Injuries happen whether we want them to or not. At the gym, in the kitchen, taking a walk--it's easy to hurt yourself. Working out while injured can make things complicated. Should you be taxing your body during recovery? Is it okay to use different body parts? Range of motion and affected body parts along with other issues all make a difference when it comes to working out. If you have an injury, whether old or new, follow these steps to decide how to proceed during this time.
Don't feel guilty for resting: If you injure yourself by pulling a muscle or strain, take a few days to recover. Don't worry about getting your workout in. Recovery happens outside the gym. Rest, ice (if applicable) and eat healthy foods (think anti-inflammatories like veggies) to initiate recovery. For major issues such as impaired or broken limbs, rest first. It will take a long time to heal from major issues so staying out of the gym might not be the best option. After a few days of rest and recovery, feel free to return to the gym as per your doctors orders. ALWAYS follow doctors orders before making a move based solely on how you feel.
Program accordingly: If allowed, pick exercises that don't use that part of your body. Think lower body days for upper body injuries and upper body for lower body injuries. Take a day off in-between. If you are nursing a sprained ankle, doing upper body days 3 days in a row isn't going to be an effective way to use your time. Instead, take a day in-between to recover.
Utilize different equipment: If you normally use dumbbells and barbells, now might be a good time to explore machines at the gym. They give more flexibility and options for set-up and use than the form needed when working with free weights. Use cardio machines to get your heart rate up.
BE SMART: The last rule of thumb is the most important. BE SMART. Don't try anything new that could injure you further, hurt the affected area or strain you too much. Listen to your body and follow its directives. Check with a doctor before engaging in activity to ensure exercising is an okay option at the time.