Coaches Corner: Surviving on the Side Line

Every lifter, athlete and gym goer will experience it, even those who take the time to warm up, mobilising, prehab and use correct form within a correctly structed exercise program… you will, at some point get injured.

I know the pain of being side-lined (as I write this is I am suffering from a shoulder injury.)

More often than not it’s the sensible, logical option to rest and recover, I know from experience that pushing an existing injury only leads you down a path filled with pain and even longer periods of time away from the gym and limiting play time.

Be you an athlete or recreational lifter, minor injury can be seen to “come with the territory” an outcome of pushing yourself to the limits, while this is somewhat true, it is not a factor that should be glazed over or taken lightly.

We (men especially) are creatures of ego and our competitive nature can often lead us to try and trudge through the pain.

I’m here to tell you that 1 week of rest is ALWAYS worth it, compared to the potential months, year or lifetime on the side-line that came from that one extra session where you pushed your sore back/shoulder/ankle/knee and led to your now long term and previously preventable injury.

I speak from experience I have in the past played through injuries, as an elite sportsman it’s hard to give in to logic when an injury occurs during an event like a world championships, the blood, sweat and tears that got you there drives you forward to push through, the lifelong problems and dysfunction that follows are not on your mind at the time.

So, I’m going to assume you have now made the correct and logical decision and will not be training through the pain, you have booked a physio appointment and treated yourself to a sports massage. (well done, high five, gold star)

The biggest issue is how are you going to cope with the lack of activity, after all you don’t want to sit on the couch for the next week/month watching your hard-fought muscle mass turn to squidgy mush!

Don’t worry I’m here to help.

1. Don’t panic

Do you know how long it takes for muscles mass to break down once we become inactive?

It will feel like you muscle is wasting away the very next day (for some of the more paranoid meat heads it might even feel instantaneous when we receive the news!)

In reality it can take up to 12 weeks until major losses in muscle mass, this does of course depend on how much muscle you have and what your training for, so a highly-tuned athlete or bodybuilder might start losing mass after only 2 weeks, but you can also expect an impressive uptake in muscle mass once returning to exercise.

Stressing about it will actually do more damage and change nothing, just chill and let your body do the healing.

2. Eat clean

A classic reaction to being injured is the “F this” binge.

We are upset and frustrated by being side-lined, we can’t be as active as we would like to be and we find ourselves sitting around the house dreaming of the gym or playing our sport… the human subconscious reaction is to reach for the cake… STOP!

Nothing good came from the bottom of a biscuit barrel, all you will achieve is a sugar crash, an overwhelming sense of guilt and the beginnings of a set of love handles.

Stick to your diet, bring the carbs down if you want to prevent excess fat gain (to compensate for your lack of exercise) but don’t let yourself get hungry enough to resort to rubbish food.

3. Work Arounds

What’s injured? Your wrist? No reason you can run.

Broke your foot? Work on your upper body.

Of course, always seek the advice of your doctor and physio, but despite multiple broken bones, muscle tears and pulls I have always found there is some way to work around an injury.

We have trained clients sporting full blown casts before, it is down to the type of injury and the individual’s mindset and determination as to what is possible.

4. Become obsessed with Rehab

No one likes rehab, more often than not the exercises are simple and (thanks to your dysfunctions) super hard, but steel your mind, start to look towards the benefits. The rehab exercises are hard because you suck at it or are weak performing those movements, that’s why you got injured in the first place, remind yourself that these exercises are potentially the most impactful thing you could be doing.

I gained more muscle and strength in my upper back when I was prescribed a superset of light face pulls, blackburns and Y-W-T-L’s following an injury despite years of performing heavy rows, lat pulls downs and pull ups.

I hope this will help you next time you find yourself out of action, and cheer you up to know that there are ways to work around any injury and that no injury lasts forever.

Stay strong

S&C Coach
aw Strength Gym


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