Friday, April 6, 2018

Fitness Diary :: Lessons Learnt from Being Injured


It is a pain, both literally and figuratively, to be injured. Ever since I aggravated my chronic back problem {due to scoliosis} in late September 2016, my training hasn't been the same and I haven't been the same sportsperson as I used to be.

I know that I'm not alone in getting injured while training. There are tons of articles about it, tons of books written about it, and in the past 2.5+ years since I started gymming regularly, I've probably seen more injuries and known more people to be injured than the 10+ years I spent in competitive swimming... even the boy and Superman have been injured, and still get injured while training nowadays.

I also have people visiting my blog and writing in to me because of their own injuries while training.

As with anything when you have to stop and start over, it is very frustrating and at times, depressing. You question, "why me??!" and start to wonder and think if there was anything you could have done to prevent the injury.

Maybe. Most likely. But then again, the very foundation of muscle-building and strength training is to, very simply put, "damage" and stress your muscles so that they repair and grow back stronger. So, if you think about it, you are in the game to get injured, you just want to make sure that you don't get injured seriously.

Anyway, I digress.. Hindsight is a beautiful thing and I've learnt some positive lessons from being injured which I wish I knew from when I first got badly injured. It probably would have saved me a lot of stress and tears.

This letter is what I would tell my old injured self in 2016, a reminder to myself whenever I get injured now and then, and also to serve as an encouragement to anyone who is currently injured from training at the moment.

Don't give up on your fitness goals, for this too shall pass.

*****

Dear Injured You,

I guess you must be feeling rather sorry and pissed with yourself right now. Sorry that you're in such a sad state and training has to stop or slow down, sorry that you've to stop Muay Thai & CrossFit, sorry that now you might lose your "gains"... and pissed. Oh boy, are you pissed that you ignored the signs and uncomfortable tinges of pain during your workout and now you have to pay for it by being forced to pay attention and stop to rest. Or maybe, you're just pissed because there were no signs.

Yup, sometimes shit just happens and despite taking all the necessary precautions and having the best intentions in the world, you still get injured. C'est la vie.

Superman told you this when you first got badly injured, "... once you realise that almost everyone who trains hard is dealing with some sort of injury in one way or another, you begin to understand that it's part and parcel of pushing yourself hard. Look at every professional athlete out there. All of them have injuries. Some even retire because of them. Just accept is as a normal part of the process and it'll be less frustrating. You just have to understand that's usually how it works? And getting upset over these things won't help in the long run too."

Wise words from an experienced trainer, and you're really lucky to have such a patient and caring trainer by your side to help you to deal with the pain, encourage you through the frustrations, manage your expectations, plan your rehabilitation & training, and not to mention give you "tough love" when you're getting all whiny and indulging in self-pity.

Getting injured isn't the end of the world. In fact, it might be a blessing in disguise as you...

1) Appreciate your support system,
It's very easy to stay negative when you're injured, but with a good support system you can bounce back faster. Thank goodness for the boy who is there to motivate you & get you whatever supplements or gear you need to get better, for friends who share their experiences & tips on recuperating, and for Superman who keeps an eye on you during training and never complains about amending or making new programs for you whenever a new or old injury cropped up.

2) Learn not to take a healthy body for granted,
When even a simple movement like squatting or bending over hurts, you learn to be grateful for the times when you were healthy and mobile enough to move without pain, and you become more aware of the way you need to feel, perform and move be be as healthy and mobile again. 

3) Become more aware of the basic movements, techniques and skills,
There's no better time or reason then now, when you are injured, to really take things slow, work on your techniques and build your foundation up again. To go further you have to go slow and not rush the process. Prior to getting injured, you progressed very well and managed to hit many strength PRs in a relatively short amount of time. As you got stronger, you started to be more daring in testing your limits and adding more weight to the bar, and your body probably could not keep up with the intensity especially since you neglected your recovery process and diet. Now that you are forced to step back, you are slowly building up your strength but with an even stronger foundation in knowledge & skills so that no matter how challenging the workout may be, you are able to adapt and focus on your form & techniques, before worrying about the numbers.

4) Take time to improve on your weaknesses,
When you to focus on your form & techniques, you come to recognise and critically analyse your weaknesses both in and outside the gym to improve on them. For example with your bad lower back, you now know that you've to do additional rehabilitating exercises like Reverse Hyperextensions and Back Extensions, stretch that area for at least 30mins daily, work on your core and consciously brace hard to strengthen and protect it from further injuries. Even if doing these extra work takes time away from other exercises or makes the workout even longer than usual, they still must be done and you now understand that.  

5) Focus on the small wins & progress, 
You may not be as strong as you used to be, but the sportsperson that you are is still in there. Progress is progress no matter how small, and you must celebrate the small wins and steps forward that bring you towards being an even better lifter than you were before. You may just be lifting much less than what you are used to, but at least now you are lifting with even better form. You may be going much slower than you are used to, but at least now you are doing so with even better technique. 

6) Remember to leave your ego at the gym door.
You're sometimes tempted to do the same movements and weights that you did pre-injury, but that will only slow down your recovery and stall progress in the long run. Superman always reminds you when you complain about not being about to do some exercises or lift the same weights as before that "you are not weak, you are injured". You've learnt the hard way that while ego lifting with poorer form may let you lift more initially, building from proper form and a strong base is always superior. You've had to change your stances, sharpen your techniques, and open your mind to doing things differently and even though it might feel "weird" or uncomfortable at the beginning, it's just because you are not used to it, not because it is wrong

Nobody doubts what you can achieve in the gym, and you are always willing to give it your all during your workouts. But given the intensity and frequency at which you train, having injuries from time to time is inevitable.

You just have to learn to accept it, deal with it, and move with better form to prevent them from flaring up, and also to prevent future injuries.

Most importantly, don't give up. Don't let your injuries stop you from training and progressing further. Don't let your injuries triumph over you. YOU are stronger than that.

Love,
From Someone Who Has Been There

*****

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4 comments:

Theresa Mahoney said...

I need to send this to my hubby. He's suffering shin splints right now. Today he had an MRI on his shoulder and will be having knee surgery in a few weeks. It's killing him him not being able to lift like he has been, but I know he'll come back and get stronger than ever.

mail4rosey said...

Injuries are the worst, but you're right, you don't have to let them beat you. Allowing yourself proper recovery time matters. So does leaving your ego at the door, like you said, and doing only what you can really get done without harming yourself!! Patience matters here!

alissa apel said...

Just be careful! My husband has back problems in his family, including him. He models, and has issues after that from holding poses for a long time.

With me, I have left ankle problems.

Stacy said...

It's a hard path all right. You look so good after taking it though (and I'm sure you feel good as well)