Training Through Set Backs and Injury

Training through setbacks and injury

Bad things happen to everybody. We’re all going to get hurt (mentally and physically), get sick, get into a car accident, someone we know is going to cancer, pets and loved ones are going to die, and at some point we will slowly degrade until one day we die too.

It could be a pretty bleak outlook, especially if you are in the midst of one of those stressful, depressive situations. Or if you’re injured and can’t train the way you want. Or new responsibilities at work have you burnt out. When life “stuff” happens and you’re out of your normal routine, it sucks. We all go through it.

But this too shall pass.

What to do now?

It’s easy to say that you can improve your situation by finding a way to continue to train. It’s not always easy to do, but it IS that simple.

The fact is, life is made better with exercise. You feel better (mentally and physically), you improve your immune system and you relieve stress; that’s all from a single workout.

In the longer-term process of training, you build muscle and bone offsetting the degradation of your body, and create healthy routines that help keep you from falling into those ruts to begin with.

But let’s leave the long term training to when you’re ready for it. When it seems like the world is stacking the deck against you, it’s better to narrow your focus. That might be to what’s going on today, or even right now.

Do you have the strength to muster a 10 minute walk? [Of course you do.] Do it.

If you’ve got it in you for a longer walk, or an actual workout, do that.

There’s no situation that I can think of right now that can’t be made to at least feel better when book-ended by exercise.


When you want to train but you can’t…

Injury sucks, especially when it happens in training. It will cause you to rethink your training (a good thing). It may even make you want to quit (not a good thing).

When you’ve found a style of training that you enjoy, that you know is productive, that has gotten you stronger, more fit and feeling better than ever before; you don’t want to give that up, but now the very thing you love has hurt you. Sounds like a bad relationship…

That’s depressing in and of itself. Literally adding insult to the injury.

People will tell you that you should stop. Doctors will tell you that you can’t do it anymore. That little devil on your shoulder will whisper into your ear and tell you that you’re going to hurt yourself again.

And maybe all that is true. But then again, it’s probably not.

We could live our lives in fear of injury, stay on the couch or relegate our workouts to pool exercises and walking in green pastures only.

Or we could pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, put our big boy pants on, step to the side and shoot. (I know that didn’t make much sense, I just wanted to see how many “cowboy up” analogies I could put into a single sentence 🙂

The point is, we are better off when we continue to train. You may need to take some time off, you may need to stop doing certain exercises, you may need to see a doctor, but I believe wholeheartedly that those who make strength training a lifelong pursuit experience less injury and less chronic pain than the ilk who claim “squatting is bad for your knees” from the comfort of their couch.

stretching baltimore sports clinic

Figuring out how to make it work

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor do I play one on the internet. But I do play doctor on myself. What I mean is that my health as MY responsibility. I am in charge of my body; what goes into it (food or pharmaceuticals), how I rehab, and whether or not I continue to train.

And you are in charge of your body, too! Listen to your doctors, listen to your therapist, listen to your trainer, listen to those more knowledgeable and experienced than yourself, but most importantly listen to your body. Then you make the call!

I’m going to tell you MY step-by-step process in dealing with an injury. Then I’m going to make recommendations for what YOU should do. Note that they will be different.

Pain Scale

Injuries vary and pain is our guide. I put any aches and pains on a scale of 1-10 that looks something like this:

1-2: Is that really even pain?

2-3: That feels more like a twinge or tightness that might need to be rolled out. Probably won’t stop me from doing anything, but I will spend a little more time stretching and warming up. Pain in this range will put me on alert to ensure that it doesn’t get worse and I will start paying attention to how I feel before, during and after training.

3-4: Here I will double down on the stretching, trigger point work and may even go get a massage. It’s probably time for a deload week but I wouldn’t jump to change my routine to drastically just yet. I would also search for alternatives that would allow for a similar movement, albeit one that doesn’t hurt.

5-6: Stopping doing whatever is causing pain is now past due. At this point I will avoid anything that aggravates the area and rest it for at least a week. Depending on where I am in a training cycle I may try to work around the area or switch up my program altogether. I will also start to include things like hot/cold packs, muscle rubs, kinesio-tape and NSAIDs.

7-8: Complete rest. Depending where I’m hurting I’ll go see a chiropractor or a physical therapist. If the pain hasn’t started to subside in 24-48hrs I’ll make an appointment with my primary care physician to explore pharmaceutical options.

9-10: That’s a visit to the emergency room.

dry needling baltimore sports clinic

Your results may vary

The above is how I approach musculo-skeletal aches and pains that I know is a training related injury. A little common sense goes a long way here! If I’m having pain behind my eye, or chest pain that radiates down my arm, the above scale obviously does not apply.

My experience has shown me that this is a pretty reliable course of action, for ME. Remember I have been lifting weights for well over 20 years. I’ve had my fair share of aches and pains, wear and tear, and overuse injury, but I’m also really good friends with a couple great doctors and therapists.

I’ve spent a lot of time with these guys; picking their brain, learning from them, having them treat me, etc. I’ve been their guinea pig while they honed their craft, and I’m a good patient too because I am compliant (I do the homework they give me) and I’m ok with aggressive treatment modalities like Graston, dry-needling and body tempering.

What I’m saying is that my thought process in dealing with injury is a result of not only my experience but the experience of handful of sports medicine professionals who have guided me along the way. Certainly none other more so than Tom Bruns.

Maryland Strongman
Tom and Dan at the 2007 Maryland Strongest Man contest

A former competitor, Tom was my intern when he was an undergrad at Frostburg. As a senior majoring in exercise science, he already knew a lot about anatomy & physiology. He readily digested the reading assignments I gave him such as Stuart McGill’s Ultimate Back Fitness and Gray Cook’s Movement.Tom went onto Physical Therapy school and would regularly stop into the gym and talk with me about the things he was learning. I then became the student.

Today Tom and I work closely together here at BKC on a variety of avenues. Tom has been instrumental in the Strength After Sixty program, not only doing the initial research (as an intern) but he wrote the research proposal. In training, we share clients as well. There are two distinct types of people I send Tom 1) those who are injured or in pain and 2) those who are peaking for a power/strength competition.

Finally, I am his patient, too. I jacked up my shoulder bench pressing last December and Tom has been treating me weekly for that. He’s gotten my pain level down from a 7-8 to under 5 on most days.

So my recommendation to you, is if you can’t stretch it out, roll it out or work it out, go get yourself a friend who is also a doctor.

Or go see Tom!

In health & strength,

-Dan Cenidoza

For more information on scheduling an appointment with Tom, please contact us directly.