I was inspired to write this post after subbing a strength training class a few months ago. I was chatting with the ladies before class got started, and one woman came to me to say she had injured her shoulder, as well as her knee, and would be taking it easy during class that day. As she was explaining her injuries, tears started rolling down her face, and my heart broke listening to her story. She said she felt worthless since both injuries were on the same side of her body, and guilty because she hadn’t been able to work out as much as she “needed to” the past few weeks.
Worthless. Guilty. Those words gave me pause and the pain in her voice really made me think. Do we put too much stress on ourselves with negative self-talk and feeling like we “need” to work out? What will people think if we don’t show up to class for a week? How are we supposed to know when to push ourselves and when to lay off? And if we do lay off the workouts because we’re injured or need a break, are we any less of a person?
Of course not. But in a society where peak physical fitness and an athletic physique are touted as signs of a successful life, it’s no wonder we push ourselves to the breaking point and then some. It’s all around us. Just scroll through any social media outlet and you’re bound to find a couple dozen articles on the best ways to get that 6-pack or toned backside like Beyoncé. These articles tend to conjure up feelings of being “less than,” and if you don’t make it to the gym, you’re going to be looked down upon. How ridiculous is that? But you know what? Things happen. LIFE HAPPENS. You can’t work your body to the breaking point day in and day out without some negative effects.
The human body wasn’t designed to be pushed without a recovery period. In fact, that’s how you gain muscle in the first place. Yep – muscle growth happens outside of the gym. When our muscles are placed under significant load, e.g. by lifting heavy weights, the muscle fibers are damaged and need time to repair, strengthen, and grow. If you don’t give them adequate time to rest (typically a day or two depending on how hard you worked), you risk overtraining, which can lead to serious injury and complications later down the road. So taking a rest day once or twice a week is not only a good thing, but also necessary to see improvement in performance and aesthetics.
Still, injuries happen, whether in or out of the gym, and when they do, you have options. If the injury is minor, you might opt to work different muscle groups altogether, or stick with as little resistance as possible. If the injury is major, allow yourself the time off. There is nothing wrong with listening to your body and recognizing when you need a break. After all, isn’t that a major sign of self-respect?
So, dear woman, I hope you know that injuries are a part of life. They happen to the best of us, no matter how careful we are. You did the right thing by taking it easy during class that day, and don’t you for a second feel guilty you did so. Taking it easy shows everyone around you that you value yourself. You know what you need and when. It shows you listened to your body. You’re recovered now, I know, but if an injury or setback happens again, please know you are not worthless if you need to take time off from your fitness routine. You are anything but. You have nothing to feel guilty about, and you, my friend, did just the right thing at the right time for YOU. There’s nothing wrong with that.