Is it better to REST when injured?

MYTH: It’s better to REST when injured

Emily R Pappas, M.S.


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We’ve all been there at some point, right? You sprain an ankle, or tweak a shoulder or hamstring, and suddenly you find yourself on the sidelines while your body recovers. But is that the best way to handle injury?

Common Misconception

It seems obvious that an injury requires rest. But in reality, training the rest of your body while the injured muscle, ligament, or joint repairs itself can HELP your overall recovery time. To explain why, let’s look at what happens when you are injured.

Dealing with Pain

Whether you break a bone (an acute injury) or you suffer from an ongoing situation like nagging pain in your hip (a chronic injury), your body is dealing with a workload that is greater than its ability to recover and adapt. If you completely stop your training while you heal, your ENTIRE body becomes deconditioned.Think about how sore you get the first time you get in a good workout after you took a couple of weeks off for a vacation. Now consider how much ground you would lose if you let an injury completely sideline you for a month or two! In fact, many athletes who then try to jump back into a training program once their injury heals find themselves quickly on the sidelines with a new injury, because they overdid it.

The Better Option

Instead of completely pausing your training, work around your injury. Let’s say you broke your foot. You can still work on single-leg RDLs, squats, and pull-ups to increase overall strength. Not only will you increase your recovery rate, but once that foot is healed, you will find it’s easier to get it caught back up with the rest of you. This “crossover effect” keeps the uninjured parts of you in top shape while allowing your body to heal the injury more quickly.

Moral of the story? If you are injured, don't stop your training completely! Instead, find a way to train around the injury (pain free!) and get back in the game sooner!