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How To Stay Consistent and Train Around an Injury

Tweak your lower back? Hurt your knee? It happens to the best of us. What you do next, though, is absolutely crucial. This post shows you how to avoid the physique-wrecking trap most guys fall into when they have an injury.

When I was going through special operations selection in the military, I developed IT band syndrome so badly in my right leg that my knee would lock up if I ran more than a couple hundred yards. When I tried to to bend it, lightning bolts of pain shot up my side.

In special ops selection courses like mine, it doesn’t matter how much you suffer as long as you meet the standards and don’t quit. So in order to pass, I sucked it up and ran with a locked knee, swinging it around to the side like a pirate with a peg-leg instead of bending it.

Running like this got me through the selection process, but it also produced a painful injury to deal with. The pain started at my knee and radiated throughout my body, affecting my lower back, hips, and shoulder, too.

It seemed like every time I tried to do one of my favorite exercises in the gym, I tweaked something and had to take a couple days off from training. It was frustrating as hell.

So that’s when I decided to work with a coach to work around my injury, continue training hard, and get back to 100%.

After four months of working with the coach, I was a new man.

I could move better. I felt better. I even put fifty pounds on my deadlift, and ticked off a fifteen mile run without pain (and without looking like a pirate).

I’m glad I chose that path, because I nearly went the opposite way, the way most guys go when they get injured or tweak something: I almost stopped working out.

When You Stop Working Out Because of an Injury

Of course, I wasn’t going to stop working out indefinitely. I told myself I was just gonna take a couple weeks or maybe a month to let everything heal, and then get back to it.

Yeah right.

After working with hundreds of clients in the S2B Coaching Program, and helping dozens of people at my gym in Denver, I know it rarely works out that way.

Despite his best intentions, whenever a guy stops working out or takes an extended break from training because of an injury, he almost always gets out of shape and stays that way.

He does the exact opposite of what he really wants to do: He loses muscle, gains fat, and sometimes even starts to become a little depressed.

For most guys, their decline from in-shape to out-of-shape starts small and builds into something huge. Because of this, most guys don’t see it coming until it’s too late.

How To Outsmart an injury: Drive Around The Wall

Road cones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years ago, I was at a driving course behind the wheel of a car, doing 60 miles-per-hour. An instructor was seated next to me, leaning over and alternately watching my speedometer and looking through the windshield on his side.

“A little left… hold that… ok, good.”

This guidance was necessary because most of the windshield was covered by a large piece of cardboard, leaving just a little opening on the passenger side for the instructor.

I was driving blind.

A few seconds later the instructor yanked the cardboard down and I saw a rapidly approaching wall of orange plastic road barriers. The tires shrieked as I locked up the brakes, crashed through the barriers, and came to a stop amidst an array of bouncing road cones and the sound of my friends laughing their asses off from the back seat.

The instructor took a sip from his coffee, looked over at me, and then glanced over to the field of grass to the right of the road we were driving on.

“There was no reason to crash.” he said. “Everything around you right now is drivable terrain. Next time, steer onto the grass and go around the obstacle instead of driving into a wall.”

I’m telling you this, by the way, because I see the same thing happen to guys who suffer minor injuries. The injury becomes a wall in their minds, and they can’t see any way around it. The road they’re on is the only way they know to get in shape and build a good body. And now that there’s a giant wall in the way, they don’t know what to do.

At that point, most guys either hit the brakes and stop working out, or they try to plow right through the wall and end up hurting themselves even more.

But I’ll let you in on something: the road you’re on isn’t the only way to get strong and healthy and build a good physique.

And if you just happened to glance over to the right, you’d see lots of driveable terrain and a new path to follow to stay consistent and get in shape while your injury heals.

How To Gain Muscle With a Broken Leg

Jeremy is a current S2B client. Several months ago he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle and somehow ended up with only a broken leg.

When he joined the S2B Coaching Program, he was in a cast and couldn’t do anything with his lower body. Even upper body stuff was difficult since he had to hobble around the gym on crutches or hop around on one leg.

A lot of guys would have said “screw it” and quit. In fact, they probably would have never joined a workout and nutrition coaching program while in a cast in the first place.

They would have rationalized that there’d be nothing for them to gain and that they should wait for their injury to heal and do the program later. (But as we’ve seen, “later” never really comes. It’s simply an excuse.)

Jeremy had the courage and good sense to ask for help, though. And we quickly found him some driveable terrain. We wrote him a program that kept him off his leg and, quite often, on a pullup bar (among other things).

In the two months or so that he was in his cast, Jeremy gained nine pounds of muscle and went from a max of 11 pullups in one set to 20.

Not bad for a dude on crutches.

Getting What You Need

When I finally decided to man up and get some help for my IT Band syndrome, I learned some new workout and nutrition strategies that helped me heal my injury fast and helped me get in better shape overall. I built muscle, added strength, and generally felt better all-around.

But I also learned another important lesson: No matter what wall gets thrown directly onto my course, with a little coaching and support, I can learn to drive around and still be at my best, physically and mentally.

I can stay consistent with my workouts and nutrition, even when other guys are slacking and feeling guilty.

And that’s a powerful thing to understand: Injuries or being “busy” doesn’t hold you back. You hold yourself back.

So what’s holding you back? A tweaked lower back or other injury? Chronic pain?

