Adding conditioning to your rehabilitation program
To make it easy for you invest in a good Physiotherapist (Physio) and Strength and Conditioning Coach (S&C). Together, you should be able to create a plan, set goals and targets for your rehab program, which conditioning should play a big part. Conditioning is a very important part of a lot of sports, i.e. AFL, rugby, soccer, basketball, frisbee, etc, they’re actually spending more time running than they are in possession of the ball or disk. Even strength sport athletes need some conditioning to make sure that they don’t get out of shape, and help them recover quicker between sets and heavy training sessions.
Maintaining your fitness
Early on in the rehab process your goal should be to try to maintain as much of your fitness as possible, and not get too de-conditioned. This is going to help you build back up quicker and prepare you for the more specific conditioning as you progress through your rehabilitation. Even if you’ve sustained a bad injury where you may not be able to run/change direction/lift heavy things, you still need to do something and this is when you find a way to modify the conditioning. If running is out of the question try off-feet alternatives instead; assault bike, spin bike, ski erg, rower, boxing, ropes and swimming (if your a swimmer with a shoulder injury, you may find running is your alternative). You’ve got to find a way to keep your fitness up without having an impact on your injury.
Prepare for loading
During the next phase of rehab you want to start preapring your body sports specific conditioning. This is an important phase because you don’t just want to jump straight back into full training loads as your risk for re-injury will be much greater. Depending on what you need to get back to will determine what you need to do to prepare. For example before returning to running, you should complete a week or two of low level plyometrics, hopping, skipping and landing. Muscles, tendons and ligaments de-condition if they are not used so it’s important to re-conditioning them before you start running otherwise you may end up with a few set backs.
Start small and build up
Once you have prepared you body appropriately you can start to introduce more specific types of conditioning. It’s critcal though to start small, with the runnign example you should start with low intensity jogging with short intervals and full recovery e.g. 2 x 8 minutes of 30sec Jog/ 30sec Walk. Then you can slowly increase the intensity and volume, e.g. Jog/Walk to Fartleks 20sec Jog/Run/Walk 2 x 8 minutes. Then intervals and change of direction drills e.g. 150m in 30sec/ 30sec Rest, 2 x 8. Depending on the severity of the injury the progress will vary, if it’s only minor you can progress session to session, if it’s longer term you may spend a few weeks at each intensity.
Once you’ve built your tolerance up with the conditioning and you can complete it at 75-85% intensity of a normal game like intesnity you can start to integrate back into training and add in some sport specific conditioning. For the running based sport example this phase should include sprinting, stopping, accelerating, repeated changes of direction and sports training drills. Start with simple and predictable training drills, you may like to complete this off to the side at training then integrate your way into team training. As your confidence improves you can add more complexity to the training drills. When you are capable of completing full training you can now look at returning back to play. You just want to make sure that you are prepared to compete at the level and intensity that your sport will demand, if you’ve worked hard through out your rehab this shouldn’t be an issue.