Washing the floor over the weekend, I realized that it hurt to bend over. A back pull – not symmetrical back soreness, but rather an awkward pain, only on one side of the lower back, which send sharp jolts up my spine, when I moved in very specific way.
You see, I am NOT a good sport, when it comes to injury. I mope, and pout, and feel sorry for myself. I have trouble thinking about anything else. Italian tries to feed me, and avoid me simultaneously.
Boo. Poor me. Me so sad.
Yet, I will train.
The biggest part of feeling miserable is the very fact that I know that I won’t stop training. Instead, I’ll have to train around the injury, carefully dancing on the edges, using reduced weights and focusing on form. Which is a pain in the ass. Yet it has to happen.
Continuing to train while injured is probably the biggest mind shift I have had in the last few years.
Consider a professional hockey player who injures his ankle. Will he spend the next two months lying on the couch and doing nothing, because he is “injured”?
That’s preposterous. You can still train your upper body, your core, work on your mobility, and so much more.
Yet this seems to be our default setting – we exercise unless we are injured. I hear this from clients all the time: “I hurt my wrist, so obviously I cannot exercise!”.
One of my coaches talked about the “tough guy” periodization protocol:
After “tough guy” finally heals, and gets off the couch, he goes to… you guessed it:
This approach seems very popular in extreme endurance and obstacle racing. If I run, I run 100 miles a week. With a weight vest. If When I get injured, I do nothing, but eat Cheesies on the couch. And post on Facebook about how frustrated I am with myself, for doing nothing and eating Cheesies on the couch.
Training while injured is not done out of some misplaced heroism and stubbornness. Training promotes recovery. It also keeps you sane.
You know how everything hurts the day after a long tough race? So you take that day off? Did you know it would be much more beneficial to go for a 30-60 min walk that day? You will hurt less, you will recover faster.
Training does not necessarily mean lifting weights in the gym either. A coach may tell her athlete to do nothing but hiking for three weeks after a big competition.
Heck, sometimes, “training” means simply going to the gym, doing some stretching and going home. Or doing all of the exercises with no weight at all. Going through the motions – literally.
The day I woke up with pulled back was my OFF day. I headed to the gym, did some stretching, dipped myself in a pool, and sat in a hot tub. Good enough.
The day after – first day back to resistance training. Umm… Nope. Not yet. I took another day off. My RMT to the rescue. Then hot shower.
The day after that – first day back to resistance training. The back still hurts. I spent most of the day procrastinating and feeling sorry for myself. Knowing that I WILL go. I went for a 45min walk. The back felt better during, and then returned to its pathetic state, as soon as I stopped. Perhaps, I can just spend the entire day walking?
Finally dragged my sorry ass to the gym at 9pm – spent 45 minutes on a foam roller, lacrosse ball, mobility and breathing drills. Then went through my usual weights circuit, slashing all the weights in half (which is why logging all your weights is so freaking helpful!), and focusing on perfect form.
Solid workout. My back started feeling better half way through the workout. Phew. Hot shower.
The day after that – my back is better. Not 100%. But OMG.
The above scenario is not an exception. It’s more of a rule.
If you get injured, think like an athlete. Not training is not an option.
WHAT can you train safely? How CAN you train to promote recovery?