Here is my simple formula for my athletes when they “get hurt” (feel pain). Obviously, the best approach is to seek a professional but not everyone has the time or money for that when it comes to the smaller or short term aches and pains.
First, “Don’t Train Through Pain”
When pain shows up we need to back off right away. Figure out if it is going to get worse when you cool off, see if it swells, bruises, or just gets better right away.
- The Good: “I felt a little pain in my back during that squat, I’m going to go relax for a bit and see how it feels.”
- The Bad. “I felt a little pain in my back during that squat, I’m going to go up in weight and see how it feels.”
-The Ugly: “I felt a little something at 100kg and then went up to 120kg and now it really hurts.”
Second, “Work around the painful area to stay active and stimulate recovery until the pain goes away.”
You don’t need to do nothing. We can always find something to do and many times we can take advantage and work on some weaknesses that we haven’t had time for during a full-time training program.
- The Good: “I’ll work on other things until it feels better.”
- The Bad: “I’ll just train through the pain.”
- The Ugly: “My back has been hurting for about a month now and I’ve just been training through it but now I can barely get up out of bed or sit at my desk longer than 10 minutes without it hurting.”
Third, “Spend at least equal amount of time building back up to your original training.”
Meaning, if you took 5 days off then you need to spend at least another 5 days working back up to what you were doing. As in, we hurt it at 100kg and we took 5 days off to train around it. So, Day 1 of being back, to no pain training, we start at 50% or 50kg, Day 2 60% or 60kg, Day 3 70%, Day 4 80%, Day 5 90%, and then we are back to where we were at the original time of the injury. We test out 100kg and if all feels good we get back into regular training.
- The Good: “I’ll slowly work my way back up to my regular training.”
- The Bad: “I feel great and want to take advantage of my back not hurting and go heavy on Day 1!”
- The Ugly: “I felt good so I went heavy too fast and now my back hurts again. So I'll have to take more time off now.”
Now, this approach doesn’t always work but it does a majority of the time. Like I said earlier, the best course of action is to see a professional and have them access you and get you on the track to recovery. When you don’t have that luxury and/or the pain doesn’t feel too serious at the time, try this approach and see how it works for you.
What I do know is that when athletes train through the pain it typically becomes way worse and eventually is more detrimental to their training than just backing off for a few days to a couple of weeks. In the long run, the backing off has little to no effect on them getting better but the continuous injuries and/or making injuries worse have a large negative impact on their progress.
"Short term results and instant gratification is an amateur approach to training." - Coach Chris Lofland
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