Training Around Pain and Faster Rehab (Part 3)

Your Arsenal Of Professionals

Most injuries linger if you continue to play. I know that you want to play, so read on.

A doctor’s job is to make your pain go away. So the doctor tells you to rest… your pain often goes away. But you don’t just want your pain to go away. You want pain below some threshold so you can ignore it. You want to keep playing.

A physical therapist’s job is to make your pain manageable. They help you get full range of motion and control of the hurt area. Your exercises address symptoms of your injury. When you stick with the PT program long enough, the exercises also address causes of the injury. But you don’t have forever to manage the pain. You have to keep playing.

My job is to show you paths around your pain so you can keep playing. I give you options for training that will keep you in shape or improve some physical part of your game. I teach you strategies for ignoring your pain when it is necessary. You need to rest and you need to stick to the program in order to fully heal an injury. I do not promise to reduce your pain or to manage it in any way. I promise to get you on the field by your deadline in any way possible.

I worked with an athlete recently who we will call Jake. Jake had trained consistently – and hard – for about 6 months. He was getting stronger and faster every week. He had not competed seriously in that time. It was the perfect offseason.

Sometimes Everything Goes Wrong

While attending his second set of tryouts on consecutive weekends, Jake had a minor calf strain. He did the right things that night and felt comfortable playing on Sunday. Then he had a significant hamstring strain.

Jake had been following an offseason program I wrote, but attendance in the first tryout was not part of our plan. He described it as, “a chance to get some touches.” The weekend ended up being 85 degrees F and the tryout was 4 hours of mostly scrimmaging each day.

When you have not played seriously in 6 months, that kind of weekend is called a “shock load” in coaching. It is a big spike in effort and stress for your body. After a shock load, you typically need a week or two of easy training.

The second weekend of tryouts — cooler weather but more vigorous play — was too much for his system. Despite the hamstring strain on Sunday, Jake was invited in to a second round of tryouts. We had 2 weeks to prepare.

How We Overcame His Hamstring Strain

I planned for him to massage his feet, calves, and hip flexors every day. This is because hamstring strains are almost never related to hamstring function. The hamstring gets overworked trying to do the job of nearby tight/lazy/hurt muscles.

I also planned for him to do 1-leg deadlifts with two dumbbells (touching the bells to the floor) every day. He would follow that with a special running warmup sequence. This is because strength-while-stretched (eccentric strength) is the most useful quality for preventing — and thus, recovering from — a hamstring strain.

He got his conditioning from intervals on an exercise bike and rowing machine. The intervals were mixed with kettlebell swings, easy jumps and hops, and throwing medicine balls. All of this was because ultimate is not an endurance sport. You need bursts of really high output while tired from continuous, but light movement.

You Will Want To Panic

Every day was a little painful. In fact, we tried to find the end of his range of motion in every session. We tried to find his pain threshold in every conditioning session and every running warmup. Then we practiced coping with that pain while continuing to work. Most of the techniques involved deep focus and deeper breathing.

Every session was frightening. Jake was not able to cut hard or run full speed until 2 days before the second round of tryouts. But he showed up early, completed our training warmup, then hopped in with the team.

Jake had to sit out a few reps during the tryout weekend, but he made the team and had a successful start to the season. Another injury benched him later… but that is a story for the next piece.

You Have To Believe – And You Need Help

For now, remember this: no injury is irrecoverable and full recovery is not necessary to get back on the field. Long-term, at some point you have to take time off and let things heal. But short-term, when the stakes are high and time is short, there is always a way to get back on the field.

Your doctor wants you to rest so your pain goes away. Your physical therapist wants you to progress slowly so you fix the causes. I also want those things. But I want you to lace up and play when you have to — and to do so, you have to believe you can get back out there!

Once you believe that, we are ready to plan your work. It may hurt. It may be scary. And it won’t work forever. But when you have to go, we will get you ready to go.

That’s what training around pain is all about. If you are dealing with a hamstring strain, try out these ideas on your own. If you want personal guidance and you have a tight deadline, contact me directly. I’ve got you.


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