“Pain is weakness leaving the body”
– every football coach and Marine drill instructor ever
The above quote may be one of the most famous regarding mental toughness and pushing through fatigue in a grueling workout. And taken out of context, it is horribly misleading and false. If we’re talking about real pain due to an injury, it might as well be “Pain is smartness leaving the body.” If you are training with an injury, and continue to do things that are causing you pain, you are not being tough. You are doing more damage than good, and you’ve got to stop and readdress some things!
I’ve been walking around with a space-age-looking knee brace for the past couple weeks, after finding out that either because of multiple knee injuries or my genetics, or a combination of both, I have a knee condition that causes pain when I do certain things now… like bending it. Yikes! The brace makes my knee feel much better, and I can safely squat and lunge and run if I’m not being a dummy and doing it with the ultimate control. But I’ve definitely had to readdress my training strategy, and until I can get back to full health, certain things are out. You’re not going to find me sprinting a mile for time, or doing 30-inch box jumps, or pistols (but those have been out for a while!)
So that means I’m done with CrossFit, right? If you can’t go all in all the time, might as well hang up the Nanos?
That rhetorical question was meant as a total alley-oop for you to actually shout out, “NO!!” as you’re reading this, but we’ve all been there, and that is actually a pretty common response to an injury – to stop doing everything. The issue with this, of course, is that in addition to being injured, you are allowing yourself to become deconditioned, creating a vicious cycle that makes it harder and harder to come back!
Alright, so I’ll just do something else for a while – my knee is hurt so I’ll just focus exclusively on bench presses and weighted pull-ups and just be an upper-body monster, right?? I’m waiting for that enthusiastic “NOOO!!!” again, but I can’t hear it so I’ll just keep going. This one was a bit of a trick question because I am doing that! But not at the expense of my work capacity, stamina, and endurance work. I really enjoy strength training, so once a week I am integrating a pressing workout (bench press, shoulder press, etc) and a pulling workout (pull-ups, rope climbs, etc) into my training schedule. I am taking advantage of the fact that I have to take the focus away from my lower body in terms of moving with intensity, and I’m going to come out of this with some new upper-body strength records! In addition to my swole sessions, I will continue to do CrossFit, being smart about substituting movements that I know are risky for my knee. Instead of box jumps, I’ll crush some calories on the Assault Bike. Instead of heavy front squats, I’ll work on perfect slow air squats, and then get in some weighted sit-ups and back extensions. I’ll be keeping up with you guys, in scaled versions of the same workouts, and continuing to get fitter by the day.
I encourage all of you that are struggling with nagging injuries or even coming back from a recent surgery to do the same. Continue on the inclusive, well-rounded fitness path that we know CrossFit offers – but be smart and defensive about managing your pain. Now is not the time to get caught up in the competitive atmosphere, but instead to redouble your efforts on using correct technique, and maybe to add an extra focus on a goal that you can now attack with gusto.
Let’s all continue to train hard, train smart, and keep moving forward!
“Pain is weakness leaving the body”