Injuries are an active person’s worst nightmare. Contrary to popular belief, injuries do not have to derail your fitness goals. There are ways that you can still stay in shape and work out while recovering from your injury. The main goal of exercising with an injury is to maintain your current fitness levels and to stop the process of detraining. Always remember that pushing yourself too hard can lead to a more serious injury, so understanding your body is crucial. There is no medal for “gutting it out” and in the long run your body will thank you for rest and recovery during an injury. Here are some tips to safely work out and maintain fitness while injured:
Listen to Your Body
The most important thing to remember when training with an injury is to listen to your body. Understanding your injury and your limitations are an important first step. You are not Superman. If you have a lower back injury and your back hurts after a short run, there’s no shame in taking a few days off until you are pain free. Remember the goal of working out is to stop detraining and heal your injury as fast as possible. Those two days off will do wonders in the long run.
Feed Your Body Properly
According to professional body builder Jamin Thompson, nutrition is the number one factor in recovering from an injury. Understanding how different foods affect your body is key. Avoid processed foods and try to eat more organic foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fruit and vegetables are also a great source of nutrition and vitamins that your body needs while trying to recover from an injury.
Don’t Be Scared of Physical Therapy
Many people see going to physical therapy as a sign of weakness and defeat, but in reality it is the opposite. Not only can physical therapy rehab injuries once they occur, but they can also teach ways to prevent your nagging muscle aches from turning into a serious injury. John Gallucci Jr., president of JAG-ONE Physical Therapy said, “The most effective way to address injuries is to address them before they begin. Any weak link in the chain can lead to injuries.” Physical therapy will identify the weak links within the body and strengthen them. Your body will thank you later.
Warm Up and Stretch Properly Before Exercise
Stretching with an injury is a must. Stretching increases muscle flexibility and range of motion. In the long run, this will make your muscles less likely to suffer from muscle strains. You can do a set of stretches before your workout or you can target the muscles that you feel need it the most. In addition to the muscle benefits, stretching is also linked to better overall mental health, as time spent stretching provides much needed rest and down time for your brain.
If you have decided that you still want to work out while having an injury, the key is go light. Whether it is running, lifting, or swimming, it is crucial to start out by not over exerting yourself. When lifting, use lighter weights and higher reps to not over work the muscle and allow for the muscle’s healing process to speed up. When running or swimming, run at lower speeds and on softer surfaces. The lower speed will ensure that your injured muscle will not be overexerted while the softer surface will provide more cushion for injured joints and muscles.
Tailor Your Work Outs
This goes hand in hand with using lighter weights. Creating a new work out plan that addresses your injury is a great way to avoid detraining. Performing exercises that avoid your injured muscle can help to maintain your overall fitness. Once your injury starts to feel better, you can incorporate exercises that work the injured area. While working out the muscle, it is important to listen to your body and how your body feels after each set to avoid further injury.