A Mindset For The Injured Athlete: How to stop injuries from harming the rest of you

If you’re short of time, or in the car, you can download the article here and listen to it.

Injuries change lives. They affect how we move. They affect how we sleep. They affect how we think. They affect how we feel about ourselves. The truth is that injuries happen. No matter what sport you’re in. However, that does not mean that you can’t turn an injury into an opportunity to grow.

The first major injury that happened to me, was riding a bike down hill. I had no helmet. I had a narrow path to stay on. I was going too fast. At the bottom of the track was a small bridge. Either side of the bridge were concrete posts and a metal bar. As I approached the bridge, I knew I was going too fast and knew I didn’t have time to break. I hit the post with my handlebars, was flung onto the steel bar, and proceeded to crack both front teeth, and badly cut open my arm. I was 10. Not a great move. It took me a few weeks to recover and have the stitches removed (I did that at home myself because I thought it was cool) along with a trip to the dentist.

I didn’t learn the lesson though, and following that accident, I proceeded to have a second more serious crash. This time it took me out of rugby for a year, and pretty much stopped any chance of being a professional player later on due to the severity of the injury to my neck. Oh well. The good thing was, that I then became really good at judging when I was going too fast and showing off. Now, I’m much more cautious, and have managed to avoid anything of that severity since.

The view I now take is that there is always something to be gained in equal proportion to the accident. Every injury that you suffer (and they will come) is a gift.

In our training program we see a great deal of people who are injured (a most, you’ll be happy to know are injured outside of the gym). However, it often affect a person’s mindset towards training, and will if confidence has been lessened often prevent them from continuing with us. For us, this can be frustrating, because it’s my goal to help as many people as possible, live happier healthier lives, with or without injuries.

The major benefit I see, is that it is an intensely personal event. Therefore, forces us to forget all competition, and focus solely on our own progress. This in an of itself is a massive gift that can be unlocked, if then set realistic metrics for success, you can begin working towards them. If for instance you’ve injured your back, and it hurts at night on a scale of 1 to 10 pretty close to a 5 or a 6. The goal I would set is to find things that lessen the pain, so that I can lower it down to a 3 or 4. In this instance the method may be a combination of seeing a good physiotherapist, and performing twice daily mobilisations to the glutes and back muscles and surrounding tissues using a lacrosse ball, with a weekly sports massage. In this case, back pain can be lessened and voila, you’re on the path to recovery and feeling good because we can feel like we’re making progress.

A second example, for myself has been my right hip. I’ve damaged it in some way. Meaning that I can no longer perform single leg squats. It goes weak at a certain point of hip flexion (when my knee gets closer to my chest). So, my metric of success is currently, to increase gently the range in which it feels strong and stable. So far, I’ve scaled back my progressions, to one which I can feel the same recruitment of muscle fiber in both legs, and then over the last few months have been progressively increasing the depth of the squat, and soon will be able to increase the difficulty of the progression further once I’ve developed further strength and stability in the joint. In this instance, I never would have quite focused so greatly on the nuances of a single leg squat as much had I had not experienced this injury. I wouldn’t be emphasising the point as much of glute activation and strengthening. Of watching for valgus (inward) knee in my clients as much, had I not been experiencing this injury to my own right hip. In fact, getting injured in my right hip has been a god send. It’s allowed me to become a more caring and diligent coach as a result and allows me the opportunity to help my clients before they get to this point. It’s also forced me to focus more on gymnastic progressions, rather than lifting heavy weight (I’ll get back to those later).

I suspect that any injury within the body, can be seen as a metaphor in how to approach challenges in life. That is why I believe so passionately in the benefit of injury. The opportunities they present are unique and will lead each and every single person on a journey they never thought they would take, and with the right approach, setting proper and achievable metrics for success, we can come to appreciate them for the gift which they really are.

