You’ve been killing it in the gym. Your weights for all of you power exercises have been steadily increasing. Your waist line is slowly shrinking. People are starting to comment on your figure. Your motivation levels have never been higher….then BOOM. You’re injured. Not sprained ankle injured, but seriously injured. The doc tells you you’ve just put yourself on the shelf for a solid 8-12 weeks. Say goodbye to all of that hard work, motivation, and good exercise vibes…and good luck getting them back.
This scenario plays itself out time and time again, but have you ever wondered why? More often than not, we can avoid the lengthy injuries that surface after a period of consistent training. Over-training is a very real problem for those that start getting serious about their fitness, but fortunately, it doesn’t need to be the progress killer that it so typically becomes.
Personally, I’ve experienced this more than once. The first time I was pushing myself to lift heavier and heavier on deadlift. The first time I injured myself it was during a deadlift max; I felt a slight twinge in my lower back but thought nothing of it and continued on. Within 15 minutes the pain become overwhelming and I was forced from the gym. Over the ensuing days the pain intensified, manifesting itself just a hair to the right of my sacrum. An inflamed sciatic nerve was the culprit and there was no relenting to its fury. Bending over to put a pair of socks on was near impossible; hitting the gym was out of the question. Luckily, a regimen of stretching and yoga alleviated the issue after only a couple of weeks and I was able to get back to it.
The second time occurred while I was training for a half-Iron man. I was doing tons of cardio, and like an idiot, continuing on with my weight training regimen. I was intent on not losing my hard-fought muscle mass through all of my cardiovascular training and was simply burning the candle at both ends. Predictably, things went south again and the combination of pounding from all that running and heavy lifting took its toll on my sciatic nerve. This time, relief didn’t come until after hundreds of dollars of chiropractic sessions (thank you health insurance!), countless hours of stretching, foam rolling, and yoga. All in, I was out of the gym for four months.
No doubt, I put myself in these positions by ignoring the signs of over training. In order to help some of you guys from going down the same path, I thought I’d share some of the warning signs to look for and bad habits to avoid if you want to stay healthy and injury-free.
Warning Signs of Over Training
-Excessive inflammation in the muscles after training sessions. Excessive pain, swelling, and tightness can potentially lead to a serious condition called compartmental syndrome. Allow muscles a full 48 hours to rest and potentially longer if you’re still very sore.
-Constant lifting and/or pounding cardio without stretching. I never took the time to stretch before my injuries. Make sure you stretch out muscles, tendons, and fascia to prevent injuries like pinched sciatic nerves and joint pain.
-Chronic soreness. A soreness, no matter how dull, that occurs particularly in your joints is a sign that you’re pushing things too hard. Back off immediately until the soreness subsides.
Staying in the game and avoiding the injury bug is just as important as hitting that extra 10 minutes of cardio, pushing the weights, or maintaining that healthy diet. By finding a healthy combination you’ll be well on your way to happy and healthy exercise habits.