Here's the deal, experiencing pain stinks. Whether it is that steady throbbing back pain or something more acute like nerve pain, pain is not fun. It can change how you move. It can wear on you mentally. Pain is also very good at making you avoid movement qualities you need to fix.
At some point in life, you will experience pain. I wish there was a way to go through life in a pain-free state but I haven't found one comprehensive way yet. I challenge you to think of pain as a signal. Although we give it a negative vibe, it is extremely valuable information that we can utilize to move forward.
What should you do if you are experiencing pain?
The first step is to rule out any major structural issues (ex. a bone break). If you are in the clear there, the next step is to look at your movement quality.
Last month, I posted about the assessment I use with many different clients. If you haven't implemented some of the tests, start with the Range & Stability section and see if you have any glaring limitations. If you do, this is a great point to start when trying to manage your pain.
Note: You might be surprised to find out that your painful area isn't the lowest-performing during the Range & Stability tests. That being said, your low performing area could be placing enough stress on the affected area that it expresses as pain.
Once you have an idea of where your limitations are, you can better use your training to fix these limitations and properly disperse force throughout your movements. Generally, I see pain experienced when one part of the body has burdened too much of the load for too long. While pain might pop up overnight, it is often caused by repetitive actions over time.
Guess what helps fix that pain? Repetitive HIGH-QUALITY actions over time.
1) WARM-UP This is one of the most critical steps to maximizing your training longevity. I was lucky to have a gym teacher in high school who drilled me with this point early on in my athletic career. He would always say, "If you do not have time to warm up, you do not have time to train."
While we do not think of the warm-up as the meat and potatoes to a training session, it is such a critical piece of the process. You can get by with skipping it from time to time, but the chronic missing of this phase will catch up to you.
The three ingredients I find most valuable to a good warm-up are:
2) FIND WHAT YOU CAN DO AND MAXIMIZE! In the world of athletics, I hear a lot of the word "can't" and it drives me bonkers. When I start working with a new client, I'll often lay out the following understandings:
These three points help clear the air and minimize any intense expectations. I'm not expecting you to be a perfect mover and have it all figured out. You are going to come across things that are challenging and take time to learn. The training process is continually evolving due to the input of information that occurs.
Instead of focusing on what you can't do, focus on what you CAN do. For example, I work with some athletes who are in their 60s. They are unable to complete a full range squat due to structural limitations that have developed over the years. Do we completely scrap the squat pattern? No way!
We find variations that work for them to complete and work to get better over time. It might be a very gradual process but it is still action versus inaction.
3) TRY DIFFERENT POSITIONS AND RANGES OF MOTION.Point #2 funnels into point #3. As you're figuring out what you can do, using different positions or ranges of motion can allow you to achieve more. For example, if you are unable to complete a pain-free full squat, start with a range of motion that you can complete without pain. You could try a slightly staggered stance or a mild adjustment in foot position.
These simple tweaks will help you learn a system that works for you!
Even without pain, I enjoy changing position and range of motion often during training. Why? Sport motion is not always a perfect squat, push up, or row. It might be a staggered, quarter, underhand, or rotational position. Sport has endless movement possibilities. Adding some range and position variation can help you maximize your abilities.
Looking for a starting point? I recommend starting with your 10-day movement challenge. This challenge is completely free and will send you guided routines for 10 days. They require minimal equipment and will start you on the path to more enjoyable, restriction free movement. Give it a go and see how you can progress in just 10 days!
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Coach Bo's blog
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