by Elite Personal Trainer, Diptee Pathak
“I can’t work out because my back hurts”
“I can’t do squats because I have bad knees”
“I had an ankle fracture 5 years ago”
“My rotator cuff has been torn 2 times, so I avoid shoulder exercises”
“There’s no point of me exercising now, I’m too old and already have so much arthritis”
Yes, believe me. I have heard all of these complaints and more on many occasions over the years from clients and patients. And don’t get me wrong, it is totally valid to have and express concerns about preexisting physical issues. But my answer will always be “so what?” I know that sounds harsh, but let’s be frank: if you decided that you want to join a gym to lose weight, improve strength, and overall get healthier, are you really going to let an old injury and some fear of pain stop you from achieving your goals?
I get it: you don’t want to make anything worse. Maybe you’re scared because “what if I reinjure myself”? Everyone’s situation is different. But what if you don’t exercise? Then what? Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle can have the same effects as smoking. We know how important exercise and diet are to improve quality of life and prevent diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, yet when we hit a setback in life, like an injury, trauma, or a disease, we stop thinking about the big picture and start guarding ourselves.
The biggest problem I see is this: when a person gets injured, their whole life begins to revolve around trying to accommodate for that injury. They schedule countless doctor’s appointments, physical therapy sessions, and MRIs, insist on medicines and injections, and talk to caregivers. So much energy is spent on managing pain and making sure the injured body part is “ok” and “feeling better”. It almost becomes a part of your identity: ‘Hi, I’m Sally, I have a bad back, arthritis in my left knee, a sprained ankle from 10 years ago, so I don’t exercise much because I don’t want to make anything worse and go through the hassle of fixing it’. Stop defining yourself by your pain – it shouldn’t stop you from living a happy and healthy life. You CAN, in fact, lose weight, get stronger, and be healthier regardless of the barriers you may face.
To meet your fitness goals despite challenges, it is important to be proactive and seek help from professionals who can best guide you in the right direction. Luckily, there is a chunk of people who dedicate their lives to helping people like you: personal trainers, exercise physiologists, physical therapists, etc. We have learned the anatomy, the diseases, the precautions, and appropriate exercise prescription, and most importantly, how to work around those barriers! If you have bad knees or a bad back, we know what exercises to do to avoid flare-ups. If you had a rotator cuff tear or an ankle sprain in the past, we know how to implement rehabilitative exercises into your regular strength training program instead of avoiding the problem. If you recently got diagnosed with MS, we know who to refer out to and to help you manage the disease.
In the end, all these things are just events that may have happened in your life, but they should not stop you from achieving your goal of losing 20 lbs, eating more fruits and vegetables, strength training for 2-3x a week, or going out for regular walks. Obviously, the goals are specific to each individual – this is why I highly encourage people to seek advice from experienced healthcare professionals first. If you have a health fitness goal you would like to achieve, don’t let past injuries stop you. There are solutions to your problems. It is finally time to get off that couch, feel better, get stronger, and fit in those size 6 pants again!
Have you ever tried TRX®? It’s a type of training that utilizes those long, yellow and black straps hanging from the wall in many gyms, including HAC. TRX Suspension Trainers™ are great tools to utilize when starting a new exercise program. There are lots of things to love about them, but one of my favorites is the fact that they can be used at any fitness level from beginner to advanced. The straps allow you to perform strengthening exercises without putting too much stress on the knee ligaments and tendons, which makes them great for people with knee pain. If an exercise becomes too painful or uncomfortable, you can easily adjust the difficulty level. But remember: it is always important to consult with your doctor prior to starting an exercise program, especially if you have had an injury. Below are some beginner upper and lower body exercises for you to try using TRX® Suspension Straps. Good luck!
1. TRX Squat/ Reverse Lunge
Keep TRX straps fully straightened with elbows bent, feet planted slightly wider than hips, and toes pointing forward. Start with the squat, bringing your hips back and bending at the hips and knees. Be sure to maintain an upright posture (think sitting in an invisible chair behind you). Return to standing position. Step straight backward with one leg into the lunge, bending approximately 90 degrees at both knees. Perform 10-12 reps, alternating legs with each lunge.
2. TRX Row
Hold TRX straps and keep elbows extended, back facing the ground with legs planted in front of you (the further you plant your feet, the harder the exercise), and body completely straight with a neutral spine. Pull body up in one fluid motion while relaxing upper shoulder muscles and squeezing shoulder blades together. Ease your body back down to starting position. Perform 10-12 reps.
3. TRX Chest Press
Hold TRX straps with chest facing the ground and elbows extended. Keep handles in line with your chest, leaning into the handles to keep the body elevated. Sink chest down towards hands by bending the elbows. Keep hips in line with the body and do not arch the lower back. Watch out for shoulder shrugging; remember to keep shoulders relaxed.
Push full body up to starting position in one fluid motion. Perform 10-12 reps.
4. TRX Sprinters
Bending your elbows, hold the TRX straps at your sides close to the ribs. Lean into the handles, falling so that your feet are planted behind your torso. Leading with the knee, bring one leg forward and up, bending at the hip and knee. Return leg to starting position and repeat with opposite leg, alternating rapidly (almost like a quick march). Your back should remain straight throughout the exercise in order to keep the core engaged. Perform for 30 seconds – 1:00 min.