Everyone approaches their exercise routine in a different way. You may love the exhilaration of getting your heart rate up or hate the first ten minutes of any routine. You may dedicate an hour every day after work or cajole yourself into hitting the gym each week. But no matter how you approach your regular workouts, no one likes getting an injury.

And no matter how professional or careful you are, everyone gets injured eventually. It’s more of a statistic than any personal failure. Train running for a year and your feet will hit the pavement millions of times. There’s a reasonable chance that one in a million footfalls will land on a rock, turn an ankle, or twist your knee out of place. Or you might tumble safely only to land on your arm and sprain a wrist or elbow. Injuries happen and any experienced athlete knows that the key is to roll through recovery and get right back into your routine.

The Slow Recovery

Here’s the problem: Recovery drags on. Even if your injury only takes a week to heal, holding back during that week can be pretty challenging. Staying off of an ankle is surprisingly hard, you’ll soon find out as you hobble around the house trying to jump from place to place on your good leg. And keeping one of your two always-active hands out of the action for a few weeks? Equally difficult but with less hopping.

The longer your injury takes to heal, the harder it gets to wait. And you start to risk losing your overall physical momentum on exercise and muscle development. Professional, amateur, and hobbyist athletes alike all have trouble waiting for the long recovery. Believe us, we know athletes. And the thing any athlete wants most is the ability to heal faster.

The good news is that you are organic and you can absolutely accelerate your healing process with how you treat your body. By treating yourself right and promoting the functions your body needs to heal, you can effectively speed up the time it takes for your injury to recovery.

1) Improve Your Nutrition

Some people who workout carefully balance their nutrition, some work out as a way to eat more freely. Whatever your approach, it should probably change when you are recovering from an injury. Now is the time to treat your body the best you possibly can. Your body needs a lot of extra energy to build new tissue and knit together any tears or open wounds.

Protein is the most important nutrient to focus on, specifically lean protein. This is what your body builds new tissue with, the same as when you’re building new muscle. However, you also want to fuel up on your trace minerals. Color is a great guide in this. Dark leafy greens, a variety of brightly colored vegetables, bananas and apples. Nuts are also a good source of minerals and fish is always a good idea for B12 and healthy oils.

If you are experiencing swelling, consider adjusting your diet to include more anti-inflammatory foods.

2) RICE Diligently

The next thing to plan for is your injury recovery routine. The best way to manage your inflammation and early recovery stages are to use the RICE method. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Everyone starts with RICE, wrapping icing and elevating until the worst of the swelling goes down. But from here, dedication to the RICE method varies athlete to athlete.

Many people give lip-service to RICE but neglect to keep icing, properly wrap, or remain resting. And elevation, of course, isn’t easy to arrange everywhere you go during the day. But if you want to heal faster than you would without treatment, it’s important to actually be diligent about maintaining your RICE routine. Remember to keep resting the injured limb. Ice until the swelling goes down, then switch to warm compresses for thirty minutes every two hours. Take hot baths, use compression for support and welling, and elevate whenever possible. Get creative and remember to do it every day.

3) Stay Limber

So you’re eating right and you’re treating your injury with the respect (and ice packs) it deserves. The next step is to make sure that it doesn’t heal stiff or heal with the new tissue too short for your normal range of motion. This is a surprisingly common problem, especially for people who are actually successful at resting during the recovery process. The problem is that you keep your injured limb in a relaxed or safely bent position while recovering, and the new tissue grows in short. Or the joint gets stiff from not moving for weeks at a time.

Fortunately, the solution is simple and safe. All you have to do is remember to stay limber. A few times a day, carefully extend your limb fully several times. Roll and stretch it out as much as is safe, without putting any painful pressure on the injury. You may need the help of someone else so you can relax while they gently stretch out the nearby joints.

As you begin to heal, you will also want to start finding more extended positions to rest in. The more you can stretch out and remain able to stretch during recovery, the better.

[Continued in part 2]