Staying Active During an Injury

Hi, guys!

Many of you have been following my journey of staying active through my hip injury, and, today, I thought I’d dive into a little more detail about what this was like – and how frustrating and draining it can be! I am grateful I was able to keep up with daily exercise routine (when my schedule allowed), but it definitely required a mindshift and different way of approaching my workouts. I hope this post helps some of you in the same situation!

Back in November, after running the South Shore Half Marathon, I messed up my hip. I had trained for weeks and weeks leading up to the race, but the hills on the race course KILLED ME. I was trucking along as happy as can be until the end of mile 10 or so when I started to feel some pain in my hip. I thought it was a little weird, but I’ve had hip problems in the past and it didn’t hurt all that much, so I pushed through. I finished the race without a ton of pain, but, holy hell, the next day it hurt. I figured it was just a minor overuse injury and would get better in no time. I thought if I took a few days off from exercise, I’d be good to go.

Well, after a few days, my hip was still bothering me. I didn’t think it was that bad, but I knew I needed to take it easy. Another couple of days passed without much improvement, and I got sick of waiting for it to get better. I’m definitely someone who craves exercise, and if I don’t sweat at least a few times per week, I’m not myself. I feel anxious, cranky, and just overall blah. I need fitness in my life! Basically, I didn’t want to wait weeks and weeks for my hip to fully heal. I figured if I just took it easy, it would get better.

My hip eventually did get better (thanks to about 8 weeks of physical therapy), but I wanted to share a few thoughts on working out through an injury. I know this “advice” probably isn’t what some health professionals would recommend, but I know that some of you share my same feelings about exercise and agree that’s there’s some sort of middle ground that works for each person. With that, here’s what kept me active with a bum hip for nearly four months.

The #1 thing that helped me workout during an injury was not doing what hurt me. I know… this probably seems like such a ‘duh’ piece of advice, but thinking about some of my first running-related injuries, I just kept running through them. No wonder I didn’t get better! This time, I hung up my running sneakers and found other ways to stay active. I ended up at CrossFit quite a bit more and often modified exercises that would stress out my hip (i.e. high-volume squats, box jumps). I was able to do most workouts, but I really paid attention to what might further aggravate my injury. Maintaining a regular exercise routine, even though I wasn’t running, actually didn’t impact my overall fitness level. Just a couple of weeks ago, I ran a 25-minute 5K, which was less than a minute slower than my PR. Not too shabby for barely running in recent months!

Along the same lines… “cherry picking” my workouts and even making up my own were key to exercising without further injuring my hip. I checked the WOD online the night before CrossFit and then would decide if I could safely complete or modify the workout. If not, I’d create my own workout with hip-friendly movements in mind and do it at the gym or at-home.

And because I’m impatient, there were several times that I pushed too hard, like going to Orangetheory before my hip was fully healed. During the workout, my hip felt fine, but the aftermath was awful. The next day, my hip was SO SORE. Holy cow, I felt like such a dummy. I basically undid all of the healing progress I’d made up until that point. I’m telling you this because being patient is very important to the recovery process. It’s not worth pushing yourself to take a step back.

Going to physical therapy ultimately got me over the hump of recovering from my hip injury. I went for 8 weeks, twice a week to start and then just once a week when things started to improve. We spent a lot of time stretching my tight hip (my diagnosis was iliopsoas tendonitis) and strengthening my core and gluteus medius (aka side butt). My therapist gave me stretches and exercises to perform at home, and I was religious about doing them just about every day. They really made a huge difference in my recovery, and I still do them a couple of times a week.

And, finally, I used a mantra that I picked up from one of my Orangetheory coaches to get me through this time: “It’s your workout, not mine.” At the end of the day, you need to do what’s right for YOU. Sure, I wanted to run inclines on the treadmill or beast-mode WODs to really challenge myself, but I knew for sure that would destroy my hip. It’s all about knowing and listening to your body and appreciating what you are able to do. A minor injury is one thing, but if you’re in great pain or it interferes with your everyday life, it’s not worth it and time to take a break (and see a doctor).

Question of the Day

What are your thoughts on working out through injuries? 

 

36 Comments

  1. I definitely think if you go from being sore a few days in a row to feeling like your pain isn’t going away, it’s time to see a PT. My right knee started flaring up in August, and when it didn’t get better even after laying off squats or explosive movements, I finally saw a PT in November. After about 8 weeks, of graston technique and various stretching, things felt much better! Plus, it was really reassuring to find that my injury wasn’t catastrophic (a torn ligament or whatever)!

  2. Thanks for this post and I agree! I injured my piriformis two months ago and as someone who needs to run, it was very frustrating! I did the elliptical and bike until I could run pain free again, and just yesterday I was able to run 7 1/2 miles without pain. I also worked on strengthening my butt muscles and abductor/adductor muscles which has really helped. I missed the half marathon I was supposed to run on April 22, but hoping I can run one in July! 🙂

  3. I’m with you, I kind of exercises to work around the injury. The quote is one of my favorites as well! I also have also found incorporating yoga has helped stave injury.

  4. I’m always in the mindset that I can do as much as I can as long as it’s not bothering what’s injured. When I sprained my ankle, it was all I could do not to take my bike out and just bandage my body up! But, now I take the time to focus on other healthy choices..like extra yoga and cooking healthier meals and truly taking a break from working out. Again, it definitely depends on the injury, but a little time off from high intensity can be a time to grow too!

  5. I totally agree with being patient! I recently went to PT for my knee and it helped so much. Not doing what hurts you is also key. I took a break from running and focused more on strength training, avoided squats and lunges and used the elliptical. Like you, I get cranky if I take more than 2 days off! So finding anything you can do that doesn’t aggravate the injury is the way to go. Great post!

