By Scott Markey
Let’s face it: Being the fitness enthusiasts that we are — most people, when injured or have an illness, usually have the good sense to curtail activity that aggravates the injury or ailment. Whether you are working out for general overall fitness, on a serious basis, to become a fitness or physique competitor, or even a bodybuilder, you usually know when to listen to your body — especially when it’s telling you to slow down your weight training, running, cycling, cross fit, zumba, etc. — but that’s not always the case.
Because we are often critical about ourselves, we may act less rationally when it comes to injuries or setbacks. Typically, we’ll try to tune out what our bodies scream to make us hear. I can’t count the number of times I have seen people put themselves through workouts suffering from bursitis, arthritis, inflamed tendons, muscle pulls, colds, asthma, and even a ruptured disc.
At a loss to figure out why we would rather stop, we’re certainly not stopping. For the most part, the issue is vanity, plain and simple. Much of our ego and self-esteem is tied up in how we look, what we weigh, what the tape measures, what the mirror and scale tells us, and what others tell us.
There is a lot of pressure put on us in society to look good and to look fit. But get an injury that forces a layoff and it becomes all too clear just how fragile that security is.
It can all come crashing down with the snap of a rotator cuff or the tear of a patella tendon. So what do you do when an injury rears its ugly head and renders normal training impossible?
Patience. You have to be patient; take it from me. I have years of training, and an injury, just as insignificant as a common cold or flu might seem, is your body sending you a message to lay off!
But regardless of the injury — with certain exceptions — there’s always something you can do.
Case in point: I have a friend who last summer was suffering from a hip problem that was preventing him from doing squats and leg presses. Without heavy legwork he was certain his legs would soon look like toothpicks. I just put him on a regimen of leg extensions and leg curls, supplemented with cycling and some sprinting, and he kept his leg mass and shape intact.
Always look at the positive. Injuries sometimes present a golden opportunity to work body parts that normally get ignored, thus giving you a chance to bring up a lagging or weak body part.
Some injuries — like torn tendons and muscles, ruptured disks, pinched nerves, or broken bones — might require you to lay off completely. How do you cope with injuries like these, and still stay positive during a period of inactivity? Again, you have to be patient. The rest might even be beneficial, as your body just might need that break. Most injuries heal if given the chance.
Also, it’s a matter of maturity, accepting injuries as a fact of the training and your working out lifestyle. In other words, they come with the territory. If you train long enough and hard enough without listening closely to your body, at some point you are going to get hurt.
The human body can only take so much, so don’t push yourself to workout when you are injured, sick, or even on days where you just really don’t feel like working out. This is a clear indication that you might be overtraining and need the rest.
Instead, be positive and rest when you feel your body needs it. This will help you avoid injuries and come back even better when you do.
—Scott Markey has over 25 years in the fitness and health industry. He has graced dozens of magazine covers and specializes in physique management, training and nutritional consultation. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.