I’m hurt! Dealing with the physical and mental challenges of working out while injured

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by Sandi Rennie

So, picture this: a few weeks ago I’m standing before a Reebok Step set up with 10 risers on each side. “Okay,” says my trainer. “Box jumps. Ready? Go!” Pffft – no problem! 10 risers is nothing. What else ya got, Kyle? 11? Sure – let’s try 11. Done! 12? Okay – easy! 13? Ummm….sure, let’s give it a shot. A challenge, but look! I did it! 14? Right about now I start to doubt my jumping skills. 14 is high – 32 inches high to be exact – but I give it a go anyway. Not as easy as 13, but I manage. Now, given that it took me a couple of tries to get up on 14, I probably should’ve stopped there. By now though, both my trainer and I are so excited and impressed with the fact that my 5’1″ frame was able to get up on top of a 32-inch “box”, we figure I HAVE to try 15….just to see if I can do it. Well, guess what? I couldn’t. I jump, my toes don’t quite clear the top and everything starts to tumble down – including me. Now, for anyone who has ever fallen (and haven’t we all?) you know the natural reaction is to try to catch yourself, right? Out goes my hand, down comes my body, and crack goes my wrist. The pain shoots through my arm like a bullet and tears spring to my eyes. “I think I broke my wrist,” I cry. As Kyle assesses the situation, ices my wrist and wipes away my tears, I become more certain of my injury. It’s broken. I just know it’s broken. Three hours later, the emergency room doctor confirms it. Yup. Broken. Well, crap!

I’ve been just over three weeks in my cast and to say it’s been a challenge for me is an understatement. Now, before I go on, let me say this – I know a broken wrist isn’t that bad. Many people have had far more serious injuries than mine to deal with and get over – but nevertheless, I’ve been struggling. The day-to-day stuff like washing my hair, doing dishes, driving my car, writing (yes, I’m right-handed and I broke my right wrist) has proved frustrating enough, but it’s been the limitations on my workouts that have caused me the most grief. When I work with Kyle, we use kettlebells A LOT – impossible to do with a broken wrist. So, needless to say, my training has been on hold since my little “accident”. As far as my own workouts go….well, those were on hold for about a week and then I decided I had had enough. I had to get back to the gym before I started to go crazy. Not working out for the six weeks my doctor told me I would be in this thing was not an option for me. So, I laced up my sneakers and headed to the gym just over a week later. I knew there were things I wasn’t going to be able to do. I mean, upper body weights certainly weren’t an option. Push-ups? No chance. Burpees? Squats thrusts? Tricep dips? No way! But, I figured I could jack up the cardio and work my lower body ’til you could bounce a quarter off my butt and quads. Uuummmmm..wrong. Ten minutes in on a treadmill run and my wrist was throbbing. I wasn’t expecting the impact to affect the injury so much, but it did. I left the gym feeling totally defeated.

Fast forward another week and I’m back on the treadmill. It took me seven whole days to tell myself I couldn’t maintain my usual “all or nothing” attitude when it comes to working out, so I had figure out a way to work with my injury rather than against it. Can’t run? Okay – let’s crank up the incline and at least get a challenging walk in.

It’s been going well so far. I don’t have pain now, I’m back to running, and I’m focusing more on the areas I CAN work. I’ve accepted my limitations. It took me a while, but once I did, I was much happier. Being frustrated wasn’t helping my cause, and once I released that frustration and told myself it was okay to “take it easy”, I started feeling more like myself in the gym. I plan to go back to see Kyle a week after my cast comes off on April 23. I’m already mentally preparing myself for the possibility that we’ll discover I may need a few more weeks and my training will have to be put on hold again. I know there’s no point in trying to be a hero and risking re-injury, so, we’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, I’d like to offer you some tips on how to deal both physically AND mentally while nursing an injury. I hope they help!

  • Until you’re healed, avoid doing whatever activity you were doing when you got the injury.
  • Don’t panic. You will heal and you will get back to your workouts. It’s just gonna take a little time. Be patient.
  • Never work through the pain – it’s simply not worth it.
  • Follow your doctor’s orders and ask him or her what exercises you CAN do. Get a referral to a physiotherapist if your doctor can’t help you.
  • Find alternatives. For example, if you’ve injured your lower body, stick with upper body exercises.
  • Change your focus. If you can’t do your normal routine, now is a great time to try something new. Yoga anyone? How about a swim?
  • Stay busy. If you can’t do any activity at all, the last thing you want is time to sit around and be miserable. Think of your recovery time as a time to catch up on things.
  • Remind yourself that this is a temporary thing, a little bump in the road that you’ll get over before you know it.
  • If you’re worried about gaining weight, adjust your diet. If you’re not getting as much activity as before, take some time to keep track of your calories and cut some wherever you can to minimize the damage. You might gain a few pounds but just remind yourself that, in the end, this forced rest is making you healthier in the long run.
  • After the injured body part has stopped hurting, you can ease back into your old exercise routine. Listen to your body. If anything hurts, stop immediately and try something else. Build back to your normal level of exercise slowly and carefully.

Injuries suck. There’s no doubt about that. No one likes the idea of not being able to do the things they could normally do without issue. But, in my experience, the sooner you accept your temporary limitations the better off you’ll be. Trust me, I spent a lot of time during the first couple of weeks angry, frustrated, sad…it got me nowhere. You have to get creative with what you CAN do. Hopefully, your injury will heal 100% and you’ll be back to your regular routine in no time. But, if that’s not the case – if you have to deal with some permanent limitations – it’s far better to accept them than fight them. Stay focused. Stay strong. Stay positive. You’ll be fine!

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