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Injury Prevention Requires a Mental Shift in Gym Goers

Posted on December 23, 2019 Michael Hughes

It has been a growing concern of mine, as a gym owner and coach, that rehabilitation and restoration is undervalued by the average American gym goer. In San Luis Obispo most of our gym goers are white collar workers, inactive most hours in the day, who come into the gym, expecting a high level of performance out of their inactive body. Likely they come with a mentality to make up for the hours sitting at a desk by giving the workout all they can give and to pick up heavier weight, go faster and push harder to reverse the effects of their inactive lifestyle.

Is this how the body truly was designed to work?

No. In fact this mindset actually threatens your ability to move sustainably. What is more often the case is that your desire for a better body will be replaced by a body of brokenness and pain. This is not a question of “if”, its a question of “when”.

From the vantage point of a coach, here is what we see happening in our industry and sometimes in our own facility:

  • With anything you’ve worked hard to build, there can be an undeniable pride and identity involved in reaching a high performance level in fitness. Gym goers have had to work hard and be dedicated to get to a certain level of performance. They expect their body will always perform at that level and that they need to push to maintain it.
  • There is an undervaluing of rehabilitation and restoration. The only times we see this being valued is if an athlete truly is injured. But then restoration is not a journey, it’s more often seen as a means to an end. It’s not likely to be considered a lifestyle pursuit, but rather something to “get through” to get on with life. 
  • There is a disconnect between the importance of daily diet, sleeping patterns, hydration and stress levels have on the levels of performance in the gym. 
  • We observe higher performance athletes “pushing through the pain” and mentally trying to overcome physical breakdowns. It’s as if they are hearing their old high school coaches yelling over them to keep going, that to be truly tough they have to push through. We see athletes ignoring injury, almost proud of the fact that they can keep going. But we rarely observe these athletes picking up less weight or reducing their expectations for their workout. They keep going until they hear a doctor tell them to stop working out or risk being hurt long term.

These trends are incredibly dangerous to fitness programs and facilities looking to provide sustainable workouts built for frequency, consistency and true vitality. This is something at Gymnazo we spend a great deal of time as coaches identifying and strategizing to overcome.

What needs to change?

Workout Programs Built for Restoration

If your goal is to be healthy and fit for many years, then your workouts need to be built with consistent restoration and your mental attitude may need to shift. If your mindset is all about performance, but your daily lifestyle doesn’t breed performance, your body will be better served with consistency than intensity. Very few of our members actually need constant performance every day of their life.

At Gymnazo we are committed on the service end of our programming to build in restoration through intentional warm ups, cool downs and through offering three different programs scaling in intensity. The small group programs we have built are designed for athletes to move up and down as their body needs them to. For example, after going on vacation, we intend athletes to start at G1 and move up as their body adapts to more focused physical demands. We intend athletes who have identified some pain or discomfort to reduce the demands of their body and go down in levels to help their body heal.

While certainly we respect doctor’s wishes for some athletes to step out of working out altogether, typically this is only after the athlete has ignored their movement dysfunction and tried to power through workouts, making the disfunction more serious, and requiring a longer term break in working out.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But it takes a respect for the body’s changing abilities, listening to their body each day as it moves and humility to adjust workout expectations.

The Mindset of the Athlete

We always say a good coach should be able to see movement dysfunction, but is impossible to identify each one and always catch it. Athletes are much more in tune with their body because their nerves send pain to alert the brain to stop and take notice of what is going wrong. Coaches will never be able to tap into that. We can only see the external signs of this.

So what needs to change is athletes vocalizing when they feel a twinge or weird tweak in their body before it becomes an injury. Don’t ignore your body. Nerves exist to send alerts to problems. Ignoring them won’t solve it. By telling a coach what is going on, the athletes give the coach(es) a chance to respond and partner with them.

A coach should be there to help their athletes get what they need from their workout, whatever that means. But each athlete has to use the coach to help them. It’s up to the athlete (you) to utilize the intelligence and strategies that each coach is able to pull from.

Final Thoughts

Our passion is to make each of our of athletes successful not just for 3-6 months but for decades. We see the big picture and want each one of our members to maintain a level of health and fitness that enables them to function well as they age and hit new stages of life. We thrive on helping people eliminate pain, heal injuries and are happy to tailor workouts to make this happen. Our responsibility is to be prepared for what each member’s movement dysfunctions are. It’s the athletes’ (your) responsibility to set the right expectations, to constantly reevaluate where the body is and to let us know how to help. Together we can accomplish much!

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