Back when I was competing at an elite level of marathon and triathlon, we paid lip service to rest and recovery, but recovery looked mostly like lying on the couch for hours on end with a gallon of ice cream resting on my chest. I poured all my energy into training sessions such that I had nothing left in the tank on off days. Even basic household chores were a big ask.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have made more of an effort to move on my off days, incorporating more active recovery instead of the passive, frankly slothful recovery I favored at the time.
Just like recovery is the most important part of training—it’s how we get stronger, how we get fitter, how we get faster—recovering from injuries is the most important part of the injury healing process. If you get injured, your average health care professional will tell you that “the body will take care of itself.” They’ll say to “eat healthy” and “rest up” and “take ibuprofen.” But is that really the best way to recover from an injury? Hell no. You have far more agency than that. You can actively and effectively improve your healing and come back quicker, stronger, and better than ever with clinically-proven strategies and interventions. Here are some of my tips for recovering from an injury. Practice slow eccentrics If you have a tendon or ligament issue, one thing you can do—nay, must do—is slow eccentrics. An eccentric is lowering the weight; concentric means raising the weight. Slow eccentrics involve lowering the weight at a slow pace to really lengthen and emphasize the afflicted connective tissues. Slow, low weight eccentrics is the gold standard for healing any connective tissue strain or sprain. For example, if your bicep tendon is sore, do really low weight eccentric curls. Keep moving Movement helps you heal for several reasons: It clears out damaged tissue and proteins from the afflicted area. It pushes healing compounds and blood into the afflicted area. It tells your nervous system that you are recovering—otherwise, how would you be moving the “injured” tissue? But here’s the thing: you have to move well. You can’t be limping around. You can’t be suffering through your movement. You have to do clean, crisp movements that are as close to perfect as you can do. If you sprain your ankle, for example, you want to start walking on that ankle with perfect form as soon as you can. This probably means going really, really slowly, but that’s how it has to happen. Go as slowly and deliberately as you must to maintain perfect technique. If you can’t move well, don’t move. But movement can be as easy as flexing and extending your knee while you lie in bed, rotating your ankle, or doing windmills with your arms. It doesn’t take much. Just move and maintain movement quality. Use red light therapy Red light is probably the latest and greatest in injury recovery. From what I can tell, it is a strong general booster of healing—against pretty much everything. Below are some of the benefits red light therapy has provided. Patients with knee osteoarthritis used red light therapy to reduce pain scores and increase microcirculation in the knee. That could mean actual healing. Literature reviews have concluded that red light therapy does reduce joint pain, even in chronic joint disorders. Red light exposure increases blood flow to the skin and improves fracture healing. It’s even been shown to improve neuropathic pain. No “physical” damage necessary. It’s even effective against sunburn, especially if you use it before sun exposure. You can get this kind of light by … Continue reading “7 Ways to Boost Injury Recovery”
Foam rollers are very popular these days. Places like Target and Walmart carry them. Grandmas and grandpas are foam rolling. Doctors are prescribing them. What began as a niche mobility tool used only by the most obscure fitness nerds has become commonplace. But if you want to get the most value out of your foam roller—and avoid doing any damage—you need to learn how to use it correctly. It’s not as simple as “rolling” on it. There’s an art to it. And a science.
But before we get into how to use a foam roller, let’s go over what a foam roller is actually doing (and not doing).
I own a foam roller. Every fitness facility I’ve visited in the last three years has hosted a large arsenal of foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and other instruments of fascial torture. The CrossFitter community has 2.3 per capita. I hear K-Starr sleeps on a bed made of lacrosse balls with foam rollers for pillows. Everyone and their grandma has one. I’m not even joking; I saw a group of track-suited seniors doing some kind of a synchronized foam rolling routine in the park recently. The things are everywhere. And you can certainly spend an inordinate amount of time rolling around on the things, causing all sorts of painful sensations that should, in theory, help you. But does it really help?
As I mentioned earlier, I have one. I’ve used it and, I think, benefited from it. But it hurts. It’s pretty much the most unpleasant thing you can do. Not just because of the pain, but also the tedium. It had better be worth the trouble.