As a fitness instructor and avid exerciser, injuries have become somewhat of an occupational hazard. Most of us who exercise on a regular basis have probably experienced some sort of minor injury. Sometimes our bodies revolt and decide they have had enough and need a break. I have many friends who have had to take it easy due to shoulder, back and knee problems, some requiring surgery. The first thing they want to know is what activity or exercises can they still do while resting their injury—proof that while an injury may have slowed them down, it did not stop them from completely abandoning exercise. (photo credit here)

Of course, if you are not permitted to do anything, you do not want to go against doctor’s orders. In the end, they know what you should and should not do depending on your type of injury. But if your injury is minor and caused by overuse, it probably means you need to take a break from the activity that caused the problem and find an alternative that will not aggravate it further. When my knee began acting up, I turned to spinning for a while and chose exercises that I knew were more knee-friendly and did not make the pain worse. I also realized that one of my favorite classes had too many movements that were causing my knee pain so I had to take a break from it. I did not have to stop exercising—I just needed to find something else that worked for my particular problem.

Many people with shoulder issues have difficulty performing overhead presses, but have no problem doing push-ups. That is fine since push-ups work the shoulders and the upper body—not to mention the core. Lateral raises, bent-over raises and front raises are also great for shoulders if there is no pain or discomfort when doing them. (photo credit here)

Some injuries are more challenging than others. A back injury can really put you out depending on how badly it is hurt. These often require complete rest for a few days or even weeks if it is serious. And even if you are allowed to begin exercising, you do not want to do anything to make the situation worse. Recumbent bikes are great for cardiovascular exercise since they support your back when you pedal. Many strength exercises are safe to do like those for biceps, triceps and chest. You may want to stay away from any rowing or pull-ups until you get the green light from your doctor or physical therapist. Remember to ease into any exercise by starting with light weights and then slowly increasing it as you feel stronger and your back feels better. This is especially the case when you begin incorporating weighted lower body exercises like squats and lunges which put more stress on your back.

The key is to not sit idle during an injury if you do not necessarily have to. When our bodies have had more stress than they can handle, it is our job to find something that will still allow us to live an active lifestyle, but without the risk of making a bad situation worse. First and foremost, consult a doctor or physical therapist so you know what kind of injury you have and how it may have been caused. Then you can discuss exercises that you can do in the meantime (including those that may help your injury feel better and heal faster). You may have to do exercises that are completely different from your normal routine. You may even discover a whole new activity that you totally love! But if you are told to refrain from all physical activity, then so be it. The last thing you want to do is ignore the problem and continue with your current program. That can only lead to a greater injury that may end up more serious than what you originally had. (photo credit here)

When your body tells you that enough is enough, stop and listen. You may not like what it is telling you, but you should not ignore it either. Finding alternatives that allow you to heal while still getting in your exercise is important—for both your body and your mind!