How to Exercise with an Injury

Injuries don't have to stop you from exercising as long as you're careful

Credit: Gary Robbins

Injuries don’t have to keep you from exercising

Injuries can be a big setback to anyone’s exercise program. Here’s how to stay active during the healing process

Injuries don’t have to stop you from being active as long as you take proper precautions. 

Broken Foot Workout Program

I’ll use my friend and top ultra-runner Gary Robbins as an example. Late last year Gary broke his foot while trail running in the U.S. The photo above is his X-ray and it shows the fracture on the outer edge of his right foot.

Gary had some ambitious racing goals this year that he had to severely modify given that he was going to be on crutches for three months. Obviously he couldn’t run or do any sort of weight-bearing activity on his right leg.

Being a high-energy type of person, sitting around on his butt wasn’t an option. I was working with him before the injury and had to make some changes to his strength and conditioning program. But if you think he was doing an easy workout, think again. Take a look at his typical strength training session with me:

Modifying Your Exercise Program when Injured

I can’t give specific recommendations for the countless types of injuries that may occur but I’ll give you some general recommendations on how to modify your exercise routine.

1. Modify Your Activities: Check with your doctor to determine what activities are safe to do with your condition. In many cases complete rest is not the best option. But you do want to be smart and not aggravate your injury further. The goal is to promote healing and to continue to work on areas of the body that are still healthy.

2. Get Lots of Rest: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. This is crucial for recovery as many repair processes in the body take place while we’re sleeping.

3. Manage Your Stress: Being injured can be mentally stressful and working out can help ease that pressure. But remember that working out is itself a stress on the body. The trick is to do enough to encourage growth but not too much. Some sort of strength training can almost always be done. Likewise, flexibility work can usually also be maintained to keep joints and muscles supple. The trickiest part will be the cardio. Do what you can but watch that you don’t overdo the cardio while you’re injured since many forms of carido involve repetitive motion and strain on the body. Feeling down when injured is a normal reaction especially if you’re an active person. By doing safe exercise you give yourself a sense of control so that you don’t feel helpless to circumstance.

4. Eat Well: Supply your body with the nutrients it needs to heal by eating well. This will give your tissue the raw materials for repair and also help you maintain a good weight. Filling up with junkfood while injured will prolong your recovery time and make you feel worse. Treat yourself with some high quality chocolate if you want to indulge.