If you’re injured, or recovering from one, it’s also important to concentrate movements that you can do, in recovery, and not focus on the movements you can’t. Our classes are intense, but they can 100% be adjusted towards each individual person. For those who are curious, I’ve added this guide which you can download here, and use any time you come to a Crossfit class and are not sure what movements to substitute to. Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

Training Substitutions Guide

If you fancy a good listen you can download the audio guide here:

Key takeaway – “if its pain free, it works.”

Notes:

Back Pain – Some tools to help fix it – link here. 

Terminal Knee Extension – Link here. 

 

Archie Cunningham, Head Coach

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The Future of Fitness in The 21st Century

When I first begun my fitness journey I was ten years old. I was doing pull-ups on the gangway of our boat, that was my home for a short period of time. I was so proud that I could do 5 and I remember showing off my strength to my friends because I thought I was pretty cool being that strong. It felt like if I could be anything, I could be fit and strong.

Right through my teens, I began training in the school weights room. We lifted weights with the standard bench press (my then favourite lift) and the pull-ups bar, while we were in or out of the rugby season. As these kinds of movements bored me, I began looking elsewhere. I looked for that level of interest in martial arts. I looked at in home training programs and I looked at it from books, from deadlift specific programs, or kettlebell specific programs. I found the things that fascinated me and kept on studying and learning.

It quickly became apparent that there were holes in my fitness that I hadn’t addressed. I felt like trying sports such as surfing might help, and they did, because I became less self conscious with the way I looked and more focused on how my body could actually perform. Being someone who was always conscious of how ‘lanky’ they were, as a teen, it was a significant shift in self acceptance that was beginning to develop in me that in truth hadn’t been felt in a long time. Something, all of us will eventually do at some point in our lives. After discovering that surfing was not competitive enough for me, I began looking back to the sport I’d grown up with: rugby. Still, it wasn’t enough. It didn’t capture my fascination anymore. As much as it used to be fun, we as players weren’t getting any better.

Only when I took my brother to this tiny little gym on top of Portsdown Hill that I discovered really what I’d been looking for. A fitness program that covered all the bases of athleticism. One where we developed strength and cardio vascular fitness. Where the movements required a high level of skill and flexibility. Where I was able to feel good, not about how my body looked, but about what it could do. That was the major difference, because this training program allowed me to focus on developing my bodies’ ability to get fitter, and to be stronger, more athletic, rather than aesthetic.

The training program that I discovered was called CrossFit.

Proper coaching is the backbone of a good training program.

Currently to the majority of the population, the fitness industry places the emphasis on the aesthetics of exercise. The images, the plans, the focus is too much on how your body looks, on how your abs look under top lighting, or how you look in swimming trunks or a swimming suit. I certainly for a time felt that getting ‘beach ready’ was more important than ‘life ready’. The frustrating aspect of this focus, is that often leads to feelings of self-doubt, self-consciousness, and envy. Although we have some control over how our body looks, it seems that we have more control over the effort we can put forth today, than the way our body may look in 6-12 months. This was a real and measurable benefit to altering the reason for training in the gym.

This realisation, not only happened to myself, but as we are seeing all around the world (and in our gym) is that the other two balancing reasons for exercise (health and performance) are coming much more into the forefront of people’s ideas as to why they’re training. What we’re beginning to realise is that taking care of yourself, has impact way beyond the way you look. As a coach, some of greatest transformations that I’ve witnessed, have been when the client focuses more their physical performance via setting a specific athletic goal (for instance run the london marathon, or do an assisted pull-up).

 

In this light, it’s our belief at our gym that, children nowadays, would be more successfully athletic if they were encouraged to focus more on their strength, than their waist size. Seeing increases in performance can far more readily be seen by you and others than losing 1 inch around your waist. Most people will experience comments after 6-12 weeks of following a regular training program about how they look, whereas they might have noticed that their strength had increased already from just week 1 to week 2. Getting these visible signs of being fitter and healthier come far faster when this focus on athletic performance is encouraged.

