A sprained ankle, a torn ACL, or a stress fracture. There aren’t many things more frustrating than sports and workout injuries. You were making such progress toward your weight loss and fitness goals only to have a simple injury slow you down. Now, you begin to feel the full weight of the saying, “Use it or lose it.” In a few weeks time, you know you’ll lose the fitness gains you made if you don’t continue some sort of exercise.
But take heart! Unless you’ve suffered a serious injury such as a broken back or concussion (don’t wish these on anyone), there are ways to stay in shape following injury.
How you’re able to continue exercise depends largely on the type and location of your injury. Remember, never exercise through pain and listen to your body for signals to stop or slow down. Pushing through pain will only make an injury worse. Discuss with your doctor what exercise you’re still able to do and work with your trainer to develop a new routine.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
The good thing about arm or shoulder injuries is you still have the ability to do a wide range of exercises that work your non-injured body parts. While keeping your arm immobile, you can walk, do the elliptical, climb stairs, or ride a stationary bicycle to stay in shape.
Lower-body and core strength-training exercises are another great option. Work your way through a circuit of leg presses, core exercises, squats, lunges, leg raises, and wall sits. If using weights, let your trainer add and remove the weights for you just to be safe. No egos in the gym.
You may not guess it, but exercise can be one of the best ways to relieve back pain. The type of back injury you have will determine the extent of exercise you’re able to do, but in most cases it’s still safe to do cardio exercises like walking, swimming, and recumbent cycling.
With a back injury you want to avoid crunches, toe touches, and leg lifts, which can aggravate back pain. Instead, try things like the wall sit, bird dog, chest press, lat pull-down, and seated row exercises.
Lower-body injuries are more limiting because it’s difficult to perform endurance and cardio exercises without the use of your legs. Difficult, but not impossible. A few safe possible options include kayaking or rowing, cycling with one leg, or hand-cycling machines. With a special type of float, you may even be able to swim using only your arms.
Certain leg or foot injuries may mean avoiding high-impact exercises. Running may be your exercise of choice, but you can still stay in physical shape by cross training. Great low-impact workouts can be enjoyed on the elliptical machine, in the swimming pool, or on a bicycle. Leg and knee injuries are a good time to focus on upper body strength training. If you push your legs harder than your arms, you now have the chance to pay attention to muscles that normally get ignored. Increasing upper body and core strength will in the end improve your performance. Pull-ups, lat pull-downs, cable rows, overhead presses, and chest presses are effective ways to increase upper body strength.
Serious injuries may require immobility to give your body a chance to heal. In times like this, it’s best to remain patient as you wait things out. You can still stay in the game mentally. Go to the gym to hang out and visit with your trainer and make a plan for moving ahead after recovery and talk about maintaining or modifying your diet. Watch your favourite sports on TV, read inspirational stories about your favourite athletes, or research how to improve your technique when you’re given the green light. Whatever you do, don’t throw in the towel!
Wondering what risks you run when exercising and playing sports?
The top five most common sports injuries include a sprained ankle, a pulled groin, a strained hamstring, shin splints, and an ACL tear. Avoid these injuries and more by doing your homework on exercise, learning the movements, controlling weight, tempo and effort in the gym and by listening to you body. If you need more help in this area, seek out a personal trainer who can steer you away from injury and towards your goals.
Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.