Working Out With An Injury — When You Should & When You Shouldn't
Among its plentiful benefits, working out usually tends to just make people feel better — both inside and out. But as much as your fitness routine can help boost endorphins and improve your strength and overall confidence, when done improperly, it can also hurt — a lot. For those of you who are especially gung-ho about sticking to your usual schedule at the gym or your favorite classes, it can be a total buzzkill to have to sit out some sessions, but by following a few trainer-approved do's and don't for working out with an injury, you can be safe, speed up recovery, and still keep your body active.
Whether your preference is doing 10-minute quickie workouts at home with your favorite fitness apps or a more rigorous HIIT workout at the gym, getting injured doesn't necessarily mean you have to get completely sidelined. That said, it's also important to know when to give it a rest. As a celebrity trainer (her impressive roster of clientele includes include Kerry Washington, Pink, and Karlie Kloss) as well as a Vionic Innovation Lab member, Juliet Kaska has learned that the first thing to consider is which category you fall into. "It’s almost like there are only two types of people in the world; those that power through even when injured and those that go to the opposite extreme and stop everything the moment they feel something," she explains.
"People that continue to power through after an injury or when in pain and don’t give their body time to heal can — and most likely will — end up causing a much worse injury either now or in the near future," Kaska says. And the alternative isn't much better. "For people who stop exercising all together when they feel any ache at all, I’d like to say don’t use an ache in one part of your body to be the accuse to work out the rest of your body," she goes on.
If you err on the side of of caution, something to remember is that working out isn't always comfortable. "Working out is supposed to be challenging and sometimes your body will ache," the fitness guru offers. "To build muscle and increase body density we actually create little minor tears in our muscles, it’s in the act of their healing that we gain our strength." That said, there are certainly times when you need to take it seriously. Ahead, find Kaska's best advice for working out with an injury, including smart swaps and wellness tips to speed up recovery.
Know When To Stop
Once you've determined that your injury is beyond the standard soreness or stiffness that can come after a challenging workout, know when to rest or seek medical attention. "Listen to your body, or you will more than likely injure yourself more seriously." Kaska recommends. "Rest the injured area for two to five days, if symptoms don’t subside or come back when you start exercising, it’s time to see a doctor. You can still workout, just refrain from using the injured area. It could just be your body's way of telling you that area needs a rest."
"If your doctor has cleared you to workout or you don’t have a serious injury, take a few days off from working out that area until your symptoms subside," she suggests. "That doesn’t mean don’t work out at all, just modify your workout to rest the injured area. For example, if you have an achy knee, get off your feet. No lunges, squats, plyometrics, leg machines. Instead focus on upper body and core work. If your lower back is sore stay away from plyometrics, heavy lifting, and weight-bearing abdominal work including leg lifts."
Go Low (Impact)
Low-impact workouts are great to switch over to, as they typically shouldn't put as much of a strain on your body in general. "Instead take a yoga or Pilates class or do a restorative routine such as my seven-minute mindful practice I developed with Vionic for their Move for You Method," she says. "My number one recommended low-impact exercise to switch to if you’re taking it easy after an injury is swimming. Swimming is low impact and supportive to your joints, while also getting your heart rate up."
Focus On Recovery
Even with your low-impact workout or smart gym swaps, help prevent future injuries by making sure to properly stretch before and after your session, and try using a foam roller to speed up healing and recovery. As for treating the injured areas specifically, Kaska notes that ibuprofen and ice can help with minor injuries by offering a reduction in inflammation.
Additionally, heat can help you warm up and soothe muscles prior to your fitness routine. "Use heat before your workout to warm the sore or injured muscles and bring blood flow to the area," she explains. "After working out, ice the area for 20 minutes to decrease the inflammation. Cryotherapy is also very popular for decreasing inflammation."