Too often weight training and injuries go hand in hand. If you train hard long enough, those aches and pains can turn into injuries. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. How you manage the injury will not only affect your recovery time, but it can prevent further problems in the future.
It’s important to know what courses of action to take when you’re faced with an injury. Follow these five tips to get back in the gym safely.
Tip 1: Train Other Muscle Groups
Reading that subheading alone may be misleading. It doesn’t mean to conduct full-scale workouts at your normal frequency, intensity, or duration — that will likely cause aggravations to the healing injury. However, light training to unaffected muscle groups (even if you’re confined to a few fixed machines and have to distance yourself from barbell training for a couple of weeks) can improve blood circulation and speed your rate of recovery. Use discretion and common sense, don’t go overboard, and don’t let being injured keep you out of the gym entirely.
Tip 2: Educate Yourself!
It’s easy to get discouraged and feel pessimistic once you’re injured. I experienced that more than once first hand with injuries to my hamstrings as a sprinter, and to my back as a lifter. But it encouraged me to take the initiative to look deeper into the nature of each of those injuries, why they were occurring, and how to lower the chances for re-injury.
It also served as a great way to determine which exercises and program methodologies worked well for my body and which ones didn’t. For many, high-frequency training pays huge dividends for muscular development and strength. For some, however (me included), training any more than four to five times per week doesn’t provide any added benefits.
You may need to look at your warm up, your sets and reps, and your form. Setbacks are one of the best ways to learn about your body as a trainee, and to learn what to apply going forward to fix the issue.
Tip 3: Invest in Treatment
This sounds straightforward, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do anything when an injury happens. They simply rest until they can move pain-free again, and then return to their program. This is a recipe for disaster.
Injuries are your body’s way of telling you that something was out of line and it reached its “breaking point” so to speak. Only looking at an injury from a pain perspective will make you jump back into things once it’s stopped hurting and you can move freely, but the truth may be more complicated, and investing in the help of a good practitioner like a physiotherapist, chiropractor or sports doctor is your ticket to knowing your next steps after you’ve healed.
Tip 4: Value Your Rest
Although it’s good to exercise other muscle groups, the key is to train them lightly. The whole point is for the injury to recover, and if the body is overstressed, your recovery will take forever — or not happen at all. Train less frequently, and with less volume, than normally would. Also, make sure to get full night’s rest. You’ll be glad you did.
Tip 5: Examine Your Nutrition
When you’re eating for cosmetic purposes, it’s easy to get into the habit of eating much more of certain foods, and fewer of others. It may also be a convenient, quick way to prepare meals for the day or week. But there’s a problem: you could be excluding nutrients that your body needs.
Often, a deficiency in certain nutrients can lead to poor joint or muscle tissue quality, which can end up catching up to you in the weight room in the form of a muscle injury. Having a nutritionist or practitioner recommend quantities of nutrients you personally need to take care of weak points in your diet may be the key to staying off of the sidelines. In certain cases, it may require supplements — but in most cases, balancing out a healthy diet or improving hydration levels could be the missing solve to the problem.
The Bottom Line
Ironically, injured people often treat their bodies with less care than they would while they’re healthy — when it needs to be at the very least flipped the other way around. Don’t push it when you have an injury; it’s easy to go overboard and “reach” for the point that you feel back to normal. Take a step back, get treated by a good practitioner, and take care of your rest and nutrition. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be back to full strength.