Train around pain, not through it.
Our Head Coach Jerome shares his own experiences and insights into managing injuries while pursuing what he loves.
I love lifting weights and challenging myself in the gym, and have had competitive pursuits in both CrossFit, a strength and conditioning sport, and Powerlifting, a barbell strength sport. I’ve put a lot of mental and physical energy into these endeavours, and have been constantly thrown around by injuries. A shoulder surgery at my peak fitness between CrossFit competitions, and most recently a torn quad during my first powerlifting meet, left me feeling hopeless. Despite these setbacks, I couldn’t be more grateful for what I’ve learnt as a result and I’d like to share that with anyone who is currently struggling.
The reality is that at some point, you are probably going to get injured. Injuries are part of the game. They are another variable. They aren’t dissimilar to your diet considerations, sleep hygiene, strength program. If you can appreciate them as such, they aren’t setbacks, rather, steps forward in understanding how your body works and what it can tolerate. With that aside, here are a few things that have helped me deal with, understand, and beat my previous injuries in the gym.
Pick exercises that work for you.
Unless your sport demands it, there are no exercises that you need to do. You don’t need to squat. You don’t need to stretch. You don’t need to run. You don’t need to lift weights, do cardio, do abs, foam roll…there is no single requirement to being strong, fit and healthy. So then, do what serves you. We are all built very differently, ranging from limb lengths to hip socket depth, no body is the same. If an exercise is causing you pain, and after troubleshooting technique and rehabilitation with a professional you don’t get relief, maybe stop doing that exercise. It is not serving you. It is not making you stronger, fitter, or healthier. There are alternatives. It’s just an exercise, an arbitrary movement pattern. In that sense, perhaps you aren’t as injured as you thought. Don’t let acute pain in one exercise derail your sense of ability in the gym.
Pick a health professional that works for you.
Physiotherapist, osteopath, myotherapist, chiropractor, remedial masseuse. The list goes on and you’re not alone in wondering who’s ‘better’. The answer is in the individual. The individual client, and the individual therapist. Pick someone who understands the sport or activity you are trying to complete. If you’re a gymnast, seek a practitioner who understands gymnastics. If you are a runner, see someone that runs. If the practitioner can understand the requirements of your sport, they will generally be better equipped to assist you in moving pain free in said sport. With that in place, the most important element still remains the skill of the therapist. Physio, chiro, or myo, all can be terrible, and all can be brilliant, depending on their understanding of anatomy and biomechanics. Do your research. Real research. Anyone who’s been fixed will tell you ‘I know a good physio’, but I don’t think one instance of anecdotal evidence is enough. Once you’ve found someone, give them and yourself every chance of success by listening diligently, asking questions, and following the rehab program with absolute vigor. Please don’t write someone off as unhelpful if you haven’t done exactly what they’ve told you to do!
Train around pain, not through it.
Pain is a warning sign, and should be taken seriously. It’s also not a prompt to sit completely still. Most instances of pain and injury that occur in a gym do not leave us completely debilitated. If you’ve hurt your leg, it’s a perfect opportunity to focus on upper body development. If high impact movements are causing you discomfort, sit on a bike or a rower. Staying positive through injury and finding an alternative way to exercise can be extremely empowering and rewarding, and has helped me learn a variety of different skills all while being injured.
And finally, for anyone dealing with chronic injuries, who feels like they must simply tolerate discomfort…
Accept pain insofar as being at peace with it, but do not give up in your pursuit to treat it.
Head Coach Jerome