The following is NOT medical advice. What this IS will be a summation of my own experience in dealing with injuries with myself and my experience working in physical therapy and how I’ve used that to manage my own issues in hopes that it will help you in dealing with your own issues. Here we go…
1) Leave Your Ego at the Door
This goes without saying but it needs to be said. I’m going to elaborate on it because most people automatically think it just means lowering the amount of weight you lift and be more cautious but it is a little deeper than that. Personal pride fuels not just a desire to lift a maximal amount of weight but pushing yourself in other areas. Training 6 or 7 days per week, being on #teamnosleep, being married to certain exercises (cough cough bench press), and whatever else you may do that makes you sound more impressive than everyone else can also be a source of pride in the gym. Consequently, those things can also lead to injuries. Compelling yourself to do anything outside of the realm of “necessary” can lead to injuries. Think about it, “I have to squat” or “I have to hit a PR today.” No, no you don’t. You CAN read your body and decide if doing something that you had planned is a bad move!
2) Movement is a Habit/Skill
Oftentimes the root of most injuries from training are because of faulty movement patterns. Maybe the problem isn’t the squats but HOW you are squatting! Every exercise, the range-of-motion (ROM), the set-up, and even foot and/or hand placement among other things is a skill that is developed each subsequent time you perform that activity. The saying goes that practice makes perfect; it’s also true that practice makes permanent! If you are using loose, sloppy form on your warm-up sets then it will carry over to your working sets.
3) Forget Instant Gratification
You have a great mobility routine pre- and post-workout and you have it all figured out. You’ll be hitting PR’s in no time again right? Guess what, if you have been dealing with nagging injuries for an extended period of time then it will take about as long to correct the issue. You can’t undo 5 years of shoulder problems in a week and probably won’t get resolved completely in 5 weeks either. The ever-adaptive human body just doesn’t work that way. You need to do things correctly and consistently for a long period of time in order to get and keep yourself healthy.
4) Self-Management Can Only Go So Far
If you’re spending 30 minutes foam rolling pre-workout… just stop! Besides being sub-optimal for mobility (you’re better off rolling post-workout), spending that much time on a problem that is not resolving is a waste. It’s time to see a doctor, time to see your physical therapist, time to seek professional help! I’m all for conservative self-management, but it’s not a cure-all.
5) Always Take Your Time
I get it, time is money. Actually time is more valuable than money and we’re usually short on it anyways. When you are pressed for time what’s the first thing that gets sacrificed? I’ll give you two guesses and the second one won’t count… warming up pre-workout and stretching/rolling post-workout. Will it hurt you to skim through it one workout? No it likely won’t. Time management, however, is a habit; and bad habits are a lot easier to develop than good ones! The truth is, I’m preaching to myself here as much as I am to anyone else. This is probably the most common mistake I’ve made personally.
6) Respect the Healing Process
Injuries can vary in severity. Sometimes there’s just pain, other times there’s pain and swelling in the affected area. Sometimes movement helps the injury heal, other times the only option is REST! Acute injuries are accompanied by inflammation and in that case, you need to focus on protecting the injured area and rest. I had one client who would get continually frustrated with herself after injuring her shoulder a couple days earlier and tried all sorts of different exercises and stretches to help it and it only got worse. I kept having to tell her to STOP WORKING OUT! It’s hard to rest, I get it. But you have to respect the healing process, particularly with an acute injury.
- If you are having a nagging injury and it’s affecting your performance on your favorite exercise, swap it out for the most similar movement that doesn’t exacerbate the injury!
- Practice your compound movements by incorporating additional “speed work” or technique work
- Be consistent with your mobility work. Don’t let up just because you are starting to feel some relief.
- Don’t spend more than 15 minutes on mobility and rolling. Seek professional help if that’s not getting it done for you