It might seem antithetical, that a fitness injury which sidelines your workout routine, can actually be a good thing. But the truth is, fitness injuries are often, in part, your body’s way of telling you that you are overdoing it.
If you are feeling sidelined by a fitness injury like plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, or tendonitis, discover a silver lining to your experience with the reminders below:
Forces you to rest
For serious athletes, like marathon runners, rest can seem like an unnecessary notion. When you unlock the limits of your physical potential, why throw that all away by resting? Well, the truth is, your body requires rest to facilitate proper muscle recovery.
At the same time, taking a break from the physical demands of fitness can force you to re-examine other important areas of your training like your diet and mental health. Are your nutrition and emotional wellbeing paying the price for your intense and frequent exercise? Resting with an injury highlights an opportunity to address these other areas.
Teaches you about your body
Injuries have this interesting, albeit annoying, way of making you more aware of your body, hyper-attuned to every joint, muscle, and bone. You can also learn quite a lot about your body when you’re viewing parts of it on an x-ray.
A knee injury, for example, might reveal abnormalities in your cartilage tissue. Or physical therapy may highlight weaknesses in your quads, hamstrings, or calf muscles that are placing excessive stress on your knee joint. You start to absorb and store more critical information about your body when you learn about what caused your injury and what you need to do to help it heal.
Introduces you to cross-training
Many people often wait until an injury occurs to really dive into cross-training. What is cross-training exactly? Formally speaking, professional athletes cross train in a sport different from their original sport in order to enhance their overall performance. Swimmers, for example, might run, cycle, or hike as a cross-training activity.
For non-Olympians, however, cross-training can still play an important role in helping you engage less commonly used muscles and build strength and flexibility in other areas of your body. For example, avid runners can benefit from cycling, yoga, or swimming which may be more feasible when recuperating.
Makes you smarter about injury prevention
According to research, people who experience an ankle sprain are at an increased risk of re-injury, especially during that first year, simply because of the damage that weakened the stabilizing muscles and tendons. Now does that mean that experiencing one injury precludes you to reinjury the rest of your life? No. But equipping yourself with smart injury prevention techniques won’t hurt.
After an injury that was caused by improper footwear, poor technique, or overuse, for example, you will know the steps to take to prevent something similar from happening. Your doctor, physical therapist, or sports medicine specialist can also teach you assistive injury prevention tactics like dynamic stretching, altering running environments, and swapping out footwear every year.
Gets you back to basics
If your workout routine has only expanded and gotten more difficult over the years, a fitness injury may be your body signaling you to get back to basics. When was the last time you did simple bodyweight exercises and really zeroed in on the power, strength, and agility you can exhibit with a simple lunge, push-up, or plank?
Getting back to basics may also mean re-evaluating why you work out or play sports in the first place. Have you become focused solely on your weight or how your body looks? Are you competing to prove a point to someone else or to yourself? A fitness injury can hit pause on your entire life and get you thinking deep, which really isn’t such a bad thing.
Staying Active with a Fitness Injury
Depending on the location of your fitness injury, your ability to cross-train or complete modified workouts may vary. If experts agree on one thing, however, movement is key to recovery. Once pain and swelling, have subsided, it is important to activate muscles without exacerbating your injury.
Lower leg injuries may make walking and getting around difficult. Swap clunky crutches for a knee walker that lets you rest your injured leg while safely maneuvering a wheeled scooter. If you’re dealing with a back or arm injury, talk to your rehabilitation specialist about orthopedic aids like compression wraps or flexible braces that may provide the support you need while you recover.
Some fitness injuries can take weeks or even months to fully heal and certain movement too soon can make things worse. Always consult a medical professional before re-starting an exercise routine, especially if symptoms persist past two or three days.