by Christian Garcia
As humans, we’re able to endure a lot of things; we’re a resilient species. However, just because we can endure those things, it doesn’t mean we come out just fine. As an athlete, I am more than familiar with people call injuries. I’ve had my fair share of injuries ranging from thoracic outlet syndrome and carpal tunnel simultaneously, injuries that took me over a year to heal from, to the good ol’ sciatica. Sometimes we like getting ahead of ourselves and strive to push our physical limits. As a result, injuries happen. And let’s face it- injuries are no fun, especially for the everyday athlete. Even if you’re being extremely careful, sometimes fate just isn’t on your side.
But it’s what you do after getting injured that really matters. Some people continue to train and aggravate the injured area further (I’ve been guilty of this a bunch), and others play it safe and do what needs to be done to recover properly. I’ve learned my lesson in the past; lay off the brakes and slow down. Regardless of the injury, there’s no better time to slow down than right away. Take action. If it’s a back or neck injury, go to the chiropractor/physical therapist, ice, avoid things that will make it worse. If it’s a pulled muscle, ice it, get a massage, and again, avoid things that will make it worse.
We all want to excel in what we do, but when it comes to injuries, what price are you willing to pay? Would you rather keep working hard and pushing yourself to the point of not being able to work out at all? Or would you rather slow down, find things you CAN do, and let your body heal properly? We all know that passion can drive people to do things they’ll regret, like working out while injured. But in the grand scheme of things, our bodies have their limits. Regardless of how strong you may be, you can still get hurt. No one is invincible, not even (insert your favorite super hero here).
Being stubborn and continuing to strain your body can only make things worse. I am speaking from experience. When I got into a car wreck back in 2012, I did what I could to start working out 100% ASAP. It probably wasn’t the smartest idea. I mean, I did slow down, but I also could have taken my time to let my body do its thing and heal. And that decision still affects me today. When I started bodybuilding in mid-July (2013), I set a goal for myself. Being the somewhat stubborn person that I am, I was willing to do whatever it took to reach those goals, even working through injuries. It wasn’t until I really starting getting injured that I slowed down. Through too much hard work and too much dedication, I got a shoulder impingement and a sciatic injury. I was very limited what I could do and it sure as hell wasn’t much fun. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been recovering from those injuries, still not back at 100%.
Moral of the story: don’t rush an injury. Some injuries may heal within a few days; others will take weeks or months. The point is, to minimize downtime, you’re going to have to play it smart and let things run their course. Resting and icing/heating are your two best friends. If the injury is bad enough, your doctor will be your third best friend. And if you already have a best friend, well…you can always have more than one best friend, right?
To reduce the risk of injury, you’ve got to keep these things in mind:
-Train smart: learn about the exercises you’re doing or get a trainer to teach you how to exercise properly. Make sure you’re doing it right.
-Use correct form: when you tire out, you’re probably more likely to sacrifice form to get those last few reps in. Be smart about it.
-Stretch properly: warming up those cold muscles will help a lot. Get in your dynamic stretches before a workout, and your static stretches after your workout. Yoga is cool too. Yup, even for guys.
-Don’t do something you know, physically, you can’t do: if you’re only used to deadlifting 255, don’t try to impress that girl or guy across the gym by trying to deadlift 400. Because not only will you not get his/her number, but you’ll get injured: two for the price of one bad decision.
-Get enough rest: getting at least seven hours per night is crucial. Eight is optimal. Your body does most of its healing when you’re sleeping, so please, get the most that you can.
-Get massages or foam roll: this will help expedite muscle recovery by breaking up knots and tenseness in the muscle. It will also keep you in the game longer.
-Eat your greens and drink a lot of water: keep flushing that system by blasting it with that good ol’ H2O and leafy greens/veggies. Your body will thank you.
I’m sure there’s more to this, but those seven are all I could think about.
Again, I beg you, be smart with your training. Injuries WILL happen, even to the best of us. And after you’ve been injured once, you are certainly more likely to get injured again. So be smart and don’t try to impress anyone.
Good luck and keep working hard!