Yoga, Workouts and Injury

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If you’re reading fitness blogs, or even just Facebook, you’ve probably come across the controversy of “Crossfit’s Dirty Little Secret“.  It was very disconcerting to me to read about a woman who ended up with Rhabdomyolysis due to pushing herself too far in her Crossfit workouts.  The thing that really upset me though is that this is NOT a Crossfit thing, injury, of all types, during exercise is not at all new but it’s also not being handled with the gravity that it deserves.  

The issue here is two-fold.  For one, trainer “certification” comes in a variety of colors and may involve years of study, or a day spent reading a 20 page pdf online and taking an open-book quiz.  I personally feel that anyone working professionally as a trainer needs a firm education in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, along with proper training of the type of exercise one is going to train in.  The problem is that “proper” has no standards.  So how do we know when we’re getting a good education as a trainer?  

First off, I’d want to know that the exercise feels comfortable in my own body and that I fully understand my own body mechanics while doing the exercises.  This means that it could take time to digest the material.  For example, I only became a yoga instructor after practicing yoga for many years before seeking teacher certification.  That might be overkill for some, but I’d bet that if you take a weekend certification class in yoga and you’ve never practiced before you probably don’t fully understand the body mechanics of each pose.  Since yoga is complex let’s take a simpler example, kettlebell certification.  This is one I’m seeing a lot and as a lover of kettlebells I have to say I’m concerned when I see that you can get certified in a weekend and go from never having touched a kettlebell before to teaching a class on it in two days.

Once you understand the exercise fully in your own body, then the big challenge is knowing how to adapt it for others.  Not all bodies are created equal and while you might be able to do 60 double KB swings, your brand-new-to-working-out client is probably not up to that challenge.  Not only do you have to adjust reps to fitness level, but you have to know how to adapt the exercise to different body mechanics.  For example, someone with scoliosis may not be able to get into that perfect Vinyasa Triangle pose that you’re pushing her into, perhaps a modified triangle or a triangle from another style of yoga would be more fitting.  Help your clients reach their goals by respecting their bodies for where they are and then safely coaching them further.

Which brings me to my next point…respect your OWN body.  I love pushing myself but I listen to my body and know my limits.  This is a very hard skill to learn and I’m still not perfect at it but when I get stuck I try to ask myself, “Why do I workout?”  I workout because I love my body, I love feeling healthy, strong and full of energy.  While being sore after a workout is OK on a small scale, if it hurts to lift a glass of water the next day or walk to my mailbox then I’m achieving the opposite of my goals.  To take a couple quotes from “How to Not Fucking Kill Your Clients” (a great, albeit brash, response to the Crossfit scare-tactic article above), “Are 400 push-ups going to help your clients reach the general fitness, and overall well-being they crave?”  Ask yourself that, will bashing on one relatively small group of muscles over and over again actually help you with your fitness goals?  If your goals are to end up in the hospital then sure. 😉

Now to end this rant with a more personal story.  I have been researching Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) trainings in my area.  Now RYT is not a high standard, per-say, it just means that teachers go through the Yoga Alliance, which doesn’t make them good or bad, but I wanted to see what was in my area as I continue my own training.  I started attending classes at a popular Vinyasa studio, thinking I would enroll in the teacher’s training course.  I found her classes to be VERY strict.  Vinyasa to her means that poses are done in a very specific way, and she went around the room manually adjusting people into these identical positions.  

On the plus side, I loved that I really sweat in her classes and you can tell by how full the room is that other people love this too.  On the downside, I noticed after taking her classes for over a month that I was developing injuries in my back and my wrists.  Her style of teaching was hurting me, and I hadn’t been listening enough to my body.  Since I still had paid classes on my card, I started going to courses at her studio offered by other teachers.  Many of them were trained by her so the form of the classes was basically the same, but I noticed some of the teachers allowed more flexibility, or at least didn’t push me into positions.  I still wondered though if I was missing something.  I doubted what my body was telling me and thought that maybe I just wasn’t up to par.  That’s when I went to a co-taught class and beforehand I listened to the two teachers discussing pains in their bodies.  They mentioned that the studio’s owner, the teacher I originally mentioned, had pushed one of them into a deep twist that she wasn’t ready for.  The other chimed in to say she does that all the time to her and she has to actually say “I’m not doing deep twists today.”  

I respect that especially with yoga there are many styles and some are very strict to honor the lineage of their style.  But I have to question the benefits of those practices if they’re injuring their students.  Can we still honor those strict styles while honoring the bodies of our students?  Can we learn to listen to them and be more aware?  If not, I’m afraid I’ll keep getting exercise-related injury clients in my massage practice.  My biggest advice to trainers out there is to take continuing education and challenge yourself to learn more, put yourselves in your clients shoes and adapt exercises for their fitness level.  To others like me who love those good hard workouts, trust your body to tell you when you’ve had enough.  If you’re in pain, don’t push it because you risk doing serious harm to your body or at least setting yourself back.

And with that, two quickie workouts.  The first is a low-cardio strength and stretching workout that I did after four days of pretty intense cardio.  The second is a nice shortie to get your pulse up without taking a lot of time out of the day.

9/3/13 – Strength and Stretching
  1. Pushups x 10
  2. Child’s Pose ~45 sec.
  3. Pyramid Bicep forward and reverse curls (12 reps @ low weight, 10 reps @ medium weight, 8 reps @ high weight, 10 reps @ medium weight, 12 reps at low weight; I used 8, 10 + 15lb weights, if you’re starting out I recommend 2, 5 and 8lb weights)
  4. Child’s Pose ~45 sec.
  5. Pyramid Triceps (same reps as pyramid biceps but using only one weight and doing seated overhead triceps extension and dumbbell skull crushers)
  6. Child’s Pose ~45 sec.
  7. Side-Crunch L x 10
  8. Side-Crunch R x 10
  9. Full sit-up x 10
  10. Bridge or wheel ~45 sec.
  11. Savasana 3-10 mins.
9/11/13 –  Intervals (3 Rounds, 45 sec activity 15 sec rest)
  1. KB Swings
  2. KB Snatch R
  3. KB Snatch L
  4. Box Jumps
  5. Weighted Sit-Ups
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