Tag Archives: back pain

Training With Prior Issues/New Injuries

I figure, that due to almost rendering myself unable to train yesterday due to massive pressure on my left side (that I ignored) it’d be prudent to make a post like this, as all of us at some point or another will suffer some level of injury that hinders our training; whether it be for a few days or a few months – it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the basics for training with injuries/issues.

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I’ll use myself as an example; I have a series of issues with my back & sometimes it can flare up & render me to an almost immobile state – over the weekend I felt my left hip beginning to burn; the first sign of more pain to come.  It must’ve been bad as I had terribly interrupted sleep on Sunday, however I still went to the gym on Monday. I was doing ok until I got to 40kg barbell squats, did one….felt a pull across my entire lower back & made a noise that may have been heard by hades himself…I heard it & I had headphones in.  TBF, should’ve know as after I walked up the stairs I could feel my hips rubbing.  Sounds gross & painful??  Yeah, it is.  Anyhoo…..I was training on my own.  SHIT!  What do I do??  The urge to run downstairs, cobble my gear together & get the fuck out of the gym was my first thought.  However, I seem to be growing as an individual, so I racked the bar & attempted to compose myself.  I managed to (while thinking lots of encouraging things) do another one before I decided that it was probably wiser to drop the weight down, so I took 10kg off & did 10 reps before deciding that it may not be wise to continue with more reps.

Because of this, I began to wonder what would I do if I’d injured myself further or if it was a new injury & I didn’t know how to deal with it. The misconception that you should rest all injuries is still pretty popular & couldn’t be further away from the truth, resting completely can cause issues along the road – sitting immobile while you heal is gonna cause hindrance as the muscles seize up over time, making recovery longer and more painful.

You can still train if you’ve broken a limb, you can still go to the gym if you’re full of cold, you can even go to the gym after breaking your nose & recovering from concussion! That last one, I did actually do.  I just made Andy aware of how I felt & whathaveyou before we began training.Which leads me to how do you know if you’re fit for the gym? I’m came up with my own little checklist:

  • Does it hurt? Pain levels can vary immensely, let’s use this scale chart:

I’ve experienced all levels based on this scale.  Monday I’d say I was at about a 2-4, at this level I’d still go to the gym. I’d probably still go to level 6, pushing it a little with 7 & above.  So, go with this.  Does it hurt? Yes. Will I be off work cos of it? No. GO TO THE GYM.

  • Will it stop me from going to work? I know I’ve already mentioned this in the pain point, but it’s worthy of another mention. If you’re still able to go to work, then you’re able to train, however you may wanna take it slowly initially depending on the level of injury.  There’s the flip side too; post op it’s probably best to steer clear of the gym for a while (I avoided the gym when I’d had a rather large tattoo session) When I broke my nose I didn’t go for the first week after it’d happened, so I guess to assess on an individual basis.  However, if you feel well enough in yourself, then as long as someone in the gym knows you’re a little ill/post op/in severe pain so they can recommend things to do to avoid hurting yourself.
  • Progress or pain? This is an odd one, (I wrote some of this at work then carried on thinking about it on the cycle home & I think this was my point) Think about the pain you have – Remember the handy scale!! Now, if you’re teetering on a 7, will going to the gym hinder your progress? Yes, probably.  However, if the pain is localised to a body part that you can omit; a leg say then (imo) there’s no harm in going to the gym to do an upper body workout. Just remember if it hurts, STOP & assess the situation – can you carry on, even with a lower weight? yes, good on you – the Marines would be proud of you!
  • Is it gonna be a long-term injury? I consider my back issues to be a hindrance more than a debilitating irritation; however I received some interesting reading material to my work email today that suggests my back issues are worse than I thought, but I digress…..I have friends that are trying to regain strength after months of limited training due to needing bones pinning back together & extensive physio sessions. I have had my fair share of physio & I guess my issue is long-term too, seeing as how I’ve dealt with it since my twenties.  It was only when I started training with Andy that I learned how much of a complication it has been on my body, my left side is completely shot.  I say is because I still have a deficit that I’m trying to correct (I’ve blogged about this annoyance before)  What I will say though is that any progress is STILL progress! no matter how small, take the little victories! Did two more reps than before? Fantastic! Could lift a slightly heavier weight? Incredible!  Recovery takes time & it’s frustrating, but I refer back to the previous point; going too fast because you wanna catch up to the beautiful people will only make your journey more of a struggle in the long run.
  • DO NOT FORGET TO EAT! Oh, I’m not feeling too well, so I won’t have lunch or I’m not training today so I don’t need as much protein. Right? Wrong! I learned this the hard way. I started to do barbell squats; my first lot were going pretty well, then the following session I went to do them again & couldn’t.  During a conversation with Andy he explained my body hadn’t recovered from the last session, or my lurgy (I had a cold when I started BB squats) and that was why I couldn’t lift the weight. I was really annoyed with myself cos I thought I was doing ok, but I wasn’t.  I’ve since made a conscious effort to eat better & it’s definitely paying off dividends in the gym!

