Reflections on Being Injured

Originally posted by Brynn on 5/3/15

This may turn into a bit of a rambling post because the past month or so I have done a lot of thinking, reflecting about my body, my training and my life. I have had a lot of time to do this because of being “injured”. I say “injured” because I wasn’t typically injured with a sprain, break, tear that you would normally associate with an injury. You may have seen a few of my posts on Instagram about being injured or my back being in pain. When people ask me what happened or what is wrong I really do not have a straight answer for them so I usually just respond saying that my body is just a mess right now. The many doctors I have seen cant really give me a straight answer of what is wrong either but for those who have asked I will try to explain what I know. 

What I have learned about my body in the past month is that, 1) I have limited mobility in my mid-spine. No one can pinpoint the cause of this. 2) My long hip flexors are very tight, pulling my hips forward causing strain on my low back. This I can date back to my dancing days when had back and hip issues as a teenager but it has not been an issue for years. But paired with issue number 1 it has now become an issue again. 

Our body is complicated. The more you stress you put on it (training, working, life etc.) the more you need to put back in (recovery, rest, nutrition etc.). If the output outweighs the input, there is a clear imbalance and that is when injuries happen. When your mechanics are off (which I have learned mine are), you are already in an imbalance so stress will just exasperate the issue. This issues I mentioned above aren't new so why have I been out of the gym, not been able to move and been in serious pain for about a month? Since no doctor can pinpoint the cause for me exactly I will. STRESS. 

Stress can manifest itself in many ways and I believe it is a huge contributor to our overall health and wellbeing. Even a healthy person like myself who exercises and eats well can have serious health issues just from stress. Stress affects basically every part of our body: 

Nervous System: 
When we are stressed we are using our Sympathetic Nervous System (fight or flight mode). While using this system our heart rate increase, blood moves to our extremities and our adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol. This is fine for a short period of time (allows us to respond quickly to a physical stressor), but if the stress is constantly there we never go transition into our Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest mode). This can cause issues such as adrenal fatigue, upset digestion, irritability, anxiety, headaches and the list can go on. 

Respiratory and Cardiovascular Systems
During the stress response, you breathe faster in an effort to distribute oxygen and blood. Your heart also pumps faster and can cause your blood vessels to constrict and raise your blood pressure. All that helps get oxygen to your brain and heart so you’ll have more strength and energy to take action. Frequent or chronic stress can make your heart work too hard for too long, raising your risk of hypertension and problems with your blood vessels and heart. 

Digestive System
The rush of hormones, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate can upset your digestive system. You’re more likely to have heartburn or acid reflux while stressed. As I also mentioned without being in the Parasympathetic Nervous System your body does not digest properly. All your blood is in your extremities and not breaking down the food you are eating. That is why it is not good to eat while stressed (rushing, driving, at your desk at work etc.) as you will not break down the food or absorb all the nutrients.  

Muscular System (my biggest issue!) 
Under stress, your muscles tense up to protect themselves from injury. You’ve probably felt your neck or shoulders tighten up while going through a stressful time at work. If you’re constantly under stress, your muscles don’t get the chance to relax. Tight muscles cause headaches, back and shoulder pain, and body aches. 

Immune System
Do you ever find while you are stressed you get sick? I used to get sick during every exam period while at school. This is because cortisol is an immunosuppressant. People under chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like the flu and the common cold and it also can increase the time it takes to recover from illness or injury.

Mental stress, work stress, life stress, sitting stress, commuting stress... it can come from anywhere and it all builds up. In my case my body decided it had enough and fully gave out on me. It is important to take the time to find something to help you relax and step away from a stressful situation. Whether it is yoga, mediation, running, deep breathing, talking to someone... find something that works for you!  

When I tell people I hurt my back, they usually respond saying I shouldn't be doing Crossfit because it will make it worse. I completely disagree. Crossfit has made me stronger and I have had the ability to recover faster because of it. For the past couple weeks I have been doing my own “rehab” training program with a serious focus on retraining my mechanics and mobilizing my body so I will not run into issues like this again. I started very SLOWLY to get my body to a place where I can lift again. I have learned that I cannot run to the gym after a long day of work and an hour commute and expect to perform like a high level athlete. I do Crossfit because of I love it. I never will be a Games level athlete (and I never thought I would) but this experience has reminded me that I do Crossfit for fun and to be healthy and strong, not for the numbers posted on the board. When it gets to the point where it is too much for your body to handle and it affects other aspects of your life it is not worth it anymore. I have been feeling much better over the last week or so and I am looking forward to seeing what my body can do for me with this new outlook on training.