Hitting the gym frequently and pushing your body to its limits can sometimes come with the hefty price of muscle strains, aches, bruises and soreness. These nagging injuries become increasingly irksome to gym goers, preventing them from properly being able to train the affected muscle groups.
In some instances, due to the sensitive nature and location of the injury, individuals end up quitting their gyms. This is usually the case when someone sustains an elbow, wrist, or shoulder injury. Practically, most of the exercises done by individuals happen to go through one of the previously mentioned joints. As a result, the individual gets side-lined, taking an unwanted lengthy hiatus from going to the gym. Furthermore, an individual may choose to neglect training the injured area altogether, which will lead to muscular imbalances, mobility issues, and most importantly, slower recovery.
Nagging gym injuries can easily disrupt your fitness rhythm and undermine your ability to emotionally bounce back from injury setbacks. But is there a way to train through these injuries and work around them without losing fitness?
Understanding different types and degrees of injuries:
To help you better understand what went wrong and how you got injured in the first place, it is critical to dissect the movement pattern of the exercise that was the cause of your discomfort and the amount of weight being lifted. Also, an important indicator that can give you an idea about the magnitude of the injury at hand is listening to what your body tells you.
For example, let’s say you were bench pressing your personal record (PR) weight after a very exhausting chest workout. Earlier that night, you hadn’t slept well and were feeling lethargic. You decided to tough it out. As you push the weight up, your left pectoral muscles give out and you’re lucky that the bar doesn’t fall on you. It’s obvious that you’ve torn one of the muscles. Here, it’s extremely important to differentiate between a nagging injury and a more serious injury. This type of injury happens to be a serious one that typically requires surgical repair, so there is no way around it. Carrying on and not consulting a doctor is not an option in this case. The likelihood of having bruising, swelling and an intense pain in your chest are high. Plus, you’ll definitely be having limited shoulder motion, which will restrict your day to day activities. The effects of sustaining this injury go way beyond the confined walls of the gym.
Technically speaking, what is a sports injury? As stated by the Department of Health in Victoria, Australia: “Sports injuries are commonly caused by overuse, direct impact, or the application of force that is greater than the body part can structurally withstand.”
- Acute injury: Is a type of injury that occurs all of a sudden causing instant localized pain, or disability. Dislocations, sprains, strains and fractures are all examples of acute injuries.
- Chronic overuse injury: Is a type of injury that occurs over time due to repetitive stress onto the bones, or joints of the body. Other long term consequences of continuing to do the same exact motions despite feeling pain include developing chronic pain where nerves become stimulated throughout that one joint, or throughout the whole body. Achilles tendinitis, tennis elbow and shin splints are all example of chronic overuse injuries.
Now comes the part that you’ve all been waiting for. What are some ways for you to work around nagging gym injuries without losing fitness?
- Be creative: If you’ve been experiencing shoulder pain from doing a certain exercise, then try replacing it with an alternative exercise that still manages to give you the same levels of intensity. You can experiment with lighter weights, different grips, different rep ranges and circuit training.
- Train the other side: The findings of a study from the University of Copenhagen were nothing short of astounding. According to the research: “Just 2 weeks of inactivity in a limb can lead to a 33% loss in strength – a decline which was equated to aging 40-50 years.” Whether the injury is sustained to the leg or to the arm, it is essential for you to do unilateral exercises in order to independently improve strength and balance in the opposing limb.
- Train your upper body/lower body: If you’re suffering from an injury in your right hip that prevents you from using your other opposing hip, then you can train your upper body. The same can be said about suffering an injury to your upper body. Always make sure to maintain fitness no matter what your injury situation is so that you can minimize the loss of strength and muscle mass.
- Target weaknesses: Most of you are unlikely to dedicate time to strengthening the foundation of your body if you’re healthy and injury-free, since it doesn’t necessarily translate into gains. Take advantage of the time you need to heal by focusing on your body’s weaknesses and imbalances. You can develop your hand-eye coordination, biomechanical health, foot strength and ankle stability. Your body will thank you!
- Push through injury: Unless you’re somewhat an intermediate or advanced lifter, it is tricky to advise you to push through an injury. This is because experienced lifters are used to working out consistently throughout the years and have learned how their body reacts to different levels of intensity in the gym. If you feel sharp pain, or any type of discomfort that is not related to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), make sure not to push through an injury. DOMS is the type of soreness you’ll feel for the next two or three days after doing physical activities that your body’s not accustomed to. It is completely normal to feel DOMS after a new and challenging workout.
Conclusion: An individual who takes the decision to maintain fitness while being injured is resilient and has a positive outlook on things. Technical proficiency, adopting a sound rehabilitative program and having quality nutrition (foods that promote anti-inflammation within the body) are vital to a speedy recovery. The injury will heal up faster than usual, the more passive exercising you do, so don’t be scared of hitting the gym. This will help supply the injured area with oxygen and nutrients that promote healing.