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I don’t know what’s up, but it seems like everyone around me right now is recovering from an injury, no joke. I’m to the point where I’m wondering if I’m jinxing everyone because if I ask the question “how’s the exercise going”, sure enough I get an injury story.
Or perhaps it speaks to the scary commonness of it. Injuries are just part of the human condition. If you make it into the second part of life without any, I’d have to suspect you’re part alien. That just doesn’t happen. My waiting list is certainly further proof. Back when I was in-person personal training, the waiting list to train with me was long and out of control… 90% of people I had to refer on elsewhere. And while I like to think that was because of my brilliant and awesome training techniques, more likely it was because I was a post-injury specialist.
Getting hurt sucks. It throws everything off, and affects us both physically and mentally. And if you’re a regular exerciser, the activity withdrawal can have you in a deep dark funk. Been there myself, I get it. But there’s good news here. You CAN move forward from this and get back to a healthy place. Here’s my comeback game plan for you:
1. Seek out Smart People:
If you’ve injured yourself and it is affecting either your daily living, your range of motion, or your activity levels, you need help. Physicians, physical therapists, and other injury specialists can give you strategies to promote healing for your specific injury. Start there.
2. Analyze the Sitch:
Ask yourself this: How did I get here? It’s important to understand how you got your injury. And while very often injuries can be a bit of a mystery, make a list of suspects. Poor posture? Too much time at a desk? Bad shoes? Not enough strength training? You became injured for a reason, and you don’t want to repeat whatever behaviors it was that led to it. Identify the causes so you can make changes accordingly.
3. Back Off. WAYYY Off:
Regular exercisers have a tough time with this one. Honestly though, it’s the only way. You have to respect your body enough to give the injured area the time it needs to heal. Start back using the injured area slowly with less intensity and less duration than before.
4. Listen to Your Body. Pain is NOT Gain:
Injuries are such a fine balancing act. We want to work just enough so that we trigger the training response yet at the same time cannot push so much it exacerbates the injury. To find that breaking point, we have to rely on our own pain signals. “No pain no gain” is the absolute WORST mantra to follow when it comes to injuries. A little discomfort is OK. A lot is not. If the discomfort does not go away after you stop moving and continues even an hour after exercise, consider that a red flag you overdid it. In the future, try again and shoot for that balance… just enough activity that you’re left with no post-exercise pain.
5. Focus on What You CAN Do:
So let’s say you’ve injured your knee. Okay. Then in the meantime while it heals, focus your training on your healthy body parts. Go kayaking, use the row machine (modified with static legs) at the gym, strength train for core and upper, as a few examples. Don’t give up on exercise completely just because you have an injury. Instead, continue to exercise but keep focused on exercising around the injury. I had a client once who had chronic, extremely painful and debilitating injuries in her back, shoulder, hips, and knee… all at the same time. It was challenging, but even with all those injuries, we were able to work around the pain and find exercises she could do. Don’t allow your injury to become the excuse you use to give up and be sedentary. That’s only a recipe for decreased health and even more injuries in the future.
6. Take a Walk:
Walking is the most natural type of movement we can do. With an injury, walking is a great way to keep active. Just as important, walking can boost your mood and help you cope with the emotions around the injury. If walking exacerbates it too much, try walking in a pool. Again, you’re constantly working for that balance so you don’t overdo it.
7. Bodyweight, Bodyweight, BODYWEIGHT!
Strength training gets pretty tricky with an injury. When you’re ready to start strength training the injured area, begin with exercises that use no equipment. And even backing up from that, your very first exercises should be those that simply move the joint through its range of motion (lifting your arm up and down, lying on the floor and bending your knee), and make sure you can handle that. If that’s a green light, try isometric exercises, or holds. Wall sit for a knee, hip, or back injury. Wall plank for a shoulder or back injury. Dead bug holds, squat holds, single leg lift holds, etc… all of those are a great way to get back into strength training. From there, start building on your bodyweight exercises slowly, gradually, and patiently.
8. Balance Exercises Are Your New BFF:
This probably wasn’t on your injury rehab radar at all, but it should be. Many balance exercises are holds, so even with an injury you’re likely able to practice them without a problem. Balance exercises are crucial for building our joint efficiency. Without efficient joints, we tend to resort to compensated movements. Guess what that leads to? INJURIES! I cannot stress enough the importance of balance training, and am disappointed how neglected it is from the fitness culture. In fact I believe balance training and exercises that improve joint efficiency are key for injury prevention.
9. Eat Clean and Hydrate:
With an injury, inflammation is one of your biggest enemies. Your focus is now on fighting that inflammation and fueling repair. Fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats such as chia and flax seed help reduce inflammation, and proteins will preserve and rebuild your muscle mass. It’s always important to eat right, but with an injury you’ve got yet another reason to make sure you do so. Staying hydrated is just as important. Without adequate hydration, the body won’t receive the oxygen and nutrients it needs to kick that injury’s bootie.
10. Get Your Sleep On:
If you’re skimping on sleep you are doing your injury no favors. The real star of the sleep show here is your Deep Sleep phase, when the majority of growth hormone gets released. Growth hormone is important for the healing process, as it stimulates repair and regeneration. When you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not allowing enough time for this natural process to occur. And if you haven’t seen it yet, please read more on the importance of sleep HERE!
So there you have it… my top 10 general strategies to get you on the right path for healing. And while it may take time, don’t let yourself get too depressed over it. Stay strong & diligent, and you can totally kick this thing to the curb. And just remember: This is temporary.
DON’T GIVE UP! Rooting for you AND sending healing vibes.
Great and timely article. It’s as if you knew what I needed to read now. Thanks!
Hi Stefany! I don’t know how you knew this article is just what I needed today. After a long bout with cervical spondylosis I recently had surgery and am just starting to bring in some walking this week. Between the extremes of weak motivation and impatience, there’s something in here for every phase of recovery. Thanks for doing your thing!
Glad to hear you’re on the mend, Troy! Surgery is certainly no fun, but sometimes necessary. Here’s hoping having it behind you will be the start of a healthier chapter for you. Happy the article resonated! 🙂