There have been several behavioral observations lately…dun dun duuuuuun…. that have made me realize that it is time to address a few things. If you are reading this thinking “oh my god this is going to be about me”, it’s not just about you and that is why there is a whole blog post about it. If you are currently managing some body issue and doing a great job of it, we know who you are and probably use you as an example for others (keep it up).
Programs that involve lifting usually carry a stigma of big guys, doing dumb things, with heavy weights (thanks youtube). At this point you should all know that this is not the case. How attentive to technique you are, how much you listen to your body when it’s tired and sore, whether or not you tend to regularly get in over your head or not, and your history of what you’ve done to your body over the years are all important factors that can increase or decrease your risk of injury in any given activity. And sometimes injuries are merely the result of an accident that would have been almost impossible to avoid.
When Jesse and I opened CrossFit Squamish we made a commitment to you guys to train you through/around almost any injury that you may have from past or present. The first part of this goal is realizing that functional movements will require body parts to eventually move through a full range of motion. When I first started treating people who CrossFit in Whistler I noticed immediately that old damaged tissue in their body got cranky as they were introduced to functional movements. The most common being people’s restriction in putting their arms overhead (reinforced by health care practitioners who told them not to…. not very practical in the real world). Prior to learning CrossFit movements these people have done a great job of avoiding using the tissue that has been damaged from whatever it was…. old shoulder dislocation, knee surgery, back surgery etc. It’s not realistic or smart to avoid using any tissue in our body beyond the initial healing phases of an injury. Like I said to Andrew the other day, it’s like having your shocks on your car wear out, not bothering to fix them, and wondering why you replace your brakes all the time. A fully functional mechanical system (human or machine) is meant to work as a whole with each piece doing it’s proper job. Unfortunately, unlike a car or truck, replacing part isn’t a great or easy option with humans. I read a great quote in the CrossFit Journal a long time ago that said that if as a CrossFit coach you are not finding weaknesses and discomforts in your athletes you probably aren’t getting them in the right positions. You can thank years of crappy occupational postures and playing hard for that one.
I feel it’s important to make the distinction between “injury” and a “tweak” or “strain” etc. Injuries are serious and should be treated as such. They also tend to be longer in duration. Tweaks or mild strains happen in sports all the time. There are dozens of reasons for this, and they are much less of a concern unless they last longer than a few days or cause other things to flare up. I have found (in general) since I started working as an RMT that people use the term injury much too loosely. Patients tend to want a “diagnosis” so they can say “I have ‘X’ rather than “I have an issue with my ‘whatever’ that I’m working through”, and practitioners tend to always want to call it something. Unfortunately as most smart, thoughtful people realize, life is more of a grey than black and white. I can understand naming something (correctly or incorrectly is important to note) that it creates a lot more attention to the issue and that is gives some importance to what is going on. Fair enough. But walking around saying you’ve torn your tricep when really you just mildly pulled it, for example, is both misleading and dramatic. In my experience the number of actual injuries compared to minor nuisances I see in the gym or clinic is low (very low). I am certainly not devaluing what you may be experiencing (trust me, me life is committed to making people better), and those little tweaks do need to be attended to especially if they are one sided. This is why my approach to assessing an issue is less concerned with what it’s called and more what deviations from “normal” biomechanics, tissue and joint quality I’m finding, how do we manage them, and avoid it in the future. My favourite health care practitioners tend to follow the same concept.
So this is where Jesse and I take on a huge responsibility. Because of my background in health care we are enabled to train you through not only you initial aches and pains of getting used to new functional movements, but also managing other things that come up in your body either in the gym or in your other sports/activities. This is NOT typical in almost any gym environment, more commonly trainers, and heath care practitoners will keep themselves safe by encouraging more rest and recovery (how could you go wrong, right?). But the result of this is often a person losing valuable training hours, risking becoming sedentary, and losing the HUGE benefits of active recovery. There is a difference in resting the area affected versus… resting. We are happy to train you when you are injured or dealing with something minor, but please know that it is a bonus to be able to do so. It won’t always be fun to be on a modified program, but that’s life. As many of you know, to get better at a sport you have to push the threshold. Becoming a better skier requires falling sometimes, and becoming a better lifter requires missing lifts. That’s how you find your genetic potential. But in our gym this approach is only granted to those who have demonstrated safe quality movements and are not dealing with body issues for any given movement. If you are dealing with old or new issues you have work in a safe limit which often means PVC pipe, empty bar or a completely modified movement. Sorry.
We have found that this all works well until communication doesn’t happen. We NEED to know when something is bothering you. If you suddenly “injure” your shoulder doing a KB swing but we then find out that it’s been feeling “tweaked” for a few weeks and you didn’t say anything… bad on you. If you decide to tell us once the 10 second countdown is on the clock that your knee hurts when you run (this one is common lately)… not cool.
Some of you have been amazing about dealing with your body. It often seems that 9 times out of 10 when you approach us with something new we are able to get it with some mobility work. Many of you are also really diligent about using myself and your other health care practitioners for maintenance to avoid injury or to get something as soon as it starts. We praise you for your efforts.
The long and short of this is that we want you to know that we put a ton of mental energy into thinking about how to avoid and accommodate any type of body injury, ache or pain into the programming, so that you can safely rehabilitate that part while still seeing fitness gains overall. We take this very seriously. When we find out that you have been “testing” something or hiding something…. well.. it’s disappointing. You are going to stunt your own recovery and you are reflecting to the community inside and outside the gym that we aren’t paying attention. If you have a mobility issue deal with it before it catches you. Trust me, it’s an easier route to take. If your shoulder tweaks doing a KB swing one day and your shoulder has always had some range of motion issues, don’t tell people you got “injured” at CrossFit…. it’s just not that simple, and it makes us look reckless. Criticism from the outside community tends to come from misinformation (crazy concept hey?!!). Be honest about what you’ve got going on. I got an email one time from someone interested in Foundations who wanted to join but was nervous because they had heard that everyone gets injured there. Can you imagine how that made us feel, given how closely we monitor your movements and cut you off if something doesn’t look right??
We want CrossFit Squamish to be a place of excellence with a reputation of building strong well rounded athletes who are managed safely. We get great feedback and a ton of support for what we do from many physicians and health care professionals because of the changes they have seen in their patients and how we have managed them when things come up. Let’s keep a good situation good. We are working hard on our end, please do the same on yours.