Working Out While Injured: How to Stay Fit and Safe Even When Recovering from an Injury

Don't make these training mistakes while injured!
March 12, 2023
Working Out While Injured: How to Stay Fit and Safe Even When Recovering from an Injury


Rest, ice, compression, elevate.

For many of us, this protocol has been burned into our brains since we've been young. If you've ever been injured, then your doctor or school nurse has repeated that 4-letter acronym to you multiple times.

However, even Dr. Gabe Mirkin, MD - the guy who came up with RICE and wrote about it in his best-selling Sportsmedicine Book, published in 1978 - has renounced it. He even writes about why here.

So, let's get one thing straight - you can still work out with an injury.

In fact, you probably should! Hear me out...


One technique that can help you continue to make progress in your strength training, even when you have an injury, is cross-education. This technique involves training the unaffected limb or side of your body in order to maintain or even improve your strength and neuromuscular control on the injured side. Studies have shown that cross-education can be an effective way to maintain strength and even improve strength in the injured limb, while also reducing muscle loss.

One study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that training the non-injured limb for four weeks increased strength in the injured limb by 9%. Another study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found that using cross-education techniques during rehabilitation led to significantly greater improvements in strength and function than conventional rehabilitation alone.

So, how does cross-education work? Essentially, when you train one limb or side of your body, your brain sends signals to the opposite side of your body, activating the same neural pathways that would be used if that side were being trained. This can help to maintain or even improve strength and neuromuscular control on the injured side, while also reducing muscle loss. Additionally, by training the non-injured limb, you can maintain or improve overall fitness, which can be especially important if you're unable to train your whole body due to the injury.

It's important to note that while cross-education can be an effective technique for maintaining or improving strength while injured, it should not be the only form of rehabilitation used. It's still important to work with a qualified healthcare professional to develop a comprehensive rehabilitation plan that includes appropriate exercises and activities based on your specific injury and condition.

Mental Health

Working out is not only beneficial for physical health, but also for mental health. Even when injured, engaging in physical activity can help improve one's mental state. Research has shown that regular exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, increase self-esteem, and improve overall mood.

One study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that individuals who exercised regularly had a significantly lower risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders than those who did not exercise. Another study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that exercise can have a positive impact on self-esteem, with participants reporting an increase in confidence and overall satisfaction with their body image.

In addition to these benefits, working out while injured can also help individuals maintain a sense of control and routine in their daily lives. Injuries can often disrupt a person's normal routine and leave them feeling helpless and out of control. By continuing to engage in physical activity, even if it's modified or at a lower intensity, individuals can maintain a sense of structure and purpose in their daily routine.

Tips for Working Out While Injured

So, let's get one thing clear: you need to train smart. Don't go blindly pushing through the pain. That's a one-way ticket to worsening your injury and setting yourself back even further. Trust me, I've seen it happen.

Instead, you need to approach your training with an injury in a smart, calculated way. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

1. Listen to Your Body

This is important whether you're injured or not, but it becomes even more crucial when you're working around an injury. If something hurts, stop doing it. Don't try to push through the pain, thinking you'll toughen up. This is a recipe for disaster. Trust me, I've seen it happen.

2. Consult a Professional

Again, if you're dealing with a serious injury, it's worth consulting a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor to get their advice on what exercises you should and shouldn't be doing. We love touching base with our members' physical therapists and doctors to make sure we're all working together for our member. They'll be able to give you specific recommendations based on your injury and your fitness level.

3. Continue Training

This might seem obvious, as it's kind of the whole point of this post, but it's worth repeating: don't think you need to stop training because of an injury. Instead, crush exercises that have no effect on the injured area, and modify exercises that do affect the injured area as needed (and consult a professional for help on how to modify those exercises).

4. Be Patient

This is the hardest part for a lot of people, but it's also the most important. Recovering from an injury takes time, and it's not going to happen overnight. Don't rush the process by trying to do too much too soon. Take your time, listen to your body, and be patient.

Wrap It Up

To sum it up, we're not saying you should ignore your injury and just power through it. That's a great way to make things worse. But we are saying that you shouldn't use your injury as an excuse to skip the gym altogether. With a little bit of smart training and a lot of patience, you can not just come back from an injury, but come back stronger and healthier!

At Stoked Athletics, we understand the frustration of injuries and work with our clients to create personalized training plans that accommodate their specific needs, while remaining a fraction of the price of traditional personal training. Contact us today to start your 14 Day Trial and see how we can help you reach your fitness goals, even with an injury.

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