  6. I am just getting over a running injury and definitely followed these tips! Being patient was so tough but I was very grateful I could still find workouts that didn’t hurt me or make it worse. Seeing a physiotherapist was KEY to finally getting better! Spinning and hiking became my saving graces.

  7. This is such an important topic and a tough one to have an answer to. I’m terrible at “taking it easy” because I love being active!! It’s so true though that you really need to be patient, don’t do what hurts and find other things to stay active!

  8. i used to run through injury after injury. but back then i had a super unhealthy relationship with running. it was my escape, my therapist, my safety net, my love (because running = calories burned and calories burned = food, and food = love). YEA, it was messed up. i have other coping mechanisms now when i get injured.

    all that to say, time off is absolutely necessary when battling an injury, and if you can’t do that, there’s bigger issues you’re dealing with!

    totally agree that finding another exercise that does not cause ANY pain is a good option too

  9. Thanks for sharing! I just started PT for my hip and I’m so impatient. I want to get back to my normal activities but know I need to just let the physical therapists guide me throughout the process to healing. It’s a hard game mentally.

  10. Great tips, Tina! I’m really grateful I’ve never had a major in jury, more little things where I needed to take time off of certain movement and be intentional with rest to heal, but I’m modifying because of pregnancy right now. I’m so thankful I’m still able to move and train and a big help for me with the changes is letting go of expectations. Helps a lot! I also love that quote that the OT trainer shared at the end…I’ll remember that one!

  11. Great tips! I am recovering from tennis elbow (due to overuse b/c of going to OTF) but I am finally on the mend.
    I have been taking it easy when it comes to using heavier weights. I do what I can but sometimes I was an overachiever and I paid for it the next day. Proper form on the rower too!
    Also, KT Tape was so helpful during my injury and the stretches my doctor gave me to help with the pain (which I still do!). I am glad it is getting better and I can avoid get cortisone shots (that was going to be the next step in relieving the pain).

  12. Great post and tips! I completely agree with being patient and persistent with the physical therapy. I too need that workout like you stated….I have had major back surgeries and you can imagine how hard it is to work through that. It was hard not being able to do previous workouts or what I wanted to do, plus the recovery was over 2 years. However like you, I stayed away from things that hurt me, focused on what I could do, was persistent with PT, and tried to remain thankful that I was actually able to do anything! There are things I will never e able to do, but looking at the glass half full, there are many many things I can do! Thank you for sharing. It seems like many people can relate to this post! I hope you hips is staying well:)

  13. What a coincidence, I feel like I could have written this myself except that I had a calf injury because of too many double unders.
    Definitely agree about being impatient and pushing too hard to “test the injury” and I also made the mistake of trying again too soon. I guess you live and learn!

  14. In 2014 I ran Boston and then did a half Ironman. About a month later I ended up with a hip fracture. Overall my doctor’s knew I wasn’t going to sit still and was fine with me cross training. Now I don’t run like I use to but I still run a couple times a week and am stronger then what I was back then. I put on much needed muscle. Since I was an endurance junkie I didn’t do any strength training. I look at exercise in a different light. I make sure it’s well rounded and not too much of one thing that will cause another injury.

  15. This really resonates. I recently had a sore rib from coughing and I was so stubborn about pushing through at first that I ended up prolonging the injury. It’s finally healed. Thanks for these reminders!

  16. I am currently working through my first ever post-collegiate fitness injury: runner’s knee. It’s been very frustrating and difficult, especially because I’m set to run a half at the end of May and set to start training for my first marathon in July. This post was a helpful reminder to GO SLOW and also you made me feel better that you didn’t feel like you lost fitness by not running. Have you ever experienced runner’s knee? Any tips?

  17. Great post and tips! I completely agree with being patient and persistent with the physical therapy. I too need that workout like you stated….I have had major back surgeries and you can imagine how hard it is to work through that.

    xx
    Eva

  18. Tina,

    Are you able to share any of the exercises that you did during PT? I’m currently going through a lot of trouble with my hip and could use any additional strength training/PT exercises. Thanks! Tess

  19. Great tips! First of all, know your body and it’s important. Your post is such an inspiration. Please tell me a few exercise of hips. thanks

  20. In my athlete years, it was a much to train with injuries, as daily MMA training meant I always had some type of injury!

    Unfortunately, it all fell apart when I dislocated my shoulder though, and there was no training through that unfortunately…

    So it depends on the severity of the injury, but I agree with training around injuries as much as possible

  21. Awesome data! I as of late went over your blog and have been perusing along. I figured I would leave my first remark. I don’t recognize what to state aside from that I have

  22. Wow, So it depends on the severity of the injury, but I agree with training around injuries as much as possible. Your post is such an inspiration. Please tell me a few exercise of hips. thanks

  23. Hey Tina! I have a hip issue/injury that has come back and I wanted to ask about how you modified your crossift workouts when you had your recent hip/back injury. Did you still attend crossfit workouts? I want to continue crossfit, modified & doctor-approved of course, but am afraid that if I go to class (schedule not posted beforehand) I won’t be able to do any of the movements or will modify so much that it will be a completely different workout. What have you done in your own experience? Thank you!

    1. I’m still working out at CrossFit and pretty much doing all of the movements, but I’m not going super heavy and staying away from exercises that aggravate my injury. If there’s a movement I can’t do, I just substitute one that I can do. Like during a WOD, I’ll stick with the same time domain or rep scheme, but I just might change up the exercises to do what works for me.

  24. Thanks for the information. The one thing I have noticed in this website is that you were continuously updating the changes that you have been made. It is a good sign to attract more people and I appreciate it. Hope more update and news from you.

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