Fitness Tips

5 Healthy Things to Do When You’re Injured and Can’t Exercise

This past weekend, I was working on pushup variations when I pushed a little too far and royally tweaked my trapezius muscle. As a result, I’m currently writing this with a grumpy shoulder that can tolerate little more than heating pads and painkillers. Chances are, it’s going to be at least another week or two before I can lace up my trainers again.

At first, I was pretty bummed about this. Exercise is not just something I do to stay in shape; it’s how I find “my happy.” But if I’m honest with myself, I was long overdue for a break. I’d been training 4–5 days a week for the past five months, and experts recommend taking time off from exercise every 6 to 8 weeks.

The problem is, rest is boring! It’s also demotivating when forced and accompanied by a bothersome injury.

Fortunately, I’ve found some healthy ways to cope with this unplanned downtime. If you’re currently dealing with an injury or an unscheduled break from exercise, you might find these five activities helpful. They won’t interfere with your recovery but will help you stay healthy and maintain a positive outlook.

1. Try a New Healthy Recipe (or Two)

Now is an ideal time to hone in on your diet. Even if you already have healthy eating habits, there’s always an opportunity to optimize your nutrition.

Use the time you usually spend exercising to whip up a new recipe. I like to experiment with healthy snack and dessert recipes that cut down on sugar and boost protein and fiber.

Right now, I’m trying some new recipes from the FitOn app this week, specifically their Mini Sticky Date Puddings and their 10-Minute Lentil Curry. (I love the recipes on this app!)

If you don’t like cooking or baking, keep it simple by looking up healthy food swaps. For example, you can switch out your usual after-dinner ice cream with greek yogurt and honey or a handful of nuts instead of chips.

2. Exercise Your Mind Instead

Sometimes, I get so focused on my physical fitness that I forget to care for my mental fitness. While exercise can positively affect your mental health, it works the other way around, too!

I find that meditation exercises are one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. The many science-backed benefits of meditation include improved sleep, reduced blood pressure, and even decreased pain. (I could certainly use a little less pain right now!)

If you’re new to meditation, listening to guided meditations is the way to go. You can find them for free on YouTube or invest in an app like Headspace or Calm. I’ve tried both, and you can’t go wrong with either of them.

I’ve started doing short meditations in the evenings before bed. Even 10 minutes is enough to slow my mind down and prepare me for sleep.

3. Do Light Physical Activity (If Possible)

Depending on the nature of your injury, you might be able to work in some easy physical activity.

The key to this is making sure the exercise you do doesn’t aggravate your injury in any way. For example, if you’ve pulled something in your lower body, you could try doing some upper body exercises.

I have to be extra careful about anything involving my upper body due to my torqued shoulder, so I’ve kept physical activity strictly to my lower body. I’m taking short walks every day to stretch my legs and elevate my heart rate a bit. I’m also using my under-desk elliptical to improve blood circulation throughout the day.

If you’re not sure what kind of physical activity you can be doing while injured (if any), make sure you check with your doctor first!

4. Start New Healthy Habits

Now is a great time to redirect your focus to developing new habits that you always knew were important but never got around to doing. They don’t have to be massive changes; every small thing you do for your health adds up.

For example, I set a new goal to be more consistent with flossing (I know, I know) and to start adding lemon to my water as an easy way to boost my vitamin C intake.

Other ideas for new healthy habits could include getting more sleep, drinking more water, or eating an extra serving of vegetables at mealtimes.

The idea is that by the time you’re injury is healed, you’ll have these new behaviors on autopilot so you can effortlessly maintain them when you return to your exercise regime.

5. Read a Health and Fitness Book

Books are an excellent way to power up your health by arming you with life-lengthening knowledge.

Last year, I read The 6 Keys by Jillian Michaels, a book about changing your lifestyle for longevity. Another was Life in the Fasting Lane by Dr. Jason Fung, Eve Mayer, and Megan Ramos, which is about the power of intermittent fasting for weight loss. Both books changed how I thought about fitness and helped me break through my year-long fitness plateau.

But I realized this week that I’d gotten out of the habit of reading health books regularly, so this week I picked up one called Eat to Beat Disease by William W. Li, MD., which is all about the power of food as medicine.

The way I see it is, the more you learn about health and fitness, the better choices you can make for your health!

If you need some more recommendations, here are a few more books that are next on my reading list:

  • How to Not Die, by Michael Greger and Gene Stone
  • Fiber Fueled, by Will Bulsiewicz
  • Metabolical, by Rober H. Lustig
  • ROAR, by Stacy Sims and Selene Yeager

Turning My Injury Into a “Win-jury”

My injury may suck, but this unplanned stretch of downtime ended up being just what I needed to take a step back and evaluate what other areas of my health could use improvement. And once my shoulder heals up and I get back to exercising regularly, I plan to keep these new healthy activities in my routine.

So if you sprain an ankle or pull a muscle, don’t despair! The injury will heal eventually, and in the meantime, you can focus on other activities that can keep you feeling positive and healthy.

Corrie Alexander is a former ISSA-certified personal trainer, home fitness advocate, and founder of The Fit Careerist. A proponent of personal growth and a self-proclaimed fitness app-junkie, Corrie shares tips and product reviews with the goal of helping others on their own fitness journey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.