This may be a very controversial subject depending on who you talk to. Let me caveat this blog but first saying, never go against your doctors orders and always listen to your body. One of the problems with any sport is that injuries happen. There really is no way around it. If you train hard and push the limits of your body, sooner or later an injury will happen. What happens when you get injured? How do I get around an injury so as to still maintain my “gains” without potentially injuring myself even further. We will dive into some strategies you can use.
The beauty of the CrossFit program is that I have yet to find an injury that you can not work around. From a tweaked back to even a disease like cancer, there is nothing that can not be modified to still keep your body active. I often get text messages from athletes telling me they did something that irritated a body part and feel they shouldn’t work out for a while. I am quick to respond with, “well come to the gym and we can assess your injury and guide you around the pain” rather than sitting on the couch and waiting for something to get better. The key is deciding what causes pain and what doesn’t. You first have to understand that pain is natural. Pain is your bodies way of identifying that there is something wrong and you should stop doing whatever it is that you are doing. So let’s figure out what we can do to remain active without causing further pain. So for example let us say that I tweaked my back playing with my kids in the play ground. What can I do to strengthen my lower body without causing pain to my back? So most pain is caused because of tension or compression to the back. So squatting is probably out of the question but I can always power walk with a sled to strengthen my lower body without the compressive forces on my back. If I want to work on my cardiovascular fitness I can lighten the weight and drag the sled for distance or for a longer period. If my hamstrings are bothering me I can do work that includes upper body movements that can give my posterior chain a break or I reduce the load and work through range of motion drills while doing some flexibility and mobility (yes there is a difference) drills to help the healing process. I have an athlete with a torn meniscus and I could do one of two things. I can tell her to sit down and do nothing for months while she waits for surgery or I can work around the injury and keep strength in her legs that she has built through months of hard work. It is important to understand that sitting around rarely helps anyone. If you want to heal an injury, movement is the key. For this one athlete, any squatting hurts her knee so what we have been working on is box squatting. By sitting back to a box and limiting the forward knee travel we have greatly reduced any pain that she gets from squatting. She can keep some of the strength that she built up while she waits for her doctors to make the next decision on her recovery. They key is understanding what range of motion the body is going through and mimic the muscle groups and the range of motion they would go through. For example, If you have a pull up workout find a movement that requires the upper back to pull with out the tension stress on the shoulders from hanging on the pull up bar. You can do bent over rows with a barbell, sled pulls with arms, or even tie a PVC pipe to a band and do lat pull downs. Other considerations to take into account are if your hips are opening or are they closing, are you pushing or pulling, or are you squatting or pressing. Another common thing is if people can not run they choose to row, every time! Rowing isn’t the only substitute for running. You can bike, ski, or even swim if you have access to a pool. Don’t limit yourself to only one version of a scale. Whatever you do don’t stop working out and never stop moving.
In an early CrossFit Journal article Greg Glass, the CEO and founder of CrossFit, is asked “what happens if a doctor tells you not to deadlift?” He then responded “I would find a new doctor!” Though I won’t go to that extreme I will say that sitting on your butt is no solution; it’s a band aid. Again I am not saying do not listen to your doctor but what I can say is listen to your body. Your health is in your hands. Rather than looking for excuses to not do something, look for ways to get your body moving and stay healthy throughout your injury!