Let me preface this by saying I am not a doctor or physical therapist or rehab specialist. If you’re reading this you know that already. I’m not saying I know more than those professionals. I actually use these people for help all the time! My wife Margo has helped numerous clients of mine with PT related “stuff.” Every person in the health care “circle” is needed at different times. Sometimes you need a PT. Sometimes a chiropractor. Sometimes you need to go get an MRI by a doctor. Sometimes you need a specialized nutritionist. Sometimes you need a trainer and strength coach.

Everyone is needed because there will always be injuries. Let me repeat that. There will always be injuries. Let’s be real, if you’re over the age of 18 are you ever going to feel 100%? I’ve talked about this before…”what is feeling 100% anyway?” The point of this article is not to be a Debby Downer. I’m a realist and the reality of life and having a human body is that you will have aches, pains and injuries. Now…this doesn’t mean you need to live with pain and just suck it up. But, if you expect that you will feel 100% with no aches and pains whether you’re an active person or someone who sits all day, you are going to end up in a constant cycle of frustration.

Instead of expecting there to be no injuries or pain along your journey, you must learn to manage these things so you can continue to move forward without letting the injuries truly let you down. You can work through and around any injury or pain. I do this every single day with my clients. We are always working around a sore knee, tight back, tight glutes etc. Sometimes it is best to take the day off and see a doctor, but more often than not, you can still exercise even with pain…as long as you do it right. Trainers should be able to modify around about any injury to make your workout successful so you can keep momentum rolling.

Here is how you manage injuries:

  1. Be realistic. Expect some days of a tight back, sore knees etc. But, don’t just give up and say you can’t do “something.” You must first get out of the mindest that laying down is the best thing to do when you are not feeling great. The body is meant to move. The “right” movements will help 99.99999% of the time. See below for how to figure out what the “right” movements are.
  2. If the injury is truly an injury and you can’t move, seek help from a sport med doctor, chiropractor or PT. 
  3. If you are still able to move you can still exercise…smartly…with the right modifications. Don’t just write off exercise, especially proper strength training. The stronger you are, the fewer injuries you have. Have the mindset that even though you might have some pain and some aches you still need to maintain strength in as many areas of your body as you can. If you lose strength because you are skipping lifting sessions, those aches and pains can become full blown injuries, truly needing a doctor visit and maybe even more expensive help. For example, shoulder pain often means a modification to more lower body lifting or simply taking out any overhead movement for the time being. Shoulder pain should rarely lead you to skip a lifting session. Keep momentum rolling and work the areas of your body that have no pain.
  4. Avoid movements that hurt or feel “unstable.” Even though I recommend working with and around minor injuries, don’t push things to pain. Be smart. “No pain, no gain” is not a good idea. This might mean you have to take out exercises you like doing for the time being. For example, golfers elbow (tendinitis) means less chin up work. Knee pain can often mean less running for the time being. Don’t look at these modifications as a “forever thing.” They won’t be. But, give the areas of your body that are over worked time to recover while you work the other areas.
  5. Think of most aches and pains you feel as over use injuries from repetitive movement patterns in day to day life. This means that the exercises you are doing aren’t inherently bad for you, but you might be overdoing it on them, OR weak in other areas of your body excaserbating the weakness you have in your day to day movement. The former is usually due to poor programming, poor form, too much of one movement pattern or a combo of all three. The latter, is very common when I meet people with lots of aches and pains. I work on starting to balance out these weaknesses right away. See the next tip. I will repeat my first sentence of this post. Most aches and pains are from repetitive movement patterns in your day to day life. This means if you hurt your back deadlifting, your form might be “off,” but the true cause lies in how you move the other 23.5 hours per day. We need to focus more on HOW  you move and this take times to relearn movement patterns like squatting, hinging, pressing etc. And yes, always improve core strength.
  6. When in doubt, work your backside more. This means do more “pulling” for your upper body and less “pushing.” More pulling/rowing is great for upper back health, posture and shoulder health. If you have a sore neck, rounded shoulders and pain in the shoulders you definitely need more pulling work. Think of dumbbell rows, cable rows, lat pull downs, chinups etc. Things that make you squeeze back your shoulder blades. This “backside” tip also goes for the lower body. Work the hamstrings and glutes more than the quads in the weight room. Everyone is very quad dominant, leading to knee pain and then often to hip alignment issues, which end up in lower back pain. Think of exercises like deadifts, RDLs, hamstring curls, glute bridges and hip thrusts to work your backside of the legs and glutes. Do 2-3 times more backside “work” then pushing work for the upper body or quad work for the lower body when in the weight room. Remember, most forms of cardio are quad based. This means if you run or bike alot, you need even more glute and hamstring work to balance this out. 
  7. Spend time every single day on your mobility. This means 5-10 minutes of dynamic mobility work before any exercise session and if you can 5-10 minutes of stretching after. You can also use a foam roller, stick or Theragun to really get some soft tissue relief. The harder you train the more likely a chance of an over use injury. You need to balance out your exercise intensity with proper recovery.
  8. Sleep. Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night if you can. Sleep is your best mode of recovery. Nagging injuries take longer to recover from when you don’t sleep enough. This is the time your body uses to repair tissue and not enough or disrupted sleep means aches and pains can last weeks instead of days to get better.

The reality is that even the most in shape athletes have aches and pains. The harder you train and the more you push to reach fitness goals the more you will have things pop up. But, this should be no issue if you manage the situation properly, knowing when to modify intensity and volume, not being afraid to adjust your form and truly checking in on your recovery. If you are on a fitness journey to change your body, get stronger, get faster, learn new exercises etc you will run into some overuse injuries as you adjust to changes. Manage, don’t quit. We all go through this, you are not alone. Fitness can be a daily part of your life no matter if you are 100% or 50%,  IF you have the mindset that “anything is better than nothing.” Complete and absolute rest is often NOT the answer to healing an injury. You need to move….smartly

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