Making progress when you’re injured
It’s important to first seek correct advice, look for a good Physiotherapist (Physio) and a good Strength and Conditioning Coach (S&C). What they can do for you is devise a plan/program with the end goal of you returning to performance. Once you’ve got a plan you need to set some goals and use targets for key periods of your rehabilitation. You can use certain targets to measure your progress and help you determine whether you’re ready to move forward in your rehabiltation process. For example, after a long layoff of not being able to run, (due to a lower limb injury), one of the first targets for you should be to do some calf raises (start with body weight double leg and progress to single leg). Once you can pump out three sets of 12-15 reps of single leg calf raises and they look strong and controlled (on both legs), you can try some hopping on the spot. You can progress this to jogging on the spot, jumping up and down, or skipping. If you can tolerate that with no pain, no issues (it feels elastic and springy) then you can start to integrate some running. Start with lower intensity jogging i.e. jog/walk, 30 second jog, 30 second walk for 2 sets of 10 minutes. Continue build the time intervals until you feel confident you could increase the intensity.
It’s important to stay consistent throughout the rehabilitation process, for every step forward that you make, you’re now getting closer to that end goal of returning to sport. For every session that you miss, your not making progress and you can’t simply just use time as a way to measure your injury recovery. If you go via pure time, you’re actually not taking into account that the injured tissue is no longer as strong as what it once was. So you have to put some work in to regain that strength, even better yet get stronger than before. Instead use training completion and targets to measure progress e.g. I’ve completed three sets of 8-80 meter sprints, 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off, which was my target I can now progress to some training integration (use the Physio and S&C to help make these decisions).
Be patient, don’t rush
You have to be patient and don’t rush. If you’re genuinely not ready to go to the next step, then don’t, it might only take one more session of what you’ve been doing to make progress. As opposed to progressing too quickly pulling up brutally sore or even in pain and potentially have major set backs. Get to a level that you’re comfortable with and then make take a step forward. Think of it like a two steps forward, one step back approach (this works for normal training as well). This is how you make long term progress, whether you’re injured or not. This is normal, slowly build, be patient, take your time.
Risk vs Reward
Always assess the risk versus the reward. There is going to be occasions where you have to ask yourself, what does it mean to me? A typical question we ask ourselves as coaches is, “if it was a final, would they play?”. In some circumstances, yeah, we maybe have to go for it but ultimately it’s the athletes decision. You need to weigh out the risk versus reward. Not only on your own body health, but for the team at stake as well. Are you potentially getting a little bit ahead of yourself. Are you thinking “I’m capable”. What if you go out there and you hurt yourself and your team is now one person down? That’s very selfish. It’s all on you, so long as you’re willing to live with the consequences.