No matter what it is, believe this: You can still build a good physique, get healthy, and feel great. All you gotta do is find some help and look for some drivable terrain, a way around your obstacle.

Do that and you’ll always be consistent with your workouts and nutrition and feel awesome because of it.

15 Responses to How To Stay Consistent and Train Around an Injury

  1. VancoD says:

    I am in the May 2012 cohort of S2B – we’re coming into our “home stretch” right about now.

    Since the start of the program I’ve been dealing with nagging shoulder pain –
    an issue I’ve had since a fall back in 2004. The process of getting
    brawny made the injury more apparent. Soon it started to become a
    limiting factor.

    Back in November (lol – coincidentally, about the time Jeremy was getting hit by a car) my coach and my chiropractor (who I see for ART and Graston) finally convinced me to get an arthrogram and an MRI. Based on what my chiro had assessed the results were no surprise – full thickness tear of the supraspinadus muscle, a partial tear to the anterior face of my labrum tendon, and, because of the time I spent injured, the aacronium process (that bony bump on your shoulder) had calcified, forming a convenient little “hatchet” that was actually cutting muscle under it.

    I was devastated – despite having dealt with the injury for years it seemed that now that I’d given it “validity” via the MRI findings it hurt that much worse, and I
    seemingly lost all strength.

    At first I was ready to say screw it – the orthopedist was going to insist on surgery, and I was just going to call it quits and “get back to being brawny” when I could.
    Then I started to consult further with my coach, and started to work on the mental and emotional aspects of my injury. The biggest limiting factor I had was NOT my injury – it was my attitude.

    I spent time in the gym analyzing what movements I could and could not do. I spoke to my ortho about delaying the surgery (he was OK with it as long as I was cognizant of movements and did not make matters worse). My time in the gym became sessions of much more intense concentration on muscle movement and form – I had to drop weight from most of my lifts. And most importantly I spent time working on mental exercises to get my head back into the right place.

    And here we are – in the final stretch of my cohort – I gained a total of 33 pounds (starting at about 192) – and look and feel awesome.

    Consistency if definitely key – as is the support of your peers to keep it going! My surgery is a week from today – and I have no doubt that I will be back in the gym as soon as the physical therapists tell me it’s OK to do so. Whatever recovery time they give me I plan to do it in half – I’m not living on anyone else’s schedule ;)

    • Craig Weller says:

      Outstanding, Vanco. Shoulder injuries like that can be major obstacles, but as you’re learning they don’t have to stop you or even slow you down that much.

      If you need a program to follow after your surgery email me (craig@precisionnutrition.com) and I’ll set you up.

      I’ve got a friend who just had surgery for a 3-way labrum tear and a shredded biceps tendon and after two months he’s flawlessly squatting in the mid 300’s and almost fully recovered already.

    • Vincent says:

      Thanks for sharing this. It’s got me thinking about my own chronic shoulder issue/pain that I’ve had for 10+ years. I’m going to look into this further as I think I may have something similar.

      Let us know on here how surgery goes and all the best!

      • VancoD says:

        Vincent – a quick visit with a chiropractor would most likely confirm any suspicions. A few strategic arm placements while he pushed or pulled quickly pinpointed where the problem was likely to be found – and lead my getting the arthrogram / MRI.

        There going to film the whole procedure and give me a copy – lol – I’ll post the YouTube link when I upload it ;)

      • VancoD says:

        Surgery went quite well. I posted some details and pics (and vids) in my blog – jump to the last couple pages for all the details:
        http://www.precisionnutrition.com/members/showthread.php?t=32328

        My first PT was today. It’s going to be a bit of a road back to “normal”, but it just needs time.

      • Vincent says:

        I don’t have access to view that link, but it’s great to hear surgery went.

      • VancoD says:

        Get yourself a free account – PN is a great site! And thanks.

      • Guest says:

        First try with the squat belt!

  2. Reggie20x6 says:

    I’ve got issues with my left elbow and right rhomboid, and my shoulders have different ROM’s, due to TMJ/Shoulder impingement from 2005-2007. I’ve got plantar fasciitis in both feet, slight-scoliosis and am prone to ITB syndrome in the right leg. I also think that all these years of being injured has affected my T-levels.

    I have no insurance, so going to the doc is out. I would pay anyone who thinks they could fix all of those concurrent issues, and lord knows I’ve already paid enough people who thought they could, but didn’t. I can basically do nothing in the gym, as every lift is affected by something. I’m 28, in great shape (considering that I can’t do cardio, and can barely lift anything) and have been sidelined with something since Feb 2012.

    • Nate Green says:

      Well, Reggie, we’re definitely not doctors. But we can also definitely help you out in the coaching program, if you’re up for it.

    • Maybe it’d be cheaper to go get insurance for a month so you can get all the surgeries lol. Alternatively you can fly to Thailand (or India, but Thailand is better :p) and find some American-trained ortho docs there. But as everyone says, good trainers respect their scope of practice.

  3. Matt says:

    The S2B program used to be capped at 200 people, right? What is the cap now? Or is it still the same? Thanks.

  4. VancoD says:

    Commenting seems to be a bit screwy – tried to reply to you (Craig) with the pic of me using the squat belt, but it seems to attach it to another post….

  5. RichG says:

    I have Femoroacetabular impingement with labral tear (cam) in BOTH hips and am in constant pain. No more squatting, deadlifting, sprints etc and find it hard to train at all! Any advice pre and post ops?
    Thanks.