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I remember once during a soccer game, I was pushed by a member of the opposing team and unavoidably experienced the dreaded ankle roll. Normally someone who would easily bounce back up after falls, I knew something was wrong when I had to sit back down due to pain in my foot. Upon limping off the field and over to the bench, my coach bluntly told me to run it off and get back on the field.

If you’ve ever had a coach, teammate, trainer or parent tell you to “suck it up” after experiencing a potential injury, I strongly encourage you to erase this advice from your memory. If you’re training, or just someone who has made exercise a part of your regular routine, it can be extremely difficult to take time off. Dedication is great, but if you experience an injury – no matter how small – rest may be the only thing that will heal you.

It’s true, oftentimes medication or specific exercises can help to heal an injury, but it’s rare that rest won’t be a piece of the equation. In most cases, all your body needs is time – time to repair your injury on it’s own. Working out anyways while nursing an injury can cause you to make the injury worse, or even injure a different part of your body from carrying yourself differently.

Here are some tips for handling an injury as an active individual:

  • As soon as you feel as though something is not right, stop physical activity and make a trip to your doctor. They’ll be able to diagnose you, as well as give medical advice on healing your injury.
  • Resting doesn’t mean you have to lay in bed. Initially, you should refrain from all exercise for at least a few days. However, eventually you can begin to exercise other parts of your body while still resting your injury. Injured a toe? Try swimming instead of running. Injured a wrist? Try running instead of weight lifting.
  • When you feel ready to start exercising again, you’re going to have to take it slow. It’s all about progression – you don’t want to injure yourself all over again. Make your workouts shorter and less intense to ease your muscles back into things.
  • Most importantly: take your time. Rushing back into things or overdoing it will only make your injury worse, which will just put you out of the game for longer. Enjoy some down time!