On a weekly basis we receive emails, telephone calls, texts or have conversations with members about nagging injuries, aches and pains or just plain soreness. Clearly these are all signs that something needs to be addressed and you need to have a conversation with your coach to come up with a plan moving forward. The most common mistakes that an athlete can make are to continue to try and do the workouts as prescribed or they just don’t show up to class. Communication is key in any training. It doesn’t matter what your goals are, what sport you play, or how developed you are as an athlete. You need to speak to your coach on a weekly basis and even more frequently if you are having any physical issues, training for a specific event or just need the emotional support.
I continue to work with several members on a daily, weekly or monthly basis on programming modified workouts based on their individual needs. Sometimes, yes, you need to rest. But taking months off to let your body “heal” will only set you back and will cause the same or other issues when you do decide to return. Complete inactivity for an extended period of time is excessive and contradicts the recovery process. It will only further de-condition you while predisposing you to disease. Rather, modify and change your activity instead of stopping altogether.
So why modify a workout? There are many reasons why to adjust a workout to your individual needs. This is all dependent on your current injury, past injury, or physical limitations. For instance, what if you are unable to jump rope due to a knee strain? Or you haven’t been able to raise your left arm up since you were six because you fell off the monkey bars? Two completely different injuries, but both requiring you to go hide in the bathroom until the class is done jumping rope, just not show up, or talk to your coach about modifying the workout.
Okay, so now you’re listening.. How do you modify a workout? This is when you have a coach step in and come up with a program based on your individual needs. What if Sally had shoulder surgery, now is in recovery mode, is able to do something, but still not ready to use that arm? First off, the Coach will have had constant communication with Sally while she’s been in the recovery process before she makes her big return. When Sally is ready we set up a time for Sally to come in for a one on one meeting. This is where we talk about the doctor’s list of limitations and what she’s doing in physical therapy right now. Then we set Sally up with leg-focused workouts first and ease into single arm work.
The key is to slowly re-enter adding exercises back in avoiding the injured area until it is ready for action. When the arm is able to handle some movement, we will add in bodyweight or band assisted exercises. Slow progressions and baby steps are better than no activity or taking ten steps back.
Will everyone be watching you or think you’re cheating because you’re not doing the same thing? Of course not! We have all been there at one point or another. If anything, the community will embrace your return and give you some words of reassurance about the injury they just recovered from last month.
Okay, so that is when you’re injured. What about when you are so sore you can barely pick your arms up to reach your mouth with utensils, and you have to just lay your head in your dish to eat? Or you just can’t seem to walk up and down stairs because you decided to be a hero and get a 29 on Tabata squats three days ago, so now you need to sit and scoot down each step? Rest is good. But after three days, you need to return, sore or not. Talk to your coach before you get to class, shoot them an email and let them know what’s going on with you. They will give you alternative workload, give you some recovery tools or have you cut the reps to ensure you do not overdo it again.
What about when you have completely fallen off the bandwagon? You’re still in holiday mode. You’re diet has consisted of pizza, beer and kids leftovers on their plates? You haven’t been to the gym in months because at this point, you’re embarrassed about the fact that you can’t seem to remember the difference between a deadlift and a sit up. And you’ve been wearing slip on shoes because it takes too much effort to bend over to tie your shoes. It’s time to contact your coach. Who no doubt has been trying to get a hold of you to get you back in, but you’ve been dodging them because you are so afraid of experiencing the soreness of re-entry.
Relax, take a breath, and pick up the phone or blast out an email to a coach. Let them know you’re scared to death of feeling that first week back soreness, but you know its time you return. They will assist you in finding a way to manage the workouts without over-doing it. Also, will be able to assist you in making it part of your routine again.
Still not convinced? Okay, I’ve asked a few of our clients to give us some feedback on their experience with working with a coach to assist them with returning to training on a modified program. Here’s what a few had to say:
“For those of you lucky enough to witness my glorious fall at the Not Your Average Joe’s Competition, it didn’t just result in style points…I actually broke my thumb. The doctor broke the news that I couldn’t do anything with it for a month – no lifting, no pulling, no strength activities. He went as far as writing a letter to the gym to excuse me from “all athletic activities.” I was devastated. I’d just gotten into a great groove after struggling for a few months and I did not want to give that up.
