Injuries suck. They’re exhausting and painful and demoralizing and frustrating.
They are also a really great learning experience. I mean, all adversity is an opportunity to learn and grow if you choose to treat it as such…and why not? Otherwise it’s just suckage with no point to it. That’s no fun.
Anyway, injuries: everyone who works out or enjoys physical activity in any capacity is going to sustain an injury at some point in their lives that derails their training and knocks them down a peg or two. Or more than two. So, you get injured, you get it treated, you do the physio and the rehab exercises etc etc and you’re feeling better. Time to get back at it, right? You’ve waited weeks, maybe months to get back into the gym and feel like you’re doing something challenging and worthwhile. Pedal to the metal, baby!!
Nope. Slow down there, Tex.
Because at the moment you feel 100%, that’s when you’re about 80% healed. And the time you spend between being 80% healed and 100% healed is the window of time where you are at the greatest risk of re-injury. It’s also the time when your ego, the little shit, is not your friend at all.
“Psst!” it’ll whisper at you. “You should be able to do that. You could six months ago. Give it a shot and see what happens! You can always stop if it hurts.”
Your ego doesn’t care that if you make it hurt too much then congratulations, you have successfully joined the ranks of people who find themselves back on the injury bench. It just wants to GO. It wants you to feel like you got something accomplished. It also wants you to be some kind of superhero who doesn’t have to obey the laws of physics like the rest of us. Well, guess what? You’re not a special snowflake – of course you are a special snowflake – but you’re still a broken snowflake and that means that for a little while, you need to find a way to leave your ego at home when you go to the gym.
This is not an easy thing to do.
The gym is where people go to get their pump on, to sweat, to feel strong and badass and sexy as fuck. It’s where people flex in the mirror and take more selfies than just about any other place on earth, right? The gym is any inflated ego’s happy place!
So when you bring your still-broken-but-feeling-way-better self back in there, it’s important – really important – that you take it easier than you think you need to. Lift the lighter weights. Work on mobility, balance, control. Get your mind-muscle connection firing again. At this point it’s also good to isolate that injured spot and insult it just a little bit so that your body knows to concentrate its repair work there. Eccentric, or negative contractions (where the muscle is lengthening under tension instead of contracting; this usually is the down-phase of the exercise) done slowly and under control are key to let your body know that it needs to lay down more, stronger tissue in that location. (Plug: a good trainer can help with this and will know just how much to challenge you, or not, on any given day.)
Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. You may not get a good clip for Instagram showing all the cool stuff you can do. All of that can wait until you’re all the way better – and the way to get all the way better is to start slowly and build back up. S L O W L Y. It’s agonizing, I know! But better to do that, than end up with an injury that’s chronic. Your body doesn’t need that kind of mileage – that’s what you get when you slog through the suckage and don’t learn anything!! So check your ego at the door and gently explore what your body is capable of. You’ll gain perspective and it might even be fun.