Training through Injuries

A sprained ankle doesn't give you a freebie to binge watch Game of Thrones or Daredevil (but who needs an excuse to do that anyway, right?). Instead, it means you need to be smart with how you train.

Regardless of injury, there is always something you can do in the gym to make progress and get stronger. You can even maintain much of your fitness while dealing with injuries. However, the unwise course of action is to simply push through the pain just because you think you are tough enough. By doing that you would be doing yourself a disservice, and potentially sidelining you from training/working/competing for a much longer period of time.

Today we are going to discuss how you can still train while dealing with an injury, the right way.

Before you start training with an injury, please consult a professional (such as a physical therapist or a chiropractor).


Training with an Injury: "Flirt with the pain, but don't go to bed with it"

This is something I often tell my clients, athletes, and students. In order to train with injuries, and rehab them, you need to know how to deal with the pain and understand what your limitations are. This applies to most types of injuries, such as muscle strains and tendon injuries, however, be very cautious for any injury involving your joints, your back or your neck.

The idea of "flirting with the pain" is about exploring your range of motion. After you determine your pain-free range you are going to stay within it. Keep moving, as much as possible. The only way your body can pump the good stuff in (i.e. the blood carrying nutrients and healing factors), is to get rid of the old stuff (i.e. the swelling). It does that by passively pumping out the swelling by using your muscles. Movement is always the answer but keep the movement PAIN FREE. For example, if you can only bend your elbow halfway after an injury before the pain kicks in, bend your elbow to just short of that. 

Don't be afraid to explore your range of motion as your healing progresses, but don't visit the Pain Cave too often, or you might end up stuck there.


If it hurts, don't do it.

This might seem obvious, but so often I see people pushing through pain. By doing this, not only are they slowing the healing process, but they are also subjecting themselves to the risk of a long-term injury. If it hurts, don't do it.


Pick a Regression

It isn't a bad thing to pick a regression (i.e. an easier version) of an exercise. If you are injured it is often smart to pick exercises that leave you at a lesser risk for further injury. A regression often requires less coordination and less strength than more difficult progressions of the exercise.


Avoid Power Training. Use Tempo Training.

Power training involves explosive movements and results in extremely high forces being applied to your body. For most injuries, it is smart to avoid power training. Substitute it instead for slower Tempo Training. During tempo controlled movements you need to match your concentric phase, pause at the bottom, eccentric phase and the pause at the top of the exercise to a specific tempo. This requires a lot of control and is less likely to result in further injury.


Remember, you never need to take a day off. Instead, you just need to train smart.


B.Kin, Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology

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Author: Mark Murdoch, Kinesiologist, Chiropractic Student. Have questions? Email me. I want to help!