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  • Writer's pictureChris Cooper

Training Through an Injury

By a show of hands, how many of you have been injured before, in some way that affected what you were able to do?

Did you raise your hand? I bet you did because let's face it, we've all been injured somehow. Maybe we tweaked a muscle, rolled an ankle, or did something we shouldn't have or didn't have the capacity for.

Have You Been Injured?

  • Yes

  • No

From minor aches to significant injury, these things can keep you out of doing things like training or doing activities around the house. But they don't have to. Just because we maybe have hurt something doesn't mean we have to stop all together from exercising or finding other ways to stay on the path towards our goals.

You might need a little detour though.

Before we get to the actual training and exercise part, we're going to have to go through the hard part, and that's finding the "right" mentality. That's where the real key is. It's easy to go into the "woe is me" headspace and catastrophize our injury or what's to come next. No judgments at all if you've gone there or are even currently there. I've been there. Through various injuries, I've been in that mental headspace.

The mental side of injury is just as important as the physical, if not more. The mental hurdles cause struggles, present different challenges, and might have you feeling defeated. You might be sitting there saying to yourself, " what am I going to do now?" But if there's one thing to take away, it's that you're strong, mentally and physically. And with creative planning, and trying to keep a positive frame of mind, you'll be back before you know it.

The Mental Side

There are a lot of emotions that run through our heads when confronted with pain or an injury. Maybe it starts with frustration or anger, but it can shift towards sadness or depression. Not being able to do things that you were doing takes an outlet away from you.


The first step is being aware of these thoughts and feelings. They're going to come. Sometimes they come right away and hit you all at once, other times they come in and fade away. If we're aware of them, we can avoid having them consume us and lead us into a spiral.


In the initial moments, it can be hard to see the opportunities in front of you. We constantly think of what we lost or are in the process of losing, which distracts us from what we have in front of us. An opportunity to shift gears, try something else, or refocus on other goals. It also gives us the chance to practice patience and trust the process.

Positive Self Talk

An injury can leave us talking negatively about ourselves, like they are unfair or that we're a failure for letting them happen in the first place. We place blame pretty much anywhere and trash every little thing that we've done till that moment. Like why did I do X, Y, or Z, or if only I didn't do A, B, or C. GIve yourself a little space to be nice to yourself.

Control What You Can Control

None of us have the ability instantly heal like Wolverine so it's going to take time and our patience is going to be tested from time to time. There are things that are within our control. Stay on top of those and avoid thinking about the things you can't control.

Keep Moving Forward

The common response to injury is to stop everything altogether, and it makes sense when you think about it. We want to rest as much as we can so we don't hurt ourselves even more or hurt something new. However, stopping only serves to make getting started harder when you decide to come back or when you're healed. Instead, try finding things you CAN do, that keep you moving and exercising.

The Physical Side

The key to continuing to train and exercise while injured is you have to find the things you can do. If we have an upper-body injury, we can still work on lower body exercises, core exercises, and in some cases the non-affected arm for the upper body. For example, if our left shoulder is injured, our right arm is still capable of doing exercises. This is similar to lower-body injuries. We still have an upper body that we can train.

However, there are a few caveats to be aware of as we start the process of training. We need to temper our expectations of what training will look like because it will not look like anything we did before. There are going to be adjustments, sometimes really creative ones, to keep us going. Like how I managed to still "deadlift" with a broken thumb. That took some ingenuity.

Identify Limitations

Here we have to look at what is injured, what we need to avoid and what can we shift to and put more emphasis on. For something like a shoulder injury, it's possible that I can't press anything, but maybe I can pull and do an exercise like rows. You might find yourself testing certain exercises to see if they work and assess whether or not they are worth including in your training menu going forward.

Adjust Your Exercises

As we're finding our limitations, we can adjust the exercises we are currently doing, but they may look a little different than before. Among the things we can do with the exercises that will help us on our path is adjusting the range of motion on exercises. A perfect example is something like a squat. Maybe we're not able to get a full squat due to knee pain, but we can sit to a box without pain. Then that becomes our squat pattern.

Avoid Painful Movements

This one seems clear but you never know. Avoid movements that put you in more pain. That could mean skipping certain movements altogether, adjusting angles to certain exercises, or changing our ranges of motion.

Almost There...

As the healing process takes place, at a certain point we actually start to feel better. This is great news, however, in these moments, we can make mistakes that might set us back. We start to search for the pain when we move because at one point it did, so we twist and turn and move awkwardly trying to recreate what hurt. If a movement feels good, roll with it.

We may unnecessarily test our injured area to see where our progress is, which can cause more harm than good as we are still recovering. We also might find ourselves hesitating to do things as we're anticipating a pain response or we'll wince in pain even though none is present.

Lastly, we don't give ourselves enough time or we rush back because we want to be able to do what we used to do. That's always to goal. I want to get back to the thing I used to do but remember it's still a process to build back to that spot.

It might take weeks or months or sometimes years to get yourself back to that place. Have the patience and the mindset to keep moving forward.

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