A tight back. Cranky knees. Finicky shoulders.
Proper attention to form can help you avoid big injuries, but minor annoyances like these will still surface.
Should you continue to workout, or wait until everything feels normal?
(For the record, I’m not a doctor and this is not medical advice — just practical tips for when you don’t want to quit. Consult a doctor before starting any exercise program, etc., especially if you’re injured.)
Work Through It
I’m not saying toughen up and deal with the pain. “No pain, no gain” is a terrible mantra in this context.
However, sometimes the best road to recovery is “active recovery.” (e.g. Back issues are often a product of weak back muscles; a smart workout program can be very helpful.)
Here is a small list of ways to go about it:
Use a much lighter weight
Use a dumbbell alternative instead of a barbell exercise
Start out very conservatively and slowly increase the weight over time as you feel better
Many mobility exercises don’t require weight at all and are great for active recovery
Use a shorter range of motion
Don’t squat as low
On bench press, don’t lower the bar all the way to your chest
Deadlift from a rack starting at a higher position (a rack pull)
Do a similar, but different exercise that doesn’t bother you
Step-ups instead of lunges
Landmine press instead of Overhead press
Goblet squat instead of Back squat
Work Around It
There are times when the smart (and safe) thing to do for an injury is rest. But that doesn’t mean you can’t workout at all.
If you have a lower body injury, work on just the upper body for awhile. Or vice versa.
If running hurts your knees, try biking or rowing.
Don’t do pressing exercises if it bothers your shoulder, but continue to do pulling exercises. (Most people don’t do enough pulling exercises anyway, which can cause shoulder problems.)
Stop Hurting Yourself
This might sound obvious, but the solution is not so obvious.
We need to modify whatever action is causing us to get hurt.
If an exercise causes pain, reassess your form (or have a professional do it). You might not be doing it wrong, but you might not be doing it the best way for you.
If you run a lot and end up with knee pain, take a break from running and spend a few months strengthening your legs, which will in turn strengthen the knee joint.
Look at your lifestyle. Do you sit a lot? Can you work at a desk that allows you to stand? Or take frequent breaks to move around and stretch?
It’s important to know, physical inconveniences are going to happen. Your body won’t constantly be pain-free from working out.
Knowing this ahead of time prepares you psychologically so you don’t get discouraged and quit when it does happen.
But as you can see there are many ways to stay active when you aren’t at 100%. If you have questions, or need more specific advice, contact me and I’ll be happy to help!
Read Part 1 of this series, Should You Workout When You're Sick, and Part 3 of this series, Should You Workout After An Active Day