It would be a complete lie if I said I haven’t had to deal with injuries, both as a coach and as an athlete myself. Every single physical activity you get involved with will always pose a risk for hurt, no matter what it is. Even walking for a few minutes can end up bad!
Now, my intention is definitely not to scare you into staying away from exercise. Quite the contrary. Science has proven many times not doing any sort of physical activity is far more dangerous. What we need to do is prevent injuries and learn how to train safely when dealing with an injury.
Prevention is king
When it comes to avoiding injuries, prevention is the name of the game. It doesn’t matter if you’re training under supervision – which is safer – or on your own. There are a few ways we can keep ourselves safe from harm.
- Never skip the warmup! When we do a warmup, it’s not just about getting our muscles and joints “warm”. A warmup sequence also signals our brains we’re about to start exercising. Dynamic warmups take you through very short static stretches to gentle movements. This allows your nervous system to fire up all the neural and hormonal responses needed to keep you safe.
- Keep good form on every single exercise. Doing movements the wrong way is the top cause of injuries while training. Make sure you follow the cues to the letter. Having a coach or trainer to oversee your form is the best thing you can do for yourself.
- Don’t overdo it! There’s a fine line between doing your best effort and overtraining. As much as we’d like to lift a big amount of weight or do a zillion reps every single time, we need to listen to our bodies. Knowing when enough is enough is an art we must embrace. That doesn’t mean staying in your comfort zone either. You need to challenge yourself to see changes while avoiding going too far.
When injured, don’t stop – train smart
When injuries happen, the first impulse is to stop training altogether. There are situations where this will be the only option. But many times we’ll be able to keep moving while allowing for our prompt recovery. Some strategies may include.
- Scale movements, weights and reps down. Injuries are very humbling. We need to leave our ego behind and make our workouts easier on our bodies to allow for proper healing. Go back to basics if you must!
- Do asymmetrical training. If you have to keep a whole limb from doing heavy lifting or advanced movements, just train the rest of your body! You might feel worried about one of your sides becoming stronger than the other one, but that’s okay. You’ll have time to train your other side when fully healed.
- Always consult with your doctor. Let your physician decide what’s best for you, what movements are allowed and which ones are a big no-no. If you can, ask your doctor for a written statement on which movements are safe for you to do, and give it to your coach.
An injury doesn’t have to be the end of the world – that is, if you don’t let it be. There’s almost always an alternative that will keep you moving no matter what. But remember – if you need to fully rest and recover, you need to embrace it and get back when you’re ready for the action!
Julio Gutierrez is the founder and Head Coach of Hurricane Fitness. His love for the deadlift is almost as big as his love of pop culture.