I’ve had a few training-related injuries in my time. Some mashed knuckles, bruises and a partial shoulder dislocation due to kung fu. A destabilised shoulder after some really bad press ups (definitely improved since then!) and a nasty ulnar nerve problem after I hit my elbow off a wall. All on the same arm. Ouch. But, thanks to my brilliant physio, Chris, I have always been sorted out, patched up and sent on my way with a lot of rehab exercises to do.
That was all when I trained recreationally and still had a full time desk job as a university teacher and career coach. Three years ago, I gave up that job to teach yoga and retrained as a personal trainer and fitness instructor. My typical week sees me teach 14 hours of 1:1 sessions, eight hours of group fitness and yoga classes, walk approximately 100km, do a couple of 5-6km runs, weight train 2-3 times and train in boxing. That’s quite a difference, especially when you suddenly up your game at 42 years old and keep adding on over the years.
So it wasn’t really a surprise when the old bod started complaining about a month ago, but the speed at which I disintegrated gave me a scare. Had I started this new ‘healthy’ career too late? How much longer could I feasibly work with my body before I had to explore more coaching-based options?
(See above: officially broken…)
I had initially injured my right hip dancing Argentine Tango last month when someone led me into a too-vigorous gancho: one of those fabulous flying leg decorations you may have seen on Strictly. I felt something inside my leg wince, hobbled home and rested it, waiting patiently for whatever was up to recover. It didn’t. Teaching and practising yoga gradually became torture as so many poses need an external rotation of the hip, and that was exactly what was triggering my pain. My sacroiliac joint on my right side (a source of constant pain for years which has necessitated a hot water bottle being wedged into my back every night just so I can sleep) started screaming even more loudly than usual and then my right knee suddenly balked at any weight-bearing exercise. Walking up and down stairs became something I wanted to avoid, weight training was agony and my reliably lovely yoga actually hurt. I was ready to take out shares in ibuprofen gel. The only thing I could do comfortably was box; thank goodness for small mercies.
To finish things off nicely, I demonstrated a side plank too quickly in a class and felt my right bicep tendon go ‘ping’, swiftly followed by pain in my shoulder. I booked to see my physio and was bracing myself to be told how much I would have to drop from my schedule and that I was officially old and falling to bits.
But not so! Yes, I had acute injuries in my hip and shoulder but the larger problem was not to do with age. Chris noticed that my right leg is significantly longer than my left, something that hadn’t been apparent when we had previously been focused on fixing my shoulder. It took an exercise book about half an inch thick wedged under my left foot to bring my hips and pelvis into line. It’s not something that would have been a problem if I had kept my desk job but the sudden increase in activity was exaggerating the uneven load through my joints and accelerating all the nasty biomechanical side effects. My hip had no chance of healing with everything out of whack. Oh the irony that I am now studying functional anatomy for my corrective exercise course…
So, after some excruciating massage therapy I was able to walk away (just) knowing I was on the mend and not just a worn out old bag. I am wearing a lift inside my left shoe to realign me and my muscles are all currently renegotiating and relearning my movement patterns now that everything is in its right place. My SI joint is much less painful, I took 30 seconds off my mile per minute run pace yesterday and my first weight training session after treatment found my left glutes and hamstrings finally earning their keep after years of letting the right side do all the work. While I feel like a Thunderbird puppet getting used to walking with the heel lift, everything is on the mend and I can carry on doing the job I love.
Lessons learned: I need to maintain myself with more regular massage, that’s for sure, and take more rest breaks. Oh yeah, and signing up to learn biomechanics and corrective exercise was a great idea! You learn a lot from your own injuries when it comes to working with clients, as well as having more empathy for their pain and frustration so, if I was going to get injured, learning how to understand and fix dysfunctional bodies has come at the right time!
For you guys, attention to correct alignment is essential to avoid injury, so bear with me when I’m picky with you; I don’t want you to end up seeing your own physio with a list of injuries as long as your arm. HIIT in particular can aggravate problems if you have imbalances when accelerating and decelerating in jump drills. Pay close attention to advice from your trainer and learn to listen to your body; if something hurts, pain is your body’s message to you to stop, so don’t push beyond your limits. Progressive overload is fine; sudden increased demands on yourself are not. Ask for help, get advice and stay safe. Happy training!