Exercise as Recovery: Part I

It’s an act of strength to put your wellbeing above your ego.

Welcome to our new series looking at exercise as recovery. Over the next couple months, look out for posts about the role that exercise, specifically group fitness and indoor cycling, can play in recovery from injury, mental and physical illnesses, pregnancy, and more.

We all know the benefits of exercise for your overall health and wellbeing on an ongoing basis, but what about those times when you’ve been forced to take a break? How do you come back from an injury or illness and safely reincorporate exercise back into your routine, and what are the benefits of doing so?

Returning to spin will bring you back into a community full of support.

Returning to spin will bring you back into a community full of support.

Today, we’re looking at exercise as recovery from physical injury. Whether you’ve taken a week off due to a busted knee or sprained ankle, or you’ve been spending months resting after a back surgery or broken bone, climbing back onto the bike can be daunting to say the least. Not only does your body feel a little bit shaky, maybe weaker than you’re accustomed to, but you’re probably nervous about the possibility of re-injury. 

Those feelings are totally normal, but here are some reasons why returning to the bike post-injury can be great for you:

  • It sets aside scheduled time for you to focus on your own health and healing.

  • It brings you back to a community full of positivity and encouragement.

  • It puts you into a setting that will guide you through work outs safely, with instructors who can help you gradually build and modify along the way.

  • It’s a low impact exercise that will build your strength back up with minimal opportunity for re-injury.

  • It gives you a great measuring stick for progress as you move through the stages of recovery.

  • It improves heart health, increases muscle and bone density, and reduces inflammation – all of which can help you recover from injury faster.

So, you’ve gotten the go-ahead from your doctor or physical therapist to return to exercise, and you’ve decided that the benefits outweigh the nerves. It’s time to clip into that bike. It’s important, though, to remember that you can’t, or shouldn’t, ride exactly the way that you did pre-injury, at least not right away. There’s going to be a learning curve for body and mind as you get back into the rhythm of the ride.

Here are some general rules of thumb for returning to spin class after an injury:

1) Take it slow.

Do not jump back into your regular routine of spinning multiple times a week. Ease back into it, a little at a time. This is not just because your muscles have weakened while you’ve been away, but also because the communication between your body and mind needs to be built up again. This takes time, and requires breaks in between work outs.

2) Hold yourself back a little bit.

This is easier said than done. When the music gets going and your instructor starts telling you to crank the dial to the right, your instinct might be to try to keep up with the group around you. But remember, this is your ride, and you’re here to do what’s best for you. To help keep you accountable to easing back in, talk to your instructor before class. Let them know that you are recovering, and your priority today is to simply get moving rather than pushing to your 10/10. Your instructor will be happy to support you in this, and it will help to prevent you from re-injury.

3) Listen to pain.

Drink extra water as your body acclimates to sweating again.

Drink extra water as your body acclimates to sweating again.

Always, but especially after recovering from an injury, pain is your cue to pull back. Work on being extra attuned to your body and knowing when to stop. There’s no shame in that; in fact, it’s an act of strength to put your wellbeing above your ego.

4) Pay extra attention to nutrition and hydration. 

Drink extra water as your body acclimates to your sweaty work outs again. Eat leafy green vegetables and nuts, full of magnesium to help with sore muscles, and lots of anti-inflammatory foods, like turmeric, ginger, garlic, salmon, flaxseeds, and hemp hearts.

We hope these tips help you to get back on the bike with confidence if you are recovering from an injury. If you have any questions, please comment below, and let us know if you have any questions you would like answered in upcoming posts about using exercise as recovery from mental illness, surgery, pregnancy, etc.