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November 30, 2021

131 | Return From Injury & My Recent Training

return from injury and recent training with Annie Miller

At some point I am sure that you have taken a break from training, whether that be forced or voluntary. So, I’m talking about an injury, or health issue that demands a break from training, versus me traveling the world for a year.

This is a massive mindset based podcast. But will also include my very tangible approach to training these past few months and the results from said training.

At some point I am sure that you have taken a break from training, whether that be forced or voluntary. So, I’m talking about an injury, or health issue that demands a break from training, versus me traveling the world for a year. You could even lump pregnancy into this conversation as kind of a hybrid of those two, being voluntary and involuntary. You certainly at some point will probably take a break from the exact level or type of training you were doing before bearing a child and giving birth.

Let’s start off with one of the most popular narratives I’ve seen and experienced with myself and clients. And that is the frustrations of knowing what you were once capable of.

Common frustrations during injury –

Maybe you’re now working with weights that are below what you used to warm up with. You are extremely de-conditioned. You fatigue much quicker, not only with your muscular system but also cardio respiratory. Even if it’s lifting weights. You might lack mobility, and feel less capable to get into certain positions that you were once able to get into with ease. Or with a lack of pain.

All of these pictures I’ve just painted, number one, I have personally experienced. And number two, they can weigh on a person mentally. And that can be to varying extents. I would argue that the more experience someone has with the come back game, the more they are prepared for those thoughts, feelings, and narratives. I would also say that’s very individual from person to person.

So just know that it’s likely never going to be encouraging to feel less capable than you once were, and I think it’s OK to say that’s justified and that’s pretty normal. We can acknowledge that and then also acknowledge my next point.

Knowing where you’re at – having clarity, and naming the season that you’re in for any type of training can take off some of that mental weight and negativity that we felt with the first scenario that I spoke about. So I kind of see this second piece as grace. Having grace for your self, for your body, for whatever happened to you/you chose for yourself.

Essentially, step two has the potential to prevent you or maybe a trainee from letting the first scenario of feeling incapable OR push them to do too much too soon. Simply because they don’t like that feeling and they want to feel strong again. Or mobile again. Or fit, conditioned. And they do too much too soon and then whether that first break from training was from a voluntary or involuntary event, they’ve now landed themselves with an injury or a training setback again.

That’s where defining the season and expectations for that season are very very important for yourself if that’s who were talking about, or for a client if you are the one leading that client through a given season, coming back from a break.

Also, I want to be clear that this “break” that I’m talking about does not have to be from training completely. It can be that you’ve taken a season to focus on something very specific it in that time other things have not been maintained. And maybe now you’re going back to those things and we have weakness, or less ability than we used to. It can also be a single limb that was injured, or just a movement pattern that you have taken a break from. So don’t think that this has to be a full stop with training and then coming back to training.

So scenario one is the mental peace and experience of comparing your current self and abilities to your past self and abilities. More often than not that is going to be disappointing. And I do encourage people to use your self as motivation as well. In one hand, yes, you may be less capable now. But at one point you did have these capabilities and that can be an encouraging part of this process. Giving credit to your past self and what your body was capable of, and maybe, context needed, knowing that you know what to do to get back to those abilities or to reach those abilities again. And I say context needed, because I have no idea what your scenario might be and if that is true or not.

Next up is a tactical tip for returning from injury or a lull in training..

Which is – leveraging accessory work or areas you CAN push and go hard

Coming back to the first scenario a feeling in capable. I think for client efficacy and even with your self, it’s very powerful and important to integrate into your programming things that do make you feel strong and able. Movements that you enjoy, or movements that you can push hard with. As long as that doesn’t hinder whatever else is important in your training.

With my own experience, which I said I would mention. I am currently in the process of re-having a FAI issue in my hip. We don’t have health insurance, so I’m being a lot more careful than I would have been in the past. Normally I would poke the bear a lot more but without health insurance that’s not a luxury that I have right now. I did pay for a one off session with a physical therapist to kind of get some red flags cleared, and get some exercises that I could implement into my training.

With that, I took 2 to 3 months off of bilaterally squatting. And I focused solely on split squat variations and sumo squats with a very upright chest, using kettle bells. Because these are positions that did not aggravate my hip and I could still push decently hard to gain strength.

Where I was more careful who is in my main variation of split squats. That way I could mentally focus on positioning and pushing into my end ranges, rather than bracing down and handling a heavy load. But then in my accessory work I pushed very hard with Bulgarian split squats, hip thrusts, and Romanian deadlifts variations because those did not aggravate my hip at all and I was able to still feel strong, and push myself. Which is what I like to do with my training.

I had a similar experience with bicep tendinitis back in the day, if that’s even what it was. But, essentially, I had a list of exercises that I needed to maybe stay away from, or modify for a period of time while I worked on weaknesses and getting mobility where I liked it, but then still allowing myself to push really hard and exercises that did not aggravate the area.

So, I’m not a physical therapist, I am but a humble strength coach. But I hope that just some of these perspective shifts, if anything are helpful. And I do encourage everyone to consult with a physical therapist, chiropractor, doctor of whatever kind they need if they do have an injury or discomfort beyond management.

Next up might be one of the most important things because it requires patience. And many people do not have patience, especially in regards to their training.

Let me remind you, I am certainly not the most injured person ever. I’ve only ever had one surgery from training. And it was a meniscus tear. But I have experienced many injuries that required physical therapy, pauses in training, and going through rehab.

L5 S one disc herniation, double roll over car accident, spraining my spine and going through physical therapy for nine months, spraining my ankles multiple times and soccer and competitive cheer, a non-complete tear of my LCL in my knee, low-grade muscle tears, bicep tendinitis/some thing undiagnosed in my shoulder, and then this hip issue,. Which I’ve had hip issues in the past, but they were always manageable and felt mostly muscular. Where is this does not.

This next tip is something that I’ve honestly just learned to embrace in the last three years or so.

Knowing that conservative = continuous progress

Pushing too hard too soon, as mentioned earlier, is something I now associate with a juvenile approach to training. It is impatient and reckless. That sounds very extreme and I recognize that. I’m also not saying I’ll never make that mistake because I’m sure I will.

Especially when I see myself beginning to make progress, or hit some benchmarks, it’s very tempting to go ahead and push those limits. I personally did that the other day with deadlifts. And I’m fine, but I could feel that I was towing the line. And very close to my danger zone.

Often when we come back from injury, a large piece of that is reminding our body that a certain pattern or movement is safe, and it can be safe for our body to do. So when some thing that was scary or maybe felt unsafe to do previously starts to feel safe, it can be very tempting to push, like I said. I say that, because it’s some thing that I still experience. And I think it’s pretty common. Maybe I could be wrong there.

So, keep it conservative, and still progressive, and trust that process.

For me, that has looked like asked to grass split squats for getting into my end range, and working on some of the hip and ankle mobility issues that I have. So loading that end range. And then choosing accessory lists that complement a strong squatting pattern and allow me to push heavier loads.

My personal movement prep is all around pillar strength, so gaining that awareness and stability in my core all the way to my pelvis. And doing things like a half kneeling hip cars in order to just get my hip moving through its full range of motion in an active manner but unloaded.

So there’s a logic, I hope that again, this perspective was helpful, or relatable if nothing else.

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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