Students heading into a workout.

A lot can happen while working out. You may lose your squatting form at the wrong time and pop a joint. You may tear your muscles the wrong way. You may crash and fall off your bike. Maybe it has nothing to do with exercise and you just had some rotten luck.

It’s discouraging when these types of injuries happen. Depending on severity, you may have to stop exercising for a time. Some injuries warrant less concern. However, most won’t simply go away with time.

The worst thing you could do is nothing. Exercising with even minor injuries leads to constant discomfort at best and further injury at worst. Here are a few approaches to exercising while injured.

Seek medical advice

First and foremost, don’t do anything without first consulting a medical professional. You might think your injury isn’t serious. Cool, but now’s not the time for self-diagnosis. That pained shoulder you think is simple muscle pain may be a torn rotator cuff.

Large injuries may also lead to other issues later on. For example, a bike crash that strains your legs and hips may have also caused whiplash that you don’t feel until much later.

Any medical opinion is better than none, whether it’s from your family doctor or a walk-in clinic.

If the doctor says to avoid certain exercises, avoid those exercises. If they say to only perform specific workouts, perform them. If they say stop all together, stop.

Worst case scenario, they say you’re seriously injured and need to stop. That result is better than exercising despite the doctor’s advice and hurting yourself more.

Perform physical therapy exercises

Depending on the situation, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. Even if they don’t, PT can serve you well.

PT exercise, also known as “corrective” exercise, places mobility and flexibility at the forefront. Most PT exercises involve stretching and light movements. If they involve weights, they're light.

When performing PT, you want to ensure your body parts are moving the ways they were meant to without pain.

Look up some PT regiments and get started.

Avoid high intensity

Post-injury isn’t the time to set a personal strength record or gain a few pounds in muscle. It’s time to recover your abilities and heal.

While intense, high-effort workouts worsen injuries, lower intensity workouts can actually help you heal by developing your supporting muscles and maintaining your mobility. That means you need to lessen the weight and intensity.

Trade your 30 minute runs for walking. If you usually squat 200 pounds, go down to 100 or just do bodyweight. Avoid high-intensity interval training entirely.

Maintain your muscle mass and repair tears with light training.

Start stretching

No matter how injured you are, muscle tension is sure to follow. Start stretching if you have not already added stretching and yoga to your workout plan, even if you aren’t injured.

Stretching lessens muscle tension, lessens strain on joints and can even generally improve your mood.

Injuries carry the additional downside of lessened mobility. Stretching can also solve that by keeping your range of motion wide.

Adjust your nutrition

This change in routine will inevitably lead to less activity. Less activity means fewer calories burned.

As such, you may need to decrease your caloric intake. Keep it above your calories burned. That way, you have enough caloric intake to maintain muscle mass and heal your wounds. However, maintain your ratio of proteins, carbs, fats and other nutrients.

Avoid excess weight gain by maintaining a healthy balance.

Monitor the pain

While exercising and stretching, always keep your injury in mind. Take note of what movements increase pain and which help relieve it.

Stretching will result in pain, but note the difference between stretching pains and injury pains.

The pain will leave eventually. Until then, keep track of it.

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