Coach Max has always told me “just show up to the gym, that’s all you have to do,” so I knew I wouldn’t be using that letter. I reached out to the NSCF community and they supported me with their own stories of working with injuries and told me the person to see was Coach Tara. So we set up a meeting to figure out a plan. I walked in feeling like I couldn’t do anything – no pull-ups, no push-ups, no rowing, don’t even think about touching a barbell – but Tara immediately talked to me about everything I CAN do. Squats, all kinds of core work, one armed everything, box jumps, lunges, the dreaded running. She gave me modified workouts for the rest of that week and started sending the week’s programming every Sunday, with every part modified for me – warm up, skills work, WOD. All I had to do was show up with my plan and work out with everyone else. So far I haven’t had to miss a single class on my schedule and I feel fantastic.
The coaches at NSCF know something my doctor doesn’t know – CrossFit is more than showing up to a gym and running on a treadmill or curling some dumbbells. It’s a community. And I become better, stronger, and more confident every time I walk in the door. It makes me a happier person. Broken bone or not, I can show up and work hard – because the coaches at NSCF are there to support me.” – Kelly M.
“Living with osteoarthritis, most doctors would tell me I’m crazy to do crossfit. They have told me never to jump, squat, or lift heavy objects. But isn’t that what functional fitness is all about?
I started NSCF in March of 2012. Tara Picardy has guided me through modifying all of my movements. Because of Tara, I learned how to squat correctly so I could lift heavy weight. In doing so, I’ve been able to heal some of the damage created from not moving properly. Crossfit is a very important tool in my life. It’s a tool for functional movement and fitness.
Recently, I’ve had an acute flare up of osteoarthritis. Prior to this flare up, I was back squatting 175 lbs, practicing Olympic weightlifting on a regular basis, and was gearing up for my first ever OLY competition. Osteoarthritis can be sneaky. The flare up was caused by rowing, of all things. Knowing the pattern of disease, I knew I was looking at a very minimum of a 6-week recovery. Enter Coach Tara…
Tara sat me down and helped me redefine my goals; to change my focus from competing to recovery. Focus on goals that don’t require heavy lifting, or squatting, (or any bending or jumping)! Seems impossible in CF doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. Tara sends me the programming for the week then tells me my modifications. For example, today’s workout, I will sub push presses for thrusters and sit-ups for double unders. I am now wodding 3 days a week and performing recovery work 2 days a week. At Dave and Tara’s recommendation, I started PT 3 weeks ago. I am 8 weeks out from the injury and starting to feel like I’m on the back end of this injury.
I will always have to modify some sort of movement. We have the best coaches out there. Utilize them. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to modify. Make sure you are doing your active recovery work. Utilize every resource we have at NSCF, especially your coach!!” – Deb H.
“I’m not really sure what I would have done with the personal attention and programming from Tara Picardy after my last shoulder surgery. Right before my surgery, I was involved 4-5 times a week doing Oly lifting, rowing for the CRASH B’s and doing WOD’s. Then I discovered I had a torn rotator cuff and bicep tendon tear due to bone spurs that cut into my tendons. This was my third shoulder repair, but my first since beginning NSCF. I had to stay totally non-active for 6 weeks before I was given the green light to do light activity without using the affected shoulder. Not only did Tara stay in contact with me during those first 6 weeks giving me encouragement, but also took the time to write up WOD’s for me to do to keep the rest of my body as strong as possible and my weight under control after my return. During my post-Op visits my doctor was amazed on how fast I was healing and how much range of motion I had so soon after surgery. He was in agreement with me that it was due to my continued activity. I was/am so grateful that I didn’t have to try and figure out what I can do because knowing myself, I would have surely re-torn from doing too much.
Currently, Tara is helping me with a back issue (ahhh, with this 54 year old body it never ends) and stays in touch with weekly texts and check ins to make sure I’m not doing too much but getting my workouts in. I am forever grateful for the care and excellent instruction I get that keeps me strong and independent through training in functional movement!” –Rose M.
“After I injured my knee two days into the NSCF Weight Loss Challenge a few years ago I panicked that I wasn’t going to be able to finish because I wouldn’t be able to work out. With the help of my team leader and coach Tara, I was able to participate and contribute to my team’s eventual win.
Tara gave me many modifications to the weight loss workouts. This included many upper body movements done from a seated position, since I was in a brace and was not allowed to bend my knee for six weeks. I participated in team workouts and Tara was always there to help me through it all. Tara and all the coaches at NSCF were willing to work with me to keep me going. I supplemented my time at the gym with time in the pool, which also helped me stay on track.
I would suggest anyone dealing with injury seek out Tara or another coach for advice and support. I know I would not have been able to stay so involved or positive without her help. Thanks Tara, and thanks NSCF!” – Jenny W.