"Should I just work through the pain if I'm injured?"
This is the time of year when many of us have made New Year's resolutions to make this your fittest year yet! Unfortunately, this may also become dangerous in the way of an injury. Often times, people feel as though missing some workouts to heal an injury will just make their road to success take that much longer. Here are my thoughts on this:
Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between a muscle pain that is from exercising, or a pain from an injury. When in doubt, you are better off to err on the side of caution. If you have a sore bicep and wish to still go for a run on the treadmill, you are probably ok as running shouldn't really exacerbate the injury. You are far better off to give an injury several days to rest before getting back to full-blown exercising than to injure yourself longer, or permanently.
When you do in fact begin to get back to full exercise, make sure to warm-up your previously injured body part more than usual and to stretch it out post-exercise, and always remember to ice to reduce swelling. Absolutely 100% of the time, if your pain persists for more than a few days, you should see a doctor and potentially a physiotherapist.
Getting back to the idea that a few days rest may 'derail' any progress should be looked at. Many people go through these cycles of months or even years of inactivity, and then once they get back onto a workout plan, they feel that their 8 or 10 week program is their time to get back into shape. That is when an injury may make them feel depressed or frustrated because they are only now losing their opportunity to get healthy. These are the same people that seem to forget that they neglected their bodies and the health for weeks, months, or years at a time, so staying inactive for a few more days to rest an injury really should not be anything different.
Ideally, if you overhaul your lifestyle and vow to become a healthier person, eating well and exercising regularly, taking a few days off for rest and recovery will not even matter in the larger picture. I used to be the same way, trying to accomplish so much within a short period of time, feeling that I am missing out or compromising my results if I missed even one workout. I quickly began to realize that if I exercised consistently for 5 or 6 days a week, every week of every year, then getting a cold or flu, or having a sore shoulder that sidelines me for a week or two seems so minuscule.
Just some food for thought!
-Tyler Robbins B.Sc. PTS