Every gym has its cast of characters. Regardless of how small, large, or where in the country, you can always count on a few interesting creatures to show up at any gathering place where sweat, spandex and mirrors is involved. 

It’s as if they are paid extras who couldn’t make it in the movies but somehow got a gig showing up at random gyms. 

Wannabe actor: That’s all I have to do? Show up and stare at women for an hour during aerobics class?

Agent: Yup, here’s a $20. Next week we hit up Curves. How are you at staring into windows?

Here’s a short list of the most common offenders:

1. Narcissistic muscular guy wearing a stringy tank top

Field guide tip: His huge upper body overwhelms his spindly legs because he spends 99% of his time working on his biceps.

2. Creepy guy

Field guide tip: Typically found lurking around the inner thigh machine. The creepier ones strike up a conversation that usually starts with, “So, how long you been working out?”

3. Fashionista, makeup-wearing, chick

Field guide tip: Whoops, this is usually me, so I’ll leave this one here. (Our type is harmless, trust me.)

And, like a good field researcher, I occasionally discover a new species. This week I found one: Bengay guy.

At my gym, this particular species can be found peddling furiously away on a stationary bike on any given morning. reeking of the minty-smelling, anti-inflammatory topical cream.

I don’t know why or where he applies the stuff, but he may want to consider slowing down on that bike. Racing 1,000 mph on a bike going nowhere probably isn’t helping his condition.

But I can definitely relate to the desire to ease pain.

If you make it to the magical age of 50, your body starts to let you know who’s in charge.

Hint: It’s not always you.

I’ve talked many times about my knee, how a sudden, painful incident in 2015 divided my life into “things I could do before” that day and “things I could no longer do” after that day.

Long story short, the arthritis in my right knee decided enough is enough with the lunges. On my last rep I felt a pop and it was GAME OVER.  

My doctor was convinced I’d torn a meniscus, which would have required surgery. But an MRI showed no tear, just a badly arthritic knee.

Good news: no surgery.

Bad news: It will only get worse and eventually I’ll need a new one from the Walmart Knee Store, or wherever replacement knees are sold.

Since then, in an effort to stave off the inevitable, I’ve been through two rounds of cortisone shots and a series of injections that hurt so much the doctor allowed me to hang out in the room until I got it together enough to hobble out. Or at least until I stopped writhing and whimpering.

After that fateful day, anything that puts pressure on my lower leg (e.g. leg curls for hamstrings) makes it swell and hurt.

The fun part is I don’t know about it until later that day. During my workout I feel great. Hey, look, I can do these!

Bottom line: My workouts are not what they were a couple years ago.

If you’re in this same boat, you have two choices:

  • Binge watch Game of Thrones while eating ice cream. Keep it up until the day paramedics arrive to carry you and the couch out the door so they can surgically separate you like conjoined twins.
  • Find ways to do the best you can and move forward like the warrior you are!

Clearly, the second option is the only real answer.

So, here are a few ways to cope with injuries and stay active until you can return to normal activities.

First, my overarching statement: Follow doctor’s orders! Do NOT do anything s/he tells you not to do because you think it “won’t hurt” or you read something on the internet, or a friend did the same thing and lived to be 100. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule.  

Listen to the person in the white coat. They know a thing or two.

When you take the rest you need to heal, you’ll avoid re-injuring yourself. This will then require longer healing time than you needed originally and, possibly, even have to go through a second surgery.

The latter happened to a gym friend of mine. He had back surgery and was back at the gym within a week, even though he was told not to. He ended up requiring surgery to fix the damage.

No need to prove you’re more of a hero than you are already.

But when your doctor gives you the go ahead, follow instructions for your specific injury. In addition, these tips can help you maintain status quo (e.g. not gain a 1,000 lbs.) in the meantime:

  1. Track your food like a hawk. I don’t know if hawks track their food, but they certainly have keen eyesight, and that’s what you need to do when you can’t move around much. Keep calories under control and focus on eating as healthy as possible to avoid weight gain while you heal.
  2. Do what you can. If you hurt your knee, work on your upper body muscles: chest, back, arms, shoulders and abs. If you hurt your shoulder, switch gears to lower body exercises.
  3. Exercise the opposite muscles to those you injured. In other words, if you hurt your right shoulder, do lateral raises with your left arm. Studies show that through nerve conduction through your spinal cord your injured arm will benefit. Weird, I know, but the human body is a crazy complicated thing.
  4. Modify everything, even once you return to your workout. Aside from following your physical therapist’s orders, ease back in slowly. Start with less resistance, shorter workouts, and less range of motion until you see how you feel the next day. (For example, I can squat with my arthritic knee, but only if I wear a brace and lower myself about halfway. Some days I can go lower but I never push it or I feel the pain of regret.)
  5. Consider wearing supportive gear like a flexible knee brace. I wear one on both knees most days. They help stabilize the joint and keep it surrounded by heat.

Obviously, these are general tips and not geared to any specific injury. That’s beyond the scope of this article and my background.

YOUR TURNHow have YOU had to modify or change your workouts due to an injury? Let me know in the comments section below… and please forward this post to all your ageless friends!

I will be forever grateful.

Other posts you may enjoy:

5 Best stretches for women over 50

5 Tips for a pain-free workout

How to get back into the swing of things after a break

Your Ageless Body Coach,