It seems logical that if you do something and it hurts that you stop doing it, right? It’s kind of like that saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. So why would you train through pain if all you’re doing it gaining more pain? Training through pain or injury seems common place, especially in functional fitness and weightlifting, and yet for the majority of people, doing this only makes things worse.
It’s understandable that for the most part we’re all competitive – competitive against each other and ourselves. We want to progress and reach our goals at all costs. We often believe that training through pain or injury is acceptable and that we’ll fight through it and training will win. Well, the truth is that it won’t. Pain and injury will win. Even worse is that your training will start going backwards and reaching your goals will too.
We’ve personally seen a top national athlete come back from major injury, where he had surgery and was told he’d probably not even walk properly for a few months, let alone compete. He proved everyone wrong, worked hard, tried to avoid training his injured leg and eventually competed on a national level again to do better than he’d done before. So he did well, right? Well, kind of. He also took a risk and trained through pain at times and now is paying the price for his efforts. While he’d did very well, his body is now struggling to keep that pace and because of training through his injury, other parts of his body are taking major strain. He overstrained his shoulders, knees, and more.
He had massive determination to push through it and do so well in competition, but his short-term goals could possibly hinder his long-term goals. He now understands the effects of his rash efforts and has finally taken a back seat to recover from all his injuries properly. Now athletes are starting to overtake him and he’ll likely not do as well at the next national event. If he is smart, he’ll see what he did was not a good idea and he’ll work to recover properly and train for the following year.
Injuries and pain come from two things in training: you’ll either succumb to an injury through something sudden, like a strain or tear, or they come from overuse. The latter is common and because of it not being a sudden “incident” which occurred, people tend to ignore the pain and see it as something minor or a passing niggle. Understanding what your body is telling you will help you make the right decision to either stop training for a period of time or to train around the pain or injury in the right way. There is no problem with training around injury, if done properly, but training through pain or injury is a problem.
If you feel pain or sustain an injury, then best practice is to assess the problem and if it requires a professional assessment, then do just that. Don’t ignore it, especially if you know it’s affecting your training or if it feels uncomfortable and painful. Go see a physiotherapist and let them asses you and suggest proper management for the problem. If they say you can train around it, then understand what you need to avoid. If they suggest taking time off, then suck it up and do it!
If you are allowed to train, but need to avoid certain movements or range of movements, then understand what that means and don’t push yourself to do more – as tough as that might be. De-load the weight, scale the movement and if it hurts, then stop and don’t do it again. Work on other areas which give you time to recover your affected area. Work on supportive muscle groups to ensure the affected area has an easier comeback.
Be cautious though, there is a risk that you could start to overuse or overwork another area – this happens too often. For example, if you have a knee injury and need to avoid lower body movements, then don’t focus only on doing upper body movements which could leave you with an upper body problem later on. Train non-affected areas in a manner which will not overwork them.
Work on your mobility which will help to get your effected area strong and healthy in a speedier time. Work on complimentary mobility too and ensure your body is primed for your comeback, whether it’s months, weeks or days later.
Finally, evaluate what could’ve caused your pain or injury and see where you can avoid it in the future – it’s likely got to do with improper technique or an imbalance of intensity, frequency or volume. Learn from it and better yourself.