Training with an injury. Things to do and things to avoid.
I heard an awesome quote the other day from a chiropractor and strength coach I follow on social media, Travis Jewett; “An injury is an opportunity to train smarter and better.” This got me thinking a lot about how to train through injury and what that should actually look like. If you’re human, injuries are going to happen. If you enjoy being active and challenging yourself in your physical capabilities, they will probably happen a bit more often. The approach I often see when people get injured is that, “I better not do anything because I don’t want to make it worse.” While this is a very common approach, I believe it to be the wrong one. Now I’ll preface this by saying, listen to your doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor, etc. But ask questions. I’m not telling you to just keep doing the things that hurt. But here are some things I think you should do when you have a pain or injury:
Ask questions: if you have a health care practitioner you are seeing because of your injury, they are going to tell you to do a bunch of things not to do. This is good, it will help you from furthering your injury and making things worse. It should be your job to ask them, “What can I do? I want to stay active and help my recovery progress quickly.” There are often many things; exercises or activities, that will not only keep you moving, but enhance the recovery process. Moving is good. Too much, or the wrong kind of moving is not.
Do something. If your practitioner tells you “Just stay off it for 6 weeks then resume your activity as tolerated.” I will argue that you should get a second opinion. Or at least find a practitioner who can advise you as to how to stay active while being injured. You should be an active participant in your recovery from injury. By this I mean, healing is not just a passive process that happens to us. Our bodies are incredible in their ability to adapt and over come. Just because your pain went away, does not mean that the underlying issue is not there. There are lots of things we can do, while injured, to help identify and address these compensations.
The vast majority of injuries that happen today are chronic or insidious in nature. Meaning they resulted after an accumulation of lots of small events. Many of the runners I’ve worked with would say something along the lines of “This is what I’ve always done, it’s never been an issue before.” It’s never a problem, until it is. This comes back to the point we started with; an injury is an opportunity to train better. It’s an opportunity to learn more about what’s going on in your own body. It’s a great time to work on deficiencies or weaknesses. Or developing a skill that you always skipped because it wasn’t the other thing that you wanted to do. Just because you have always done something a certain way, doesn’t mean it couldn’t potentially cause a problem. Use the ‘down time’ of an injury to explore, learn about your body and how it works, and really develop your physical body.
Injuries are going to happen. When they do, learn from them; ask questions, find out what you can do. It’s a great opportunity to do something different from what you have been doing. If you can’t use one leg, do lot’s of things with the other leg. If you can’t run, learn how to lift weights. If you’ve always lifted weights, do yoga. Or run. Or ride a bike. Be an active participant in your recovery process. There are lots of good practitioners out there (I know a lot of them, we even have a few who come to the gym.) You will recover faster, enjoy the process more, and learn a lot. Being injured does not have to be a life sentence of never doing (fill in the blank) again.