There is nothing more frustrating than an injury that halts your training and activity schedule. Whether you are well trained and it slows your progress, or, you have made the decision to improve your health and an injury hits the breaks at the start line, a niggle can negatively affect your motivation levels.
However, everything is not lost. Gone are the days of wrapping yourself in cotton wool and waiting out the storm. Through smart, well planned training modifications there are always work arounds to keep you active, providing ongoing benefits for the mind, body and spirit through the recovery process.
It is important to note that the modification of your training needs to be planned by an experienced practitioner, someone who knows your body and your injury well. The adjustment in your training must factor in the added stress to your immune system through the recovery process. If you exercise beyond your body’s ability to recover, then it becomes pathogenic, and slows your recovery instead of improving it.
So why is training and staying active through injury important?
- Exercise improves your immune system (1): One of the first responses to exercise is a natural improvement to your immune system. This ultimately improves your body’s ability to recover from any form of trauma – from a rolled ankle to severe burns and cancer. Maintaining a balanced level of activity through your recovery will help you stay healthy until you are ready to get back to full training load, injury free, and, will help you get there quicker.
- Exercise lowers your stress response (2): Regular activity and exercise helps the body manage stressful situations. Stress is all around us, but it’s how the body responds that determines the effect it has on us. With regular activity, your ability to manage the psychological stress of the injury and frustration that comes with it, and the physiological stress and inflammation that occurs to the tissue is greatly improved, thus improving recovery rate and of course your mood throughout.
- Exercise improves blood flow (3): Improving blood flow through exercise will help speed up the body’s natural healing processes. In simple terms, movement will help to get more of the good stuff such as oxygen rich blood to the areas that need it.
So what does my training plan look like?
As mentioned earlier, this needs to planned and specific to you and your injury, the advice of a skilled Coach, Physio or Osteo (such as those at Absolute) is vital to ensure safety and success. Below are just a few guidelines to follow.
Shoulder, Hand, Wrist and Elbow Injuries
- Focus the bulk of your training on lower body work, utilising barbells across the shoulders or loaded across the hips to ensure not to aggravate the injured area.
- Floor based core work is easily done without risking the injured area.
- Train the other arm, just because one side is injured doesn’t mean you can’t work the other side. Single arm variations of most movements are possible and very effective. A crossover effect to the injured side has also been demonstrated to limit muscle wastage, meaning that when you are training the uninjured side, the injured side will still gain benefits via the central nervous system (CNS).
- Bike work and running, if the jarring effect of the foot strike is not a concern to the upper body injury, will help keep that cardio fitness ticking over too.
Knee, Ankle and Foot Injuries
- Focus the bulk of your training on the upper body.
- With a good coach and the help of a training partner, even on crutches you can get a high-quality training session in for the upper body.
- Again, ground based core work, as well as free hang core work can be safe and effective when well supervised.
- Train the uninjured leg. Greater stability and balance is required here for a lot of movements so need be careful.
Lower Back, Hip and Abdomen Injuries
- The hardest area to modify training around as your trunk area is designed to provide stability and transfer force for all movements for the lower and upper body. Caution and expert advice is critical however there is still lots of great things you can do to maintain health and speed up recovery.
- Supported upper body work, making use of benches for movements like DB rows, and pressing patterns. Must be lighter and controlled though so as not to lose trunk control that can occur at failure points of upper body training.
- Use the floor as a brace, such as floor presses.
- Floor based core training, when advised by professionals is also possible.
- Cardio based activities (assuming hip not the concern) is a great way to stay active without excessive force through injured areas. Again, supported environments best such as cycling, cross-trainer, and treadmill incline walking (low impact). Rower may be suitable if it is not a flexion based injury to the lower back, as this could aggravate it.
- If it is the hip, and not lower back and abdomen area then a lot more freedom will be capable with regards to upper body training.
- Take care with one arm or 1 leg movements as they can place twisting or shearing forces through the torso and pelvis, potentially aggravating the injury.
With smart, planned, and supervised modifications, training through injury will help speed up your recovery time, whist helping you maintain physical fitness & strength. Moreover, it improves mood and psychological stress that comes along with setbacks. To ensure that you are keeping active and doing all the right things to modify your training through injuries and niggles, come on in to see the expert team at Absolute. With the combined approach of multiple sports medicine disciplines, there is no better place to stay injury free, recover from an injury and achieve your health & fitness goals.
Written By Performance Coach David Smith
- Walsh NP, Gleeson M, Shephard RJ, et al. Position statement. Part one: immune function and exercise. Exerc Immunol Rev. 2011;17:6-63. PMID: 21446342
- Blumenthal, J. A. et al. “Exercise And Pharmacotherapy In The Treatment Of Major Depressive Disorder”. Psychosomatic Medicine 69.7 (2007): 587-59
- Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D. “How Exercise Works” 7 March 2008. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/exercise/sports-physiology.htm> 4 January 2017