When Injury Strikes: To Train or Not To Train

Life is full of adventures. And if you like adventures, no matter how much you want to live an injury free life, you are bound to face one sooner or later. Learning to accept it, is half the battle won.

Injury is a part and parcel of an athletes life. If you ride a bike, you will skid someday. When you surf waves, you will washout someday. Similarly, when you train, you will have an injury someday. Its a part of the lifestyle. And we take it in our stride. But sometimes injuries also come from factors not related to training – like an accident, surgery, sickness etc. Irrespective of where the injury comes from, what comes along with it is the eternal question – TO TRAIN OR NOT TO TRAIN. And the answer is not a oneliner, I’m sorry. Its much more complicated than that – atleast for someone who really is an athlete or for whom, training is a lifetime lifestyle and not just a one time ‘lose weight quick’ project.

Recently, I was at my strongest and on a quest to get stronger. I had hit 2 back to back PRs and was very excited about attempting new ones soon. BUT, calamity struck and my passion for motorbiking took a small toll on me. My motorbike brakes failed on a slope and my bike skid – and i tore my hamstring and injured my ITB while trying to stabilize the skid. As a result, my left leg was bandaged and completely out of action for a week. So i faced the same dilemma once again. But luckily for me, there is a set of principles i follow when it comes to training and i have long learnt to take injuries in my stride. It’s very important to remember that as an athlete, your most important competition and duty is with and to yourself. And if you know this, you can stay calm, not lose your cool and follow these simple principles to tide you through:
That is THE ROCK. And that too in an over the top action movie. Even he would advise against such stupidity in real life.
Whether you were sick or injured, your first priority is RECOVERY. Do all it takes to help it heal. Let it heal completely. Don’t stress it. Don’t fall for the bullshit movie drama where they show the protagonist training despite injury and winning shit. The rock tears off his bandages from a fracture and goes back to fight the bad guys saying “sorry, daddy’s got to go to work.” in FAST AND FURIOUS 7.  In real life, that shit doesn’t happen. In real life, daddy would be fucking screaming in pain and end up with a necrosis due to the unhealed bone poking into the flesh and blood underneath. Yeah.
You need to do whatever it takes to recover. It wont hurt if you dont workout for a week. But if you haven’t recovered and you push yourself to workout and injure another muscle or worsen the injury, you’re only going to regret it. I’ve been there, and it stinks. Relax. Breathe. If its an injury – physio it, move-heat-compress-elevate, keep the nutrition levels high, take your meds and listen to the doc for a few days atleast.
Kaizzad Capadia pointing out the phenomenal unilateral leg development of Sham Singh Shera – A polio afflicted bodybuilder from India.
Once the recovery is in progress, get back to training what you can. WITHOUT STRESSING THE INJURED MUSCLE/BONE/JOINT. If you have injured your legs, train the upper body on days you can. If you have injured the upper body, train the lower body on days you can.
For eg: I have injured my left leg hamstring and ITB. So after a week of full rest and being off diet and on meds and bandages, I will be training my upper body every alternate day. Since the ITB and hams are injured, i will be avoiding structural movements and sticking to isolation movements for a change. The whole objective is to get some workout in without stressing the injury and allowing it to heal. Anything that causes SHARP PAIN (not soreness) will be avoided. And any workout that does not cause sharp pain will be done.
By doing so, when you are finally capable of making a full comeback to your workouts, you won’t be starting from a full zero. All your hardwork done prior to the injury will be preserved in great measure and then you can focus on rebuilding the injured muscles/parts.
Remember, when people with polio like bodybuilders NIZAR DAWOODANI and SHAM SINGH SHERA can build spectacular physiques without having full function of their leg, you don’t really have an excuse. If they can do it, so can you.
A real athlete never compromises on his protein. Ever.
Injury and sickness and the rest period that follows often includes muscle and strength loss. But it need not be so. Its understandable to take a few days off diet to relax and unstress from the injury/sickness. Its ok if you have to go off-diet because you can’t eat certain foods while you are sick. (Remember – recovery first). But after that, get back on a high protein diet if you can. I personally stay on the ketogenic diet. The 1:1 ratio (Protein:Fat ratio in grams) ketogenic diet has shown to preserve musclemass/avoid muscle loss – Various studies support the muscle preservation function of high fat diets. And during the lull period post an injury, thats the prime objective while recovery takes its time – to preserve and salvage all the skill, muscle and strength you can till you can get back to training completely.
Note: The ketogenic diet being anti-inflamatory also helps avoid inflamation of the injured tissues and the ketogenic diet involves cutting out sugar from the diet which also reduces inflammation and alleviates pain and therefore makes the injury less painful.
Stay away from illiterate ‘DRAGO’ coaches who just want to push you without concern for your safety and health.
Don’t get back to training and be all ROCKY BALBOA on day one. Chill you pants and calm your titties. Remember that you are just out of an injury. Test the waters first. See what hurts and what doesn’t – or if any pain still persists. Start from scratch if you must and gradually increase to a point that you are familiar with. It wont be worth anything if you got back to training and went straight back to the hospital. Your body may have healed, but you still might have a persisting weakness, a scar tissue, a fibrous tissue, a newly restructured bone – so go easy on it. Remember to pace yourself for the long run and not for a sprint. Keep your eyes on the long term and keep trudging on. And you’ll be back to your old PR beating self again if all goes well.
Remember these principles, and you will wade out of your injury/sickness/lull period soon, strong and resilient. I wish you good luck and great strength!

Pushkaraj S Shirke


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