As a personal trainer, clients always ask me, “How do I get rid of this?” as they point to their belly fat.
But you might be surprised by the second most common question I’m asked: “I hurt my [insert body part], how can I keep working out?”
As we age, injuries become more and more a part of our lives and sometimes they happen no matter how careful you are. If you’re someone who cares about fitness, it can be tough to get in shape while injured, that’s why it’s important to deal with the situation properly. If you have a minor pull or sprain, follow these steps to avoid a long, drawn out recovery process. (If you have a serious injury that is limiting your ability to function normally, please see a doctor immediately and do not try to self-heal.)
Think long term. If you want to try to remain in shape during your injury, it may be tempting to keep working out the same way you did before. But unless you’re Lebron James getting ready for Game 7 of the finals, you’ll see greater benefits if you take a day or two off. So go home and give your body some time to recover instead of going through your normal routine.
Recovery comes first. Use your time at home to focus on recovery. This does not mean laying on the couch and binge-watching your favorite TV show. Instead, use this time to repair your muscles with a foam roller (a lacrosse/tennis ball will also do the trick). Recovery could also mean icing for 15-20 minutes every hour. The general idea is to be actively recovering, instead of laying around. This will speed up your recovery time, especially in the first few hours or days of your injury. Listen to your body wait until you feel you’re ready to work that muscle or joint again.
Don’t make it worse by creating new injuries. Now that you’ve recovered at home for a bit, you likely feel well enough to get back to the gym. But be careful not to make matters worse by creating new injuries. When you have an injury, it affects how the rest of your body moves. For example, maybe your injured hip no longer hurts when you run. However, the injury is undoubtedly affecting your running form, which could be putting added pressure on another joint or muscle in your leg. Before you know it, you now have multiple injuries. Be sure to take it slow when you start back to your fitness routine.
Don’t neglect the injured area. If significant time has passed and you still don’t feel fully recovered, you may be tempted to never work on that area again to avoid pain. However, by neglecting an injury, you could be making that joint or muscle weaker, which sets you up for further injury or multiple injuries down the road. Instead of ignoring the problem and ignoring the muscles that surround the injured area, find out what exercises can safely allow you to return to form. If you’re unsure of what exercises to do, consult a qualified fitness professional or doctor to assist you in the rehabilitation process.
Brian Maher is the owner of Philly Personal Training, a Philadelphia-based studio offering 1-on-1 personal training, physical therapy, and nutrition counseling. Philly Personal Training is the only studio or gym in Philadelphia that requires its trainers to possess a college degree in an exercise-related field, as opposed to a basic certification.