Prevention to Recovery
Injury is a risk we take when being active. The higher the intensity, volume, load, or skill level of training the greater the risk of injury. So what are some things that can be done to prevent injury, and what to do if you get injured?
Injury prevention is your best line of defense for overuse and other avoidable injuries:
- Range of Motion (ROM) – All movement requires a degree of range of motion in our joints. For example, to do an air squat to parallel you must have ankle flexibility, adequate hip range of motion, and other strength components, which we will discuss next, to perform the movement. Say you do not have good ROM at the hip or ankle, your body will adapt and depend on other muscle groups (who shouldn’t be involved) to get the job done. These muscle groups are now overworked and more prone to injury.(Fix – Talk to your coach or sign up for a ROM Assessment to see what areas may be imbalanced and need some work. Your coach can give you some pre- or post-class work to do to get you in a safer position.)
- Form – Form is your best friend. . . or should be! Not only will it keep you moving safely, but good form always makes things feel easier – and who doesn’t want that?!?! If something feels funny, ask your coach. Remember, form ALWAYS comes first. You should never increase the load until your form is impeccable.
- Strength – Building strength safely takes time, so patience is your #1 key to success. There are two reasons for this: 1) Many times we get excited to try new dynamic movements that we are not ready for or lack the strength to do strict (think pullups). However, moving your body through a dynamic ROM without the strength to do so puts a TON of load on your tendons. 2) It takes around 90 days for muscle to adapt, and about 200 days for connective tissue (tendons) to adapt to the load/stress. So athough you may feel ready to add load quickly, it is best to go slow to give your connective tissue time to adapt.
- Recovery – I could write a whole blog on recovery, but I’ll try to keep things on point. Recovery means rest days, sleep, and stretching/mobility. You should take a rest day after every 2-3 training days in a row, get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night, and make sure you are stretching/mobilizing as much as you are training. If you do 3 hours of WODs each week, that means you should aim for 1.5-3 hours of stretching/mobilizing per week as well.
Injury is defined as – /in·ju·ry/ (in´jer-e) a wound or trauma; harm or hurt; usually applied to damage inflicted on the body by an external force.
I’m not sure where it came about, but so many of us today think of pain as weakness, when it is nothing more than a communication system. It is your body telling you something is not working properly: a muscle is not firing, a tendon is overworked, or more extensive, something is torn. These are not things to ignore. The better we get to know or body, its capabilities, and how to listen to it, the better we will be as athletes, and the better we will be at dealing with injury.
LEVELS OF INJURY
Let’s use a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being the no pain and 10 being the pain of someone cutting off a limb (graphic I know, but helps with deciphering the pain scale).
- Level 0-3 – This is the most common and also the most troublesome level. This one hurts, but most people try to brush it off or ignore it. This would be what many would call tweaking a muscle. Most often it is an overuse injury. If you listen to your body when it first appears, give it a few days rest, then you will be back in action in no time. If you ignore the signal, you will most likely exacerbate the issue and turn it into a lever 3-5 pain. This will not only cause more discomfort, but will limit your training abilities and lengthen the recovery process and time.
- Level 4-6 – This is usually the aftermath of those who did not listen to their body when it was a 0-3. The pain level is no longer able to be ignored, and will most likely not allow you to complete full movements without compensating. Like I stated before, since you waited to tend to the issue, you will have to take more time off to recover, and maybe even have to incorporate some rehab work to get you back in action. On top of that, if you train in this level of pain, your body compensate causing other muscle groups to overwork leaving them at higher risk for injury too.
- Level 7-10 – This would be a more sudden injury caused by one of the prevention protocols not being followed. At this level, it is important to listen to your body and take action immediately. Talk to your coach about medical professionals – orthopedics, chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical therapists, or other providers that can help you identify the issue and take action.
The actual injury is rarely the cause for stress when injured. It is the inability to train the way you are used to, your training schedule change, and your mental state. Here are a few tips to keep you on track towards recovery:
- Mental Game – Injury is tough on your mental state and can cause some serious depression. When you get injured it is so important to have a sit down chat with yourself and demand that you only focus on what you CAN control. Anything else is a waste of your time and energy, and if you want to get back in action ASAP, there is no time to waste.
Things you can control:
Your outlook – focusing on what you CAN do instead of what you cannot
Your recovery protocols – talk with your medical professional and coach to get a game plan together.
Your nutrition – staying sugar free (minus fruit) and eating whole foods during your recovery will help speed up your healing process.
Your rehab – making sure you make time to get all of your recovery work done daily
I cannot stress enough how big of an impact your mental game will play towards your recovery. It is going to suck, you are going to be out of your routine, it will feel like you are unable to do all the things you want/love to do (you may even have a craving for burpees lol), you are going to want to cope with food, and you may be a little depressed.
BUT . . . you will get through it. The process to recovery is up to you. You can CHOOSE to hold your head high and focus on the things you can control or wallow in all the things that wouldn’t be supportive of your recovery. The choice is up to you.
- Support system – this is crucial to your success both mentally and physically. Injuries are demanding, take a lot of focus, and steal a lot of emotional energy. You cannot do it alone. Get comfortable being vulnerable and asking for help. Your friends, family, and coaches want to help you succeed, but you have to let them.
- Professional Team – Everyone’s injuries manifest differently, and it is always best to have a team of professionals looking out for your best interest when it comes to your recovery. This may look like orthopedics, chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical therapists, nutritionists, coaches, or other providers.
Innovative Back Solutions – Dr. Bob Ruano
Gainesville Wellness and Performance – Lauren Lehman and Jason Atkins Tuffs
You have to put in the work. Whatever your coaches or medical professionals give you to do, make sure you do it! They are not blowing smoke up your you-know-what. Often times injures are the result of a muscle not firing or other muscles overworked. Your rehab work is there for a reason, and most often time to repattern or retrain your muscles to do their job.
Most of us will deal with an injury at some point or another during our life. It is not the end of the world and you will not lose all of your gains during recovery. If you get injured, keep your head up, check your ego, and get ready to be disciplined in and out of the gym. The great news is our bodies are resilient and will mend if you give it the time and support it needs.