Having an injury while trying to maintain an active lifestyle sucks. Period. Sometimes they are minor and we can kind of work around them, and sometimes they are more major and nothing or little can be done.

The latter is what recently happened in the gym to me.

I didn’t have weights come crashing down on me, but my back felt like this.

Over the previous couple of weeks my back had been hurting more and more. I knew I had some knots around my rhomboids and that my right trap was quite tender. I tried to foam roll and used tennis balls to push out some of the knots. A massage therapist was trying to get them to release as well.

Then while doing some pullovers in the 90lbs range and for sets of 15, my back hurt really bad. 3 days later I was having a hard time getting my pickup loaded with trash to take to the dump. I made it though and took it easy until Saturday night when I was sitting on the floor with my little girl. After starting to get up, my back went into complete spasm and I could barely breathe.

One trip to the osteopath and some lidocaine injections later and it still hurts when I stand, I can’t hold my little ones, even the light ones, without causing strong pain, and life is generally not where I’d like it to be in the gym, because I’m not in the gym!

I know this is not a unique story. Many people have experienced similar injuries and it totally takes the steam out of any aspirations. If you bulking, suddenly you’re not making the strength gains you need because the muscles aren’t being loaded. If you’re cutting, you not retaining the muscle because of lack of stimulus, regardless of how perfect your diet is. At least this is what we all think.

Depression sets in, diet goes out the window because what does it matter now anyway. Life is horrible and the only thing left to do is give up on it because this injury is going to last forever anyway so there is no point in doing any work. I guess I’ll be a weakling.

If this is your thinking, STOP IT NOW! While yes it is likely you will suffer a setback in strength or conditioning, it’s not the end of the world. In fact the decrement will likely be small. You might be plenty sore after your first few workouts back, but you’ve dealt with that before and you will likely deal with it again at some point in the future. I hadn’t done pullovers in a while, and while I had the strength to do it, my form wasn’t superb and my triceps are still sore a week later. So here are some things to remember if you’ve been injured and need respite:

First: unless you are out for more than a month, your strength isn’t going to suffer that much. Will you be as strong as you were at the time of injury? No, but you have a long time to lift. A month or so isn’t going to kill you physically.

Second: Taking some time off in the gym can be good. At times I wondered when I was going to get anything else done because of lack of time. I’ve been able to get a few things done this last week, because when I woke up, I wasn’t scrambling to get my shoes on and get on the road. I’ve also had more sleep this week than normal and been able to stay up just a bit later and enjoy time with my wife, even if that means we’re both on computers working on businesses.

Third: Having a bit more time in the morning has meant a bit more time with kids. While I’m not the happiest person in the world while suffering through pain all day, I have liked being home a bit more to see those little people. I enjoy making them pancakes and sometimes that doesn’t happen when I’m rushing home from the gym at 7:15 AM and they need to be out the door at 7:45 AM and I’m still sweaty.

Fourth: Having time to reflect on what went wrong will only make you a stronger lifter, swimmer, jogger, cyclist or whatever it is you choose to do. Thinking back on the past couple weeks I realized that my form was starting to break down on bench a bit as well as squats, things that were hurting my back. Add in the mix some weighted pullups and rows that weren’t perfect and I was able to realize that I’ve been going a little too crazy and not paying attention to all the technical aspects of lifting. In short, my ego got in the way of doing things right. It happens from time to time, and unfortunately this time it ended up costing me 2-3 weeks off than a day or two off. Lesson learned.

My response: I’m going back to try the leg press. It doesn’t use my back (at least I don’t think so…sometimes you can do the most benign of movements and realize that yes your back is still involved) and my lifting buddy will have to put the weights on. I also am only going to do a couple of plates because I don’t want to chance anything. Going into the gym probably isn’t the best idea but it’s going to allow me to test my next point which is…..

Try to work around your injury. If you have a bad knee, then do things that don’t involve your knee. Seated shoulder presses (lighter weight) could be a start. Same with lighter bench press. (I know you push down with your feet on bench, that’s why I said lighter). With my injury being the back, I’m going to try leg press and maybe leg curl machine. That’s it. If it causes pain in my injured area, then I stop. Tearing muscle more than it already is doesn’t sound all that fun.

I might try to stretch my biceps and triceps too. Anything else ranks on my back right now. But so be it. One injury will only keep me away for so long. I’ll be back, it just won’t be as soon as I want it and I won’t be quite as strong as I was. The key to success though is getting up every morning and doing whatever it is you’re trying to be successful at, regardless of the injuries that will beset you from time to time.

Make Today Your Day!