Being a weightlifter, or really an athlete of any level, you spend a majority of your time in the gym pushing your body and testing its limits. Eventually, probably when you least expect it, you will find that limit and your body will fight back. Injuries happen, it really is just a part of the game. What differentiates a player from a champion is how you deal with that injury.

Last Spring I severely sprained my right ankle. 3 weeks out of my next competition, just having completed the Team Canada Bobsleigh/Skeleton combine, my training was at an all time high. I was forced to take a moment and reevaluate the next training cycle. I couldn’t bear any weight on my ankle for 3 weeks, then needed to remain in an air cast for 4 more. Things definitely were going to need modification.

As a weightlifter, a lower body injury is detrimental. With legs out of commission, squats, pulls, snatches, clean and jerks, and really any weightlifting is out of the question. It was time to get creative! I had to remember that I am an athlete and I needed to continue acting like one.

An injury can be a blessing in disguise, if you let it be.

This is an opportunity to focus on aspects of your training you never had the time or energy to focus on before. Yes, it’s not as glamorous as snatch and clean and jerk, yes, it’s a little depressing, but the other option (getting weaker and out of shape) sucks. Make it fun! Try some movements that are out of the norm, you may even enjoy the time off.

Maintain your routine

You are still an athlete, or at least you train like one, the amount of time you have allotted to the gym didn’t change because of this injury. Still show up and find a way to better yourself. A sprained ankle is not the end of a career but a bad attitude can be. I focused on my shoulders, back, core, triceps, biceps, and cardio.

Some sample exercises

  • Seated Clean and Press
  • Seated DB Snatch
  • Bench Press
  • DB Chest Press
  • DB Row
  • Pull Ups
  • Dips
  • Prone Row
  • Skull Crushers
  • Muscle Ups
  • Bicycle Intervals

Find a way to win

So you can’t hit a clean and jerk PR but you may be able to do other things you’ve never done before. Go into every training session chasing a win. Whether you got a PR or not, you showed up, put in the time, and know this is going to make you a better athlete at the end of the day.

Maintain the intensity in your workouts

If your workouts are usually high intensity, try and maintain that. Hit the same number of movements, be in the gym for the same number of hours, and try to keep rest/sets as close to normal as possible. This will make the transition back to full blown training easier and help you maintain your sanity.

Be a good team mate

If you are not training alone, bringing a negative attitude into the gym is not fair to anyone. Try and avoid jealousy, dwelling on the negative, and laugh even when you don’t want to. It is your responsibility to remain supportive and allow your teammates to keep training as usual. You may not realize it but you will be inspiring everyone in the gym and showing them that anything is possible regardless of circumstance.

Mentality is everything

This is not an ideal situation but when you’re injured you really don’t have an option. Staying positive is hard, but essential. Weightlifting is hard mentally, and physically. Although you will still be in the gym, take this time to unwind and let your mind rest. As the weeks go on you'll become hungry for training again and that fire will translate to a new found motivation and better training.

Everyone loves a good comeback and yours is just around the corner.

(This post originally appeared on Barbell Shrugged)