How many times have you or someone you know finished a run or lifted weights with nagging pain? You know the scenario, it's not bad enough to sideline you, but you feel it every time you workout. If you find that you're in pain or experience consistent discomfort during your workouts, I have an unofficial diagnosis for you, chronic pain. Pain becomes a chronic issue when it lasts longer than several weeks and rest doesn't seem to make it better. In fact, many issues around chronic pain come from overuse of a certain body part or just plain ole overtraining.
Don't think you fall into that category because you're too young, really fit, or in denial? You're not alone. Studies show that more than 15 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. However, these same folks continue to do their workouts faithfully, train for 10Ks, ironman or even go hard at CrossFit. In fact, you can get so used to pain, it becomes your new normal. That's not good. If you're in chronic pain, there's a solution for you and it's cross-training.
So, how do you handle this pain dilemma? Now, I could tell you that the best thing for you to do is to stop training for a while, rest, and resume your routine. However, most of the time that's not the best way to deal with a nagging injury or twinge that you feel periodically. Plus, taking a week or two off can set you back too. Here's the deal. If you have a new injury, it's best to use the RICE Method which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It's best to take a few days for your body to rest and 72 hours is a good window to see improvement. During that time, take some medicine to help with pain and inflammation. Ibuprofen or Tylenol are ideal. If your injury hasn't gotten better within another week or two, I recommend seeing your doctor to rule out any serious injuries and get the okay to continue exercise. The only time where I wouldn't recommend the two-week timeline is if you experience extreme swelling in a joint or debilitating pain within an hour or two after a workout. Waiting it out is not a good idea and could cause additional injury, so visit an Orthopedic Urgent Care Center right away.
Now that you've got your doctor's okay to exercise and you want to get back in the game, what do you do first? Remember this mantra; cross-training needs to be a staple in my workout regimen. Here's the way it works. Let's say that you are a runner, a hardcore one at that. You experience some knee issues and now you feel the ache or pain regularly. Instead of running daily, cut down your runs to no more than 3 times per week. In-between your runs, hop on the elliptical, bike, or try deep water running to take the load off of your knee. Add some rest days in-between a few workouts and combine with ice, pain medicine as needed, and stellar nutrition.
As your body continues to heal, you do several things. One, you minimize additional damage to the tendons and ligaments around your knee. Two, you recruit and work different muscle fibers. Three, you feel better because the aches and pains associated with running aren't there. Lastly, you enjoy your workouts, recover better, and perform better in the long term.
Now, before you go out there and resume your training I suggest you track your workouts going forward. Record what you do and how your body feels. For example, if you have shoulder issues and want to lift heavy, go light on the weights initially. You can always make it harder. Take note on how your shoulders feel through the movement. If you feel a slight twinge, don't push through it. Maintain good form through the end of the movement and drop the weight slightly. Lifting about ten percent less weight can be the one factor that will avoid further injury to your body.
Nowadays, cross-training is the only way to go. Your body will recover well plus you'll feel better in-between workouts. Daily high-intensity workouts will burn calories but also put you at risk for overtraining and overuse injuries. Dial it back and you'll reap the benefits, I promise.