In a previous article here on Digital Muscle, I discussed how the FMS (Functional Movement Screen) can help potentially reduce the risk for injury. But sometimes things just happen.
A few weeks ago I was playing around with my kids. Well, the truth is, I was starting to teach sprint training drills and got a little intense with one my demonstrations of sprint and agility techniques. What do I mean when I say intense? I was running too explosively and aggressively when I hadn’t performed sprints – at that level of intensity – in a few months.
Anyway, later that night I started to experience some mild rib discomfort. It wasn’t too bad, but it was definitely painful enough with deep breathing (if you’ve ever had a rib related injury, you’ll know exactly what I mean). It turns out that I had a mild strain of my intercostal muscles with the aggressive sprint work. (*Intercostals are the muscles between your ribs that play an important role in breathing.)
The injury was a minor setback in my training because at the time I was finishing up a squat cycle program and planning to start a hypertrophy training phase. Well, everything was put on hold with the intercostal strain.
I’m sure you’ve had a minor injury before, how did you deal with it?
Did you try to just push through it only to make it worse? After decades of training behind me, dealing with minor injuries comes down to 3 simple rules.
These 3 rules prevented things from getting worse and also allowed me to get back to my training 100% in a very short time period.
This may seem like common sense, but common sense is not always common practice.
Keep in mind, we’re talking about “minor” tweaks or strains here – NOT major injuries – so please understand the difference. If you really have something going on (significant pain, for example), let’s be clear that you need to get it checked out and see your health care provider.
Here’s my 3 simple rules for dealing with MINOR injuries!
RULE #1 – BACK OFF
Back off training, but keep things moving. I think this is where people mess up. They do 1 of 2 things – they either don’t back off and keep training (only to make things worse) OR they completely stop training (and stop moving altogether).
There’s a balance here, a fine line. When I injured my ribs, I knew the smart thing to do was going to take off from my training for a few days to allow for healing.
But I also wanted to keep myself moving and prevent immobility or de-conditioning. Movement just seems to make everything better but the key is “pain-free” movement. Keep moving and the most simple way to do that is with more walking or just finding ways to keep your body moving around. Walk more, move more, and keep it pain-free.
RULE #2 – EASE BACK
After I started feeling better just a few days later, I knew I was ready to get back to training again. Obviously, I wasn’t going to resume my prior level of intensity, right? So, my first session back was a “lighter” multi-joint workout and I made sure I wasn’t going to do things that would exacerbate the problem.
You come back slowly, ease back into training, and feel things out. Anytime you have an injury, this is what you have to do.
RULE #3 – AUTO-REGULATE
This is really important. You may have heard the term “auto-regulation” before, which basically means you adjust your training to how you feel or to your physiological status. In other words, auto-regulation is “listening to your body” although there is some debate on what that actually means.
I can tell you it’s simple when you’re coming back from any injury, minor or otherwise. As I was easing back to my training slowly (rule #2), I was really paying attention to how I felt and was careful with my lifts, not doing things too aggressively. I made sure that nothing caused any pain or discomfort. And then I gradually built up intensity and volume again to ‘test’ how I felt as I resumed my training.
You must have “acute awareness” with your movements and exercises that don’t cause problems. That means you don’t do things that cause pain. This goes back to rule #1 on “pain-free” movement.
Have you ever seen anyone try to work through an injury where they still continue to experience pain and discomfort – only to make things significantly worse in the end? I know this scenario very well and this was one of the biggest mistakes I made many, many years ago. I’ve never made that mistake again.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people trying to work through their injuries. This is a huge mistake, even with minor tweaks and strains. It’s important to make adjustments if you’re in this for the long haul.
Sometimes things happen and minor musculoskeletal injuries rear their head. When they do, how you deal with them is the critical factor for your long-term training success. Train smart.
As a physical therapist and a strength coach, Scott has spent 3 decades teaching unconventional approaches to strength & performance training for long term health and fitness results. With numerous training and nutrition certifications, Scott is also one of the world’s foremost experts in kettlebell training and the prominent host of the Rdella Training Podcast. — Scott is the author of The Edge of Strength, a comprehensive new book describing his philosophy and methodology of training and performance (now available at Amazon.com)