How to Work Around Injuries During Military Fitness Training

Elliptical workout.

Accidents and injuries are just a part of life. But what happens to your training when you get injured? Having a back-up training plan that allows you to work around an injury can be both a training and sanity saver.

Regardless of injury, make sure you get it checked out by a medical provider before you proceed with any training. Even simply having a physical therapist clear you to keep going can save you time on the bench later.

The key to training around injury is always listening to your body and not pushing aches and pains into long term problems. If it hurts to run, stop running. If it hurts to walk, don't run. If it hurts just standing around or doing nothing, it is definitely time to see a professional to assist with your recovery.

Have one of these common injuries? Here are some recovery and training back-up plan ideas.

Extremity injuries

Extremity injuries isolated to one arm or leg are some of the easiest to work around. If you have an arm injury, for example, then you can continue working the other arm or focus on legs and core. Leg injury? The same basic idea applies.

When dealing with an arm injury, think about changing up the cardio. You can still bike, run or walk even if you usually prefer exercises like swimming, rowing or elliptical machines that use the arms. Any upper body day can be adjusted to focus on the opposite side, core or opposing muscle groups to avoid any further damage to the injured area.

Machines come in handy, as they are specifically designed to isolate joints. Bicep curls, tricep extensions, leg extensions and leg curls are some basic isolation exercises that can help you work around certain pains of the upper and lower body.

If you're dealing with a running injury, non-impact cardio will let you work the heart and lungs with no impact pains. The same goes for lifting and calisthenics. Splitting the upper body into a push-and-pull routine may allow you to continue exercises that do not bother a specific muscle group or joint.

Core Injuries

The trunk of the body includes the spine and neck and everything that connects to it. If you have an upper or lower back injury, pulled muscle on the front, or bruised or broken bones, your ability to move, walk, or even breathe can be severely challenged.

In this situation, you need professional assistance that will include a variety of tests, physical therapy and recovery time. And rather than finding alternate physical training exercises, now is the time to focus on recovery.

That means eating well -- but not too much as your daily caloric burn will be significantly decreased if you are not training or simply moving like you normally do. Many people forget that important factor and gain weight during their convalescence, which only makes starting back up harder.

In addition to healthy eating, recovery also requires resting, good sleep and hydration. Take this recovery time seriously and use it to nail down your nutrition planning. You just may pick up some good habits to help with rebuilding and regaining your athletic performance once you are training again.

Depending on the advice of the physical therapist and severity of the injury, you may be able to still work isolation machines that work the extremities like arms and legs as many of those machines can completely disengage core activity.

Head Injuries

Whether it is a concussion, dental surgery or broken nose, the severity of the injury determines how you should proceed. The typical advice is to rest and avoid anything that requires stress or increases pressure like resistance training.

Mild cardio (walking) may be on the table if there are minimal symptoms and no bleeding, but your doctor or physical therapist should give you the go-ahead before you push yourself with challenging workouts. The act of bending over may be uncomfortable and not good for recovery so anything more advanced than walking should be cleared by your doctor or therapist.

Mobility and Flexibility

One of the most important elements of recovery is to make sure you can maintain the flexibility and mobility of your muscles and joints respectively. Staying limber can not only help you with recovery but also help avoid new injuries when you recover from what is keeping you still now.

Always remember that pain is an indicator that something is wrong. Work around that pain instead of pushing through it. There is a difference between pain and injury, but if you do not listen to your body at the first sign of pain and address what's making you uncomfortable, your body will eventually start yelling at you and force you to take more time off to heal whatever has turned into an injury.

In the meantime, keep moving and still train what does not hurt you.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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