The rehab and strength and conditioning worlds have a few things in common; one is knowing when pushing through or ‘trying harder’ is not the answer.

In S&C, this can mean noticing that a plateau in your numbers, sickness or excessive fatigue is due to overtraining – is training more and/or harder going to help with this problem? Absolutely not. A week of de-load will do far more, allow the body to bounce back properly from its fatigue and get fitter and stronger as a result.

Similarly, when we have an injury, we need to see how taking a step back is really going to help us move forward. If your goal is to play your sport, how is playing through an injury going to help you? It will instead limit your performance, probably lead to a second injury and ultimately cut your career short. I’ve seen many people quitting sports because of injuries – not old age or a loss of passion for their game. They simply kept trying to play through the various ‘niggles’ until eventually they were both mentally and physically worn out from the effort of it all.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here is my advice:

  1. See the long game. A lot of athletes I’ve seen start breaking down in their 20s and it can be a downward spiral from there. Either they ‘rest’ as their solution, get less fit while doing so and try to come back at the same level as before (with a now weaker body) OR they push through the pain because of management, pressure from peers or feeling the need to look ‘hard’. There’s nothing cool about being broken down at 30. Work with a therapist and/or S&C coach. If you are constantly asking, ‘how do I get through the next game?’ rather than ‘how do I keep playing until I’m 40+?’ I recommend a shift in mentality.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing

Emily (left) still as active as in her 20s and keeping up with all the 20 year olds on the Ultimate pitch! She has had a previous ACL tear but continues to do strength work, cycle and train at a level that works for her.

2. Not adapting to injury. Sometimes, life throws you a curveball, such as a dislocated shoulder or an ACL tear. You need to realise you cannot do the exact same things as you did before. A change in training is required. You may have to do more rehab or strength work than your teammates. You may not be able to do the same big lifts as them. However, just because you aren’t lifting as heavy or perhaps running as much, doesn’t mean you aren’t still able to compete with them on the pitch. The ultimate goal should ALWAYS be, ‘what gets me on the field feeling fit, strong and pain-free’? The bits in between need to be personalised to your needs and it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing if you are succeeding at your real goal.

Examples:

  • Overhead pressing will be a caution for a previously dislocated shoulder until enough strength has been definitely restored.
  • Reconstructed ACLs may get aggravated in the first year or two from excessive running and you may want to adapt your extra cardio to a bike or pool instead.
  • Sore knees or back only when squatting? Don’t squat. Time to find a new exercise that gives you similar results.

‘Sometimes you need life to save you from what you want to give you what you need.’

3. Recognise that sometimes you think you’re doing the difficult thing by getting to the gym 6 times a week when in fact for YOU, the difficult thing may actually be to take a step back. Can you face that mental challenge and accept that the results will come if you are smart and listen to the professional advice you get? Can you deny yourself instant gratification to instead achieve longevity? Patience is a virtue. You will be rewarded.

Addiction: ‘preoccupation with a behaviour…temporary satiation…negative consequences…’

4. Don’t be stingy. Spend the money on your health. Money’s purpose is to give you a higher quality of life – why would you hold back from spending it on an area that has been proven to help with everything from cancer to preventing heart disease to keeping your memory and thinking skills strong? Prioritise your physical health – it is extremely beneficial to many areas of your life.

So, have you had similar experiences? Do you know someone who could do with this advice? Share with me below any thoughts you may have!