I'm currently in week six of the eight week challenge I'm doing with my clients. At this stage of the challenge, I'm starting to hear a lot of comments about sore joints, fatigue and general aches and pains. I love the commitment and enthusiasm that my clients bring to these challenges and of course I encourage pushing yourself to get results but how do you know when it's time to pull back and when it's time to push through?
Now of course it depends on the nature and severity of the soreness or injury. Training when you have sore muscles can often help relieve the tightness but sharp pain in a joint or lower back pain is something that should be taken seriously. It doesn't always mean you need to go home but you can work around the problem to avoid it worsening. Here are my 6 'dos and dont's' for training with pain or injury.
1. If it hurts, stop. If you're pressing a weight overhead and you're getting a sharp pain in the shoulder joint then please stop. Your trainer should be able to give you an alternative exercise that doesn't hurt or it might be better to stick to lower body exercises that day. Listen to your body and you'll wake up the next day being thankful you did.
2. Don't cause another injury. Compensating for a sore joint can end up causing injury in other parts of your body. A sore knee doesn't mean you should put all the weight on the opposite leg but instead you could think about sticking to upper body exercises that day or exercises that don't cause any pain in the knee joint.
3. See a health care professional. It's not cheap to go to the Chiropractor or Physiotherapist (or whichever you choose) but it's money well spent if you're dealing with constant pain. If you don't want to be off training for months because your injury gets worse then bite the bullet and make the time to get it checked out. It may be a small problem at the moment but seeing someone when it's only a small problem will mean maybe two visits instead of ten! Nip it in the bud now, trust me!
4. There is no quick answer. Dealing with injuries takes time and ibuprofen is not the answer (Annoying I know). Most injuries in the early stages will still allow you to train in moderation but you may need a stronger focus on stretching and mobility until you are fully healed. Just be prepared to work on not only fixing the problem but making sure it doesn't happen again.
5. Focus on mobility and recovery. Have you done a sufficient warm up? Did you do any mobility and stretching after training? As a trainer we usually only have about 60 minutes to work with and most people don't want to spend 15 minutes of that hour on the foam roller. I tell all my clients to buy a foam roller (so cheap from Kmart) and a mobility ball because that extra 20 minutes of recovery in front of the television can make a world of difference.
6. Be reasonable. I understand that when you make the time to exercise, you want to feel like you're pushing yourself but sometimes slowing down is necessary for longevity. Everyone's bodies are so different so even though the person next to you might be able to do 20 burpees pain-free, it doesn't mean that you can. Know your body and be reasonable about what you need to do today to get you through tomorrow. Trust me, we have plenty more evil exercises we can prescribe you that won't leave you hunched over in pain tomorrow ;-)
Consistency is the key to maintaining results and avoiding injury. With consistent training your body gets stronger and you can slowly progress and learn which exercises are right for you. Unfortunately the all or nothing approach is something I commonly see. People take months off at a time and then come back eager to get a quick result and end up injured or burnt out. Find something you enjoy and if you work at being consistent, you'll have less chance of getting injured and be more likely to stick to it long term.
Here's to a happy, healthy and pain-free you!