Most people connect the word “injury” with a negative connotation of pain, setback, and having done something “wrong.” However, that isn’t necessarily the case, and injuries can bring about some of the most beneficial and exciting shifts in your training at any level. To injure is to do damage, and if we’re honest about the way gains are made, every time you flex your massive biceps against some sort of resistance (ie. a weight), you injure those muscles. Muscle growth is dependent on you inflicting resistance and strain on a muscle causing tiny little tears in the muscle fibers, and your body’s ability to quickly repair the damage to grow and facilitate a greater strength or muscular capacity. Simply put, every time you work out, you’re injuring your body. Ideally though, with a gradual increase in load and therefore capacity and ability to adapt, your body wont experience an injury that will affect basic every day movements and functions. While this is ideal and typically the norm, when you live an active lifestyle it is almost guaranteed that at some point you will experience a greater and more nagging injury to one or more parts of your body.
These more impactful or obvious injuries usually come as a result of two scenarios. One funky move causing an abnormal strain on a certain part of the body resulting in a reaction your body isn’t used to responding with, or repetitive movement in a pattern that doesn’t support optimal function of a muscle or joint, can both cause injury. An example of the first might be walking through the parking lot and stepping in a pothole, spraining your ankle due to the irregular and unbraced rolling of your ankle. If you were prepared to step into the dip in the pavement, you would have moved consciously in a way that supports your regular and active movement patterns, but since it came unexpectedly, your body reacted in a way you weren’t accustomed to, ultimately causing the injury. An example of the second scenario could be snatching in a way that favors one shoulder. If you snatch regularly, and tend to land with the slightest difference from one shoulder to the other (ie. your right shoulder is slightly more internally rotated than the left), this places additional strain on both shoulders in different ways and will likely reveal itself in a shoulder impingement in time.
The important thing to remember though, is that neither of these examples equate to a need to stop doing the actual activities that were connected to the injury. Should you stop going to the grocery store because you tripped in the parking lot? No. Should you stop snatching because your shoulder is bothering you? Not necessarily. The biggest mistake people make when they experience an injury, is they quit a movement or activity all together. This usually happens out of frustration from not being able to complete the activity in the same capacity as they previously were able to, but that is simply ego getting in the way of progress and an opportunity to learn and grow.
Injuries happen as a result of living life, period. You can’t avoid them. All you can do is take them and learn from them in a way that will better equip you to dodge them in the future. In the realm of CrossFit, or any other physical activity, injury can be an opportunity to listen to your body’s cue to rest one specific part that’s been over or poorly worked, and focus more on another. Broke your ankle? No bueno. That doesn’t mean you get to be a couch potato for the next 6 months while it heals though. You have an entire other leg, a whole pack of abs, massive lats, and two arms that would love the opportunity to grow. Is it frustrating to not be able to do pull-ups in a workout due to a shoulder injury? Absolutely. But, consider that if you take the time to heal and fix poor movement patterns that may have led to the injury, in a year from now you might be 10 steps ahead of where you would have been if you’d kept moving in a less-than-ideal way.
An injury is your body’s way of saying, “find a better way to move,” not “stop moving all together.” If you experience an injury, talk to someone knowledgable in the department of recovery. There are so many ways to work with injuries to see both healing and progress, and it may take some trial and error but don’t get discouraged; accept the challenge, and tackle it head on!