 

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Progress. Detailing The Last Six Months:

I promised to detail what I do & how I’ve achieved my progress.  So, here we go.  Feel free to TL;DR if the history is boring…..

History

OK, so I won’t go too far back.  Er, about 2 years ago I was told I had a crushed L4 & a crumbling L5 disc in my spine – they’re the two bones right above your sacrum.  It was also causing nerve issues at my SI joint, I was asked if I wanted surgery (I said yes) to be told, No. Surgery might not be the best option, lets try Cortisone injections.  Fast forward to February 2014 & I got my injection.

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MRI of my spine. Blue line shows where the damage is.

Prior to this I’d had SPD during pregnancy, two lots of physio as well as Diclofenic, Ibruprofen, Naproxen, Codeine, Tramadol, Gabapentin & Amitriptyline. Mmmmm!! That was over the course of around 5 – 8 years. 

Everything was fine, until July.  I went to move from a seated position at work to standing & I have no idea how I did it, but I caused myself a pretty intense injury; which resulted in me being immobile for the better part of a week. I was miserable, I relied heavily on my Husband to do everything & I promised to do something about it.  I’d gotten nowhere with Physio, so decided I needed a trainer, someone who was versed in strength as opposed to micro movements that may, or may not help.  I already had a gym membership (OK, it was *quite* dusty from non-use, but it was there)

TL;DR: Back hurt a lot, needed to do something.

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Going back to the gym. Happy Face.

So, I went back to the gym.  Met Andy, a Trainer at the gym.  I told him what had happened, gave him a brief history about my back & that I wanted to improve my core.

If I’m completely honest, I’m not really able to detail how we’ve done it (I say we, because without Andy, I wouldn’t have progressed to this level) most sessions I’ve had with him have varied AND we’ve moved to a new gym (He got a new job, my membership was up so I went with him) what I can tell you is we’ve gone from resistance machines to more free weights.

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Left – August. Right – September.

Spending time with Andy helped me to learn that my left hand side was weaker than the right – we’re still in the process of attempting to get them to a similar, if not same level but I have progressed with it.  Some things are now easier with my left than they are with my right.

A lot of our sessions have focused on different muscle groups.  I’ll *never* forget our first leg day.  Never known pain like it! I hated warm up & cool down as well though because cardio.  Cardio can do one, I hate cardio.  When I first met Andy, I smoked – around 10-15 a day, I knew there’d become a time when I knew I’d have to stop, as I’d lose out on a lot of the benefits of exercise due to my smoking. It took me 6 months to stop, but I did.  Finally.

I now do my cardio outside of the gym, it maximises my time with Andy, but it also helps me boost my fitness.  I cycle to the gym, I cycle to work – from home to work is 9KM, from home to the gym is 8KM. I hated that too, but I pine for my bike when I’m not on it.  Even if I’ve smashed my face up, I *do* still miss it.

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Left- August. Right – November

**Important Information**

When I started, I mostly hated it.  There was always something new, a stronger weight, a longer run time, circuits, spinning, squats, lunges, back extensions, kettlebells, assisted pull ups.  EVERYTHING was hard. Everything has been a struggle.  I’ve wondered if it was worth it, why I was doing it, how long it was gonna take to enjoy it/feel better/get stronger.  Then I had a week off as I was healing from getting tattooed.  I went back and had lost so much progress.  I’d gone from 35KG on the pull-down to 20KG, 5 minutes on the Vario machine instead of 8-10.  I was angry.  Angry at myself, I’d come so far & lost so much really quickly.  It did make me see how far I’d come though, which spurred me on to get back to where I was.

I still hate parts, but I do them as I know there is a method in the madness.  One of the best things though?  There are things that I LOVE doing.  I’m not overly bothered with PB’s but there are things that I’d happily do over, and over, and over again.

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December