The saying, “no pain, no gain” is a stupid exercise mantra to begin with, and it certainly won’t work if you’re already injured.
In fact, if you continue to push yourself hard even when you’re hurting, you could find yourself in the doctor’s office (or worse). You could also increase your chances of developing a chronic injury that may never fully go away if you continue training through the pain, or if you return to training too soon after an injury.
On the other hand, if you take too much time off, you stand to lose all of your hard-earned gains!
Luckily, there are ways in which you can still train even with an injury, so that you won’t miss significant time away from your normal regime. You just have to be smart about what you do.
Don’t work through the pain, work AROUND it
The first rule to training through injury is to never work through the pain, but rather, find alternative exercises to work around it.
For example, if you’ve messed up your knees and you find yourself unable to squat without pain, there are other exercises that you can do that will target the same muscle groups, but in a different way.
In this case, dead-lifts can be a good alternative because like the squat, they also work your lower body, especially your glutes and hamstrings. But since the exercise starts with the weight on the ground, it does not assert the same kind of pressure on your knees as the squat does.
Leg presses are another viable alternative if you’ve injured your knees, as they let you work the major muscles of your legs in a stable and controlled manner, and without placing too much pressure on your knees.
The rule of thumb to exercising with an injury is, if any of it hurts, stop!
Also, if the injury is serious, it might just be better to rest up and come back stronger after you have recovered.
Train with lighter weights and higher reps
It’s common sense that lifting lighter weights carries a lower risk of injury than heavy lifting.
So if you’re training through an injury, it is recommended to go with lighter weights and higher repetitions.
One reason for this is because doing so will allow you to spend your downtime focusing on basics and dialling in the movement patterns.
Also, by performing low-intensity exercises with higher reps and at a consistent pace, you can ease the healing process and retain some of your muscular size and strength by activating your muscles, especially if you do it early on after you have sustained an injury.
By focusing on going slower and concentrating on feeling the target muscles when you perform each movement, you learn to gauge the limitations of your injury so you do not aggravate it or make it worse.
Emphasise proper form
When I train, I live by the saying, “Better light and right, than heavy and sh*tty”.
If you’re already injured, then training with bad form will only make it worse. Of course, one of the most common reasons why injuries occur in the first place is if you do not use proper form while training.
Our bodies have specific biomechanical pathways that we need to adhere to in order to stay injury-free, and maintaining good form and technical proficiency while executing our lifts can dramatically reduce our chances of getting injured.
For example, contorting, jerking, twisting, or hitching a weight up (just think about doing this with a rounded back) can put you at extreme risk of sustaining an injury.
If you are already injured or experience pain every time you perform a movement, perhaps it is time to slow down and relearn your technique, and find ways to work around the pain, so you can reduce your chances of getting injured again in the future.
Maintain a healthy diet
The last thing you want when you’re down and out from an injury is to get completely out-of-shape by falling off the nutrition wagon too. Nutrition is often overlooked, but has an important role to play when you’re recovering from injury.
The healing process can take weeks, or even months, but you can stay healthy and even accelerate the healing process by following a proper diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
For example, certain foods like ginger, has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce soreness and pain. Meanwhile, fried foods and processed white flour have been known to promote inflammation, so it would be wise to avoid these while nursing an injury.
You should also stock up on nutrients like glucosamine sulfate, which can help strengthen tendons, cartilage and ligaments, and calcium, which can aid in the repair of connective tissue.
Also be sure to consume plenty of fresh vegetables, as they contain important enzymes and vitamins that can speed up the healing process.
Nobody likes getting injured and, for many exercise enthusiasts, it can feel like the end of the world.
While injuries can be a bummer, it is important to maintain a positive attitude while you work through rehab so you do not end up in a rut or end up giving up on your fitness goals altogether.
Besides, you can use your downtime to work on your individual weaknesses and improve weaker parts of your body while your injuries heal up.
Remember that you can still make progress, even if it comes at a slower pace.
Anyway, being negative never gets anyone anywhere, right? So keep calm and have faith that you’ll come back stronger!
Fiona Ho is a certified personal trainer and a competitive strength athlete who derives happiness in lifting heavy objects. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.