Don’t let getting hurt slow down your training.
Injuries often seem to strike at the most inopportune times. Maybe this scenario has happened to you: you’re on a roll, regularly going to the gym and making progress, until BAM! You’ve hurt yourself and can’t continue your workout plan until you’ve recovered.
You don’t want to lose the progress you’ve worked so hard to achieve, but what can you do? Fortunately, there are ways to safely keep the momentum going. The trick is to modify your workout to accommodate your injury. If done properly — with the guidance of a trainer or medical professional — you should be able to continue training, while allowing the problem area to heal.
Which movements you’ll be able to perform depends on your specific injury, but unless it is severe, there’s likely something you can do while you recover to stay active. In fact, you don’t want to stop moving altogether, or you’re bound to end up stiff and uncomfortable.
1. Safety Should Be Your First Priority
When you hurt yourself, you need to use your best judgment to decide whether you require a health-care provider to treat your injury. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends assessing the injury for deformities, significant swelling or changes in skin color, which are indications that you should seek medical help. As a general guideline, be sure to check with a medical professional for more serious problems before you return to training.
2. Know What’s Wrong
It’s important to know the severity of your injury and which body parts are affected. Strains, sprains, and stress fractures, among other types of injuries, can all cause pain. It can be hard to know what’s wrong if you don’t have medical training, but distinguishing between the various types of injuries is important because they each require different recovery times and treatments.
Sometimes, the pain you’re experiencing might not even be an injury. For example, if you get knee pain when squatting, it’s possible that correcting your form will fix the problem. A personal trainer should be able to determine if there are problems with your movement form and set you on the right path.
3. Do What You Can
To avoid losing your fitness progress, it’s important to maintain your normal training schedule as closely as your condition allows. You may have to reduce the frequency or intensity of your workouts, but try making modifications to your routine that accommodate your injury. A personal trainer or a health-care professional can help you to determine what you can do, as well as alternatives to your normal routine.
4. Find Injury-Appropriate Exercises
Many injuries require you to minimize the amount of stress placed on the affected area. For example, it may be fine to move the area, but not bear weight. Similarly, you may be able to lift your arms, but not rotate them.
Listen to your body and stop whatever activity you’re doing if you experience pain. Take advantage of the professional insight of a trainer or health-care provider to find movements that won’t aggravate your injury allowing you to heal while still working out the rest of your body. A few pieces of equipment and activities that are often recommended for rehabilitation include:
- Elliptical – Ellipticals are frequently used for rehabilitation because they are low-impact, follow a natural movement pattern, and allow for variable intensity to fit the participant’s needs. (And if you are wondering whether to use the handlebars or not, check this out.)
- Recumbent bike – With pedals that are placed in front of the body and a reclined position, the recumbent bike places less stress on the knees and other joints than an upright bike. Also, the full seat and low step-over height makes it easy for the user to get into position and provides a high level of stability.
- Swimming – Water creates low but constant resistance and is a supportive medium that doesn’t put much stress on your joints. This makes swimming or water running great for some injury recovery because you can go easy on the affected areas while still performing a full-body movement.
- Bodyweight movements – The key to recovering from a minor injury may be as simple as dialing down the intensity of your workouts. For example, if you usually do weighted squats, you might modify them to bodyweight alone.
- Weight machines – Machines allow you to perform controlled movements using muscles in isolation. This could be helpful for limiting the amount of stress you put on the injured area.
- Balance training – Injuries can throw off our proprioception, or our subconscious awareness of where our body is in space. Balance exercises can be a great first step for movement restoration, including single-leg balances, using wobble boards, BOSU trainers and other tools that challenge equilibrium.
5. Eat a Healthy Diet
Since you can’t work out to your full ability, it’s even more important than usual that you eat healthy foods. As it rebuilds tissue, your body will thank you for consuming well-balanced, nutritious meals. Include plenty of water, fresh vegetables, fruits and lean protein. If your recovery requires you to cut back on the intensity or frequency of your workouts and weight gain is a concern, you’ll likely want to adjust your calorie intake to reflect the decrease in calories burned.
6. Don’t Be Discouraged
Injuries obviously affect us physically, but they can take an emotional toll too. Try your best to stay positive while you’re recovering and minimize any stress. Studies have shown that stress can slow your body’s ability to heal, so the less you worry, the sooner you’ll get better.
7. Prevent Future Injuries
After you heal, take steps to minimize your risk of another injury in the future. Always practice good form when lifting, doing bodyweight movements or using equipment. Proper positioning will go a long way in preventing injuries and reducing the stress on your muscles and joints. If you’re not sure how to do a particular exercise, ask a personal trainer for guidance. Don’t forget to warm-up, cool-down and practice self-myofasical release to keep your body in top form.
Injuries are an unfortunate roadblock on your path to success, but by following these guidelines and taking a proactive approach to your recovery, you can get back to full speed as quickly as possible.
Note: While this guide can give you some ideas on how to stay fit when you have an injury, do not consider it medical advice. Only a health-care provider can assess your condition and make personalized recommendations. Please consult your doctor before making changes to your diet or fitness regimen.