Mar 022010

The author and SammySometimes we let our goals and our bull-headedness keep us from using good judgement when it comes to training and exercise. A knee is swollen and hurting but we still go out for a morning run. Our rotator cuff muscles hurt long after we stop swimming, but we dive in the water and workout as if the shoulder pain didn’t exist. Before long, we end up in rehab. If only we had listened to our bodies sooner, we could have avoided weeks of physical therapy and rehabilitation later!

I have had more nagging injuries than I’d care to mention, only one of which escalated to a point where it required physical therapy. In the case of my recent shoulder tendinosis, which took three months to rehabilitate, I knew I should back off, but I was in the middle of a 2 day swim meet and I just kept on going, despite what my better judgement was telling me to do. In the cases where the injury mended within days, I adjusted the way I taught my classes so I wouldn’t overly stress the tender area and adjusted my workouts so the muscles had time to recover. Often figuring out the root of the injury was beneficial.

In 2008, I pulled an adductor muscle on my left leg 3 weeks before the USMS Long Course swimming nationals. Despite the fact that breast stroke was my main event, I had to stop swimming that stroke altogether for nearly two weeks and also iced the muscles three times a day and took anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling. I determined that I was tighter in the glutes and piriformis on the left leg and, which resulted in too much strain on the adductors when swimming breaststroke. When I resumed swimming breast stroke again (a week before the championship), I always stretched the piriformis first. I have never had a problem with my adductors since.

My point? Listen to your body. If something is hurting, something about your training needs to change. Determine why the injury is happening, reduce your training and ice, and pursue training that is non-traumatic on the injured site. When my shoulder was at its worst, I increased my running and often got into the pool and did long kick sets with a board. I was able to stay in shape without hurting my shoulder. This morning, once I take my kids to school, I will swim rather than do my normal Tuesday run because my knees ache after wading nearly 8 miles up Sabino Canyon in my bare feet. Every day, I think about what kind of training will work best for my body given its current circumstances.

Here’s some more tips on how you can prevent injuries”
- always warm up before and cool down after high intensity exercise
- find different modes of exercise (crosstraining) to avoid putting the same stress on the body day after day
- stretch after every workout
- adjust training whenever something starts to hurt and ice inflammed areas regularly
- strength train appropriately for the activities you pursue
- assess the source of the injury and aim to remediate the problem. A common problem is too much strength or tightness on the dominant side of the body. Strength train and stretch to minimize these imbalances.

Follow these principles and you’re likely to enjoy many more enjoyable and injury-free workouts. Well, I gotta go – the pool is calling my name right now!

2 Responses to “Listen to your Body”

  1. Marge Pellegrino says:

    Nice piece Susan!

  2. cheryl Palen says:

    Hi Susan,
    Great performance at the Tucson Tri last weekend-
    I see you are racing for Team Xood. Any chance I can join? How does one hook up with them? thanks!
    Cheryl Palen

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