Training with an injury can be frustrating.
Hi, My name is Nathan (Check) Rogers, I am a coach at Freedom in Motion Parkour gym in California. I am currently, at the time of writing this article, in the final steps of fixing my knee (and other aspects of my body) to become more capable and flexible than I was previously. After recovering from an annoying wrist injury in 2017, I have internalized the need to take care of my body by preventing, healing, and strengthening those body parts that I use often
[How did I get this injury?]
First I want to explain the difference in how I’ve handled my injury a year ago and what I’m doing today for my current knee injury.
Back in the beginning of 2017 I had fractured my pinky, which temporarily dulled my wrists mobility due to a mistake on my part. I was sparring with a friend, and due to my inexperience in fighting, I tried to block a kick with my hand that was far too powerful for me to handle. This damaged my hand and wrist forcing my progress in training Parkour to slow down initially.
Because of this injury, I was unable to extend my wrist 100% backward and put pressure on the flat palm of my hand without pain. While the injury was painful at times, what was more frustrating was seeing all of my friends pour every ounce of energy into their movement. Meanwhile I was struggling to hold myself to a more cautious form of my own training to help compensate for my injury.
Don’t be fooled however, experiencing an injury is not an end all be all for training movement.
While I was unable to use my entire array of skills there was still many movements that did not require my hand, and many more new ways to move I had never experienced. I felt there was no excuse to not put maximum effort into the remaining movements I could perform in the condition I was presented, so while healing my wrist I was still innovating and moving.
My recent injury in my knee was caused from a slight hyperextension from a 1-2 foot drop while spinning off a block while coaching. I thought a mat was going to be on the ground and due to a failure to spot my landing I landed half a foot lower than expected with not nearly the cushiony surface I thought I’d land on. Even when not moving it the pain was intense in the moment. I couldn’t bend my knee and I was getting flashbacks of my old wrist injury, so as soon as I knew I was injured I requested 2 weeks off and began the rehab process much faster than when I had my wrist injury.
[How do I manage to train while avoiding my injury?]
A lot of movement options are limited or non-existent with an injury, but it opens you up to new more creative ways to move. Thinking of ways to move without using a certain part of your body can be just as physically or mentally challenging as doing the movements I may have done without the injury. during both injuries I found myself observing other people more, not just to entertain myself, but to learn what movements I was missing in my arsenal or to spark new ideas for my students to try.
For my wrist injury, forcing my paths to rely on my right hand and very actively restraining myself from using my left hand instinctively was extremely difficult at times. Luckily, using my left hand in the form of a fist did not bother my hand, so if I needed to rely on it I had something to work with. To compensate for the lack of hand, my training leaned more towards large or technical jumps, along with flips and applying them better outside. I also found I was much more capable than I thought I would be just using one hand, performing difficult moves I thought might be impossible before attempting them like a single handed double kong!
I took a similar approach when I encountered my knee injury a few weeks ago, deciding to take up more upper body exercises and relying on my back and arms to do movements instead of my legs. I’ve already seen some great improvements in climbing during these 2 weeks of rehab!
[How to properly warm up or stabilize my injured wrist before training]
One of the most important things I’ve learned to do is to warm up, stretch and massage myself thoroughly, and use outside resources of other experienced athletes to assist in these steps.
Some equipment I used for both injuries are:
– Lacrosse balls
– Foam rollers
– Resistance bands
A Lacrosse ball is a useful tool because it is dense and firm enough to apply pressure to specific portions of your body, but you can use any hard round sphere really. Using these on my wrist flexors and extensors (bottom and top of forearm) relieved a ton of tension, and made a huge difference in my ability to use my hand. Similarly, using it around my knee and on my hamstrings and calves did wonders for relieving the pain. Here’s a video of how to use lacrosse balls specifically for your wrists.
A foam roller was not something I used for my wrist injury, but it’s extremely helpful for other parts of your body like your calves, quadriceps, and hamstrings. However, many people use foam rollers incorrectly, so here’s a helpful video on how to properly use a foam roller.
Finally, resistance bands are great for testing your flexibility along with slowly building the muscles that may have been lost after not using the area for so long. It allows you to reach the outer edges of your range of motion and push past that, so it can be used for rehab or prehab. Here is just one way to use the resistance bands for your wrist.
You can find plenty of other uses for these tools with some quick searching for your specific areas of recovery to get the most out of them.
These exercises should cause a kind of “good” pain that is healthy. You should feel relieved after using any of these techniques, and continual use will improve your bodies strength and flexibility if done right. They have all become daily activities that should have been part of my routine long ago.
While it was frustrating to not be at full potential, I was still seeing progress in different ways like my good habits of taking care of my body and choosing my meals carefully. I will always attempt to treat my body better than I have in the past, as I realize this is something that every athlete should seek out and follow through with. It might seem upsetting to walk away from challenges or to “waste your time” stretching/warming up properly, but if people use their time wisely it can lengthen the amount of time doing the movement we all love.
Like any sport, bumps and scrapes are a fact of life. What sets many athletes apart is how one prepares for inevitable failure, and then how said athlete learns from the fall and becomes more skilled from it. Colin Powell once said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure”. In my case, I’m now more aware of the positive benefits preventative maintenance on my body can do, like strength training and keeping flexible, thanks to my wrist injury. And being only one-handed during that time has helped me gain new skills in many other areas of movement like foot work and flips, while conversely I’ve been seeing improvements in my handstands and climbing while healing my knee. Learning from the original injury, allowing my wrist to heal properly, and keeping active and learning is what is going to turn these injuries into a positive spot to look back on in the grand scheme of my athletic career.
If you have reached the end of this post feeling motivated to do more body maintenance and looking for a few good ways to get started, I would recommend a simple lacrosse ball to use while you’re at home or on the go. I bring one with me everywhere and when I’m spending time waiting or hanging out I can whip it out anytime to give myself a massage. You can also make them into a “Peanut” and use two of them taped up to use a different technique (Does WONDERS for your neck!).