How to Work Out While Lessening Your Risk of Reinjury

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A sailor performs the bench press with dumbbells.
Culinary Specialist 1st Class Bennett Evans uses dumbbells for the bench press during a physical training session aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105). (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin Stack/U.S. Navy photo)

I love to get emails from people like this true American. A member of both the military and law enforcement, he is seeking to improve his fitness level in a way that will not affect previous injuries. 

He writes:

"I am age 35, with a 15 year history of wear and tear from military, police, and other high impact jobs (i.e. car accidents and bad jumps). I am trying to rehab and finish the Army SF-Q Course as a National Guard Soldier. Currently I am in law enforcement as my daily occupation, and I need to make sure I keep my fitness levels up for safety, and also to keep my job. I expect you to say that I need to consult a doctor first but I would like your opinion on this since you know the requirements for this line of work."

"My main issue right now is that I work 10-14 hour days with my civilian job, so I need to maximize my training time. I have a training program from an experienced trainer and some programs from experienced guys from my SF unit, but I'm having issues tying it all together with my schedule."

You sound like me. At 38, I, too, am feeling the pains of hard landings from jumping/sports injuries in high school and college. Fitting fitness into your schedule is the dilemma I see. It is tough after long hours to find a gym and work out. If possible, you should do something prior to going to work. I think pre-work would be the best time to fit workouts into your day (even if it means 45-60 minutes of less sleep).

Here is a plan for long days:

1. Get your cardio done first thing in the morning. Depending on your rehab timing, you should build up to running by adding in non-impact aerobics first, like biking, rowing, swimming and (when you can) running and walking a bit. Finally, after a few weeks, you can build up to full running for 1-3 miles as each week progresses respectively. Then, when healthy and able to run, build up to ruck marches of various weights. Check out my article "How to Prevent Running Injuries."

2. In the afternoon (after work, depending on your shift) get your PT or weights done.

This does not have to be daily two-a-days, but two or three times a week, it can be done like this. The other days of the week can be longer workouts of both forms of exercise. Any of the eBooks found at the Military.com Fitness eBook Store can be broken up and used in this manner, but you will find many ideas in previously written articles at my article archive as well.

Sometimes with crazy work schedules, you just have to be creative and arrange cardio and resistance components into your schedule where you can. Stretching should be daily, and it takes only 5-10 minutes. This is your rest day, and your minimum recommended amount of daily activity when days get crazy. Hang in there and good luck.

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 stew@stewsmith.com.

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