It’s a common scenario. You’ve recently started a new fitness training regimen and you’re going strong. You’re making friends at the gym, starting to notice changes when you look in the mirror, and you feel great. And then one day — BAM! You pull a muscle, twist your ankle, or throw out your back.
Does this have to mean all of your hard work has been for naught and that you’ll have to wait to recover and then start all over again from scratch? Not so fast. Read on for some tips aimed at helping you maintain your base fitness while overcoming your injury.
Acknowledge Your Injury
Resuming trigger activities following an injury without giving your body time to heal is not going to end well. However, even if one particular body part is immobilized, there are usually other things you can do to stay fit while recovering.
For example, if you incur a foot or ankle injury, you may be able to perform non-weight bearing exercises, whereas if you hurt your shoulder or arm, many traditional cardio exercises, from stationary cycling to stair climbing, may still be possible. A back injury, meanwhile, may actually be aided by an activity like yoga or swimming. (Sign Up for an Aquatic Session today to learn more about the many gentle yet powerful body benefits of water exercise.)
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It is ill-advised, however, to try to switch things up on your own. Before beginning any new fitness program, make sure to check in with your doctor to make sure you’re cleared for activity. Additionally, if you’ve been working with a physical therapist, he or she may have recommendations for optimal activities during your rehabilitation.
Once you’ve got the go-ahead from your doctor and PT, another professional offers invaluable partnership in helping to design an alternative fitness routine: a certified personal trainer. In addition to devising a safe, realistic workout program which will best support your recovery, he or she can also ensure that you’re using the proper techniques in order to get the most out of your workout.
And speaking of prevention, while there’s no 100 percent guarantee against getting injured, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of re-injury.
For starters, always warm up and cool down before and after exercise. This helps your body get ready to get moving and also helps it return to “normal” afterward. Stretching, cross-training, wearing the proper gear, getting the right amount of rest, and easing into new routines by gradually building frequency, duration, and intensity can all help you stay injury-free.
Again, a certified personal trainer can help you incorporate injury prevention strategies into your workout regimen.
Listen to Your Body
Here’s one last thing to keep in mind. While you may be anxious to get back to where you were prior to your injury, pushing yourself too hard or too quickly in the immediate days and weeks following an injury can lead to diminishing returns in the form of everything from re-injury to burnout. Your body will usually tell you if it’s hurting or working too hard. Listen to it!
As fitness columnist Larry Krutka wrote in Everyday Health, “Returning to full activity is complicated and usually should be supervised by someone who has professional expertise with your injury. If your injury forced you from your activity for more than a couple of weeks, expect an equal amount of time to return to your previous level. Sometimes it may take six weeks of incremental exercise to begin seeing progress. The fastest way to return to normal activity is to give your body the time it needs to rebuild its strength and conditioning.”
Despite even the best preventative efforts, injuries happen. But this doesn’t mean your fitness level has to take a hit. And while your progress may initially be more slow-going than you’d like, the benefits of working with a certified personal trainer and adopting a modified exercise program will ultimately help you stay on track toward your fitness goals. Ready to get back into the gym? Sign up for a personal trainer session today.