Should You Workout if You’re Injured?


If you’ve ever experienced an injury, you’ll appreciate the fact that it can really take you out of your normal fitness routine.  Often, when someone suffers an injury or is experiencing chronic aches and pains, they take a complete break from exercise.  But there’s rarely a reason to take a hiatus from exercise.  Instead, do whatever you can to move your body because it enhances your internal biochemistry, gets the good hormones flowing, improves circulation and blood flow which will all help with the healing process and help to prevent depression while you are rehabilitating. There’s very rarely a reason that you can’t move your body at all even when you are injured!

Of course, you’re going to have to modify your program a bit until you figure out the cause of your aches and pains and heal your injury.  Here are some action steps you can take if you ever find yourself having to manage an injury.

Count it as a blessing:


Use this time to focus on other areas.  So if you hurt your wrist or shoulder, take it as an opportunity to focus your resistance training on your legs and core. Take up hiking or stationary biking. If you hurt your knees, focus your muscle workouts on your upper body and core until you can start incorporating your lower body. Take up swimming with a pull buoy so you don’t have to involve the legs. You may even be able to work muscles around the injury in an unloaded gentler fashion. For example if you hurt your knees, you could probably still do floor work like leg lifts without pain and help prevent the muscles from atrophying too much.

Avoid Getting Out of Your Routine:

If you’re used to jogging every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday replace this with a swim or weight training.  The last thing you want to do is drastically change your schedule because it may be a challenge to return to your present level of activity once your injury has healed.  Besides, you’ve worked so hard to achieve your current fitness level and it’s never fun having to start over!

Ask yourself some questions:

  • Are you progressing too quickly?
  • Are you doing too much of the same type of activity?
  • Are you running every day without taking rest days in between?
  • Are you forgetting to warm-up and cool-down?
  • Are you going too hard too often?
  • How long have you been wearing your current fitness shoes?
  • Are you stretching and doing muscle release like foam rolling after your workouts?

You may be able to narrow down the culprit…..

Apply RICE:

You definitely want to “nip an overuse injury in the bud”, so sports physicians and physical therapists recommend you treat aches and pains immediately.  Overuse injuries left untreated, can become chronic and seriously affect your ability to continue with your training program.  As a general guideline, the acronym “RICE” should serve as the basis of treatment for most minor injuries.  R stands for rest – that is either take a few days off or reduce your training intensity and volume.  I stands for ice – ice the affected area to reduce pain and swelling. A good guideline is ice the area for 15 minutes every two hours to reduce pain and swelling.  C stands for compression – apply pressure to the area with an elastic bandage or wrap to minimize inflammation and damage from excess swelling.  E stands for elevation – that is elevate the affected limb to assist in the drainage of fluid.

Find the cause:

It’s one thing to treat a symptom, but it’s much more important to figure out the cause.  This is why it’s always a good idea to seek expert advice from a sports physician or a physical therapist – they can assess muscle weaknesses and imbalances, provide you with specific stretches or exercises to treat the problem and can often use various other techniques to reduce the pain and/or speed the recovery process.  Self-treatment, using the above RICE protocol, is a good starting point, but it’s wise to be safe rather than sorry and seek help.

Remember, that pain is your body’s warning signal that something is wrong.   

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 25 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs.  She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson.  She can be reached at or

Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.  

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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