Recovering from an injury is an exercise routine in and of itself. It takes discipline, patience, and an incredible amount of self-control. When you’re nursing a running injury, it’s important to partake in what physical therapists call “active rest” in order to come back strong.
Active rest involves activities that keep your body fit without causing harm. You should focus on exercises that strengthen and/or maintain the strength of different body systems. For example, cross-training via cycling, swimming, or rowing will keep your cardiovascular system strong while you rest your legs. You can also take Pilates for core strengthening, yoga for basic conditioning and flexibility, and other classes that help keep your muscles strong while your body is healing. (Let the class instructors know that you’re recovering from an injury so they can help you modify the workout as needed.)
Some injuries require longer periods of rest than others. During your recovery, keep in mind that rest is just as vital as exercise and that your body needs both equally in order to function optimally.
The bread and butter of recovery is keeping fit using other forms of exercise. However, you can’t forget that proper nutrition will facilitate healing and recovery of the muscles and other soft tissue (tendons, ligaments). Think of your body as a tree, which needs water and proper sunlight to stay alive. Your body needs to be hydrated and needs the proper nutrition in order for the healing process to occur efficiently. Injuries take longer to heal if nutritional needs aren’t met.
Overall, your recovery from an injury requires the same drive and determination that training for a race does. If you can maintain that same focus while you’re recovering, you’ll give yourself the best chance of coming back strong.
Varsha Parasram is a physical therapist in Hospital for Special Surgery’s rehabilitation department. She received her doctorate in physical therapy from Columbia University. Prior to becoming a physical therapist, she coached high school boys’ and girls’ cross country and track and field through NYC PSAL. She is a lifelong runner and has completed two marathons and many other races. Her clinical interests include sports-related injuries and how they relate to musculoskeletal deficits.