Three weeks ago, I spent a few hours in the emergency room with a sprained ankle. I suffered this malady after balancing on the edge of my raised garden bed while simultaneously attempting to toss a hose onto my second-story deck. I fell off the edge of the garden bed, sending my body and ankle in opposing directions, effectively demonstrating the old adage “haste makes waste”. In true Meghan fashion, I attempted to “walk it off” and taught Body Sculpting class 60 minutes later. As luck would have it, I also slipped on a mat in front of my class that very same night, sending me flying backwards onto my derriere. Aside from the obvious embarrassment associated with this event, the action worsened the condition of my already vulnerable ankle joint. As soon as I arrived home and took off my shoe, my poor ankle tripled in size. The pain and swelling got steadily worse, until I was crawling around on the floor and sobbing.
Here’s where I should mention that I’m not typically accident-prone. I’ve never broken or sprained anything in my entire life. This minor impairment not only increased my empathy for clients and friends struggling with injury, but also taught me a great deal about staying fit (both mentally and physically) during an injury.
Tips for Staying Fit During an Injury
- Let People Help You! Asking for help or allowing others to assist you can be the hardest part of being injured. After refusing to be dropped off in front of the emergency room, I declined my Mother’s assistance and hopped all the way from the car to the hospital entrance (even hopping up and down a high curb). The intake person spotted my special hokey-pokey and rushed out with a wheelchair. He had a hearty chuckle at my expense, telling me that he had a special chair for people like me. He laughed even harder when he heard that I had taught Body Sculpting earlier that evening.
- Don’t Panic. As a personal trainer or group fitness instructor, an injury could rob me of my livelihood. Though the pain was intense, my fears about being unable to do the job that I love were even more intense. Prayer and speaking to an empathetic friend or family member can help calm your fears. Take a deep breath and learn the facts about your injury before you catastrophize.
- Look on the Bright Side. You’ll get lots of special attention and people will be extra kind to you! Plus, a legitimate excuse to take a break from a grueling fitness regimen can be good for the soul.
- Follow the Doctor’s Orders. This sounds like a no-brainer, but taking the time to ice, elevate, and participate in physical therapy can be challenging. Doctors have a great deal of experience. Listen to their advice!
- Ask Your Doctor About Exercise. Many people don’t take the time to ask their doctor if certain forms of exercise are acceptable. For example, those suffering from a knee injury may benefit from low-impact exercises, like swimming or biking. Those with shoulder injuries can still do lower-body movements, while those with severe lower body injuries may be able to box or do arm-cranking. Communicate with your doctor and ask him to write a list of limitations for your personal trainer.
- Take this Time to Perfect Your Nutrition. Many people fear that they will gain weight during an injury or illness. Take this time off to clean up your diet. Eating healthfully can be easier during times of inactivity, as very difficult workouts can make you ravenous. (Think of all the people that gain weight during marathon-training)! If you’re mobile, you can take this extra time to try some new healthy recipes. To avoid weight gain, calculate your sedentary resting metabolic rate (RMR). Simply Google “RMR calculator with activity level” to discover how many calories you should be consuming during this time of inactivity.
- Ease Back into It. Start slowly. Don’t rush back into your full routine. Try working out at less than 50% of your normal intensity, every other day, when you first return to the gym. Take every other day off to let your body heal and see how it reacts to exercise.
- Keep Your Sense of Humor Intact. Injury and illness isn’t funny, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a sense of humor about it. I had lots of good laughs with gym patrons during my time as the “trainer on crutches”. (I had to repeatedly tell people that the injury was not sustained during exercise).
I’m happy to report that I healed very quickly (praise God), and I pray these tips will help others sustain mental and physical wellness during medical setbacks.