Disclaimer: I’ve had two surgeries in the last 2 months and have, at various times, spent 3+ months sidelined due to overtraining injuries in my knees, wrists, shoulders, and chest. I’m guilty of everything I’m advising against. I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of injuries lately as I’ve been feeling super sorry for the state of my pathetic, broken body. Some of the things I’m going to write might sound like scolding or demotivation but failing to be transparent and honest about why injuries occur would be to ignore the best rehab tip in the galaxy: don’t get injured in the first place! There are experts here who have written much more valuable post-injury advice than I could attempt to fabricate so I’ve taken a slightly different angle.
Your body is your responsibility. You are your body.
Those are two important points which sound obvious and condescending but are not consistently and subconsciously respected. I’ve made a lot of excuses for my injuries but a common one is, “my body didn’t cooperate.” What garbage. Like it’s this irrational entity that exists only to sabotage my dreams and goals.
Injuries suffered due to overtraining are the result of negligence, ignorance, or a lack of accuracy in movement. The bad news is that it’s not bad luck, bad general programming, or bad anything else out of your control. The good news is that fitness-related injuries are entirely within the scope of your control if you’re willing to rest and recover, listen to your body, properly calibrate your goals and intentions, and then perform ruthless karate moves against anything that puts your structural integrity at risk.
Rest and Recovery
Work + Rest = Training
Don’t do the work if you don’t have the guts to rest. You should pursue intensity only to the extent that you can dedicate an equal amount of time/effort in your recovery and mobility. Full stop. The credit system here where you can go into debt and expect to come out pain-free has a high interest rate. It is unforgiving. The problem, of course, is that intensity “feels like training” because it feels hard. Well, tell a CrossFitter that the next 3 days are rest days and see how “hard” it is for them to comply. The fact that that is a joke is part of the problem or it’s just not funny because my jokes are bad. Also, many people are time-limited in their training and fantasize that they can make up for the duration of training by increasing the intensity. Also, sometimes we hallucinate that we can overcompensate with higher intensity to mask deficiencies in other areas (diet, sleep, etc.) that are reducing progress towards achieving a certain goal (strength, body fat %, weight loss). I hate to tell you this but that is also very wrong. Rest and recovery come first and it is not extra credit. It IS a workout.
Listen to Your Body
In the aftermath of every single injury I’ve experienced in the gym, I’ve been able to identify the 3-4 causal factors almost immediately just like how when we look at stars we’re actually looking into the past. I tweaked my knee during those front squats because I ran a 10k yesterday, got 4 hours of sleep, ate like shit all day, and skipped mobility work last night because This Is Us made me cry. So why is it so hard to throw a red flag into our own faces prior to the moment that we think, “ah screw it, let’s get on the PR board today!!!” This kind of cognitive malfunction is also how presidents get elected. I believe that it sucks that we don’t have tiny, helpful RPM gauges to monitor, and no check-engine lights will illuminate if we attempt enough silly lifts in a row, but we all just think that our bodies are somehow not affected by simple physics and geometry equations if we see enough motivational pictures of lions and Ben Bergeron quotes in our Instagram feed while we were pounding shaker cups of pre-workout potions in the parking lot before a WOD. What is better? To be able to workout again tomorrow or to attempt a 3RM PR with a 50% chance that you won’t stand up from a toilet unassisted in the morning?
Putting stress on your body requires a view of the horizon. During my Level 1 Certification, one of the staff members was asked if he focuses his programming more on strengths or weaknesses and his answer was, “I write my programming so that I will be able to squat 135 pounds when I’m 80 years old.” Brilliant.
Speaking of Programming…
Croga has some of the most balanced, effective and empathetic programming that I’ve seen and I joined this gym because I loved meeting the attentive and helpful coaches BUT you know yourself better than we do. You know if you’ve squatted too much this week. You know if you didn’t get enough rest last night. We will ask questions, listen, and provide decisive guidance based on in-the-moment observations but you are the first and most effective line of defense in the care for your body.
Calibrate your Goals and Intentions
What are you training for? Regardless of your answer, an increased and inflexible amount of intensity in a compressed timeline is rarely the solution. Are you going to the CrossFit Games? Unless you’re David Musgrave, sorry, but no. But that doesn’t mean we cannot have goals. There just needs to be enough room for rest + recovery to get there safely and patiently. The most useful thing you can be is healthy tomorrow.
However, sometimes we do need to put our fitness on the line. Running a marathon is a good example of going into structural debt. Also, some of our members do things that don’t have “scaled options.” Being an unfit first responder can be dangerous or deadly. There are no weak bad guys for older cops. There are no slow-moving fires for older firefighters. I used to tell my Marines that Al Qaeda doesn’t have a master’s division. Mountains don’t care how old you are. But understanding the risks associated with training for these events and lifestyles is the first step towards approaching the programming with a plan that is as sustainable as possible.
None of this is to say that, after an honest self-assessment, you can’t take a look at the workout and decide to smoke yourself. If you’ve got the time and you’re in a good place physically, let er rip. That’s why we’re here; it feels great and it’s good for you. But that must be a decision and not the default. Be ultra-calculated about letting that stress touch your body.
In conclusion, you are all doing the right thing. You’re showing up, putting in effort, and striving for excellence. The results are obvious and impressive. As the Open approaches, understand that you will be tempted, encouraged, and flat out berated into doing things that are harder than you thought possible, so set yourself up for success and longevity by putting aside the time to rest and recover as aggressively and enjoyably as possible.