We Can Work It Out (Or Can We?): The Pros and Cons of Working Out Through an Injury

By Jennifer Farthing of the BuddhaBabes

It’s been a busy summer for both of us BuddhaBabes, but especially for me. My finance and I eloped in Provence in July, had a reception with the family in August, and have a party with friends in NYC coming up in September–so it’s hardly the time to skip working out! That said, I battled a hamstring pull earlier in the summer, and because I didn’t take time to rest it, I ended up with a nasty case of sciatica. Once the worst of it was over, I got back to working out, but I was far from back to normal.

That was hard. Not the painful injury so much, but the taking a step back from my usual level of activity at a fairly advanced level. My regimen (or was it my vanity?) dictated that I maintain my visits to the gym and studio no matter how I felt. The teacher in me knew that I should rest and/or modify like crazy or risk even greater downtime. My inner yogi backed that up and told me to fight the ego-urge to muscle through it. But still, I overextended myself. And predictably, I hurt myself even more.

Then I came to my senses. I modified. I slowed down. And guess what? When I did my Hundred with bent knees, I curled higher–and I felt it more, right in my core. When I made my Leg Circles smaller, I worked my transverse abs and extended through my psoas, feeling that long, lean line. My Cobra was smaller, but my lowest belly was decidedly uplifted—feeling that deep ab work where it counts. Since I couldn’t run, my hips relaxed and I felt greater flexibility on my Side-Lying exercises. My posture in the exercises improved, my face was not tense. My bad habits, like holding my breath in Teaser (yes, even teachers have their moments), melted as I calmly maintained my bent-leg version longer and better than ever. I ignored the perfect straight legs next to me and focused on the right posture for me, right now, in the summer 2009. (Noting that it, too, would pass.)

The take-away: When you are hurt, it never hurts to check in on your form. Take a break from the full or advanced pose. Straight legs and the highest curl are fantastic goals, but when it’s not right for you, listen to your body and grant yourself permission to take it down a notch.

If your lower body has a twinge, an ache or a pull, focus on your neck, shoulders and collar bones–eliminate the tension from your face, drop your shoulders away from your ears, relax and re-engage those back muscles–and concentrate on the top part of your body when the lower part is sore.

If you have pain in your neck, rotator or along the back, be even more careful. Favoring one side can make matters worse. Consider a break from the machines and the mat, and if the weather outside is fine, get out there and walk, if it feels right. There’s plenty of time to get back to your exercise regimen. If you’ve been doing Pilates for a while, you won’t lose your strength while you recover. Harness that strength, be well, and come back better than ever. You’ll thank yourself later for the break, trust us.

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4 Responses to We Can Work It Out (Or Can We?): The Pros and Cons of Working Out Through an Injury

  1. s says:

    Great advice which I should heed…my neck has really been bothering me. I like the idea of walking or just finding some other way to take it easy.

  2. Kristen says:

    Very useful information considering that my working through the pain has sent me to the chiropractor and podiatrist.

  3. Sheryl says:

    Ah, so wise. I have set myself back many weeks running through injuries. Stupid vanity always gets the better of me!

  4. Laura says:

    Great advice! It’s really hard to scale it back as a teacher. This is a great reminder that we are all human and sometimes need to take a break or modify in order to heal. THANK YOU!

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