean, you're out?" I asked.
"I'm done. I was playing racquetball a few days ago and I tore a muscle in my leg."
Of course, racquetball isn't in the activity protocol I gave him. The only thing he was supposed to be doing was walking -- a lot. Apparently he ignored my advice and -- like so many -- decided to get his "workout" through sports participation.
There's a good reason I tell people to avoid sports for their fitness or activity protocol at all costs. First and foremost, sports are designed to make you better at sports, not to make you healthier or more functional. Second, they have an astronomically high injury rate compared to functional exercise. And being injured is like slamming on the brakes for most people. All bets are off and health goes straight downhill.
Injury is bad for two reasons: it makes life suck and it has a knack for causing people to drop the ball and give up altogether. Brendan was on track to make great changes in his life and now he's resolved to pull out a sleeve of Oreos and call it a day because he's injured and doesn't feel like he can make any progress. So why try?
As a coach, I tried my damnedest to talk him out of giving up, but he was so early into this thing it was impossible to convince him.
Another one bites the dust.
Even if you don't do sports, injury is always a potential outcome of life. When I was in high school, a girl I worked with broke her ankle stepping off a curb. She was relatively fit and mobile and just had a slight misstep that resulted in being in a cast for 6 or 8 weeks. Another girl I knew was kicked by her horse and ended up bedridden for weeks with a shattered pelvis.
Being injured doesn't have to derail us from our goals. It doesn't even have to slow us down if we have a strategy and positive outlook for dealing with it when it happens. I've outlined five strategies below which you can easily remember with the acronym SMART.
One of the first things I teach people who want to make big changes to their weight and body composition is that 80-90% of your goals are going to be reached by optimizing what you feed your body. This is important when talking about injury recovery for two reasons: it assures people that they can continue to lose weight during injury by continuing to focus on food (and not give up altogether) and nutrition is the key to recovery itself.
When you give your body nutrient dense foods to work with, repair is expedited. There's nothing better for injury recovery than dense sources of micronutrients.
Depending on the type of injury, mobilizing the affected area and surrounding areas can be an effective strategy for expediting recovery. This is especially true for nagging, less serious injuries or overuse injuries. Even with more serious injuries like a broken or severely sprained ankle, knee, etc. rehabilitation and mobility work is key to restoring full movement and function after healing.
For example, once you've sprained an ankle you are more likely to re-sprain that ankle again in the future. Multiple studies have concluded that proprioception exercises and mobility treatments to the affected ankle greatly decreases the risk of re-injury. So it's not just the rehabilitation component that's important, but the prevention component as well.
Typically an injury either affects the lower body or the upper body. If you had a choice, you'd probably want the injury to affect the upper body. But, in either case, there's always an alternative exercise protocol we can follow.
An upper body injury doesn't prevent you from walking. And it doesn't prevent you from doing bodyweight strength training with a focus on the lower body, and vice versa. There is always an alternative and it's imperative that you find it.
Another key to fast, effective recovery is rest. And the definition of rest isn't limited to staying off the affected area; it's also about sleep and stress. Good luck recovering from injury quickly when there's a bunch of excess systemic inflammation and cortisol coursing through your body -- the type of inflammation caused by low quality or low quantity sleep and stress.
You should be getting 8-9 hours of sleep in a pitch black room every night for optimal performance anyway, but especially when trying to recover from injury.
On top of that, sunlight exposure, meditation, and deep breathing to relieve stress and keep your body relaxed all help speed recovery. Lastly, the more serious or debilitating the injury is, the more positive your attitude towards recovery needs to be.
As you work to heal with sustenance, mobility, alternatives, and rest, it's important to target -- which is to say, set a timeline for recovery. This target date or series of target dates is an important psychological factor because it gives you a tangible measure of progress and enhances your focus on the goal of recovery.
Think about those who are injured who mope around with no positive outlook and no timeline for rehabilitation; the body works and heals better when you're on a mission. Set realistic target dates for recovery and hold yourself accountable to the schedule by being tenacious with regards to the four previous SMART guidelines.
Have you stayed on track through injury or fallen off the wagon as a result of one? Share your thoughts and advice in the comments.