An unfortunate part of being active is injuries can happen. While the ultimate goal is to avoid them at all costs, sometimes things happen. Whether it be an acute injury, or some kind of chronic issue, there are many ways that we can train around them to still do our body right while focusing on improving the injured area in which we are trying to heal.
Assess the Situation
The first step is to assess what caused the injury. Like touching a hot stove, we don’t want to continue doing things over and over again if they keep causing us pain. Unfortunately, for many people certain things that they seem to love or think they need to do tend to be the most injurious of exercises, and may take a paradigm shift to change their mindset around them.
I see this most commonly with running. While running is a great form of exercise, it can also lead to a lot of chronic issues that can lead to debilitating injuries and very painful joints. Our bodies are evolved to be able to run very well on two feet, however our environment has not evolved nor has our overall lifestyles to support running on things like concrete, asphalt, or while wearing poor fitting shoes or carrying excess weight which creates a load greater than our bones and joints are meant to handle while pounding the pavement.
If you are someone who loves running, but you know it’s causing you pain, not all hope is lost. I recommend lower impact activity such as biking, or focusing on other means of physical fitness and proper nutrition if the goal is still fat loss, as oftentimes losing some weight can help make running feel a lot better. Also, make sure that you are using all the tools available to you such as ankle, knee, and foot support to help you keep doing what you love.
Maybe you are more into lifting weights. If you keep injuring a certain part of your body, the first step would be to look at your form while performing the exercise. Do this under the watchful eye of a trained coach. You should also seek out a professional in your area to do a movement assessment on your body to see if you are properly moving, or even have the range of motion to complete the task at hand.
As someone who lifts weights, and has been doing so for over 15 years, I have had my fair share of silly injuries. They are usually happening when I don’t properly warm up, or I’m rushing through my workout in order to do something else. On this note, we have to make sure that we’re properly warming up and properly executing our exercises as if we were posing for a workout DVD or instructional video at all times.
When to Phone a Friend
Let’s say you have a nagging knee injury, and every time you do lunges it hurts. The first rule of thumb is to avoid anything that causes direct pain for at least 48 hours. If the pain goes away after 48 hours it was most likely just a little acute injury of some sort. However, if you go back to do the lunges and your knee hurts again, this is where you would want someone to have a look. If you don’t have access to somebody in the moment, your best bet is to just avoid the exercise until you do.
Single leg movements like lunges are essential movement patterns for human health, so you don’t want to avoid them altogether, just until you know you can have somebody have a look at them to make sure you’re doing it correctly.
But if your knee is hurt, you still have a fully functional upper body, so it may be time to focus on your upper body muscles for the workout that day.
As I stated in regard to running, you also want to make sure that if you need extra support to accomplish the lift at hand, you are using things like elbow sleeves, knee sleeves, or even proper lower back support for heavy exercises that you enjoy doing, as they are good for us if done properly.
Serious Injury Does Not Mean Quitting
If you are dealing with a more serious injury that you have already had diagnosed by a medical professional, follow their guidance. However, I do want to strongly note that your medical diagnosis, or medical imaging such as X rays or MRI’s, does not define you.
The human body is very unique, and resilient. Everybody has certain things that might show up on medical imaging as issues. Actually, studies have shown that more people have abnormalities than they think, and they never cause them a problem until a medical professional tells them that it might. So what do we do? Again, always listen to a medical professional if you have a serious injury. But, if you want to try to avoid going under the knife or living on pain medication, seek out a professional who can assess your movement, help address any potential muscular imbalances, and help you to feel pain free before you know it.
In my experience as a personal trainer, with some of my background in orthopedics and corrective exercise, I have seen many people with chronic pain or injuries fix them by addressing “weak links” – stretching tight areas, and strengthening weak areas that almost magically lead to improvement in how they feel without ever having to step foot in an operating room.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, but it truly is more times than not. So just remember, if you have an injury or musculoskeletal issue, don’t let it define you; train around it and seek out a professional to help get you feeling better in no time. An injury isn’t an excuse to lay around on a couch all day. It is just a little bump in the road along the way of maximizing your overall health.