Let’s face it: injuries suck.
There’s no eloquent way to word it. In fact, if you’ve been sidelined due to an injury, you’ve likely used a bounty of not-so-eloquent words to describe how you feel. To make matters worse, many internet “doctors” have a lot to say about exercising with an injury. This bounty of advice can hurt more than help and may simply leave you asking yourself, “I’m injured — now what?”
I’m Injured — Now What?
Well, you’ve finally done it. After four injury-free weekends on the trails, you’ve found yourself with a sprained ankle. The culprit? A pesky rock. As you limp to your car, negative thoughts begin to swirl around that frenzied brain of yours:
“I’m going to lose all of my gains!”
“This will have me out of the gym for weeks.”
“Sitting on the couch is going to drive me crazy!”
“Woe. Is. ME.”
We’ve all been there and it’s okay to be there. After the initial “suck” has set in, utilize the tips below to help make your current situation a little more bearable and to learn how to make exercising with an injury tolerable:
— Think Big Picture
This article is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. However, if your doctor did not tell you to cease all exercise, think big picture and get creative: if you have sprained your ankle, for example, there are many other muscle groups that you can focus on. Engage in workouts that do not incorporate your injured body part but that still allow you to progress or maintain your current fitness level. Remember: you’re exercising with an injury, not exercising the injury itself.
— Be Realistic
If you’ve injured a lower extremity, assuming that you will continue to progress in your squat performance is unrealistic. However, using this time strategically can allow you to progress in upper body work like pull-ups or push-ups. Injuries make for fantastic opportunities to work on any weaknesses that you may have.
— Prioritize Protein
You’re worried about your gains; who isn’t? Prioritizing protein while injured can help maintain mass while that particular body part is on the sidelines. This becomes even more important if the injury will take a while to heal, like an ACL repair. While exercising with an injury like an ACL tear is possible (engaging in upper-body-centric workouts, for example), adequate nutrition should be your top priority. It is also important to remember that being injured is not a reason to eat in a drastic caloric deficit. Just as your body needs fuel to hit those Squat PRs, it also needs fuel to heal itself.
— Swallow Your Pride
At Jungle Gym, we love functional fitness. We love teaching you how to move your body in a way that will allow you to live a healthier, happier, and more enjoyable life. Because our main goal is to prepare you for life, we understand that injuries are a part of it and that sometimes, exercising with an injury is inevitable. Never be afraid of asking a coach for injury modifications. Never be embarrassed about having to do X while the rest of the class does Y.
— Dive In
When you start to feel lousy about your current predicament (and you will), dive into those feelings. Why do you feel lousy? Are you worried about losing progress; about gaining weight that you have already lost? Are you sad because you were training for an event that you can no longer participate in? Do you just loathe the idea of not being able to do burpees for three weeks?
Take this as an opportunity to exercise your mental health. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Your feelings are justified, especially by those within the JG community. For us, fitness is a part of life. It’s something that we genuinely enjoy; it’s how we spend a chunk of our free time. When an injury surfaces and takes something that you enjoy away from you, it can be a very hard pill to swallow and a very isolating experience. We are here for you. Know that.
— Listen to Your Doctor
Finally, listen to your doctor. If he or she says that you are to avoid plyometric exercises for six months, despite being cleared for exercise, don’t do them. If you are told that you shouldn’t bear weight on an injury for four weeks, do not try to do so at the three-week mark.
Again, this goes back to thinking about the big picture. An injury that should take only two weeks to heal can turn into an injury that requires two months to heal if you jump back into the swing of things too quickly. As we’ve said, exercising with an injury is very different than exercising the injury itself. Aside from prescribed physical therapy, allow your body to do what it was designed to do: heal.
Have you been given the all-clear by a medical professional to exercise the rest of your body despite your injury? Great! Come into Jungle Gym, explain your limitations, and let us help you maintain your sanity during this not-so-eloquently-worded time.