It’s been a little over a year since I first wrote about my low back injury, and I’m pleased to report that I am much improved! In my initial article “Reduce Pain Right Now!” I shared three important steps I took to drastically reduce my pain so that I could start recovering:
Stop ignoring pain
Take responsibility for what you can change
Find as many pain-free ways to move as you can
I won’t expand on those right now because I already did in my previous article, so if you are curious to learn more about what I did to get out of pain (and what happened to my back) I think you’ll enjoy that post from last year. If you are experiencing pain right now, I’d especially encourage you to check it out because once I took the steps I shared there, I was able to dramatically decrease my pain within days.
What I want to cover in this post is what I’ve been doing over the past year to continue to heal, and build my strength and resilience. My specific journey has been with a low back injury, but this information will be helpful for recovering from any kind of injury, as well as things we might experience as we age. Here are three things I’ve focused on in my training this past year:
Vigilence in maintaining movement skills and patterns. With my back injury, I went through a period where I could not perform a hip hinge pattern without pain. This meant any kind of deadlift was out of the question. But one of my biggest goals in recovery was to be able to maintain my body’s ability to safely perform as many of the fundamental human movement patterns as I could. So, I focused on the hinge pattern starting with some very basic hip bridges, followed by a series of regressions over months of time that eventually had me back at being able to deadlift again without pain. I also needed to be able to maintain power and explosiveness in my movements - unfortunately this is one of the first things people lose as they age, so maintaining it is mission critical. Since much of my power development previously came from kettlebell ballistics (a hinge pattern) I had to look elsewhere for pain-free options. I worked on speed in ladder drills, and explosiveness in things like medicine ball drills and power step ups.
Start loading non-painful patterns as soon as possible. There was certainly a period of time when I did only bodyweight training, but truthfully it didn’t take long for me to be able to start doing weighted exercises in patterns that were pain-free. I kept my legs strong by adding load to split squat and lunge patterns where I was able to stabilize my spine vertically. Taking heavy weights overhead wasn’t possible until I regained more core strength, but I was able to keep my upper body strength up with floor presses and bench presses. I can say without a doubt that maintaining strength in the areas that I could, absolutely helped me recover faster, and I’ve seen it with our clients too. As Caleb mentioned in his article last week, he kept training his lower body strength in a variety of ways while his wrist was healing, and it has made a huge difference in his overall recovery.
Let go of past glories. As I already mentioned, my biggest goal was and still is to maintain my ability to move in all the ways the human body is supposed to move for as long as I possibly can. I want to be able to deadlift even if never again reach my previous max of 225 pounds because it’s a fundamental movement pattern I don’t want to lose access to. I want to be able to be able to move quickly and explosively. I want to do kettlebell ballistics even if I never again reach my previous personal best of 148 snatches with 12kg in 5 minutes.
Helping our members maintain movement skills, and focus on loading non-painful patterns can be easily handled in our programming. But that final step of letting go of past glories is a little harder to do. But I know for me, it was a major help in allowing me to recover such that I was able to complete my StrongFirst Instructor recertification at the end of October. Truly, there was a point where I was not sure if I would be able to maintain this certification because deadlifts and kettlebell ballistics are a big part of the requirements. Although the numbers I had to hit were lower than my previous bests, it’s a major accomplishment for me to have been able to patiently build back my strength in a pain-free, healthy way.
Whether you are recovering from an injury, or noticing the changes that occur as time marches on, I hope you’ll keep these ideas in mind. I can say with certainty they have helped me be able to get back to doing activities I had to set aside for a while, stay out of pain, and be able to accomplish some new goals along the way!
Strength & Love,