Risk vs Reward: Is that workout worth it?

Posted By irvinechiro / Date Posted: 2015-12-03

Risk vs Reward: Is that workout worth it?

Almost every athlete or weekend warrior I know has a niggling injury. Maybe it’s a stiff lower back, a knee that gets stiff at the movies, or a tweaked shoulder that needs deep heat to get through a gym session. They’re usually not crippling, debilitating, or otherwise serious injuries, but they are injuries that limit quality of life and performance. And all those people barring the professional athletes got their injuries from training. My understanding is that this is true for most people who exercise regularly. Injuries happen to everyone.

It is possible I am biased due to my profession but I would bet that most people who step foot into a gym have a nagging injury of some sort. The research suggests injuries happen quite frequently.

A recent survey of CrossFit athletes found that 73.5% had experienced an injury during training, 7% of which required surgery. But before we upset the cross fitters too much, realize that this injury rate is similar to Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and gymnastics and lower than contact sports like rugby. Similar polls in runners find that in a given year, 13% of runners experience knee injuries, 8% get Achilles tendinitis, 7% suffer hamstring pulls, 10% deal with plantar fasciitis, 10% have shin splints, 14% report iliotibial band syndrome, and 6% get stress fractures. There’s no debating that engaging in non-essential, extracurricular bouts of physical exertion, also known as working out, carries some risk. Not working out carries its own set of (greater) risks, but that’s beside the point. As many a lauded strength coach has said, injuries are a matter of when, not if. And many of these injuries become chronic injuries that stay with you for the rest of your life.

We need to workout, we need to stay active and move more, we need to challenge our limits, but we don’t want to get injured. How do we limit these injuries? How do we make good choices?

So without going into specifics of technique in certain movements and specific types of pain, What shouldn’t we ignore? What should we ignore?

Trust your gut.

Most of my injuries were preceded by a gut feeling that I should stop the workout. It’s not always a physical signal, and actual pain isn’t necessarily involved. It’s a subtle sensation that something is amiss and proceeding would be a poor choice.

What’s odd is that I can’t remember an instance where ignoring that feeling turned out well. As far as I can remember, it always ends with a tweak, sprain, pull, twinge, failed rep, or worse. It’s never been worth it, and yet I’ve done it so many times. I bet you have, too.

So stop it. Heed those hints we get from our subconscious.

Get strong with deadlifting but just get good at squatting.

That’s what human movement expert Gray Cook recommends. We don't all need to put a heavy bar on our back and squat, most of us just need to put be able to get up and down off the ground without pain. But everyone should be able to squat unassisted and unweighted, whether it’s to go to the toilet, pick flowers with the kids, or perform a nice morning stretch. The comfortable squat is a good barometer for being human. Deadlifting on the other hand when done well can help us maintain a strong posterior chain and prevent lower back injuries. 

Determine why you’re doing what you’re doing and whether it’s worth the risk.

That set of 500 sit ups done at the end of a long stressful day would make you feel better about all the garbage you ate that day but how would it make your back feel. Is it better to have a nice stretch or perhaps do a couple of minutes of focused core work.

Do you really need to deadlift 200kgs? Some people, yes. Most, no. Most would be more than strong enough with a double bodyweight deadlift.

Understand why you are doing what you are doing and if the why is big enough to absorb a couple of injuries then push on. 

Move around a little every day.

Just Move. This keeps you flexible, healthy and well. Doing a light movement session every single morning (perhaps as a part of your morning routine) gets this out of the way early.

Be happy to train.

Dreading the alarm and dragging yourself to the gym each morning can do more harm than good. . You can certainly dread the alarm because who doesn’t like a sleep in but if you are dreading the gym or not attacking your workout with your usual energy then it might be time for a rest or to re-evaluate the way you are training.

Don’t run on empty

Not every training session has to be as hard as you can. Not every training session can be that intense. You can’t go to failure every time. If you do you most certainly will get injured and you will also be putting huge stress on your Central Nervous System which will most likely lead to illness of some sort as your immune system will be drained also.

Just back off. Don’t do the extra rep. Leave one, two, maybe even three in the tank.

Learn the difference between pain and soreness.

Training can hurt. It can “burn” during the session. It can lead to extreme soreness for days after as the micro-tears in your muscle fibers repair themselves. But it shouldn’t cause pain. Pain indicates injury or impending injury. It often suggests inflammation is present and this only occurs when we are injured. Get to know pain so you know when to hold back and when to push through.

Don’t touch a weight until you can successfully do all key movements with body weight alone.

This is a pretty simple concept that many people ignore because adding weight can help you force your joints past a difficult spot. That’s just gravity exerting greater pull on you; it’s not evidence of improved mobility, and it’s probably not all that safe. Aim to be able to do 10 body weight push ups, 50 squats and ten pull ups for Men and halve the number for women as a basic guide.

Have variety in your training.

Repetitive motion breeds injury, whether you’re working at a mouse and keyboard for 8 hours a day, bowling fast balls, jogging the same route at the same pace, or doing the same four exercises for years on end. The benefits of variety go far beyond the physical side and has great benefits for our mental state and keenness to train.

Get professional help.

Whether your goal is to run a marathon, lift heavy weights or simply stay fit, chances are you are doing yourself damage with some form of poor technique. It is always helpful to get a second set of eyes to evaluate your technique to help ward off any potential injuries.

Have a good look at how you are training and if anything above rings a bell then take heed of my advice or if not please give me a call so I can help treat the injuries your training has caused.

If you need any help with exercise technique, injury prevention or treatment of those niggles give us a call on 96305517.

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