There's nothing worse than the moment of blind panic when you realize that you've been injured. It's not the pain itself that's so terrifying, though that's bad enough. It's the idea that you're going to be stuck on the bench for the next several weeks, the enforced idleness a punishment for not paying close enough attention to what was going on with your body. Here's the good news: you don't have to give up your training regime entirely just because you've managed to be injured. By taking a few simple principles into consideration, you can keep the rest of your body in peak condition while still allowing the injury to heal.
Acknowledge the difference. When you're training hard, aches and pains are inevitable. You'll wake up in the morning with a sore muscle or two or find yourself taking more time to get moving following an intense training session. The pain from an injury, however, is very different. Whether you're training for an athletic event or for general health and fitness, make sure that you're aware of the difference between general aches and pains from training and the pain from an injury. Sore muscles can be pushed past. Injuries, however, need to be taken care of if you want to avoid doing worse damage.
Listen to your body. Pain is your body's way of telling you that something isn't right--that is, that you're doing an activity that could cause damage or is stressing an already-damaged joint, muscle, or other area of your body. When you're healing from an injury, avoid training activities that cause pain. Now, that doesn't mean that you have to stop every time you feel a twinge. If you're training seriously, you know the difference between your body acknowledging that you're pushing it to the limit and your body screaming at you to stop because you're doing something wrong.
Remember what you're doing. Competitions aren't won during the training process. No matter how well you're doing in training, the only difference it will make is in your body's capability, not in what your performance will look like when you're ready for competition. If you're training for health and fitness alone, rather than for an athletic competition, you might not need that extra push. You want to keep getting better. You don't want to push yourself to the point of injury. Accidents, however, do happen. Once you're already injured, keep in mind the need to allow yourself to heal. Don't push harder than necessary just to prove that you can. That push to prove may end in a longer recovery period.
Train what you can. With an injured limb, you may feel severely limited. The reality, however, is that you still have three limbs that are perfectly capable of going the distance just like they always have. If you're limping because of an injured ankle, knee, or hip, you can still lift weights with your arms, use a rope climbing machine, and work a punching bag. You can also lift with the uninjured leg, strengthening it in the process. Injure an arm? You can still run, walk, use an elliptical machine, and work on lifting with your legs. Be reasonable, however. A severe injury that will lead to a long time in recovery may require you to spend more time focusing on other areas of the body. You don't want to create an imbalance that will lead to more problems down the road.
Take care of yourself. If your injury has required a trip to the doctor, listen to what your doctor has to say and obey their instructions. They've seen many, many injuries just like yours, and they have a better idea of the appropriate way to deal with them than you do! Taking care of yourself may include a variety of things, including:
- Wrapping or bracing the injured limb to prevent further strain, especially when exercising
- Using ice packs to bring down swelling as needed--often as much as ten minutes every hour, depending on how fresh the injury is
- Complete physical therapy exercises as they're prescribed
There's no quick fix for an injury, nor can you magically get yourself back in shape to start training without that waiting period. When you take care of your body, however, you increase your odds of getting back in the game sooner--which is what you really want.
Eat right. You can't go in to the gym, and even when you do get to go, your exercise routine is severely modified to account for your injuries. For many people, that translates to an excuse to let go of the usual training diet along with the routine. They couch out, binge on junk food, and feel sorry for themselves. Without good nutrition, however, your body can't heal properly. Find ways to give it the fuel it needs to put your muscles and joints back together. You can have a pity chocolate bar or cupcake or two, but that doesn't mean you should let your nutrition slide completely! Not only does it get you back to your regular training schedule sooner, good nutrition also ensures that when you do go back, you'll be better prepared to give it your all.
Take a hard look at your calorie goals while you're injured, too. If you aren't exercising to build muscle, your body may start eating muscle before it eats fat if you're operating at a calorie deficit. Instead, consider shifting your goals to maintenance while you're recovering. This will give your body the fuel it needs to heal and help maintain muscle even though you can't train as hard as you'd like.
Shift your movements. Consider the movement that caused the injury. Chances are, the injury will cause further pain when you repeat similar movements until the injury heals. In the meantime, try to find different ways to move so that you can train without causing pain. Think about working with a coach or trainer to determine whether or not poor form caused the injury in the first place and how you can adapt your movements now and in the future to avoid future injuries. Work through your full range of motion, especially in the injured limb, in order to determine whether or not you'll be able to train in a particular way.
Keep up your aerobic training. Take advantage of what movements you're still able to complete in order to continue aerobic training. An upper body injury, in particular, is no excuse for ignoring your cardio training! Aerobic training can even help improve your recovery time and get you back to your regular training program sooner.
Correct bad habits. Sure, you're injured. That's frustrating--but it doesn't mean you have to give up! Instead, correct the bad habits that led to your injury in the first place. Do you work on flexibility on a regular basis? Do you warm up your muscles before diving into the intense stage of your workout? What about your balance and coordination? Use your time spent recovering to focus on the fundamentals, correct those bad habits, and ensure that your workouts will be more successful once your injury has healed.
Waiting for an injury to heal is tough. The last thing you want is to watch all of your hard-earned progress slip away while you're unable to get to the gym. Taking proper care of your body, changing your workout to account for your injury, and correcting the habits that led to your injury can all help enhance your performance when your injury is healed and you're ready to get back to your routine. If you need help finding the equipment you need to keep training during an injury, contact us! We'll help you find everything you need.