Safe Ways To Train During Injury Recovery

Woman training with dumbells

When you’re an active athlete, it’s difficult to be sidelined. Que the restlessness, the worry, and anxiety, not to mention boredom when you can’t do what you love. When you can’t be as active due to an injury, it can affect your mental health just as much as your physical health. It can make it more difficult to sleep at night, yet make you feel more tired during the day. Being less active to recover from an injury doesn’t mean you can’t do anything, however. It just means that you have to find safe ways to train.

We don’t advocate that you take no rest at all. However, we also don’t think you need to be sitting on the couch for the next six weeks either. It depends on your injury and where you’re at in the recovery process. The focus during injury recovery needs to be just that – recovering from an injury. However, that doesn’t always mean taking a full sabbatical from your training. You should be following your rehab without fail and the instruction of your physical therapist. Yet, there are safe ways to train during injury recovery.


If you have a minor injury, you’ll most likely be able to cross-train. How you cross-train is contingent on the type of injury, however. For example, if you have a shoulder injury from tennis, swimming is not the best way to go for cross-training. You might want to choose a spinning class or cycling instead. If you have a knee injury from running, cycling, and/or swimming may be OK if it’s not causing you any pain. If high-impact activities are out of the question while you’re recovering, you can try walking, yoga, or Pilates.

Cross-training is an excellent way to stay in shape and not get too far behind on training while still recovering. Moreover, it’s a good way to exercise your body in different ways, which you should already be doing to strengthen your supporting muscles and prevent injuries.

However, cross-training doesn’t mean going all out and exhausting yourself. Regardless of the injury, you still need time to R&R because it’s this rest and recovery time that allows your body to build strength. So, you might be able to get on the rowing machine instead of the treadmill, but you still need to take it easy so that your body can heal itself.

Want to learn more about cross-training? Check out our post on The Benefits of Cross-training.


Work On Your Weaknesses

Many non-acute injuries – aka, overtraining and overuse injuries – are caused by muscle imbalances. These are weaknesses that can easily be fixed with targeted strengthening. This means determining first and foremost what caused the injury in the first place. What muscles are weak that cause more stress leading to injury? The best way to find the answer to this question is to go to a physical therapist who will be able to assess the injury and determine a treatment program.

Working on your weaknesses can and should be part of the rehab process. It’s a break without taking a break.

Adjust Your Training

Similar to cross-training, you can adjust your current training to account for your injury. This is only OK if your injury is not serious and your physical therapist OKs it. Such techniques as training with lighter weights and high reps or slowing down your cardio can help keep you on track for recovery.

If you don’t have a serious injury, this is a good opportunity to work on your form and technique as you slow everything down. You can target the muscles more directly with more controlled movements, working on strengthening and mobility. Technique, posture, and mobility should never be underestimated for rehabilitation and prevention.

 Seek Advice On Safe Ways To Train While Injured

If you’re going to be sidelined for a long period – like two months or longer – you can ask a physical therapist what you should do to keep the crazy away. A physical therapist is going to know what you can do and – more importantly – what you should be doing for a speedy recovery. A lot of times, this entails specific exercises that you can do at home and away from the clinic as well as eating healthy. You can also do things like an anti-gravity treadmill if your PT allows it and manual therapy such as Graston.