Training With/Around Injuries

By: Sean Lally (Staff Writer)

·“So you can’t train, huh?”

I sit pondering why I’ve been asked the question, “so, you can’t train”? I’m not upset that I’ve been asked this, but it’s just a baffling statement to me. In what universe would training not be an option? Could not training my mind or body ever be an option? For me, training is always an option and it should be for you too. Let me tell you why.

·Not training is never an option!

In my world, training is and always will be an option. Hell, I could be a floating head and I’d be cranking out neck extensions and looking for other heads to fight! Now, I may tend to be on the extreme side, but here’s the deal. Training is an option! That doesn’t mean going into the gym fresh off an ankle surgery and starting back up with box jumps. Working with and around an injury is a process and not always a fun one. You must rebuild with a well thought out plan and set realistic goals.

·Importance of Rest

Rest is going to be your ally, especially in the beginning. After suffering the trauma of an injury, the body must heal. If you jump right back into training at the intensity pre injury, you will suffer the consequences. You risk further damage to the injured area, a new injury, or becoming sick. The body only has so much energy at its disposal. Most of your energy must be saved and utilized for healing. Depending on the severity of the injury or operation, the timeline may shift but I always start with what I call Phase 1: Active Recovery.

·Phase 1: Active Recovery

You got to get moving one way or another. There is always something to be done for active recovery. Like I said in the previous section, you do not want to over tax your body. On the other end of the spectrum, you can’t sit around, eat Cheetos, and feel sorry for yourself. Be realistic, but don’t feed excuses to your mind. Upper body injury? Hike, bike, or get on the treadmill! Lower body injury? Resistance band work, upper body weight training, or get in a boat and start rowing! I prefer to get outside and enjoy nature during this phase. Whether you’re a professional athlete or the average gym goer, it’s good to get a change of scene and not worry about competing with others at the gym if you’re the competitive type. Take a step back and recalibrate. The mind and body will be more motivated the day you return to gym land.

·Phase 2: Strengthen Non-Injured Areas/Mobilize Injury Site

During this phase, we start pushing a bit more while staying within safe boundaries. If you have been immobilized by a cast, splint, or have just lost mobility due to your own compensation, you must get that area moving. Learn some basic body weight movements and start to work the kinks out.  For the hand, which I broke in my last fight victory, I started with gripping everyday objects, did wrist rolls, flexion/extension of the wrist, and countless finger drills focused on flexibility and reaction time. This is always the time to also work on weak links. You may even excel in other areas! If you suffer an upper body injury, and prior, you hadn’t had a leg day since 92… Then guess what? Every day is leg day now! This is what will happen. Your legs will become a stronger link in your chain. Chances are that you will even continue to work the legs regularly after you’ve healed the upper body.

·Phase 3: Strengthen Injured Area

At this point you have been given the go ahead to once again train with minimal limitations. This is where a big part of our training regimen becomes strength work. Before you start this phase, you must do one thing before you enter the gym and it’s called an “ego check”. Let’s say you had a pectoral tear, and pre injury, your DB flat bench press was normally 3 sets of 8-10 reps @ 70 lbs. You may be starting back up this time with 3 sets of 8-10 @ 50lbs. No one wants to have to do this, but you’ll be better off in the long run. Sometimes you have to take a few steps back to bound forward.

·Phase 4: Forget Fear and Grow

At this point, your physical injury has healed, but have you recovered mentally? You must attack your sport or the gym as you once did. Do not let the fear of being injured again deter you from accomplishing the goals you have been pursuing. Injuries are part of training and always will be. It’s how you bounce back that shows what you’re made of. Don’t stop working, take the time you need, and come back physically and mentally sharper! All these experiences add up to growth and will benefit you in the long run.

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