Injuries Are a Blessing in Disguise
2 Big Reasons Why!
by Alec Enkiri | 5/18/22
Getting Hurt is a Good Thing!
Now, am I saying you should drop a 45 on your toe the next time you're in the gym? Or load 300 pounds more than your max bench onto the bar and take it for a spin? No, not at all.
But be sure to film it if you do!
This guy took me a little too literally.
The fact is though, if you're training hard and trying to improve your physical abilities or overall size and physicality, you will get hurt eventually.
*Knock on wood*
I wish you all the best and I genuinely hope that you never do, but it's pretty much inevitable that eventually, if you stay with this game (which is a requirement for making impressive long term progress) that you will sustain an injury of some degree of severity at some point or another along the way. What really separates the wheat from the chaff here is your outlook: how you view the thing. This is going to largely determine not only what your level of recovery is from the injury - how fully you are able to rehabilitate yourself - but also what you are able to GLEAN from the experience. What you are able to learn from it; what value you are able to take away from it moving forward to use to your benefit in the future. Because the fact is, there's actually a lot to learn by getting hurt. It's not a curse or a death sentence. In many ways it's a blessing in disguise. Today I'm going to tell you guys 2 big reasons why!
1. It Gives You the Opportunity to Learn Rehabilitation Techniques
It is now largely accepted that stimulation is the key to full rehabilitation. Sure, merely sitting around and waiting for time to elapse will allow inflammation to subside and broken bones to mend, but true recovery to 100% and Beyond requires stimulation. Tissues need to be exposed to the appropriate stressors in a progressive and gradual fashion. This allows them to become stronger and more resilient and slowly handle a greater variety of physical tasks without pain.
These are essentially the theories that the current physical therapy model is based on (the practical execution of those theories is not something that I think is always done in the best manner and you could write a whole article on that topic, but the theories themselves are sound). A properly implemented rehab protocol reduces the likelihood that somebody who acquires an injury and "recovers" from it will end up feeling like that area was "never the same again" after the injury, and it increases the likelihood that they will eventually be able to perform at the same level or perform at a higher level than they were capable of before the injury.
Further, it is always in an individual's best interest to become their own best advocate. The healthcare profession does its best, and is invariably a requirement when catastrophic injury is involved, but most weight training injuries are not catastrophic. Most weight training injuries are little dings; little cuts and bruises; and even little mystery tweaks. These little dings and bruises and mystery tweaks are sometimes dismissed or simply not handled well by practitioners. The wrong doctor is going to tell you to rest it, ice it, and take ibuprofen. Hard stop. This advice is going to leave you trapped in a cycle of pain and injury. This leaves people frustrated, potentially in chronic pain, and often, sadly, incapable of performing the activities that they love.
It is also not necessarily feasible to go to a physical therapy clinic every time you begin to present with moderate tendinopathy or a persistent ache. In the United States, for example, unless you want to pay for the physiotherapy out of pocket (which ain't cheap) then you have to get a referral from an orthopedist to justify the therapy being paid for by insurance which means you have to see that specialist before you can see the physiotherapist. This may or may not be feasible on a semi-frequent basis depending on your insurance and income level. As well, many insurance plans require a referral from a primary care physician before you can see a specialist. So now if you want your PT appointment you have to...
visit a general care practitioner
hope he doesn't dismiss you and send you home with nothing but an ibuprofen prescription and an ice pack
get a referral from the GP to the ortho (the specialist)
visit the ortho
hope he doesn't send you home with nothing but a prednisone prescription, an ice pack, and some stretches
get the referral to the physio
VISIT THE PHYSIO! Whoooo!
Never mind the fact that with COVID doctor's offices are often fully booked for months in advance. At some point it's just easier to do your research and learn a few effective techniques that work well for you. Become your own best advocate. It's really not that hard! By learning and practicing these theories and ideas you take another step towards self-sufficiency in your training.
Injury is inevitable. Recovery is not.
But with these tools available in your toolbox you will be able to give yourself the most certainty of it being an inevitability just as well, and there is no better way to learn than trial by fire. If an injury finally forces your hand and provides you with the canvas needed to work with, then I consider that a blessing in disguise. Once you have learned these techniques they will serve you very well for the rest of your life.
2. It Forces You To Change What You Are Doing
We all fall into certain patterns. We like something or we're good at something and so we enjoy doing that particular thing. With that, we get better at it which makes us enjoy it more, and as such continually feeds the cycle. Weight training is no different. We are all drawn to certain exercises, techniques, methods, or styles of training. These styles and methods and techniques give us really good progress for a while, which strengthens that natural draw, and so we subsequently become somewhat emotionally attached to them. This happens to pretty much all of us. It's kind of like the person you lost your virginity to.
The difference between weight training and many other endeavors, however, is that with weight training often one of the best things you can do is the thing you are currently NOT doing. The fresh stimulus. The thing that you are less adapted to. Never mind the fact that injury is often a consequence of doing (too much of) the same thing for too long, but when something does injure you it is often wise (or simply your only choice) to no longer do that particular thing until you are recovered from the injury.
Thus, you are forced to change things up. You are forced to do something different - to learn a new method or style or technique or exercise. This fresh stimulus will not only help you to recover from the injury, but it will also likely spur on new gains during your recovery simply because it is not something your body is acclimated to. As well, now you have a new tool in your toolbox! A new weapon in your arsenal that you can use moving forward even after you have long since recovered from the injury that forced you to learn it.
It's like moving to a new country. You have to learn how to speak the language otherwise you'll never make it there. So with great difficulty you eventually learn. But you don't forget your native tongue! So now you know two languages. Now you can move back and forth between the new country and the old country and fit right in in both. Its the same with learning a new technique or exercise or training style. You expand the toolbox, you expand your options, and with this greater knowledge pool you make better gains in the long run.
Like I said in the beginning, there is a lot to learn by getting hurt. It presents you with a challenge to overcome and material to work with. You owe it to yourself to do what needs to be done to overcome this challenge. That includes learning many valuable new skills that will serve you very well for the duration of your training career, and your life!
This shouldn't need to be said, but don't be stupid about things and don't go searching for an injury to give yourself a mountain to climb. But if you should find yourself facing that mountain anyway then just remember that it's not a bad thing. It may be daunting at first, but you just have to climb it. One step at a time. And when you do you'll be much higher than you were before you stumbled across it.
A torn labrum was one of the best teachers I've ever had.
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