You wrenched your neck. You sprained your ankle. You tweaked your back. You banged your knee. You tore your rotator cuff. You cracked your toe. You have plantar fascitis. You have bursitis. You have arthritis. You jammed your finger, broke your nose, lost a tooth, and you really hope that shooting pain in your chest is just a passing heart attack, rather than broken ribs.
Congratulations! You are injured. Should you just give up? Or what?
I know what you are thinking to yourself, internet fitness column reader: "That is just a rhetorical question, the one about giving up. Now he will launch into a dreary and predictable 'you can do it!' sort of encouragement-fest, up in here." Not so fast, Jack Flash. You assume that you will just "come back" from your painful injury, using the magic of positive thinking? Now who is being unrealistic? (You are.)
You might want to sit down in order to absorb this shocking truth without passing out from a Truth Headrush, but the fact is that injuries can really fuck you up. Bad. This is why many fitness experts recommend not getting injured. "Easy for the so-called 'fitness experts' to say," you retort. "While they are sitting around dreaming up new 'fitness columns' to write on the internet every week and luxuriating in their attractiveness and fending off equally attractive fans of the opposite gender with only one thing on their minds (sex with an internet fitness columnist), we out here in the 'real world' are getting injured, and you are not being very helpful about it, at all. Do they actually pay you money for your so-called 'job?'"
Let's stick to the topic, shall we? Injuries. If you have one, take heart: see it as a sign of hardcoreness, rather than seeing it as the sign of poor form that it likely is. "Chicks dig scars," and by "Chicks" I mean "Other people at the gym, most of them male," and by "dig scars" I mean "will take your injury story as an opportunity to tell their own injury story which you will then try to one-up in an endless and wearying teta-a-tete of gruesomeness, to no one's benefit."
Try not to feel too bad about your newly deformed, dysfunctional, and useless body. It is perfectly natural. In our physical careers, all of us go through the normal cycle: youth, in which pain is something to be pushed through, with no limit, because pain is mental and it's only holding you back from achieving your goals; over-the-hillness, in which you better not push that pain thing too far, because your back might go out; and oldness, when you just try to do what you can, between the frequent bouts of debilitating pain. Much of what people call "getting old" is just the accumulated effect of years upon years of small injuries. You get injured, you heal, but you're a little bit less than you were before. This is what ends the careers of pro athletes, allows teenage sons to beat their dads at sports, and leaves the vast majority of us completely sedentary by middle age. "Guess I'm just getting old," people say. Man, that's the accumulated effect of years upon years of small injuries! Get it right!
Most injuries at the gym occur because you are using bad form. Often because you are trying to do too much. Often because you are showing off, on the sly. Maintaining good form at all times will save you lots of horrific injuries. People are all, "Squats are bad for your knees." Man, wake up and smell the real world! Squats with bad form are terrible for your knees. Squats with perfect form are not bad for your knees. Stop blaming squats for your own unwillingness to perform squats correctly! If there is one thing you should take from this whole discussion about injuries, it is: Stop slandering squats.
So what do you do when you're injured? Follow this process:
Maybe take some of them chon-dry-tin pills, too. That's about it. After a while your injury should heal, more or less, and then you can resume your physical activity, albeit at a slightly less hardcore level. Or maybe your injury will never properly heal. You'll be pretty much washed up, hardcore-wise. Sad? Sure. But that's why they invented fake sports like golf, or soccer. Keep the old folks off the couch.
[Image by Jim Cooke]