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Staying Fit While Working Out Post-Injury

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Young woman weight training

Working out has never been my forte: One little cramp and I’d deem myself injured so I could... well, stop. When I finally became the little exerciser that could and a real injury happened, I had no idea what to do with myself. The old me would’ve let out an exasperated sigh while booking in for an evening of Netflix, but the new me wanted to disown the old me – I wanted to continue working out regardless of my injury (I know, right? Go me!), since I didn’t want to lose the momentum I’d managed to build.

Injuries from working out are quite common: Things like pulled muscles, sprained ankles, and knee injuries can strike no matter how careful you are. Here’s the 411 on how to treat and work your way around them:

Treating Your Injury

If you’re concerned about your injury (especially if it’s back-related), go with your gut and seek advice from your doctor. If it’s not a serious injury, focus on resting the injured area. Put ice on it to lessen inflammation and apply a compression bandage to keep swelling to a minimum. Treat yourself to an ibuprofen while keeping it elevated.

How long it takes to fully heal will depend on the severity (typically, four weeks or less). You can still work out, but you have to avoid any portions of your workout that puts pressure on the injured area. Once it’s been pain-free for a week or more, ease back into your usual routine – you’ll have to rebuild your muscle’s strength and endurance. Pushing too hard will only make history repeat itself.

Working Out Around Your Injury

First, keep your routine in check. For example, if you’re a runner with a knee injury and you enjoy working out in the morning, continue to do so but find a lighter workout to focus on until your injury’s healed (like walking or cycling). That way, you’ll be able to get back to your regularly scheduled programming without so much as a hiccup.

Next, substitute the areas of your workout that include the injured area. Either continue doing the same move but to a (much) lesser degree, or focus on different areas of your body until you’ve fully healed.

Finally, if your injury was caused by repetition, take the time to rest up. If your body’s not getting enough rest, the injury you’re attempting to recover from won’t be your last.

 Preventing Future Injuries

1. Know your body

Make sure you tailor all workouts based on your trouble areas – to either strengthen them or go easy on them to prevent repeating injuries.

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2. Listen to your body

“If something doesn’t feel right, then something probably isn’t,” says wellness expert Dr. Carmella Sebastian. “If something hurts – especially when you move it or use it during exercise – working through the pain can just end up exacerbating an injury and really sidelining you for a long time.”

3. Cross-train

Make sure your workout offers variety. If you overuse one set of muscles, it can lead to overuse and repetitive-use injuries. (These suck. They’re like a guy who keeps asking you out even though you’ve already said no 2,432 times.)

4. Rest

Take a day or two to rest each week. Rest days give your body the opportunity to recover.

How do you handle working out when you're injured?

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