How To Progress Your Training... Even When Injured

True Protein Blog Avatar Fallback reviewed by our Nutrition Team 21 September 2018

Exercise Scientist and Strength Coach, Dan Malmberg, explores how to bounce back from an injury and still achieve success

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How To Progress Your Training... Even When Injured

The number one thing that needs to be right before any training plan will ever work is your mindset. Mindset matters! Your mindset is critical when it comes to successfully overcoming an injury (or any setback). I truly believe the obstacle is the opportunity.

How many of you have found yourself pushing the brakes on training or any kind of plan every time you hit a wall? Maybe due to an injury, maybe because you lost some motivation or didn’t progress as fast as you would have liked. Perhaps you have a sprained ankle or bursitis in your shoulder or even something worse like a torn bicep or ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament)? The question is, how do you react? Do you curse, moan and complain and use it as an excuse not to train? Procrastinate on your goals and what you want to achieve?

Don’t worry, it’s nothing to be ashamed about. We have all been there… I know I have. Many times. It’s OK that it happens, however, you must recognise the negative thought process and become conscious of the pattern. When you realise you’re making excuses and stories to tell yourself, understand what’s important is what you now do about the situation. How do you react and respond to the injury or setback? What is the story you tell yourself? This repeated story becomes your reality. You must take responsibility for it.

Do you continue to complain? Or do you train around your injury? Do you adapt and overcome it? Do you, instead of letting yourself get down on the setback, take the opportunity to become stronger? Take the challenge as an opportunity to adapt and overcome.

Enter Sean ‘The Sheep’ Brickwood. Sean is a sponsored True Athlete, two-time Regional CF Athlete and recently qualified for the 2018 CrossFit Regional competition… until another injury set him back.

Sean has suffered from an endless amount of injuries. From lumbar bulging discs to torn tendons in his wrist and now his bicep being severed during training. However, Sean just keeps finding a way to progress. No doubt Sean is only human too and has dealt with some deep lows from them. It’s only natural for us to have them. But. It is your choice whether you wallow in your setback or try to adapt and overcome it. Sean is a rare individual who just keeps on overcoming his injuries and become a better, stronger and more resilient human from them. Honestly, he truly is a tough and resilient person in how he seems to overcome all odds and achieve what he has despite the setbacks. Some people would quit while Sean finds new ways to progress to the next level.

I have worked, trained and consulted with Sean for years. We actually started training together at the same gym, CF BodyM. This was at a time before Reebok, before Sean was a demigod beast of fitness and at a time where I looked like a baby giraffe! Basically, another life.

At a time where his work ethic and dedication to sport overtook mine, I got the tremendous opportunity to help guide him through his training process. During the process, he had to overcome bulging discs while prepping for the CrossFit regional competition in 2015 and in 2016. Both times he managed to be healthy enough to compete despite not being 100%. That, in itself, is a tremendous achievement.

Now I am helping him to build his lower body strength and core while he is recovering from a tear to get him ready for the 2019 CrossFit Games season. Sean needed surgery and couldn’t use his arm for months, but that didn’t stop him from training and progressing his lower body strength and upping his back squat personal best to 195kg, a tremendous achievement for someone who has always struggled with lower body strength and suffered lower back issues.

To get upset, sad and complain… that is the easy option.

The thing is, injuries and setbacks are a fact of life. One day, no matter how smart or careful you are, something won’t go to plan. It may hit you by freak chance or from pushing yourself too hard. However, it is your choice whether to view it as something happening to you or for you. Injuries can create a hidden opportunity to progress. The obstacle blocking you becomes your opportunity to overcome it. Take that mindset and you will be unstoppable and achieve almost anything you want in the gym and in life.

Q&A with CrossFit Regionals’ athlete Sean Brickwood

How do you push through an injury?​​

I persist in recovering and overcoming injuries mainly because I have to. I’d be no good if, as soon as I was injured, I gave up and let the injury rule my life. I find I can make the most improvement in my life and training when faced with the bigger adversities, and then it makes the success that may (or may not) follow that much more rewarding.​

Sure, having faced a couple of serious injuries and subsequent surgeries to fix said injuries, it has taken a serious toll on my life, from my health mentally and physically and on other facets, but having been through all that I know I can handle just about anything that comes my way. And even though it seems like the world is coming crashing down around you at the time, it puts things into perspective and you get over it pretty quickly and move on. At one point I was of the mindset that qualifying for Regionals and even the Games was the be all and end all of life. But it’s not. It’s just a bit of fast exercising for a time.​

I cherish my fitness and ability to move well, be strong and ‘functional’ above all else now, and whatever comes from that, so be it. I guess mentally I have been able to make the most growth from the past couple of years and serious injuries. A blessing in disguise, if you will.

What advice would you give to people who are hitting walls or battling with injury/failure points?​

Take it back to the very basic stuff. You are never too good to forget about the ‘easy’ work. And 90% of the time, this stuff can be quite challenging, regardless of your experience or strength. It might seem a bit boring, not as fancy as doing high-skill gymnastics work or Olympic weightlifting, but long-term this will pay you back tenfold when it comes to your overall health and wellbeing.​

Mix up your training a little. Having a specific injury or area that needs rest or extra attention is a good chance to get outside of your comfort zone and do something a little different. Get outside and swim or ride a bike. Go for a hike. This can be refreshing for not only the body but for the mind.

The body and mind need to be constantly stimulated, if you are doing the same training day in, day out, even CrossFit, which overuses the term constantly varied, can become quite repetitive at times. So, changing up the way you are training, even if it’s a small change, can help the body overcome a plateau and push it to new boundaries.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: all content provided here is of a general nature only and is not a substitute for individualised professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and reliance should not be placed on it. For personalised medical or nutrition advice, please make an appointment with your doctor, dietitian or qualified health careprofessional.