Roman returns from a visit to Dr. Kareem and drops some knowledge bombs.
Let’s get the easy part out of the way: I’m currently smart, and I got that by being stupid.
Sure, my current level of fitness knowledge is certainly quite high, but like anyone else, I started out a bit green.
Which is to say: Like most guys, I was paying a bit too much attention to getting bigger,faster and stronger, and not really enough to the less cool aspects of training. The boring stuff like health,soft tissue quality, mobility, and joint care.
When I was 23, I tore my meniscus (a chunk of cartilage in the knee) in probably the lamest way possible: playing paintball.
Not that paintball is uncool, but after years of putting my body through the rigors of varsity sports, intense training and 500 pound squats, it was a little ignominious. I simply twisted the wrong way at a friend’s paintball gathering and down I went like a heap.
Now, while I’ll say for a 23 year old I was certainly training intelligently, I wasn’t doing all the other stuff I should have. Not much in the way of stretching or foam rolling, no dedicated days for massage or other therapy.
Instead, I just put my body through the abuse and managed to thrive in spite of myself.
Fast-forward 5 years later, and I’ve certainly learned my lessons.
Over the past half decade, I have really geared my training in a much more rounded way, and I have a huge focus on recovery and prevention.
However, even though I now do almost everything “right” sometimes my body is still the victim of itself.
Being as strong as I am, my muscles sometimes are a bit more capable than the body parts to which they’re attached, and despite how careful I am I still wind up with the occasional injury or joint issue.
In point of fact, for the last 14 months, I’ve been dealing with severe elbow pain in the form of medial epicondylitis, or interior tendonitis.
And lemme tell you, shit sucks.
I haven’t been able to get rid of it—and not for lack of trying. I’ve seen a doctor, an active release guy, and even an acupuncturist. After getting poked and prodded and having needles (some of which were hooked up to a battery) jammed in my joints, I’d pretty much resigned myself to the fact that this wasn’t going away anytime soon.
For about 5 months I trained around it, avoided heavy pressing and watched my triceps shrink from the lack of stimulation.
Over the course of the last eight or so months. Kareem has been working on my elbow (and my neck, where it turns out the problem originates) and has really helped reduce the pain to a degree I never thought possible. While I won’t claim to be pain free (the guy’s a doctor, not a level 5 cleric who wields a +2 mace of disruption and turns undead while calling down Helms blessing), but I can actually train hard again, and he’s given me a new outlook on joint care.
Anyway, as often happens during the course of care, Dr. K has also become a really good friend.
Here is an awesome video of him abusing my elbow, and giving a really cool description of what’s been going on in my arm.
It’s less fun than it looks. To be honest, that session was a bit less painful than they used to be, and is certainly less painful than attempting to train on the elbow was a just a few months back.
Small price to pay for regaining the use of my right arm, I should say.
Now, I just want to quickly cover a few points about joint health and healing that you need to consider:
The big issue with joint problems is that they can sneak up on you. If you’re not very mindful of what feels right and wrong, and if you don’t know what to look for, you’ll get an injury seemingly out of the blue.
Wrist problems are one example. A slight twinge can become crippling without there ever being an event, a memorable “injury” that you can point to when you eventually need to see a professional.
And sometimes, as in my case, it’s something as simple as a strength imbalance that can create an issue. This is one reason why training for symmetry ain’t all about looks (It’s just partly about looks).
No, your joints aren’t sexy. They aren’t abs, bis, or calves, they’re hidden under the skin and they crack and pop when you’re trying to quietly walk down stairs.
But consider this a life lesson: Beauty isn’t always on the outside. Or, less succinctly, functionality and longevity aren’t always on the outside. Your joints are a crucial, yet unseen part of not just your strength training and bodybuilding gains, but your overall health. If your joints aren’t functioning properly, you can’t train properly.
If you can’t do that, you simply can’t make progress. Period.
Even if you’re capable of training “around” the injury/issue for a while, you have to consider what that’s going to do to you over the long run. Over time, you’ll develop what we call “compensation patterns” which can be as simple as developing a muscle you’re not targeting to as complicated as totally screwing up your recruitment patterns and not being able to develop at all.
If you create swelling (tendonitis or even muscular swelling) blood flow to can be compromised, which limits all facets of fitness: cardiovascular fitness, obviously, but strength as well. If blood can’t get to the right places at the right speed, your muscles and bones aren’t getting the optimal amount of nutrients from your blood.
Limited blood flow also greatly reduces your ability to generate force, but will hinder the training effect and the amount of microtrauma you’re able to create.
Building on that, limited blood flow is also going to severely impede your recovery ability, for the reasons listed above. You’ll train like shit, get shit-all from the training, and recover like shit. I had to deal with this for 5 months, please don’t be like me.