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Hammer CrossFit


September 25, 2020

Working Wounded: Scaling Workouts Due To Injury

Written by: Coach Jen Libby“There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength.” – Henry RollinsHave you ever had an injury that sidelined you from the gym for a while? Maybe you twisted an ankle running around with your kids or injured your hand when a power tool got the best of you. Maybe you tweaked your back during a heavy deadlift, or you ripped your hands during a pull-up workout. Whatever it was, it happened, and now you can't workout... or can you?You definitely can! Just because one part of your body is out of commission does not mean your WHOLE body needs to take a time out. In fact, exercise can be beneficial to the healing process, promoting more blood flow to the injured area, which in return will facilitate faster healing. I'm sure you've heard me, or another CFIS coach, say “all CrossFit workouts are infinitely scalable”. This not only applies to a beginner athlete who may need fewer complex movements or volume, but also applies to those of us who have injuries. Despite popular belief, coaches are not invincible. I, for one, can attest to that. Rewinding back to 2014, I sustained my first substantial injury. For months prior, I had a nagging ache/pressure/pain in my lower back. Not enough to stop me from doing workouts, but enough to let me know something wasn’t right. I kept pushing through the pain until the day it knocked me out and I was down for the count. I had a bulging disc in my lumbar spine. And, guess what guys? It happened while I was rowing. (there's a reason why I stress FLAT BACKS all the time!). Hindsight is always 20/20, right? I can see clearly NOW what I should've seen then, but we live and learn. My initial reaction to what had happened to me was “well, great, guess I'm not working out for a while now”. I sat at home, still in pain, miserable and depressed (fun times!). My coach at the time told me to just come into the gym and work on what I could that didn't cause any pain. To my surprise, I was able to do a fair amount of movements and exercises that didn't exacerbate my injury. I primarily spent a lot of time developing deep core strength by doing a multitude of various planks, heavy barbell front rack holds, and A LOT of strict, controlled movements. Not only did I feel great still being able to work out, but also being surrounded by the positive energy within the CrossFit community lifted my spirits immensely. My pain started to subside, and after several months, I had zero pain and was considerably stronger than I was pre-injury.Moral of the story: listen to your body. If it's giving you warning signs, do not ignore them. Talk to a coach and we can help you modify movements to potentially avoid any minor issue becoming a major one. If it's a freak accident and you get no warning, that's okay too! This just means it is time to get creative! There's always a way to work around an injury. The goal is to still have you work with intensity, variance, and functionality without making things worse. Naturally, you may think “oh, now I'm the injured athlete that needs special attention…” but that’s exactly what we’re here for! Let's see if we can change that mindset to “Ok, maybe I can't bear any weight on that ankle yet, but I'm gonna get strong AF with all the upper body work I'm going to do. I can still use my good leg so I can work on getting that leg strong AF too!” Working the good leg will also cause 'mirror contractions' in the injured leg so the chance of significant atrophy is considerably less!Having an injury can be a pain (literally!), but it can also be a blessing. You'll still be doing varied, intense, and functional workouts, just with a shorter list of exercises to choose from. And over time, that list will grow.Injuries give you time to specialize on your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Let's say pre-injury you were trying to get a strict pull up. Well, now you've got a good six weeks to focus just on that. You'll also become more bodily aware. Knowing where your body parts are and how they're working will go a long way. Ideally, we would like to achieve this without an injury, but sometimes being dealt a bad hand has its benefits.The advantages to recovering CrossFit-style over watching TV and waiting for the injury to heal are threefold. First, the injury will heal more quickly and atrophy less. Second, you will acquire skills and strengths that you may not have developed otherwise. Third, the mental anguish that nearly always accompanies down time is greatly reduced. If you’re currently sidelined, or have any nagging ailments you’re needing to address, come talk to me or another coach and we can help get you back in fighting shape! Keep up the hard work Tribe! #ProudCoach

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