#10 Dumb Things I Would Never Let My Athletes Do, and Which Landed Me in the Hospital

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Good evening, gang. Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while but this truly has been a shit show of a week… and it’s largely my fault.

The rollerderbystrengthcoach did something that she tells her athletes NOT to do all the time, and now she’s paying for it. I pushed too hard while fatigued, ended up losing focus and injured myself in the gym.

I don’t usually train on Mondays. It’s superstitious, but throughout all of my athletic and fitness career I have avoided training on Mondays because that’s when most of my injuries (outside of games) have occurred. By continuing to believe that nonsense I actually think I set myself up psychologically for the injury that I suffered. I would like to blame it solely on Monday, but to do so would ignore my own dumb decisions. Here’s what happened:

Several weeks ago I started a new, fairly intense training protocol to help me get ready for the upcoming 2017 Highland Heavy Athletics season. The first block of the program calls for a lot of volume on all gym training days, which are 5 per week. Now in and of itself, five days a week (even at significant volume) doesn’t usually put me in an overtrained state, however, I’m also practicing my throws 3 to 4 days per week to correct some technical issues that I need to work through to be ready for January , building a business that has me working 12 hours a day most days and rarely sleeping more than 5-6 hours per night. Recipe for bad juju, right? Yep.

For the last few weeks I’ve been lifting on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and throwing on my three off days. However, because of my work schedule I switched these last few weeks to lift Monday thru Friday and throw on 3 or 4 of those same days… all while being overworked and underslept, something that I know  lot of roller derby skaters can empathize with. Training at this volume under those circumstances was the first of the dumb things I did that led me to have this lovely bracelet on.

I was also physically hurting a bit. My right hip has not been happy with me for about a week (I had to have surgery on the left one last year and the right one is now showing similar problems) but instead of backing off I’ve continued to push through it. That was the second dumb thing I did.

Monday was a squat day. Four sets of power cleans, then on to squats (I should have then done Nordics, eccentric RDL’s, calves and core – I didn’t get that far). For squats my programming called for 3 sets of 10 at 65% (for me that’s 185 right now). Usually I train in much higher percentages for fives, triples and doubles during this part of my training cycle, but since this was what was called for I was ok with doing higher rep, lower volume stuff. Except apparently I wasn’t ok with it, because after I finished the programmed sets I decided that I needed to get some doubles in at 90%…255. This was my third dumb thing.

I’m usually meticulous in my set up, but 255 isn’t super heavy for me on a normal training day and so I let my attention drift out to the idiot 25 year old boys that were benching next to me and saying things like, “that would scare most people” when talking about the 225 that they had racked. (I wanted to ask, “Really? What people?” but kept myself in check.) However, it broke my focus and I KNEW it broke my focus, and I KNEW my hip felt tired on the previous set, but my ego took over and I un-racked the bar anyway. Dumb thing #4.

As I backed off of the pegs, I never checked my feet… I don’t mean by looking down (I don’t do that because it causes a loss of tension) but I didn’t actually feel for the floor underneath them, a critical part of my set up. (Dumb thing #5) As I started the descent I knew that something was wrong, but I didn’t dump the bar. (Dumb thing #6) Instead, knowing that something felt wrong in my hip I started muscling back up out of the hole without using both of my hips completely (Dumb thing #7) which caused my left hip to come up just slightly before my right and making my lower back take the entirety of the load in a hyperlordotic position. I felt the strain and STILL didn’t dump it, I think because I didn’t want to drop it in front of the idiots next to me (who’s the bigger idiot here? Me. Definitely me. Dumb thing #8).

When I re-racked I knew immediately that something was terribly wrong with my lower back. I could barely get on the floor to change my shoes. Picking up my bag to leave the gym was excruciating. I refused to tell the management because I didn’t want them to have to fill out an incident report, so instead I drove myself home in my incredibly bouncy jeep. (Dumb thing #9.) When I got home my husband was home for lunch. If he hadn’t been I never would have made it into the house. He tried to get me to go to the hospital (he had a catastrophic back injury that ended his international rugby career, so he knows well how bad I was hurting) but I refused. (#10)

So here I am, a day later, lying on a gurney in the ER. What finally convinced me to go? The fact that I couldn’t sit down to pee and that my right leg isn’t working great. That and Hurricane Matthew. (We’re likely to get a pretty direct hit here in Florida and since I couldn’t even sit to pee I thought I’d at least better get some pain meds.) As I expected, the ER doctor scolded me. “I knew to stop lifting like that when I hit 40,” he says, looking at my 1973 birthdate on my chart. “You never lifted like that,” said the expression on my face. (I didn’t actually say it… he hadn’t given me the pain meds yet – lol).

