Exercise accidents can happen, even to a personal trainer. Earlier this week I tore an extensor tendon in my left pinky while strength training. As a result, my ability to grasp heavy dumbbells is compromised by the new aluminum splint my pinky sports to help the injury heal.

Beyond the discomfort and medical expense, I felt distraught about the prospect of not being able to train my upper body using weights for several weeks. This injury could be quite a roadblock.

But then I thought, “been there done that”…with my clients. Over the years, I have faced dozens of roadblocks to design effective programs around numerous injuries and medical conditions. Some unique challenges included:

Roadblock: Earlier this month my client Hester, a surgeon herself no less, had surgery on her right wrist to remove a cyst buried deeply in the joint. Her doctor said she could not hold anything—not even light weights—for about a month. No room for mistakes in program design here.

Detour: Since no handheld weights could be used at all, the solution was to exercise the muscle groups that were not involved. Cardio intervals on an elliptical trainer and treadmill complemented a strength training routine that concentrated on the legs and core. After one session with this design, I added a twelve-pound weight belt that sat low on the hips to increase the intensity. Focusing a full hour on the legs and core resulted in “I haven’t been horseback riding in a while” sore legs the next day. The abs felt like John Hurt’s gut when the little monster from Alien burst out.

Roadblock: Several years ago I trained Lt. Colonel Monroe, the head of JAG for this area, during her assignment at Fort Monmouth. While walking briskly on the fort grounds as part of her cardio regimen, she stepped in what seemed to be a shallow puddle with a few leaves floating on the surface. Unfortunately it was a foot-deep pothole. A real ankle-breaker, literally

Detour: With a cast from her foot to just below the knee, doing lower body exercises was proscribed. However, the muscle groups in the upper body and core could be exercised if the legs were not involved. The solution involved doing chest, back, abs, shoulder and arm exercises while seated in a comfortable and sturdy dining room chair. SPRI elastic tubing with padded handles and dumbbells were used to provide resistance.

I can hear the whining now, “This hurts…I’m not up to exercise…I’m sick…blah, blah, blah.” Knock it off and find a way to do the best you can for yourself with what you’ve got today. With enough experience, confidence and technical know-how, a good trainer can navigate the roadblocks and detours that stand in the way of exercising through life’s bumps, broken bones and bruises.

Is there some illness or injury preventing you from exercising? And what are you going to do about it?