If you exercise, you are going likely to injury yourself. Sooner or later, even if you’re careful, even if you always go slow, even if you know what you’re doing, even if you hire a coach, odds are you’re going to get hurt in some way shape or form. Those of us who lead an active lifestyle accept these risks, because potentially getting a knee injury still beats having a heart attack or stroke, getting diabetes, or many of the other diseases that increase in likelihood when we don’t exercise regularly.
But what we do--or don’t--when an injury strikes can truly make the difference in your long term success towards reaching your goals.
Seeing results from working out can be very motivating, and this motivation gains momentum as we keep going. When we finally start seeing progress from all our hard work, the last thing we want to do is stop. But sometimes that’s exactly what we must do, albeit temporarily, in order to make the most progress over the long haul.
If you’re working out, and you feel a twinge of pain that shouldn’t be there in your shoulder, or a stabbing sensation in your lower back, it's easy to say “I’m tough enough to keep going. I want to maintain my momentum. I can push through the pain.” But it is this very attitude that can lead to our undoing.
Pain is your body telling you that something is wrong. Sometimes, working through a painful injury at best will impede your ability to heal, at worst can make your injury more severe. For every major injury I’ve ever had, sitting out for single workout, or a week’s worth of workouts, or even months’ worth of workouts seems devastating at the time. Sometimes, I’ve not been tough enough to stay out of the gym, working out in a state of denial, wincing through painful motions, not wanting to face the fact that I need to not be working out right now. All I only ended up doing was worsening my injuries and prolonging the healing time for the maladies I desperately wanted to be free of.
Quick, think back to two years ago. How many workouts did you miss? Chances are you might not be able to say exactly how many, but you did miss some. And yet you made strides towards your goals anyway. Same goes for the next time you’re facing an injury. If you skip a few workouts to heal, will you really even remember a few years from now? But work through an injury, push it from something needing days or weeks to heal into something that needs months to heal, and now you’re looking at something that can potentially set you back significantly towards your goals.
Keep in mind that while you’re healing, you can spend more time focusing on the body parts that currently are not injured. Or even if you’re out of the gym entirely, rededicate yourself to your nutritional goals, which likely will have just as strong an affect on your goals as any work missed.
Motivation can be an asset in the gym. So can toughness and dedication. But they can also work against you. When faced with an injury, if initially minor, nip it in the bud, don’t let it develop. If a major injury, do your physical therapy homework, focus on your nutrition, and don’t rush things back too soon. Your ability to pace your return to not be too much too soon can make a huge difference towards your long term progress. You’re tough enough to make workouts a regular part of your life. If the time comes, are you tough enough to not workout as well?