Let’s face facts: injuries suck. There’s really no good to come of an injury if you’re a fitness enthusiast. It means forced time off, depression cause you can’t train, and as most athletes fear, potential weight gain while you barely get off your ass.
But should you even really be resting? While the common notion is that when you’re injured, rest is the best medicine, it turns out, this may not be exactly what the doctor ordered. In many cases, activity is an important part of optimal recovery.
Let’s delve further into this topic and show you why you may not want to call it quits on the gym so quickly after that blow to the knee, crushing pain in your back, or incidence of shoulder pain that won’t let up.
A body in motion stays in motion
The first thing to realize is that a body in motion stays in motion. Your enemy right now is going to be tensing up, experiencing tight muscles, tendons, and ligaments that will restrict movement even further and may just accelerate the severity of the injury.
When injured, you want to keep things loose and mobile in most cases – and light activity can help do that. This doesn’t mean hit the gym and do all the same exercises you used to, but it does mean you should try to get the blood flowing to the muscles, delivering important nutrients that will be key for optimal recovery.
Just make sure that you always do a thorough warm-up for the injured muscle group, as exercising cold can worsen your injury.
Strengthening muscle imbalances are key
Another reason to keep active? It’ll help prevent unwanted muscle imbalances. Not only could these imbalances be what caused the injury in the first place, they could also be vital for recovery.
If the muscle imbalance is pulling on tendons and ligaments in a certain manner, causing joints to track improperly, until this is fixed, you’re going to keep experiencing pain.
If you’re not sure whether you have a muscle imbalance or not, this is where an appointment with a physiotherapist can help. They will assess your biomechanics and establish what needs to be worked on. From there, you can put the appropriate exercises in place and continue to do these either in therapy or in a gym setting.
One injury is not full body encompassing
Finally, it’s important to note that one injury isn’t going to render your entire body out of order. Unless it’s something very severe like back pain that’s made it almost impossible to move, you can usually train your other muscle groups just fine.
For example, if a bum knee is crushing your squat gains, just go harder when you do chest, back, or shoulders. You may not be able to hit your legs how you’d want to, but this doesn’t mean you have to de-train your entire upper body as well.
In fact, now is the perfect time to put more attention on the upper body and turn it up a notch. You won’t have to devote recovery reserves to lower body training in this example (which can be very draining as I’m sure you’ve experienced before), this leaves you with so much you can do when it comes to your upper body.
Training through injury the smart way
While the tough guys may simply take a ‘grin and bear it’ approach, this is not what you want to be doing with your training. The fact is, you want to ensure that you’re listening to your body when you’re in pain. Pain is your body’s way of letting you know you’re going too far, too fast and need to stop right away.
If you don’t listen to pain, you’ll just dig yourself deeper into the injury hole, possibly never to fully climb back out.
The trick is to drop the painkillers, tune in to your body and work around the pain. Let pain guide your path. When you do this, you get onto the road to recovery faster without losing gains.
Here are some additional tips:
- Go slow. Post-injury is not the time to strive for PB’s. Use this as an opportunity to perfect your form and focus on simply getting movement into your day.
- Check your form. Speaking of form, make sure yours is 100% spot on with every exercise you do. Poor form could be what led to the injury in the first place.
- Allow for adequate rest between sets. Ditch supersets, drop sets, and any other high-intensity technique for the time being when working the affected area.
- Consider a break for that muscle group. In some cases, you really do just need time to rest and recover. If it’s tendonitis for instance, if you keep working that muscle, you’re going to keep getting inflamed and completely scupper the recovery process. In this scenario, give yourself a few weeks of pure rest for that muscle group.
- This doesn’t mean you can’t work unaffected areas with great intensity. Smart bodybuilders know that when one area of the body gets hurt, the other areas are in for a serious beating, so to speak. Bring up those lagging areas that you never have time for normally. After a few weeks once all pain and inflammation has subsided, then consider getting back into it with that injured muscle group once again.
So there you have it. You really can train through injury. It’ll always be a massive pain in the ass that’s part of any hard-working gym-nuts life. It’s almost impossible to side-step injury completely if you’re constantly pushing your body to its limits, but if you employ the methods above, at least it doesn’t have to stop progress in all areas of your body.