3 lessons I learnt when training with injury

Injury is such a common issue among athletes and fitness enthusiasts, resulting in knock backs in training. There is really nothing worse when you have been training for a specific goal and all of a sudden you have to take time out or completely change up your training with rehab exercises. For me, it was really difficult to deal with because I sustained an injury while my Olympic weightlifting was, in my own opinion, progressing really well, and to top it off, in my first year of my master’s degree, were I was excepted to perform a snatch for my weightlifting assessment. Talk about a downer, a kick in the teeth, the setback I most defiantly did not want.

A few old clips of me performing snatches pre-injury

What happened!

I sustained what is known as a Type I SLAP (Superior Labral tear Anterior to Posterior) Lesion of the long head of the Biceps brachii which created a lot of instability in the shoulder while performing overhead movements such as a snatch (video demo above). The pain was pretty bad following any overhead squats, which completely ruled out snatches for me, something I preferred to train. Thankfully I did not require any surgery, just needed to rehab and stay clear of overhead exercises for a while. Yes, rehab was boring and most times I just could not be bothered and wanted to train, to be in and out of the gym quickly. This is something I actually see a lot of individuals do also, “I’ll do the rehab at home”, or, “I’ll do it the next day, I’ll even come in early”. It never happens.

What I learned from this experience is very relatable to most who have been injured, but what I changed because of this has made a huge impact to my own training right now.

1. If you do not fix the issue you won’t stay injury free for long

Rehab is prescribed for a reason, and that is not for short term relieve. It is there to help our bodies recover and adapt to the changes we apply so we can actually minimise any further injury and get back to full training. Rehab until you feel a little better does not mean you will stay better for long. In my own experience, the short amount of rehab I performed was fine, but only because I avoided the exercises that were causing pain, instead of fixing the origin of the pain. When I look back, because overhead training was painful for me, I could have performed modified exercises such as landmine presses, my go to exercise for anyone with shoulder issues to maintain pushing strength as close to vertical as possible.

2. Rehab shouldn’t be you only plan in the gym

When the legs need to rest due to training or injury training upper body is always an option

This is something else that I not only see but did. Going into the gym just to perform the rehab and not completely maximising your time in the gym. In my own case, shoulder injury prevented me from doing overhead exercises, it did not prevent me from training core, lower body or running. But why would you when you can not do overhead, what’s the point right! After several months of time away I started back with lower body exercises, i.e., safety bar squats, lunges, squat jumps and higher intensive plyometrics.

As a performance coach I see injuries more often than I’d like, and these also come with excuses, e.g., pulled a hamstring, can’t go to the gym. Makes sense right, wrong! You can still train your whole upper body; you can even perform upper body power training to ensure you are maintaining muscle contraction velocities. In my coached collective training sessions, I encourage everyone to come in and we will get them doing some training alongside their rehab. Even my online clients who have injuries have their programs tailored so they can carry on training. So, leave the excuses elsewhere and hold yourself accountable.

3. If I’m rehabbing, I’m improving mobility, right?

Mobility training will keep me injury free!

Yes and no! This actually holds a little truth, but context is key here. The problem exists with method of rehab been performed. For example, in my case, the partial tear in the tissue needs internal biological mechanisms to help with healing which can come from light mechanical loading which induce collagen fibroblasts. If I performed stretching to improve mobility on a partial tear it may leave the already weakened tissue in a more compromised position, not ideal and possibly delaying recovery. When it was time to start improving the joints range of motion, I avoided it and over time my own mobility and flexibility has deteriorated. I witness this daily, between individuals in the gym and those I coach online. My current strength and performance online program have a day set aside specifically to ensure mobility is maintained and improved, something I wish had done 3 years ago. They also are prescribed a daily warm up that will improve joint range of motion over time. This ensures your time is maximised in the gym or your home gym.

Long story short

While I am pain free right now, I lost all the flexibility I currently had to preform overhead exercises safely. I can perform some power snatches okay, but performing an overhead squat under load is a struggle and is increasing the risk of injury occurring as a result. If it is your hamstrings for example that seem to be the problem, and are always getting injured, you need to ensure you follow these rules:

  1. Fixing where the issue is originating from
  2. Not neglecting other forms of training
  3. Not neglecting mobility long term or the issue or a new one will show itself sooner than you think

If you require some help with these issues or can relate but are unsure what to do, contact me on the form below and i’ll be in touch.

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