dear coach, I am injured
I am writing this blog post for two reasons:
1. I am actually injured.
2. I have many clients who are injured.
Seven weeks ago I ran a really strong road race. It was supposed to be my baseline for a 5k, as I was heading into off-season.
Few hours later, I jumped off the pull-up bar at my gym, and did not see a battle rope on the floor, landing on top of it with one of my feet. I heard a little sad noise, as my ankle sharply moved to the side, and I fell on my butt, freaked out.
Fuck. My. Life.
Regular readers only know what an insufferable pain in the ass I become when I am sick or injured. Besides, as a wise friend told me once, “injury is a vehicle for personal attention”. Ahhhhh! Love meeeeeee!
The next day the ankle swelled up a little, and it hurt to walk, but nothing radical took place. I iced and took a day off training. Then I headed to the gym to experiment with what hurts, and what does not.
Sitting in hero pose hurts the ankle. So is aggressive pointing of the toe. I can still do a pistol squat on that side, but it starts to feel a little tight at the full depth.
The good news is that most controlled movements seem to not hurt. I can deadlift, I can squat. That’s awesome, and means I can continue training almost without modifications.
A week later, the ankle felt about the same.
Two weeks later, I tweaked it, simply getting out of bed. And then again, turning to get something from the kitchen counter.
Four weeks later, I found myself experiencing so much anxiety about a race that I was previously considering, that I decided to pull out. Even though it was a bucket list item, and super duper cool. Because nowhere on my bucket list, it says I should risk injuring myself more in order to check off an item. Still… BOOOOOOOOOO.
Six weeks later, I went for my first trail run, mostly just angry for feeling sorry for myself for that long. It felt iffy on the icy surface, and I tweaked it couple of times. It swelled a little bit after.
My sports doctor thinks there may be some ligament damage (read: takes months to get better). I’ll be getting an x-ray and an ultrasound. My chiropractor thinks it could be significantly worse (not much of a consolation, but ok). Neither of them think I have to stop running, but rather run by feel, and avoid “high risk activity” for now, which in this case, is running on an unstable surface like trail.
Now… this is a super boring story for a regular person (sorry about that, regular person!). But, the above is super helpful for your coach.
If you are injured, you’ll want to provide enough information to your coach, so he/she can effectively help you modify your training.
Knowing that a client has an “ankle injury” is practically useless to me.
I have an ankle injury (see above) – I can do pretty much any weight training program right now without modifications. Someone with a broken ankle also has an “ankle injury”, and will need an upper body only training program for at least the first few weeks, and then rehab for the ankle after.
Same applies to “knee injury”, “back pain” and million other common ailments. I need more information to tell the difference between “my knee hurts sometimes under this very specific set of circumstances”, and “I blew an ACL few weeks ago, and am currently wearing a knee brace”.
Here are some of the questions you will want to address in describing your injury:
What is injured? [Hip, back, neck, elbow].
For each injury:
How did you injure it? Is it an acute or a chronic injury? Can you think back to a specific instance where you hurt it? (e.g. fell off the swings, slipped on ice, etc). Or, was it wear and tear? Overuse? Injury linked to a medical condition?
Have you seen a medical / sports specialist about this injury? If so, who did you see (RMT, Chiro, sports doctor, physician, physio)? What, if any, was their diagnosis? Did they prescribe any rehab exercises?
Does this injury interfere with your daily functioning? Does it hurt to walk? Go up or down the stairs? Bend down? Reach for a shelf?
Does this injury interfere with your exercise? If so, which specific movements aggravate the injury?
If you do not know the answer to this question, take a prescribed workout (preferably, a strength workout that includes a number of different movements), and walk through it very carefully and without weight (or with very light weight), so you can assess the impairment and report back.
Take squats, for example. Usually, there are few levels of impairment:
1. I cannot do squats at all, because they cause acute pain (in my knee, in my back).
2. It hurts when I go deep in squats, but it’s ok if I go less deep. Or, it hurts when I use a dumbbell or a barbell, but it’s fine if I do squats without any weight.
3. Squats are fine.
Answer the questions above, and any coach worth his/her salt will be better equipped to help you modify your training intelligently. And you will make their job way easier! [They can send me some coffee beans to say thanks].