Dealing with Body Injuries

Body injuries are usually a big fat bummer.

It changes what you can do, that's for sure. But can you keep making fitness progress? Depends on the injury. You don't want to overtax yourself or interfere with your body's healing but being completely sedentary is usually not the answer either.

First off, are you injured or just sore? Soreness can usually be worked through, but a true injury requires different tactics.

With any kind of injury or illness, get your doctor's approval before taking action.

We're NOT talking about a whole body (systemic) injury or illness, like a virus or infection, that requires a different approach. Rest. Follow your doctor's orders.

With some kind of injuries you doctor may WANT you to keep it moving, so it doesn't get stiff and locked up and to speed healing by increasing circulation (this may be true for some ligament strains, for example). Years ago, I fell off a horse and the ankle ligament twisted badly out coming out of the stirrup. The doctor said to keep walking on it, that's the best thing you can do. It hurt to walk and was awkward, but I did it and it was a long, slow recovery with no major or sustaining damage.

Don't forget about the rest of your body! Too often we cope with body injuries by slipping into an all-or-nothing approach and end up doing zero exercise because of an injury to one part of our body. In many cases you only need to change what you're doing, not stop doing everything.

Why lose ground and keep making progress on your fitness and health goals? Listen to your body, be creative, and come up with other ways to keep moving forward. Find safe ways to keep building your exercise routine. There is always a way!

Injured your arm or shoulder? Work out your legs (squats, lunges, and leg lifts for example), abdominals (standing crunches for example), and do some non-bouncy cardio (such as walking).

Injured your leg? Find a way to work out your upper body, abdominal core, and do some cardio using your upper body, free weights, or yoga (such as push ups holding yourself up with your arms, etc.).

Injured your foot? Find a way to tighten your abdominal core, get in some cardio using your upper body (such as using free weights), non-weight bearing floor exercises (leg lifts, air bicycle pedaling), or yoga (such as push ups holding yourself up with your arms with your foot off the ground, etc.).

Injured your back or abdominals? These are trickier as these muscle groups tend to engage the whole body (why they're so important). If you can do ANY core exercises, that will help you now and in the future with your back. Building more core strength will support your back and prevent it was taking the brunt of the effort once it's healed (and during). If you can use your arms or legs in any way, do so.

Do what you can safely do. For example:
Can you still tighten your butt muscles? Good, do those.
Can you still tighten your abs? Good, do those.
Can you still practice your balance? Good, do that.
Can you still stretch other parts of your body? Good, do that.
Is swimming safe and allowed by your doctor? Good, do that.

Be creative! And be smart.

Need more ideas? Talk with a personal trainer who can develop a plan for you that works around your body injuries and keeps your safe AND fit and avoids muscle imbalances (overworking one side).

When in doubt, don't push yourself. Making things worse is the LAST thing you want to do. But don't kid yourself into thinking there is nothing you can do and abandoning all of your goals until you are 100% healed. Be honest with yourself and find a happy medium.

Don't use your body injuries as an excuse if you can find a safe way around them. Keep eating healthy and taking action on your goals.

Keep feeling empowered, staying mentally fit and focused on your dreams. Don't slip into the "woe is me, life is unfair" victim mode and you will keep your momentum going. Learning how to cope with body injuries builds confidence and helps you get creative. Where there is a will, there is a way!

Laid up completely? Recovering from major surgery or on forced bed rest? You can still use your mind. Use the power of creative visualization to envision yourself as healthy, active, and well. It actually helps your healing and athletic performance.

Happy Healing!

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