Exercise after injury is a scary thought. You did everything you were supposed to… maybe surgery, maybe physical therapy, and/or maybe you stopped playing a contact sport. Now you’re ready to get fit, but unsure how to bridge the gap between physical therapy and fitness. Here are some basic rules of thumb which work for just about everyone.
- If it hurts stop. Pain is the body telling you something is wrong. If a lunge causes pain don’t lunge (at least for now). Find a safe alternative with a similar movement. For example, try step ups instead of lunges
- If you feel joint instability stop. There are many versions or progressions of each exercise. When your muscles aren’t doing what they are supposed to the joint often takes on more force/pressure than intended. This might feel like instability. Try an easier version of the same exercise and monitor how your joint feels.
- When exercising watch how you move in a mirror. There is often a staggering difference between how we actually look and how we think we look. Use the visual feedback from the mirror to make the appropriate adjustments. For example, if you knee collapses inward during a squat this is bad. Once you see this happening you’ll be much more likely to fix and regularly monitor that joint’s position.
- Learn how to “brace” your core and apply this to weighted lower body exercises. The best example of the need to brace is when picking up a heavy object from the ground. This basically is the same as a deadlift. It’s very important to learn to brace your “core” (abs, glutes, and more) to maintain a stable spine when lifting up a weight. This same principle should be applied to squatting or lunging to keep you safe.
- Do your physical therapy “homework” before exercising. The exercises your physical therapist gave you are designed to help reduce pain and make you move better. Therefore, it just makes good sense to perform these exercises before doing cardio or strength training.
If you try the above and are still feel like you might injure yourself consider hiring a qualified personal trainer. Don’t go out and hire a “no pain, no gain” type. Instead find someone who watches how you move and coaches you into good movement through cuing and additional exercises. I obviously would recommend the team at Align Fitness as we specialize in exercise after injury. If you have any specific questions on this topic please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.align-fitness.com