April is here and spring is around the corner (at least I seriously hope it is, that snow we had on the last day of March was so depressing!) You may have a new fitness endeavor in mind with the weather getting better and have been pushing it a little harder both inside and outside the gym. Unfortunately, with this new motivation and fitness endeavor, you’ve gotten injured. While it’s impossible for me to write about every kind of injury you may be experiencing, here are some ideas through trial and error in my fitness path that may help you get back on track to reaching your goals sooner and getting your health back on track.
Consider Rest as “Let’s Not Make My Injury Worse,” Rather Than, “I’m Never Using My Arms/Legs/Back Again”
A common response to any injury is, “I need to just not do anything because I hurt myself the last time I challenged myself so rest and relaxation is what I need to do.” That is a really easy, simple, and less risky excuse to be lazy. Sure, taking one or two days off of working out and reevaluating your goals is a good idea, but taking months off and never trying to exercise again or challenge yourself physically is not an ideal approach. You don’t ever want to be in a position where you can’t use a certain body part. No matter how insignificant it may appear, it will always surprise you how much you use that body part every day – especially when you injure it. So depending on the injury, especially if it came from an exercise, start off by assessing your injury. Do you feel a dull pain all the time? Do you feel an acute pain when you only do certain exercises? Has it been getting better or worse over the past couple days?
Sometimes when you get injured it can be a really good time to work on other areas of fitness you are terrible at or dread doing. There was one summer in college when I injured my elbow doing a calisthenics exercise and it took a long time to get over my tendinitis. It hurt every time I grabbed a weight, bent my arm, squeezed my hand, grabbed a barbell, basically a meathead’s worst nightmare. Rather than sitting around choosing to do nothing, I did a lot of body weight work for legs and a lot more running than I ever have since playing soccer in high school. Slowly I started reintroducing the challenges of calisthenics for my upper body and over the course of a month after reintroducing those exercises and not making my injury worse, I was able to get back into the activities I loved!
Have a Professional Watch Your Form Every Once in a While
Many people get swim lessons when they are at a young age, why don’t we get running lessons? We live in a world where we don’t have to run for anything, but because it is the most simple and perceivably easiest form of exercise, a lot of us gravitate towards running when it comes to fitness goals. Rather than running for a week and then getting injured, have a professional (like our Running Coach Jake) watch your form and get some pointers on things to improve on and any necessary drills to ensure you can reach your goals injury free. This also goes for any strength goal you may have. For instance, maybe there is a simple solution for why your knees ALWAYS hurt when you squat or your back ALWAYS hurts when you deadlift. Having a fresh set of eyes with expertise watching your form can be the difference between reaching your goals and getting injured.
There was one time when I injured my upper back doing hang cleans and it literally knocked the wind out of me. It hurt to get up and down from a seated position, get a full breath of air, and do any kind of twisting motion. While it made sure to not make it worse and do other things instead, I knew it wasn’t getting any better. I had a chiropractor snap me around like a rag doll for an hour and felt 100% better the next day. I also avoided hang cleans like the plague. Then I started working at Pittsburgh Fitness Project where my boss is a nationally ranked Olympic Weightlifter. I specifically made a point to myself that if I were ever going to do that exercise again, it would be under his supervision. I found that my form was way off. And with almost a year and a half into it, I have not gotten injured again even with my heavy volume of hang cleans.
Stay Positive and Be Patient
It is really easy to fall into the trap of negativity when you get injured. Simple tasks in life will become inconvenient and you may not be able to do the things you love because of an injury. You also just want to wake up the next day and feel better. No matter how long your injury may take to heal, being negative and letting yourself get weaker is not going to help you feel better in the long run. With all the injuries that I’ve gotten over the years, I did my best to have a positive mindset be as optimistic as I could to get myself through it. Thinking about conquering your weaknesses, doing any form of exercise you are truly capable of without aggravating the injury, and having a positive outlook on getting back into your routine slowly over time can work wonders for your healing process. Be sure to stay patient in this process. Depending on the severity of your injury, it could take months to feel better and get to where you were at before the injury.
While I can’t give you every possible scenario for an injury in this article, these three points can help you overcome your injury. Testing your injuries and doing what you can while not making the injury worse can help get some blood flow through the injured area and increase the healing process. Seeing a professional to check your form and give you some supplemental exercises to help you heal can prevent future injuries and ensure that your future workouts will be safer. Lastly, keep a positive mindset and be patient to help you power through the injury. Consider the injury a slight detour in the highway of life rather than a dead end.
Concerned About Your Fitness While Dealing with an Injury or Upcoming Procedure?
If you would like to have a PFP assessment to review your mobility and discuss your injury concerns, our PFP staff is ready to help! It doesn’t matter your level of fitness, we are here to meet you where you are and help you become the best you possibly can be! Check out our staff bios to get a feel for our trainers or sign up with Sandor (the trainer who wrote this blog post!) below!
SANDOR KOPPANY: PFP Trainer
ACE Certified/ PEAK Pilates Level 1 Certified, B.S. Exercise Science