Health Bytes: When exercise leads to injury
I’m not a doctor, trainer, or physiotherapist, so I cannot give you advice on how to recover from injury. But as someone who has exercised for over 20 years—though admittedly hips do lie in my case, I’m afraid—I can tell you about everything that can get you injured. I’ve been there and done it. So here goes.
That dreaded I-word. Injury. It’s something that is always lurking on the horizon, for me; it is a particularly persistent stalker I have never been able to shake off. Over the years, I have developed a weak back, a dodgy knee, an achy shoulder, and the occasional niggle in my heels when my shoes get old or I overdo the elliptical at the gym. And I am, inevitably, laid up because of one or the other, a couple of times a year.
It is usually my fault. I have the soul of an addict and exercise is my fix, a replacement for all those gargantuan meals, syrupy sweets, greasy snacks, and fizzy drinks I wolfed in my misguided youth. I cannot function today without working out. Moving my body clears my skin and my head, gives me a happy high, makes me feel good in my clothes, whatever my weight, and just makes me a less crotchety human being, overall. But, as many wise souls before me have said, listening to my body is equally important. And I sometimes forget to do that.
Hence, injury. It’s usually because of repetitive stress and overuse, but also sometimes because of bad form, careless programming, or simply too much too soon.
I had yet another last week—a back catch that developed thanks to too many kettlebell swings, possibly done with bad form. I did what I usually do; I took an entire day of rest, and then eased back into gentle walking and stretching.
I’m not a doctor, trainer, or physiotherapist, so I cannot give you advice on how to recover from injury. But as someone who has exercised for over 20 years—though admittedly hips do lie in my case, I’m afraid—I can tell you about everything that can get you injured. I’ve been there and done it.
So here goes.
Progressing too fast
I’m a Type A personality who wants and needs to do everything ASAP. Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series? Let’s finish it in three months so we can move on to the second series. Deadlift? Hey, I’m pretty sure I can lift my body weight and then some. And maybe run a marathon tomorrow, too.
Something I wish I had told my younger self? Slow down. Ease into a new activity. Let your body get used to it. Baby steps, as they say.
I’m better than I used to be. I try not to push too hard. But, yes, slowing down is still hard for me-- until injury comes and stops me completely.
Choosing the wrong activity
I don’t enjoy running. I dislike HIIT classes. I don’t like any other form of yoga other than Ashtanga. Here is the thing—when you do an activity you don’t like enough, there is a chance that you end up doing it half-heartedly, and doing it without focus or mindfulness. This, in turn, leads to injury. For instance, I don’t think a functional training style program works for me. It makes me too hungry, too stressed, and inevitably injures me--because I’m not sensible enough to avoid pushing myself. (And honestly, it doesn’t change the shape of my body the way a well-structured weight training program does.)
Doing way too much
Hello, over-exercising, my old friend. I am, and I’ve said this before, a bit of an addict when it comes to exercise. Weight lifting is, by far, my favourite, but I also love the EFX and long walks. And, for some reason, burpees (don’t ask). The result? I end up trying to do it all in a single day, like walking over to the gym after a powerlifting session or going for a jog after HIIT. You get the drift, don’t you? Injury, inevitably, comes to talk to me again.
Choosing the wrong coach or program
Not every training style is right for everyone. I can’t work, for instance, with someone who won't modify a WOD to accommodate my age and injury, or someone who insists on me doing 100 KB swings, despite me telling him/her I have a lower back problem. I don’t like working with coaches who work out when I do, who don’t watch out for form, who fat or body-shame, and who are rude or get too personal. Trust me on this one—a wrong coach, almost always, leads to injury.
Working through pain
No pain, no gain? Bullshit. Exercise doesn’t need to hurt to be effective. Sure, a little DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is alright when you start lifting. But you don’t need to feel giddy or nauseous, and you don’t need to work through the pain. Ever.
Also, don’t do what I always do: ignore the little niggles, hoping they’ll simply evaporate. Injury, is almost unavoidable, in this case.