Firstly, it’s important to recognise the difference between general soreness and a few niggles from exercise and real pain / injury. While our bodies are pretty good at breaking down, rebuilding and often this is the key to progress. There are times where you may need to step back and allow a joint or muscle group some extra time to recover. Otherwise, it may just get worse.
Note: In any case where you’re really not sure about a pain or physical issue, you should consult your doctor to ensure you have the right medical advice.
It’s also worth being mindful of how long it typically takes for a muscle/muscle group to recover from being trained intensely. The below table (from The Lean Exec book) shows average timing for recovery of different muscle areas roughly by body type. Although it’s important to recognise everyone is different, this is just a guide and your quality of sleep, nutrition and fitness level will also play a part. So try to get to know your body and listen to what it’s saying. This can sometimes be a tricky balance and don’t let it be an excuse to be lazy!
Don’t Stop Unnecessarily
Depending on your injury, you will need to find the best balance between recovery and staying active. In most cases it will be a bad idea to go and train the injured body part as normal. Plus, in some cases the injury is severe enough that you need to lay off exercise completely at least for a period prescribed by your Doctor. However, if for example you have an upper body wrist injury, you could still potentially do ab training, leg training or cardio that doesn’t involve use of your arms or hands.
Adapt Your Training
When you have a light injury or on the mend and are in a position to start training the previously injured area it’s important that you don’t rush back in and try to do what you were doing before. It pays to be a bit patient. Test first and see how you feel with a regressed movement, exercise or weight. Then gradually build back up over time. The last thing you want to do is re-trigger the sensitive area and/or make it worse. So TEST and LISTEN to your body.
An extract from The Lean Exec Book:
When I went through my seven-year period of limited exercise, I was working long hours, drinking too much, not sleeping enough, feeling pretty yuck and regularly feeling ill and getting all sorts of niggles and ailments that I’d never had before. I think the ultimate realisation point for me was when I hurt my back and wasn’t able to go to work for a few weeks. It was at that point I truly realised the mistake I had made. It took nearly six months for my back to totally recover, but with careful and consistent training it did recover to be far stronger than it’s ever been. Within a year or so I could squat 135kg (297lbs), do 10 rep sets with over 100kg (220lbs) and deadlift over 200% of my body weight which, at the time, was 88–90kg (198lbs). These numbers don’t break any records, but they are significant and solid in the context of my goals. – Neill David Watson, Author – The Lean Exec
Take Expert Advice
In any case when you’re not sure about your injury, pain or an ongoing symptom. Get it checked out with a doctor and discuss your situation with appropriately qualified experts who may be able to advise and help you recover from your injury.