Working Out When You’re in Pain

If you are injured or experiencing chronic aches and pains, it’s understandable that you may have a hard time finding the motivation to workout. Injuries can really set you back, reverse any progress you’ve experienced and take you out of your normal fitness routine.

However, it’s important to note that there’s rarely a reason to take a complete 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 aid in 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!

With that said, you’ll need to modify your program 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:

Focus on what you CAN do:

Use this time to focus on other areas. 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 conditioning 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.

Keep 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. Changing your schedule may make it challenging 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!

Assess the situation

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 warmup and cooldown? Are you going too hard, too often? How long have you been wearing your current fitness shoes? Are you practicing muscle release like foam rolling or using a massage gun after your workouts? Are you balancing your program and including restorative movement like yoga? Asking questions may help narrow down the culprit.

See a professional:

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. Remember, pain is your body’s warning signal that something is wrong so don’t ignore it which can lead to further deterioration and secondary complications.

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan

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

Scroll to top