Injuries. No one expects them, no one wants them and no one is fully prepared when they happen. However, if you train a lot (and even of you don’t!) chances are at some point, sadly, you’re going to pick up an injury. In the last two years Claire and I between us have had a shattered finger (16kg dumbell), severely bruised foot (20kg plate drop), torn calf (hill sprints), torn and inflamed lower back (deadlifts), not to mention general stiffness, aches, pains and tight hip flexors. But we love to train and stay healthy right?!
So the big question is how do you stay motivated when you’re injured and how do you keep your training on track whilst working around the injury?
Well first up, the first step is to see a medical professional as soon as your injury occurs. If necessary, seek referral to a specialist (osteopath, physio, or chiropractor) and let an expert determine exactly what’s wrong and give you advice on the best way to fix it.
Speaking from personal experience, do not leave it and hope that you’ll train it off (this approach rarely works and often causes more damage). And do not rush back to full training without leaving proper recovery time.
Part of the process is learning to listen to your own body. Yes it’s frustrating when injuries prevent you from training how you want, but try to reframe it as an opportunity to modify your training, learn new techniques, concentrate on a different body part or even just give your body a rest.
Claire and I have both been guilty in the past of trying to push through injuries (often prolonging them). You refuse to accept it’s happening and rush back to hard training too soon. Sound familiar?
What we’ve learnt is that you need to accept at a deep level what has happened and find the positives. Can you explore new walks instead, can you spend a bit more time researching new ways to train, can you cook healthier meals or do some mindset tools and techniques in the time you’d spend training? Yes, yes and yes. Sh*t happens and the way you respond to it is what creates your experience. See it as a nightmare that’s ruining your life or see it as an opportunity. The choice is yours. And it’s just an injury after all – you still have a lot to be grateful for right?
This is probably best explained with an example. I was dead lifting and on the final rep of the final set my lower back just went: it spasmed, locked and the muscles screamed in pain. I could barely move. What had caused the injury? Me pushing too hard and my form slightly going as I fatigued. I should have stopped one rep earlier or gone lighter on weight. First lesson learned.
My lower back was basically immobile, but thanks to an amazing chiropractor (thanks Jans!) I slowly got my movement back and the swelling gradually went down. What did this mean for my training? First up lots of foam roller action, lots of back stretches, lots of hanging upside down. I restricted my cardio and lifted lighter for a couple of weeks.
So far so good. Once I thought I was fully recovered, I decided to go back to my full training program. Hmmm….I should have waited one more week. Bending over to pick up a measly 6kg kettle bell, my back went again – and way worse than before. Lesson two – don’t rush back to training – ease back in gently for a few more weeks.
The slow road back to recovery started again: foam roller, stretches, inversions… this time I fully respected the injury. I laid off squats and dead lifts completely and did no cardio at all other than the incumbent bikes. Strangely – it seemed that my body liked the rest and I started enjoying a new and varied routine. I did more upper body work and took it easy.
Now weeks on I’m actually squatting heavier than ever (with a belt) but I am still staying light on my dead lifts. I accept my lower back is weakened and I work around it, and you know what, as I’ve accepted it I’ve become happy with it and learned to love my training. Every time I dead lift light, I’m making my back stronger, and I can still work every other part of my body as hard as I want. How lucky am I?
So, the summary. Injures are frustrating, yes. But learn to accept them and respect them. If you fight against them you’ll not only weaken your body but your mind. It’s not the end of the world and it will get better over time. Plus you’ll have a new found appreciation when your body feels healthy, strong and energised.
You only get one body – look after it and it will look after you.