Earlier this week I got to hit an epic lower body workout. Now for some people this doesn’t sound like much to shout about, but for me this was a huge milestone.
I’ve NEVER in my entire life suffered from an injury. I played Rugby to a very high standard for years and never even then had any issues. I might have fractured the odd finger or toe that I never really noticed at the time, but in general I was both very lucky, and I kept myself in good shape and understood the importance of injury prevention exercise from a young age.
By the age of 18 and sitting at around a lean 82kg I was able to deadlift 220kg and parallel squat 180kg for reps. Although these numbers increased as I got older, now at the ripe old age of 29 and a lean 94kg I haven’t squatted or deadlifted anywhere near what I did when I was 18 in at least the last couple of years! 18 year old me would whoop 29 year old me butt in a deadlifting or squatting competition.
Why? Because eventually my luck ran out and I wasn’t paying as much attention to my body and the signs that It was showing as I should have been. In the five years or so I’ve screwed up my back so much that I couldn’t walk or stand up when it was at its worst, my left shoulder has suffered a few times with impingement, and I’ve had Patellofemoral pain in my right knee that gets worse every time I take my knee through repeated flexions. Even walking up stairs has triggered it in the past.
I’m glad to say though at the time of writing this that I’m fully pain free. I’m finally on top of things… my shoulder is better, my lower back is all good, and the most recent problem in my right knee is finally at a stage where I can plan an epic lower body workout and not worry about my knee falling off half way through!! How did I do it?
I Found a Magician….
I got myself a Chris. What’s a Chris you ask? A Chris is a mystical creature with magical healing hands, that has the ability to make even grown men cry.
Chris Stankiewicz is the Clinical Director of the Injury Clinic Market Harborough, and the best therapist I know. Chris has been a good friend and colleague of mine for a number of years now, but I’ve never made the most of that. I’ve always known the importance of having regular therapy sessions, but there’s a difference between knowing and actually doing something about it. It took me not being able to even do a few bodyweight squats without knee pain, to have to take action and do something about it. This is when I made it a rule to schedule in my diary regular therapy sessions. I made it my priority.
I’ve been so focused throughout the years on becoming the best fitness trainer, and helping others get fitter and look better, that I neglected myself. I’ve always been in good physical shape, but looking good doesn’t always correlate with how many niggles you have and how your body is feeling on the inside.
I had to get to near breaking point and it affecting my work before I decided to take action. Don’t make the same mistake that I did!
Even though my pain has gone, and I know how to manage my knee issues myself, I’m still getting a Therapy session in every few weeks, just to keep on top of things.
What I learned in the process….
LESSON #1 Don’t wait until It’s too late to seek treatment. Something doesn’t have to hurt for you to go and see a therapist. If you’re training or competing in any sport on a frequent basis then you need to take good care of your body. You don’t have to be in pain or have an injury to see a therapist.
LESSON #2 Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation (IASTM for short) is painful but friggin awesome! IASTM is just a super targeted version of other soft tissue treatments like massage, or self-myofascial release (Foam rolling, stick roller, massage balls etc). It works on improving the quality of superficial tissues such as fascia. Here’s Chris performing IASTM on me last week for your enjoyment and my pain.
LESSON #3 If you can’t get to your therapist as regularly as you’d like, then spend lots of time with your foam roller, stick roller and massage balls. In between treatments from my own home I also use a stick roller as a DIY alternative to IASTM.
LESSON #4 You’ve got to do your homework! Chris gave me some exercises to help with my knee stability. You’ll see some of the examples below. If your seeing a good therapist they’ll be able to advise you on what exercises you need to be doing in your spare time. Most people have the false belief that a therapist is an instant cure for pain, when in fact a therapist is a bit like a piano teacher. They’ll definitely help you get better every time you see them, but you’ve still got to be practicing in your own time!
LESSON #5 Know what exercises you can and can’t do in your own training. Know what triggers your pain, and understand how you can manage it yourself. For me I’ve found that long periods of sitting down in a flexed knee position, as well as squatting in general aggravates my knee. Strangely however I can load the hell out of reverse lunges, so today my lower body staples are Heavy Barbell Reverse lunges, and Trap Bar Deadlifts. I also hammer my glutes with Barbell Glute Bridges and Hip Thrust Variations. Stronger glutes mean stronger and more stable knees.
LESSON #6 Find yourself a Chris. I’m lucky that I know one of the best, but try to find yourself a good therapist with a wide range of skills. Here are Chris’s top tips for finding a good therapist:
“Not every body or injury is the same. Find a practitioner that has more than one skill or technique, who is able to adapt your treatment accordingly. Massage or just exercise alone is unlikely to fix your injury entirely so look for a practitioner that uses a mix of hands on and exercise based techniques.”
“Look for customer reviews – not only on a clinics website where they ‘choose’ which comments to display but also on public platforms like Facebook and google. If possible go on the recommendation of someone you know and trust.”
“Whilst experience is important; look for a practitioner who is constantly learning and striving to improve. Find out what extra courses they have done to ensure you are getting the most up to date treatment.”
I know this might sound strange to some of you but one of my life’s goals are to still be training and have the ability to push myself when I’m an old-timer. Yes, I’m going to be that old guy at your gym that looks pretty innocent and waits patiently until you’ve finished your set, then I’m going takeover and start warming up with your one rep max! Life goals!
Anyway, none of this would be possible if I didn’t make managing my injuries and niggles my priority. Take care of your body because you only get given one of them. Find yourself a good therapist (or if you’re luck enough to live in the area then drop in at the Injury Clinic Market Harborough).
Also known as “The Fitness Maverick”, Gareth specializes in smarter training techniques to get you strong and looking great naked year round!