Dealing with injuries can be painful, both physically and emotionally, and we often find ourselves impatiently counting down the days until we can expect recovery. However, it's important to let our bodies heal from an injury with the amount of time that is required and to pay attention to rest and repair, without pushing our bodies physically.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on building an exercise regimen that is realistic, enjoyable, and kind on the body. Yet, while developing a workout routine is crucial for creating a habit and achieving long-term results, dealing with obstacles with emotional and physical strength is also important. Injuries can happen, and sometimes the body or mind just feel tired. Respecting our minds and bodies, and not pushing ourselves in spite of pain is the only way to work out safely and regularly. If we get into a habit and find ourselves confronted with pain or injury, it's tempting to ignore it or try and speed recovery in an unsafe way, but it's important to fight the urge and be patient. You'll be thankful in the long-run. Here are thirteen ways that ignoring injuries can sabotage your workouts.
1. Confusing Pain & Discomfort
"Discomfort is fleeting and recedes immediately after. Pain lasts and indicates damage being done," advises personal trainer and running coach Susie Lemmer, over email with Bustle. "When you fight through pain, you start to compensate and use the wrong muscles; therefore, you are not only not strengthening the muscles that you want to be working on, but you are also increasing your change for further injury and creating and reinforcing improper muscle movements," Lemmer adds.
2. Being Too Hard On Yourself
"Many people have a notion of 'mental toughness' and 'pushing through,'" says personal trainer and owner of South Loop Strength & Conditioning, Todd Nief, over email with Bustle. "While mental toughness and perseverance are certainly valuable traits in anyone looking to achieve any sort of fitness goals, pushing through pain is trading the short term gratification of training and identification as 'tough' for the long term ability to progress," he explains. If your body isn't feeling right, give it a break.
3. Not Listening To Your Body
"If you listen to your body, the pain will actually guide you through your workouts safely," says Nic Bartolotta, Chief Clinical Officer at Range of Motion Products and HHP, MPT, over email with Bustle. "It’s called sensation driven training," he adds. "Ignoring pain and pushing through leads to immediate compensation patterns and, ultimately, terrible traumatic injuries or chronic arthritis later in life," he continues. Take control of your body and workouts by connecting to its needs and respecting its nature.
4. Continuing A Workout Despite Pain
If you feel a twinge or crack during a workout, it's best to stop what you are doing and start resting, icing and repairing stat. Yet, many people keep going, but perhaps at a lower intensity, assuming that they will be safe. "If you are experiencing pain during your workout, stopping sooner rather than later will allow for quicker recovery and get you back to your exercise routine sooner," says Dr. Rebecca Blanchard, DPT, RYT, over email with Bustle. "Trying to 'work through the pain' leads to compensatory strategies that leave additional body parts in danger, plus it does not allow you to participate fully in your workout so you don't get the full benefit of the exercise," she adds.
5. Being Too Competitive With Yourself
Having goals is great for longterm success; however, if your goals push your body far too and result in pain, then you are likely to experience injuries that will take long to heal. If you know that your body can reach a certain point in a safe manner and can enhance your fitness, so be it. "Examples might include trying to run your fastest mile. Or trying to set a personal best or record, whether it’s squatting the heaviest weight you’ve ever done or blasting through an interval session," says Reebok Trainer Nate Helming, over email with Bustle. Yet, if these goals hurt your body, you need to respect the boundary.
6. Thinking Chronic Pain Is No Big Deal
We often hear people say, "I have bad knees" or "my back always hurts," where they brush it off as a condition they must deal with throughout life without actually addressing the issue. "General soreness can effect your workout from a form perspective. Muscle soreness is likely to decrease your range of motion in many exercises," says Darin Hulslander, CEO & owner of DNS Performance and Nutrition, LLC, over email with Bustle. "For instance, sore quads can lead to a restricted squat, and restricted squats can lead to injury down the road. The best thing you can do is assure you recover if you are sore by doing light cardio or even a rest day or some yoga. Also make sure you are both foam rolling and stretching prior to exercise."
7. Injuries Can Affect Other Life Areas
Physical pain does not only take place in the gym in light of an injury. "The pain you ignore is the most dangerous as it usually leads to the over-use injuries that nag virtually every aspect of your life," says Helming. "Think about low back pain that not only makes it hard on you in spin class, but gets so bad you have trouble bending over to put your shoes on after," he continues. Ignoring pain not only sabotages workouts, but it also impairs the ability to do daily tasks.
8. Ignoring Pain Leads To More Pain
Unless initial pain or injury is addressed and given time to heal, it will only lead to more chronic injury, where the pain will get worse, may spread to other areas in the body, and will be harder and harder to treat. "Ignoring pain early usually leads to more pain later, in the form of a sudden incident, where something does snap," advises Helming. Ignoring an injury can keep you out of the gym for months after you would've been, had you originally taken care of the problem.
9. Using Ice And Medication As An Excuse To Workout
If you are experiencing pain, icing and medicating will help, but they should be paired with rest, not another workout. If you feel no pain, these two actions can help prevent injury; yet, if you are already injured, they should not be a substitute for physician care, rest and time off from working out. "There’s a big difference between numbing yourself so you can return to business as usual versus listening to the early signals that something is not right and making intelligent adjustments in your training program," says Helming.
10. Your Mental Worries & Fear Get In The Way
Taking time off from exercising when it is a consistent part of your lifestyle can be scary and emotionally stressful. Unfortunately, this fear and insecurity can prevent us from taking time to recover and can exacerbate our injuries long-term. Being "afraid of skipping a day here or there for fear of 'losing fitness' or on missing out on the social and psychological bump they get working out with their friends," says Helming, can be dangerous for our physical being.
11. Being Unable to "Do Nothing"
As busy, working people today, we are always doing something. It's unimaginable to do nothing. For the regular fitness doer? Doing nothing seems terrifying. Unfortunately, some injuries are serious enough where doing nothing is needed. Experts say that depression rates can go up with injury incidence, as the idea of changing your lifestyle can be tough to handle. "Just rest assured that taking a hot bath with epsom salts, getting a massage, taking a nap, and doing some mobility work at home can get you back to health faster," says Helming.
12. "Doing Nothing" When You Actually Can
On the contrary, sometimes injuries or physical pain are not so bad, and you should be able to find exercises that will not affect the pain, but may actually help speed recovery. Sometimes light cardio can be good for the muscles in loosening them up and getting the joints back to working properly again. "Are your calves bothering you during box jumps, running, or jump rope sessions? Give your calves a break and swing a kettle bell, jump on a bike, or a rower instead," suggests Helming.
13. Changing Eating Habits To Complement The Injury
Many people feel that if they are injured, they require fewer calories, and while this is a bit true, some people take calorie restriction too far. The body needs important vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, vitamin A & D, and zinc, as well as rich sources of protein and omega 3 fatty acids to heal faster. Ignoring dietary habits and nutrition, in addition to the actual pain, will only worsen the injury and prevent the body from recovering.