Working out with bumps, bruises
I have encountered many people throughout my coaching career that have some concerns about back, shoulder, knee and/or ankle injuries. Should this be a limiting factor in your physical fitness journey? Should you avoid moving when a part of you isn’t functioning properly? What can you do if you do encounter an injury?
I should mention before I start voicing my opinion that my Bachelor’s Degree is in Athletic Training, and I worked as an Athletic Trainer by covering sports from wrestling tournaments with 5-year-old kids to rehabbing professional athletes with the Boston Red Sox organization and everywhere in between. Those experiences have allowed me to assess and help a wide variety of injured athletes. During those experiences there were very few times the advice was “don’t do anything.”
Now let me be clear, when someone has an injury that prevents them from moving either a specific part or the whole body itself, I have never recommended movement. What I am suggesting is that when a limb is broken or immobilized for an extended period of time, the other limbs become the focus during recovery. Moving is a part of the healing process even when the injured body part isn’t the primary mover. There is a rehab term that describes this importance called cross-education. This refers to exercising the healthy side or non-injured side of the body to strengthen the injured body part. An example of this would be if your left leg is completely immobilized from a cast or splint, then you would exercise your right leg to help strengthen it.
This may seem like voodoo magic, but there is a good amount of scientific evidence to support cross-education, and it is a method we use at the gym to help maintain a level of fitness while recovering from any injury. The goal is to always protect the injury. We do that by either avoiding the body part all together or doing movements that decrease the range of motion and/or stress on the injured side. If any motion does occur with the injury side, it must be pain-free or more modifications need to be made.
When our members become pregnant and are approved to exercise by their doctor, the same methodology is installed. As the woman progresses through the phases of pregnancy, the limitations increase. To continue exercising, we modify the workouts to the athlete’s comfort level and provide a safe environment for them to continue their fitness journey, which may mean completely changing the workouts all together.
Everyone has a limitation, but those limitations should not be your road barrier toward becoming a fitter version of yourself. I myself have had three ACL reconstruction surgeries before I was 21; four surgeries total on one knee. I have limitations, but that doesn’t stop me from pursuing fitness. My limitations do make me more mindful about how my body feels and the style of workout I perform. The way I see it, we either acquire metabolic disease from the physical actions we don’t perform, or we acquire orthopedic problems from the wear and tear of taking physical actions. Exercising can’t make you immortal, but it can extend the years at which you are able to live. That doesn’t always mean you will be alive for more years. There are many people that have their lives extended by medications and medical interventions but cannot function outside of those modalities. Is that living? That is up for you to define. I believe the number of years we live may be out of our control, but our actions can improve the quality of our lives within those given years.
In conclusion, if you are dealing with injuries, find a professional that can help you work through those limitations or work out around them. Choose to move to support all functions of life. Injuries are just a part of the physical journey that we definitely try to avoid, but in some cases we have to overcome. Keep striving to be a happier and healthier person no matter what the circumstances may be.