Anyway, it looks like I got lucky. The X-rays were inconclusive, but the vertebral spacing is consistent, which is a good sign. It means that this is likely just some torn muscles and a ligament or two, rather than two blown disks. I will decide as the week goes on if I will follow up with an MRI. They gave me percoset, flexeril and prednisone, so at least I’ll be comfortable through the hurricane.

I still can’t sit to pee very well though. I know that’s TMI, but it’s something I bring up because until you have a back injury you never really think about it. I’ve had 6 knee surgeries, one shoulder and one hip and I’ve ALWAYS been able to get to the bathroom without significant distress. This is an entirely different animal. Additionally, this cost me, at minimum, $1000 for the ER visit and the drugs, plus at least two months off from heavy lifting and throwing. It’s also possible that I may miss the first part of my sport season now. All because I did a bunch of dumb shit. Shit that I coach other people NOT to do every single day.

The point of this post is that even a coach sometimes makes really bad judgment calls when it comes to her own training. Given how competitive many of you are I know at my core that some of you out there reading this have pushed too hard under bad circumstances too. If you’ve been injured, then maybe you’ve learned the lesson better than I have. If you haven’t been injured yet, I’m writing this for you…

I couldn’t decide if I was going to tell all of you this because it may give you pause to take lifting advice from someone who just fucked herself up so badly. But then I realized I had to tell you, because if I can save even one of you from making a similar dumb mistake and pushing too hard when your body tells you enough (due to fatigue, overtraining, poor nutrition, whatever) you should listen.

The fitspo meme “The only workout you regret is the one you didn’t do” is wrong… the only workout you regret is the one that you got hurt doing. Non-contact injuries should never happen in a weight room. Ever. Please be smarter than the coach.

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Justass of the Piece

Whether it's in an introduction for my business or an "about me" section of a social media site, I find that writing about myself is always one of the hardest things to do. The phrase "I'm a ..." has always filled me with anxiety. I guess then that the easiest way is to start with the basics. I'm in my early 40's, have no kids but do have two pit bulls who think they are children, am married to a giant Scotsman and I currently spend the majority of my time coaching both athletes and regular 9-5ers to get stronger, faster and more physically powerful. Although I currently work predominantly in strength and conditioning/fitness, I am also a licensed attorney and still handle a case or two on occasion and serve as a guardian ad litem for the court system here in South Florida. I've never been one to be defined by a job and over the years I've played a whole lot of different roles, including exotic dancer (i.e. stripper), concert promoter, entertainment agent, motorcycle shop owner, magazine editor and cocktail waitress. I have multiple bachelor's degrees, an associate degree in music production and, of course my law degree. I've also got a bunch of different strength and conditioning and fitness certifications from various national and private organizations including the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American College of Sports Medicine and the Titleist Performance Institute. My strength and conditioning career stemmed from my days as an athlete, when I played softball and basketball in high school in college and roller derby and American football until just a few years ago when I retired from contact sports. I've recently started training for Highland Heavy Athletics too, so I guess you can say I want to do "all the things." The same applies in my non-work life. I love hiking, kitesurfing (I'm terrible at it but love it nonetheless), camping, spending time at the beach, going to concerts, spending time at the zoo, skydiving or driving around in my ridiculously non-ecologically friendly Jeep with my dogs. Oh, and I'm learning to play Irish Tin Whistle. Yep, I'm pretty eclectic. Although I've dabbled with writing in the past (mostly travel stories for the motorcycle magazine that I used to edit), I've never done so on a consistent basis or with any sort of deeper purpose in mind. I'm hoping that the stories I share on both #haveshoeswilltravel and rollerderbystrengthcoach will do just that... help others learn some stuff and maybe even give them incentives to try new things.

3 thoughts on “#10 Dumb Things I Would Never Let My Athletes Do, and Which Landed Me in the Hospital”

  1. Ouch! Stay safe during the storm and – you probably know this (but we all get forgetful once we pass 40 and think we’re still 20) – be slow and steady about getting back to your normal level of awesome.

    Like

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