|Posted by Evan Perperis on November 21, 2016 at 10:45 AM|
I have a piece of fitness advice that is simultaneously the best and worse advice I can give out. I use this principal almost all the time, knowing it is not the correct book answer. I also rarely tell people about it because I do not want to be the source of a debilitating injury. So what is this magically awesome and terrible piece of advice?
Train through everything.
Yeah, that is right. Train through all your injuries, aches and pains. I have been using this advice for about 15 years. Anytime something hurts…I just pretend it does not and keep training. This has resulted in 15 years of being basically injury free. This includes powerlifting, marathons, bodybuilding, ultra-marathons, OCR and backpacking. Sure I occasionally have problems, but I have never had to take more than a couple of unscheduled days off from training in the last decade and a half. Before you close your computer and go running out the door on your broken leg, this advice does come with some caveats. So take an extra two minutes and finish reading the rest of the article.
Caveat 1: If you are seriously injured, do not train through it. As in you are in a cast, you can no longer walk or there is visible swelling/bruising. However, that does not mean you have to stop working out. In 2002 I broke my wrist after falling off a friend’s shoulder and had my arm in a cast. I obviously stopped lifting weights for that arm but I continued to run, backpack, do sit-ups and lots of one armed pushups (Side note: I actually got really good at them after doing so many for several weeks). To this day my patella tendon hurts sometimes. A couple of years ago it was so bad it caused me to limp for the first mile of a run, but it would go away before mile two. One of the generally accepted rules is, “If it causes you to change form, then you are injured and not just aching.” As it turns out, the pain was/is caused by tight muscles surrounding the tendon pulling on it. Had I not trained through it, I would have never known that.
Caveat 2: If something is wrong, you can take a couple of days off to let it heal. This is really just echoing the sentiments in the above paragraph. I have hurt my back deadlifting before my form got much better. I took a couple of days off and let that heal. I have severely bruised my toe trail running and had it swell to the point I could barely walk. I took a couple of days off, did the standard RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation plus a couple of ibuprofen pill) and kept training.
Caveat 3: If a certain exercise is causing you joint pain, find a different one that works the same muscles without the pain. I have had tendinitis in my elbow for months where every time I did free weight curls it caused me pain. I just switched to machines, pulleys and some free weight bicep movements that did not cause pain for a couple of months….it went away. I have had my knee make funny sounds and cause pain on some leg press machines. I stopped using those machines but still did squats. I have had my shoulder joints ache horribly after doing kipping pull-ups as part of a competition…I switched back to regular pull-ups in a controlled manner. No pain. Basically, you can find a work around for most joint or tendon pain.
Bottom line is I think most people feel some joint pain, get worried about it developing into a worse injury and end up not reaching their potential. This is the first time I have ever stated my “Train through everything” philosophy publicly and I don’t want to be responsible for other people’s injury, so approach with caution. The saying of “do as I say, not as I do” may be spot on in this case. So take this piece of advice and do as you will with it. I have my plan laid out.