What to Do When Injuries and Illness Disrupt Training

Spc. Reggie Wilson of the Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center demonstrates the use of rollers for treating myofacial pain. (Photo Credit: Mo Greenberg)

Injuries and illnesses can cause significant disruption in your training and when you start again, if not done properly, may cause further injuries or delays. Regardless of why you have become deconditioned, there are remedies and some helpful suggestions below to help you get started for the first time, get started again, or bounce back to where you were before your injury, illness, or yes even basic training in the military.

Bootcamp Is a Taper (for some) - Yes, believe it or not, if you are preparing for special ops in your military future, basic training will be considered a de-loading phase in your training. Boot Camp or basic training is not designed to prepare you for special ops programs – you have to do that on your own prior to basic, but luckily the new Special Ops Prep Courses will help you rebuild. Most special ops candidates will get “out of shape” during their basic training phase. Go into your basic training hitting near optimal levels of fitness for yourself then consider the 2 month course of military indoctrination a taper. I necessary taper. The number on goal is to not get sick as that can delay your progress with rebuilding during the Special Ops Prep Courses.

Illnesses – Getting sick happens. Even a common cold or flu can set you back in your training for a few weeks. It is best to shut things down for a few (or several days) and focus on rest and recovery. If you push through these type of illnesses (cold, allergies, flu, bronchitis) they can linger or get worse and turn into pneumonia. Get your rest and focus on recovery even if you can only do mobility days – do it. To fully recover, you will need to lay off strenuous activity, sleep, and eat and hydrate well. Many illnesses can dehydrate you. Be on top of your water and electrolytes as starting back to training again severely dehydrated will be a painful activity and could lead to further issues (heat casualty). Illnesses where you are severely dehydrated from digestive disorders (flu, food poisoning, etc), the soreness of starting again is similar to having never trained before, so be gentle with your first few workouts after any time off of training. In fact, it may take you twice as long to get back to where you were before illness as you were sick. Be patient and start back gently.

Injury – Getting injured happens too. Especially if you are preparing for training events that require mental toughness to endure. That fine line between mentally tough and stupidly hurting yourself can be crossed many times by doing too much (running, rucking, lifting, high rep calisthenics). Know your limits and avoid pushing yourself to complete failure all the time. It is fine for a few sets per workout, but not the entire workout. Many people try to play catch up from missed training time and quickly find they did too much too soon and created over-use injuries for themselves. When in doubt after a long period of not training, treat yourself like a beginner. Besides, depending on the injury, you can always work other areas. If shoulder injury, work legs and still run or non-impact cardio. If a leg injury, crush the upper body with weights and calisthenics while you recover – try to swim if possible.

Life Gets In the Way – Depending on school, work, or just life in general, it is easy to get out of the habit of training or fail to never really develop it outside of sports seasons. One of the best ways to get started again is to set a time aside each day of the week and do something. Make the effort to change into workout clothes and start moving. This can be as simple as walking during lunch break, or doing calisthenics at a playground, and can be as developed further by taking 30-45 minutes to lift weights, swim, ride a bike. The goal here is to build a habit of making time for yourself in the day. If you can make it the same time every day, that is a better way to build a time / effort habit. But right now the goal is to move more than you normally do.

Don’t Make This Mistake

Most people make the mistake of starting back up where they left off with their programming or starting with what “they use to do in high school” and it is 10 years later with little activity since. This is a for sure way to start off injured again which is demoralizing and can stop you dead in your tracks with progress. Try a Systems Check assessment just to see what you are capable of doing without pain or discomfort. Mix with mobility work, light calisthenics of moderate repetition ranges, light weight training, and easy cardio events to see how you handle the first training day after a significant time away from training.


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