If you’ve been working out for more than a few weeks, you know that injuries are just part of the ballgame. And just when you think you’ve had them all, something else pops up. It’s uncanny, isn’t it? Just when you’re feeling really good, all systems go, it happens.
For every article out there about exercise, there’s probably one for how to avoid injury. And I’d bet almost all of them are written by people who are recovering from injury. That’s because:
· It’s impossible to go hard without risking injury. When you’re trying to improve, you create microscopic tears in your muscles, which your body repairs better than they were. The problem is, those tears are actually mini-injuries. So to improve, you have to push yourself close to the threshold of real pain, because that’s how you build muscle. And that leaves you close to the point of injury. In other words, you kinda have to be a Bro if you want to get better.
· We ignore the warning signs. This is actually what I want to write about today. Admit it, you’ve done it. You’re probably doing it now. You’re pushing through an injury.
And that brings us to the Seven Stages of Workout Injuries.
You Don’t Realize You’re Hurt
This inevitably happens during one of those great workouts, where it seems that nothing can go wrong. You’re moving perfectly, you’re way ahead of your normal pace or weight, and you feel like a million bucks. What you don’t realize, because your joints and muscles are warm and loose, is that you’ve pulled something too far or in a direction it’s not supposed to go.
You Figure It’s Just Some Little Ding
Come on, Regular Guys, fess up: We’ve all kept working through a twinge or pinch or dull ache somewhere, assuming it’s just nothing. And the thing is, a lot of the time, it really is nothing. It’s just one of those weird mini-cramps or a bit too much strain, and it goes right away, never to return. But sometimes it’s the warning sign of something serious. What happens is in you’re in the middle of this awesome workout, you don’t want to stop, and so even though you realize that it’s the start of an Achilles or a rotator cuff or (uh-oh) your IT band, you rationalize it and keep right on trucking.
|Nobody was actually injured here.|
Fast-forward about six hours. All of a sudden, that little twinge you felt at the gym now hurts like a mother-effer. Simple household tasks are awful. You can’t sleep or even sit unless you’re in a very particular position. You know it’s really bad when three ibuprofen don’t make a dent. And there’s your wife with that knowing, I-told-you-so look and a humongous lack of sympathy. Which, frankly, you don’t deserve anyway.
You Realize You’re Out of Commission
I find that there’s nothing more frustrating than having to go on the disabled list. Without fail, it happens to me when I’ve either just come off another injury or illness, or I’m in the midst of an awesome two- or three-week run of workouts. But even the most knuckleheaded of Regular Guys (a.k.a. Andrew) accepts his fate eventually. It’s usually the morning after Ow! – when the pain is still there when you wake up. Out comes the heating pad, you stock up on the NSAIDs, and you start thinking about how much less you’ll be able to eat to maintain a calorie deficit. Argh!
|You just want to throw away your workout shoes!|
Regular Guys, just ask your wives if this is a real thing. The first few days of your injury, you’ll be focused on therapy and eating well, and life will generally be OK. Then you get tired of the heating pad, it’s time to stop the NSAIDs, and all you want to do is get back at it. You feel fat. You feel lethargic. You feel unfocused and tired and generally disgusted with life. And you know what? You’re taking it out on the people around you.
That First Time Back at It
OK, OK, the injury doesn’t feel perfect, but it feels a lot better. You’re just dying to get back to work. If it’s just a little pull, maybe we’re talking four days or as long as a week. If it’s something more serious, perhaps it’s been a few weeks or even a few months. But at some point, the day comes where you decide it’s OK to try a few easy miles or go lift at 50 percent of your 1RM. This is the workout where you’re conscious of every little twinge. You pay super-close attention to your form and move really slowly. Frankly, you feel like a dork. And when you’re done, you’re sure you could have done more.
|I made it all the way back!|
The Final Crossroads
Most Regular Guys I know will take it a little easier for the next few workouts as well. But then our egos start kicking in. You know you can go harder – you’ve done it before. And you feel fine. Right? So you figure it’s time to throw it into high gear and see what it can do. And now we find out just how bad your injury was and whether you rested and rehabbed properly. If you end the workout feeling good -- and wake up the next morning feeling good – you’re back in action. Or you return to Ow! Do not pass Go and do not collect $200.
This is supposed to be a lighthearted piece, but injuries are no joke. If you suspect a serious injury, go see a doctor. And if your injury requires more than just a couple of days’ rest, talk to your doctor about whether you need follow-up, such as physical therapy. I hope you’ve learned something from this piece, but bear in mind that I’m not an expert, and this is just based on my experiences.