Being physically active is an integral part of our overall health and well-being. It can help you sleep better, lose weight, decrease stress and anxiety, and reduce the risk of developing serious health conditions.
Nothing can put a damper on your exercise routine like sustaining an injury. Whether it's from overdoing it in a pilates class or an unfortunate tumble outside the gym, an injury usually means taking some time off of your workouts to rest and recover.
But just because you are hurt doesn't mean all forms of exercise have to take a back seat, nor should you give up on your healthy habits. We put together this guide with five ways to stay in shape when injured.
Dealing with setbacks from an injury
If your goal is to stay fit while healing from your injury, you can do just that by utilizing these tips.
Adjust your workout regimen
Modifying your exercise routine will depend on where your injury is on your body. The good news is that there are options for staying active while recovering.
Suffering from a lower-body injury? Try lifting dumbbells while sitting or in a half-knee position to work on your upper-body strength.
Are you recovering from a shoulder injury? Focus on exercises that don't require the use of your shoulders, like power walking, light jogging, or cycling on an upright or recumbent bike. (Be sure not to lean forward on your hands if using an upright bike) Several lower body exercises, like lunges, leg lifts, and squats, usually don't involve your shoulders or upper body.
Swimming and yoga are also two ways to keep your body moving while injured. If you start to feel pain doing any workout, stop the exercise or refrain from doing that movement again till you are healed.
It's critical to consult your doctor or physical therapist before attempting or modifying any exercise when injured.
Rest and recover
Taking days off or scheduling rest days every week is essential to any workout plan. The same goes for when you are hurt. It's ok to give your body more time to recover.
Resting is the most effective way to heal from any injury, especially during the initial stages. Time off will help you fully recover, rather than returning to exercising too soon, risking aggravation to your injury and extending healing time.
Your instinct might be to cut calories since your body will be resting more than usual during recovery from an injury. The truth is, your resting metabolic rate with an injury is higher than normal. AKA: a body busy healing burns more calories than a body at rest.
So what should your injury recovery nutrition plan look like? Focus on a balanced diet; increase fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins, cut carbs, stay hydrated, and add superfoods.
Focus on your mental health as well
Taking time off from working out can cause emotional and mental distress. However, it's important to remember that this will pass, and focusing on getting your body healthy should be the primary goal.
To do this, focus on creating a new (temporary) normal. A new normal will look different for everyone, but consider:
Getting up at the same time every day
Scheduling physical therapy or approved workouts
Incorporate calming activities (journaling, meditation, sitting in nature, etc)
Cooking healthy meals
Reach out to friends and family for support
Celebrating the small wins
Prevent exercise injuries in the future
Practicing good exercise habits is the best way to prevent injuries from happening or reoccurring when working out. No matter how often you exercise, always:
Take the time to properly warm-up
Listen to your body- know when you are pushing it too hard or need to rest
Choose physical activities that meet your fitness level
Drink plenty of water
Learn the correct form/technique for your exercises
Maintain a healthy diet
Injuries, in and outside the gym, can happen at any time. By focusing on what you can do instead of what you can't, keeping a positive headspace, and allowing your body to rest, you can fully heal and return to your exercise routine.
Once you are cleared to start back, it's important to take it slow and listen to your body to prevent reinjury.