Thursday, October 29, 2015

Managing Fitness Setbacks: When Your Body Revolts

Last Wednesday, I fell down the stairs. My big toe bent back and made a horrible, gross popping sound. In typical Laura style, I self-diagnosed it as sprained and decided to "tough it out." By Monday, after a weekend of ice and rest, I figured it was okay to return to high impact activity and I taught Insanity and RIPPED classes. By the end of the two classes, I wanted to cry in pain.

Well friends, after an orthopedic visit, turns out that I have a broken big toe. The x-ray shows that the toe bone is cleanly fractured diagonally all the way across. That means, I was walking around on a broken toe for A WHOLE F*$KING WEEK. Then, I jumped on it and made it worse. *Sigh* I'm an idiot.

Verdict: 3-4 weeks of no high impact exercise. Lesson: don't try to "tough it out."

EWW.  Definitely not broken!

When you have fitness goals, an injury or illness can feel like a devastating setback. It feels like you'll never get back on track. As a fitness instructor, injury is just part of the job hazard and sometimes even my body revolts.

This toe injury, in particular, is personally challenging because I'm trying to establish a new instructor reputation, at a new gym, in a new town. It feels like I JUST got my own class and now I'm down for the count. I'm also grappling with my own fitness/get healthy goals after moving and not teaching fitness for a while (more on that in a future post).

I've been in this physical place so many times before (Last summer, for example, I was sick with a respiratory infection for TWO WHOLE months). I have a few tips to share that may help you with managing setbacks:

1. Maintain Perspective
Keep in mind that this is a period of time and that it WILL pass. Use this time to take care of your body so that it will heal properly. You will not gain a million pounds. You will be able to return to your previous fitness level. Not today, but eventually. Have patience with yourself. This is more mental than anything and will set you up for a better recovery in the long term.

2. DON'T try to exercise through the setback
I mentioned that I had a respiratory infection for two months. Part of the reason it lasted two months is that I continued to exercise and teach high impact cardio classes, despite the advice of my doctor and the push back from my body. Truly rest that injury/illness. It's entirely possible to make things way worse. Rest that knee/shoulder/back. Nurse that cold. Truly recover so that you can come back stronger than before.

3. Re-evaluate your fitness plan
If you have weight loss goals, it's tempting to think "I'll just backslide and regain all that weight if I can't workout." Not the case. Use this time as an opportunity to rethink your fitness plan. Make a weekly plan of activity adapted to your current situation. If your knee is hurting, schedule to go for a walk or bike ride rather than a run.

If your shoulder is hurting, modify with a different shoulder exercise to substitute the one that's giving you trouble. During a class, if you aren't sure how to modify for your body, just ask the instructor before or after class, our job is to help you! Adapt to your limitations, rather than trying to force your body to do something it can't in this moment. If you can or feel like moving, there's a way you can still move.

4. Try something different
Along with #3, use this time as a chance to try something different to keep your body moving. If you have to avoid high impact classes, try an aqua or yoga class, for example. If you injure your foot (!), try 30 minutes on a reclining bike rather than a spin bike. Do something different. The change of movement is good for your metabolism, and you never know, you may end up with a new fitness love!

5. Revisit your nutritional needs
Also, if you have weight loss goals, just adapt your nutritional needs to meet your activity level. If you were previously taking a class that burned 600 calories, but now are doing a bike ride that burns 200. Just subtract that 400 from your daily calorie budget. I usually will just pass on that extra beer or dessert.

I cannot stress this enough though: DO NOT stop eating as a means to compensate for the lack of exercise. Your body still needs good calories and nutrition to heal. Not eating can slow your healing. A better approach would be to make a meal plan and stick to it. Even when you're sick, make sure that you are supplying your body with healthy foods, fluids, and vitamins.

6. Don't let a bad week turn into a bad month
Again, this is mental. In a very quick time, we can spiral down into a place that seems hopeless. We can lose sight of our goals and just say "f*&k it." Stay mentally strong. Plan your activity and meals and don't beat yourself up if you can't feasibly stick to it. We are doing the best we can with these limitations. Be easy and forgiving on yourself--even if you do have a bad week (or month).

7. Slowly reincorporate activity
When you feel ready, SLOWLY introduce your body back to the activities you did before. Give your body a solid two or three weeks to ease back into the full activity level that you were previously at. So if you were doing three spin classes a week, start with two for a week and the next week, add in that extra class.

Stay strong friends. Forgive and make peace with your body. Take care of it--we only have one.

Is this how those cute "boots in fall leaves" pics is supposed to look? :)