Learning the difference.
*Disclaimer - I am not a medical professional nor claim to be. Everything in this article is from my own experience and does not constitute medical advice.
Everyone gets injured at some point. It's impossible not to when you regularly push your body. But how do you know when it's a real injury or you're just hurting? There is a difference and it is possible to keep training and racing with pain. There are different kinds of pain - some can be ignored, some can be worked with, and some require additional care and even medical attention. The key is knowing which is which and what to do.
I used to box. You get hurt boxing. People are punching you repeatedly and are taught to take advantage of any opening or perceived weakness. So when someone lands a good punch that momentarily stuns you, you don't get a time out to recover, you get hit again and again until they get tired or you get out of the way. One of my coaches used to say, "If you're hurt get back in the ring; if you're injured go home." It was a gut check moment. Do you step out of the ring and accept defeat or do you suck it up and keep going? In boxing, Obstacle Course Race’s (OCR's), and in life you need to roll with the punches or the rolled ankles, the strained tendons and ligaments, the sore muscles, and in extreme cases, torn muscles, ligaments and bone breaks. All of it is tough on the body. The training isn't easy, the races aren't easy, and one slip can cause months of setbacks and recovery. For a competitive racer or a racer that just enjoys getting out there as much as possible, it can be devastating. I've been fortunate that all of my numerous injuries and hurts have been fairly minor with a few exceptions. The exceptions weren't caused by any kind of racing but taught me a lot about my body, and knowing your body is the key to all of this.
So you got injured. Now what? The first thing to do after an injury is RICE. Rest, ice compression, and elevation. I will do this for the first couple of days after an injury. I continue to use ice pretty much all the time. If I have an extra hard workout, I'll ice my problem areas (such as my knees) afterwards just as a precaution. If the pain persists or gets worse after a couple of days it's time to really start evaluating it. I've also used acupuncture with great results for tendon and muscle pain. I've had knee pain with the causes ranging from IT band tightness, tightness at the bicep femoris insertion point due to muscle imbalance, to ligament damage around the patella causing patellar tracking problems. Every time I was either able to self diagnose, had my massage therapist diagnose, or ended up at the doctor. But each time I was able to continue training and racing.
Obviously you'll have to modify workouts with an injury. Knee injuries are tough to work around, but it's possible. If it's just hurt, you can often get away with taking it easy during your workout. For example, when I had bad knee pain I would spend an entire workout concentrating on just my knee to rebuild strength and balance. All those small exercises I ignored previously that help strengthen knees were now the only thing I would do. I started slow, because slow and easy is the key. At the first sign of injury related pain I stopped that particular exercise and would either modify or switch to a different exercise until I had a set I could do. Some of my knee pain experiences required me to stop running altogether but I was still able to use a stationary bike. With careful planning and attention to your body you can maintain your level of fitness and even make progress in some of the overlooked areas.
Getting injured sucks but it happens. It doesn't have to be a game ender. Always seek medical attention if it bothers you for awhile or if you are worried about it. Otherwise, listen to your body. Adapt and overcome, and with a little ingenuity you can continue to train and race safely. With all that being said, take care of yourself. Don't race because I said it's sometimes possible and cause further injury. Be smart and be safe. But don't let a little hiccup set you back. Learn yourself, and learn the difference between a little hurt, and an injury and you'll do well. You're stronger than you think.
This article was written by Jeff Rondina, the man, the beard, the legend. When not rescuing damsels in distress, Jeff works as an ironworker rebuilding America's freedom. After work he builds upon his impressive physique with a custom combination of explosive body weight exercises and traditional weight training. Jeff fuels his excellence with a high protein and complex carb based diet supplemented with VPX products and the blood of his enemies. A man among men, he is humble and down to earth and enjoys quiet rest days spent in the mountains.