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Injury? How To Stay Active


A few months ago, I wanted to set a new personal record in my power clean and jerks. That day, I had already completed a morning lifting session but felt I could do better. With determination in my heart, I returned to the gym in the evening, ready to push my limits. I found myself facing a weight that was ten pounds heavier than my previous best, and as fatigue set in, I doubted I’d be able to lift it. Frustration got the best of me, and in a moment of impulsivity, I abandoned all technique and simply yanked the bar upwards. Miraculously, I managed to catch it, but my reckless approach had consequences; my right wrist emitted a painful pop. Despite the discomfort, I decided to push through and attempt the jerk, and to my amazement, I hit a new personal record! After a brief celebration, I started tidying up the gym equipment, but lifting the bar sent excruciating pain through my wrist, necessitating the help of a fellow gym-goer.

At first glance, my wrist appeared normal, with full range of motion. However, any movement caused discomfort, and lifting anything over ten pounds was painful. This incident raised questions: Is Olympic Weightlifting inherently dangerous? Should I suspend lifting and wait for my wrist to heal? In my opinion, both are bad ideas. While all forms of exercise carry some risks, the overall benefits of staying active far outweigh the drawbacks. Also, it wasn't the exercise itself that caused my wrist injury; it was most likely a combination of my ego, overuse, and not listening to my body, among other things. Injuries are usually multifactorial in nature and not usually due to one specific cause.

So, what's the right course of action when you have fitness goals but suffer an injury? Let's explore a few scenarios. If I had chosen to halt all exercise until my wrist healed, one possibility is that rest alone might not improve the situation. My overall fitness and strength would deteriorate, and I might still be unable to lift safely when my wrist recovered. On the other hand, pushing through the pain is not advisable, as it can impede the healing process. An alternative approach involves focusing on exercises that don't require the use of the injured hand, allowing me to maintain the fitness of the rest of my body. This is a better choice, but I still don’t like it.

Doing a Jerk off of lifting blocks since pulling from the ground was too painful.

This is where Davis's Law comes into play. It asserts that muscles, tendons, and ligaments adapt to the stresses placed upon them. Completely avoiding the use of my wrist could lead to weakness in these tissues. The key is to apply an appropriate level of stress to promote healing and strength without worsening the injury. This entails finding exercises that load the tissues without causing excessive discomfort and gradually increasing intensity as tolerated. Although it can be challenging, this approach is a crucial part of the recovery process.

Now, let's discuss how I continued my fitness journey despite my wrist pain. As mentioned earlier, pulling movements were painful, rendering pull-ups and lifting weights from the floor impossible. However, I tapped into creativity to find solutions. Since pressing didn't hurt, I focused on it. When it came to pulling, I either used lighter weights and moved slowly or relied on lifting straps. Surprisingly, lifting straps allowed me to strengthen my pulling muscles without aggravating my wrist. I also tweaked some exercises to redistribute the force away from my injured wrist. For example, I switched to straight arm pulldowns instead of lat pulldowns. Unfortunately, I had to take a temporary break from Olympic lifting, but I managed to maintain my strength and even achieved a personal record in bench pressing during my recovery.

Comparing this adaptive approach to simply resting or abstaining from exercise, the outcomes would have been drastically different. It's essential to keep in mind that every injury is unique, and some may pose more significant challenges than others. Nonetheless, it's seldom recommended to stop all exercise. If an injury is keeping you or someone you know from staying active, consider seeking the guidance of a fitness-forward rehab professional who can aid in recovery and keep you on the path to a healthy, active lifestyle. Your fitness journey should not stop because of an injury; it can be a detour on your path to achieving your goals.

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