I’ve been working with Jamie (personal trainer) for the last year. One of the things he’s helped me with is to address the root causes of previous back injuries. It was going great. I had been training 4-5 times a week for about a year – getting stronger and fitter without any back issues.
Towards the end of last year we decided (Jamie might disagree with the we part 😉 ) to introduce some higher risk movements back into the program to see how I coped with them. Cleans and some CrossFit type movements – essentially hinge movements under load.
It was too much. My back felt tight after the sessions, which eventually led to a lower back twinge. We spent a few weeks reducing the intensity to let it rest. When it felt better (no pain, but I still felt very stiff), I tried to do a normal session with reduced intensity. I stupidly chose a weight that was too heavy and it twinged again. I then spent the next three weeks training at reduced intensity. It helped to not make it worse, but I still had a handful of twinges every day. So, we switched to only walking and VERY light rehab exercises. I’ve also been seeing an osteopath for the last few weeks.
I’m finally at a point where I haven’t had a twinge in a handful of days. I can see some light at the end of the tunnel.
The last three months have HUMBLED me. I have a good mentality around training and one of the best personal trainers I could hope for. But, I’ve realised there is still a long way for me to go. I’ve been able to think a lot about why I got injured and how I can help reduce the risk of lower back injuries in the future.
Here are my insights:
- My warm ups are longer and better than they have ever been. But, I need to take them to the NEXT level – both at the beginning of the session and before specific movements. It’s insane how much better my range of motion is after a good warm up. This might be the biggest thing I can do to reduce the risk of back injuries in the future.
- I need to fully commit to cool downs. If I’m in a rush, I skip them. I almost think about them as optional. No longer. It’s the best time to get static stretching in.
- I need to lose my fixation for high risk movements. Sure, I would love to be able to do the Olympic lifts and other CrossFit stuff – but they will always be high risk for me. Being able to train consistently and get incrementally fitter and healthier is more important. Perhaps I will get there some day – but I’m content to say goodbye to them if that’s what it takes.
- My training split used to be a mix of upper body, conditioning, lower body and CrossFit stuff. Before I got injured we decided to change it to upper body, conditioning, midline / rehab and something fun and safe. I can see now that this is EXACTLY what I need. In fact, I’m now more than ever willing to shut my mouth and do what Jamie tells me to do.
- Being too ambitious with weight choice is still a problem for me. Every time I have to make a decision, I need to remember to err on the side of caution. It’s always better to move a bit faster and better with a lighter weight – than a heavier weight and get injured.
- If I injure my lower back again, I need to immediately stick to walking for a while. I need to see a couple of weeks of no twinges and most stiffness gone before I try and get back into training. Trying to train through it – even at a reduced intensity, only prolongs recovery.
- There is more I can be doing to help improve my mobility outside of my training sessions. Foam rolling, stretching, rehab, massage ball etc. I have plenty of time on evenings and weekends to get 20 mins in. There’s no excuse.
I’ve also had some time to think about other sports and activities I’d like to do outside of my training sessions. Things that will be fun, safe and help me move better. Yoga, rucking, swimming, paddle boarding and tennis are on my radar. I’m not going to set any big expectations – or try to do them all at once. I’ll pick one to focus on and explore the others whenever it feels right.
I’m going to start with swimming. I’ve already booked myself into some swimming lessons for when my back is completely healed. I want to improve my front crawl technique so I can get some morning swimming sessions in. I have a lovely outdoor pool a few miles for me that can help double up as some cold exposure!
So, even though being injured for so long sucks, I’m confident I will come back stronger than ever.