Life is nothing if not unpredictable. You can do all the right things: eat the right amounts of the right food at the right times, exercise regularly, get the right amount of rest when your body needs it. You can have years of these habits and be in peak shape one day and the next day be injured in a fall, an unexpected incident, a car accident…etc. All signs point to a full recovery, but as your body heals, it can be discouraging to watch your muscle mass start to decline, especially if you’re temporarily immobilized.
It will take some time to get back to where you were…but the good news is, thanks to your muscle memory, getting back in shape after an unexpected break will be far easier than it may have been the first time around.
Below are some proven methods to help regain the muscle mass you once had after an accident or injury:
1. Rest Up
This seems like an odd suggestion after spending weeks of doing little else but resting. All the same, getting the proper amount of rest is important to every aspect of your health, including rebuilding muscle mass. In fact, it’s during those recommended eight hours of sleep that your body actually works to rebuild muscle. Sleep is not the only essential rest you will need, however. It’s also important to take days off from your workout regime so that your body can settle and prepare itself for the next workout.
Remember: pushing your body too far in your workout and failing to rest will never achieve positive results. In the best case, you’ll just find yourself exhausted with no real sign of progress. In the worst case, you could cause serious injury to yourself.
2. Use The Right Cool Therapy to Reduce Heat & Inflammation Around the Injury
When your body is injured, it reacts with swelling and heat around the injured area. When this swelling occurs, it restricts blood flow to the injured area, not allowing the injury to receive proper airflow and nutrients. Cold therapy, while it can reduce swelling, can create the same problem as well – if the area cools too much, blood flow can be restricted. This is why controlled cooling therapy is the ideal solution to provide heat and inflammation reduction, but not cooling to such an extreme that it restricts healthy blood flow to the injured area.
3. Start Exercising Again--Slowly
Like most things when it comes to getting in shape, exercise is generally the answer. If you had a regular workout routine before your accident, however, being able to hit the gym again does not mean picking your workout regime up where you left off. Your body is out of practice. Push yourself a little, but don’t wear yourself out. Some experts recommend starting with a three day per week workout plan and at least 48 hours of rest in between. Don’t neglect your need for a thorough warm-up before and cool down period after the workout.
Think about the specific areas that need to be toned again. Is it your upper arms? Your abs? Focus your energy on exercises that specifically benefit those muscles. The more you exercise, the more your body will readjust, and soon you’ll be back to your old routine.
4. Diet Carefully
Your body needs lean protein and complex carbohydrates to build muscle mass, or to rebuild it after a decline in muscle mass. According to the US Department of Agriculture, men should consume about 5.5-6.5 ounces of lean protein every day, and 5-5.5 for women. Whole eggs, chicken, salmon, fish oil, and mixed nuts are some healthy suggestions for food that will help you get back in shape. There are also dietary supplements that can be taken with food or drink and provide you with the essential vitamins and proteins you might miss in your meals.
5. Consider a Trainer
No one knows your body like you do, but you may not be a health and fitness professional. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re pushing yourself too far, or if that burn is only because your body is starting to wake up again. In those cases, it helps to talk to a personal trainer, if you can afford one. Find a trainer who specializes in rehabilitation. That trainer will know exactly how to challenge you without pushing you too far past your limits.
6. Track Your Progress to Set Reasonable Goals
As much as you might wish it, you can’t just snap your fingers and be back to normal. Even after you’ve “fully recovered,” it will take some time to get back to where you once were. It’s important to take a rational, realistic look at what you can and can’t do. It may help you to keep track of your progress from day to day: how much you were able to lift, run, bike, et cetera.
Each day, try to do a little bit better than the last. Don’t look beyond that. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Don’t even compare yourself to yourself in the past. Just take it one day at a time.
You’ve got this!!