For instance our teens program is 50:50 girls and boys. The girls often out lift the boys, are more coordinated and more powerful than the boys. Up until the age of 13-14, both girls and boys are on a level playing field when it comes to strength. CrossFit is also one of the few sports where men and women are paid the same in prize money. Girls and boys, who adopt these training practices early in their childhood also stand less chance of injury in other sports, due to the development of more strength than we can usually expect from kids that age. It’s important to remind yourself that there was a time, probably when you were under the age of 6, that you could squat bum to ankle, and stay in that position for as long as you wanted. Try that now without assistance, and you’re part of the small proportion of westerners who can do that.

Learning how to look after your body from an early age is exactly the 1% course correction our kids need to have massive success later on.

When looking at obesity rates in the UK alone, 26% of the population are obese and 61% are overweight. The health services, are now beginning to show signs that cure is no longer the solution, and prevention is going to become the new way forward to healthcare in the modern world. Recently, I was reading the recommendations from the midwife on what a pregnant woman should be eating as part of a low glycemic index diet, and more or less all of their foods, were in line with what I as a nutrition coach suggest to my clients. The world is changing, and more and more, we’re going to see that your doctor is going to be requesting a meeting or notes from your fitness coach. That healthcare will be integrated into the fitness industry more closely than we’ve ever seen before. You’re going to find that more and more, that gyms and training schedules will be part of the prescription that doctors give to overweight, or unhealthy patients.

If you don’t agree with me, then speak to members of a gym known for its reputation in producing long term health change in it’s clients, and ask them who has had a bigger impact on their health, their doctor or their gym, and they’ll most likely say their gym. This isn’t to brag, this merely to make the point that when it comes to healthier lifestyle choices, and producing fitter healthier more positive human beings, gyms and coaches, not hospitals and doctors are the real experts in the field.

Ultimately, prevention is going to become the cure. It is far cheaper to invest in £100 a month in an excellent gym program that you use for the rest of your life, than having to suffer the consequences of diseases in later life due to poor health choices. Plus, healthier people, drink less alcohol, eat better food, are less of a burden on the healthcare system, less likely to take sick days and be more productive and have a positive impact on the workplace than less healthy people.

Even later in your 60s you can still get the benefit of resistance training. Maintaining bone density helps you bounce, when others might break if fall over. Balance and accuracy too, if not used, atrophy over time.

What’s quite amazing about this entire process is that, for someone to adjust themselves to adopting the ‘prevention over cure’ model for health and fitness, the actual changes necessary to make a real and measurable difference are actually quite small. With just a 1% course correction, over time that adds up a measurable difference in health over the long term. Small consistent changes, managed with a knowledgeable and understanding coach can add up to a dramatically different lifestyle and health position in just a few years without sacrificing on the basics such as relationships, enjoying time with friends, and negatively impacting work, which can happen when there is too much of a drastic change in a short term transformation program, as it’s proven some training programs can impact.

It’s a very simple choice, either to make the 1% correction now that’s going to lead a measured gap in your own health over the next 5-10 years or more, or continue on the path you’re on, getting the same results as before, and putting yourself at that higher risk of disease in later life. Notwithstanding the positive impact that just coming to a supportive encouraging, growth orientated environment as the gym we run is is going to have on your day, you week, you month your year, your life. There will never be the right time to truly a make a difference to your health, but now is always going to be better than tomorrow.

Archie Cunningham
Head Coach
CrossFit Chichester

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5 Years On – Here’s Where it Began

Here are some pics from the old gym. You can find it on our facebook page too, but here are some we picked out:

My first client – my lovely wife Lydia.

Workout done. Henry asleep on the mats. I feel really guilty now looking back.

Steve and I building the monster rig. It cost half the amount of a standard rig, but took about a week to build and 10 people to help build it. Never again.

The old gym looked so bright until we put the matting down!

The final stages of the gym coming together. We learnt a lot.