It’s normal to want to give up working out after sustaining an injury. You’re in pain, you’re frustrated, and people keep telling you to take it easy. Might as well give it up altogether and binge watch all of Buffy, right? Not so fast! Just because you’re dealing with an injury doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to give up training completely. Sure, adjustments will need to be made, but you don’t have to give up exercise altogether. Check it out:
Stock up on first aid supplies in addition to whatever else your doctor has prescribed to help care for your injury. Carry a “kit” around so that if your newly altered training routine does tweak the injury, it can be treated immediately.
Find a Buddy
Having a workout buddy is important for numerous reasons. You’ll want to find someone who will train and will remind you to not train so intensely on the injured area. An ideal workout buddy will be someone that you can trust to push your limits without putting you at risk at further injury. They should also be someone who you know well and will provide encouragement to help you fight through any pain, in the event that your workout partner is helping with you physical therapy. Be sure to keep your workout partner up to date on any physical ailments that might hinder your workout that day. This way, should you injure yourself, they’ll be able to provide first aid immediately if necessary.
Test Your Body
While you and your doctor will focus towards mending your injured area, you’ll want to still focus on the other body parts to avoid any atrophy. Rarely, injuries ONLY affect our bodies at the point of injury. Side effects of injuries can include, but are not limited to, stress, over-compensation, and atrophy. For instance, maybe you twisted your ankle while landing awkwardly. Before you put together your new workout plan, test yourself. Gently move every part of your body to see whether or not your range of motion has been impacted in others areas, not just your ankle, and figure out if there’s any pain. If there is experience pain or stiffness, add these areas to the list of muscles/groups to “baby” while healing.
There’s no shame at taking it down a notch when injured. For example, if you were training for a marathon before you broke your arm, switch to walking those routes. Why? Because your center of gravity is going to be off now that you have the weight of a cast on one side of your body. Additionally, the bouncing caused by running may hinder the healing of the bones and increase the risk of tripping and falling. Or, if you tweaked your knee, reduce the weights used during your upper body training. The more weight you lift, the more weight is pressed down on your knees and feet (even when sitting or lying down) and you could complicate the injury further.
With a majority of injuries, the first thing a doctor will recommend is to get rest to let the injury heal quickly. However, for the workout enthusiast, this 4-6 weeks with no exercise isn’t a possibility. There are countless low impact exercises that you will likely still be able to perform without further risk of injury. Obviously, focus on finding exercises that target the unaffected areas of your body. For example, if you’ve been told that you need to lie flat for a few days, you can do low impact work on your abs and any of your limbs that aren’t injured. Leg lifts, arm circles, yoga (there are poses you can do while lying down) are all an option.
Sleeping and Eating
Sometimes, the injury will be serious enough that it will force you halt any and all exercise. That doesn’t mean you still can’t treat your body well! Instead, focus your energies on your sleeping habits and meal preparation. Sleeping and eating well are what will help your body recover, and are often overlooked (even when you’re injury-free!). Stick to fresh and natural/organic foods while avoiding processed food or that family sized Doritos bag that is begging to be eaten. Be sure to stick to a sleeping/waking schedule like clockwork. Ask your doctor to prescribe a sleep aid if you have trouble falling asleep while recovering.
When you start to feel stronger and your doctor clears you for full participation and activity, be sure to not go overboard with your workouts by going 110%! Go slowly to rebuild strength, stamina, and muscle as your injured area is likely to have suffered some atrophy. Remember: newly healed injuries are fragile and can easily relapse. That’s why it is important to listen to your doctor and your physical therapist.
You know your body, sure, but your doctor knows your injury. If your doctor says not to move your knee, don’t move your knee. If they say you can’t lift anything heavier than a coffee mug, don’t lift anything heavier than a coffee mug. Even if you feel strong enough, resist the temptation to prove the doctor wrong. You could re-injure yourself or exacerbate your current injury and thus extend your recovery time considerably.