The Athlete's Journey. Part 4: The Banged-Up



As a final fair-the-well of the series “the athletes journey”, we’ll finish with a destination that none of us want to arrive at, but as long term subscribers of volume, relative intensity, and full range of motion about the joint, we should all respect the potential of "being banged up". 


While exercise does not demand that you'll get 'banged up', we should be alert to the fact that we could.  We don't want to be so naive that we forget that any of us could arrive in this Bermuda triangle of sub-optimal performance we like to call “pre-injured” or worse-case “injured”. With any sense, however, we can do a lot to prevent serious trauma to ourselves and time off, to boot!


Injures and exercise safety

There is no such thing as 100% safe.

100% safe is not initially what you think. It doesn’t just mean prevention of horrific injury, 100% safe means there can be no potential for ANY trauma. That means no torn hands, twisted ankles misstepping off the curb on the way in, or even cases of delayed onset muscle soreness. What 100% safe would look like is not what you want. Why? Because in addition to being relatively safe you want your fitness routine to be effective; you are here for results.


If we really made things 100% safe, you would have to be escorted in, slowed down to a crawl, assisted in that crawl, and limited in your range of motion - hey, they call that a nursing home! Ergo, it would be impossible to move at a rate that would produce anything effective for change in any amount of time you’d like to spend to see results. (on the flip side, we don't want results so aggressively that we would compromise our safety or long term adherence, so, turns out, we want safety, efficacy and efficiency all in a healthy balance)


So, like most things in life, we have to 1) acknowledge the things we don't want and 2) do everything we can to avoid them. 


Question: What's the injury rate for exercise?


Injury rates are not reported in all forms of exercise so we don't know everything, but for most research they measure the amount of injuries per 1000 hours (so how likely injuries occur based on how many hours of training you're doing). 

Question: Huh. That's a lot lower for functional fitness than I thought, yet the number wasn't zero. What type of injuries, if they do occur, do we see?

Question: what types of injuries to those areas are we talking about?

Question: How would you 'strain' something in a workout & what's it mean to overuse something?

  • Sometimes, but not always, if you are repeatedly out of an ideal position, a stretching or "strain" of the muscle or tendon happens. Much like a sprained ankle, a strain can be minor to pretty serious. "Overuse" means you typically increased the volume of a particular movement so drastically (like zero to 100) that the body produced a pretty significant inflammation response. ( the image below is a study showing that acute spikes in training volume significantly increases injury risk)


Question: So I have to exercise, everything has a little risk, it seems that functional fitness is no more harmful or safe then, say running, so what do I do to minimize being 'banged-up'?

  1. If you are not taking care of yourself outside of the gym (nutrition, recovery and sleep just to scratch the surface) then don't come in and workout like you are an athlete becuase you are not taking care of yourself like an athlete. Getting 4 hours of sleep and then coming to exercise is like stepping over dollars to pick up pennies

  2. At the very first sign fo this tweak, modify the workout and what you are doing; address it right then and there. Don't wait for it to be a bigger problem later on. Let the coach know, & ask them what to do to prevent anything further from ‘tweaking’

Additionally, nobody can diagnose how your body feels just by looking at you. We can see what movement is out of place but that also doesn’t demand that it hurts. Go see a diagnostician if you think it's a big tweak instead of just speculating on your own what happened or what you are feeling.


Question: So I modified the workout and I didn't make it any worse, but I'm still banged up. I guess I should lay on the couch for a while and let it heal?

Only if you are wolverine. Sure, if something is irritated, don't piss it off anymore than you already have, but for MOST tweaks (unless it's something to the spinal column, hernia, or you are post-pardum), you can work around it and for MOST tweaks, moving blood around could be the best thing for a speedy recovery. 

  • Keep coming in, and switch to 'recovery mode' 

Question: What is recovery mode? I thought if you come in to the group class you had to go hard AF?

1. When we tweak something, we should still get movement (motion is lotion), but our priorities shift significantly.

  • As a good rule of thumb for overuse as well as minor sprains, do not perform any movement that would cause further damage. That includes the same movement, idiot. 

2. This includes:

  • non-use of the injured limb or joint

  • similar movement patterns found in the workout, but don’t be afraid to err on the side of caution, and lastly our favorite motto:

  • "no pain, no pain"

The best way to go about this is to shift and switch gears to one on one attention or even independent program design because, well, you are no longer in the bell curve of what the group is training for. Doesn't have to be forever, but realize that you have more options than

  • just resting forever until it gets better or

  • just winging it based on whatever comes out of a constantly varied program

Be smart, pay attention, prioritize movement over speed and load, and when tweaks come up, be a baby and address them immediately; don't be a tough guy. You find yourself with a nagging tweak or feel a little banged up, let's sit down for a bit and figure out a better game plan for you