A Little SetBACK + a Big Lesson

Sometimes life is funny.
Sometimes you’re a personal trainer who blogs about wellness and life, and keeping both balanced.
And sometimes you get an “unexpected opportunity” to practice what you preach.

See, lately my lower back has been hurting.  I’d given up heavy squats awhile back due to some knee problems.  About 2 months ago, I let myself have my first heavy back squat session in ages. My I realized after a couple sets that my form was suffering badly and decided to call it for the day and ease back in much more slowly.  My lower back started hurting pretty bad – at least by my standards, as someone who rarely experiences any back pain.

back pain woman pink

photo source: HROSM


As part of Operation: Fix This ‘Ish, I started practicing yoga at a local studio a few times a week and subbing in bodyweight squat/lunge variations for all weighted lower body exercises.  My back pain lessened, but never went away completely.  I started getting nervous because the pain felt very much like a pinching/pulling sensation in my lumbar spine whenever I flexed or extended my back [i.e. laying on my back and pulling my knees to my chest was very painful, while doing walking lunges was not].

Because I’m stupid, stubborn, or a good combination of the two, I didn’t do the smart thing, which would have been to talk several days off from working out and consult a medical professional.

So naturally, when I was working out last Friday [the day before I moved], I figured that because my back hadn’t hurt too badly the past few days, I may as well throw in a few front squats with the olympic bar [45 pounds].  “Just taking it slowly” is what I told myself.  Then I felt distinct pain and pinching/pulling with each squat…

Here’s what would have been the smart thing to do:
Call it, move on to some exercises that didn’t aggravate my back, and go call my doc for a referral to a sports therapist.

What I did instead: 
Finished all my sets on front squats, then moved on to a plyometric circuit that included jump squats and jump lunges.

Of course, I still felt pain and that unsettling pinch/pull sensation while doing jump squats.  During the fourth round, I came down on my third jump squat and felt a sudden and severe pain in my lower back.  Like I said, I’ve never had chronic backaches or much acute back pain at all.  But even I could tell that this was bad news.  And I mean bad enough to scare me for a few minutes that I’d seriously injured myself.  I cut my workout off right there and hobbled off to shower.

Honestly, I’m still a little nervous that this might be something serious.  I can walk around without a problem, but flexing/extending my back at all still causes pain and that suspicious pinching/pulling feeling.  Sitting on the floor [not to mention getting up] requires a ginger effort.  At least after the last time I injured myself, I know enough to give my body a complete break for at least a few days… while I look for a sports doc in my new town.

Funny enough, laying off of training is harder than training right now.  Moving houses is always a little difficult, no matter how much you plan and organize in advance.  And, of course, I’m also a control freak.  Turns out it’s freaking hard to control everything right off the bat when you wake up with a new house, new city, new roommates, new job, and new website [more on that to come].

Add a new injury and subtract my usual endorphin-high from training, and you’ve got one squirrely girl on your hands. I don’t love that feeling of not being entirely in control…but frankly, I don’t always love the feeling of training, either.  Sometimes, workouts are a little painful.  Sometimes they’re mentally challenging to finish.  Sometimes they’re frustrating when you can’t master a skill or hit a new PR.

But what’s even more frustrating is being sidelined and not having a choice to work out.  Being sidelined is unpleasant enough that I’d rather take a short “time out” now and get my body’s squared away than indulge my pride, keep pushing when I shouldn’t, and end up being stuck on the sidelines indefinitely.

And at the end of the day, I’m rather glad to be getting a hands-on lesson in “taking it easy” right now.   Whether it’s getting my schedule sorted or exploring this place I’ll call “home” for at least the next year, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy while I give my back a break.

As for the gym? I’m itching to get back, but I want to do it right this time around.  Workouts will wait, but injuries don’t.  The gym will always be there – including when I can get back in the action better than ever.

Sometimes a little setback [pun intended, yall] can be a good thing.


Have you ever had an injury that kept you sidelined?  

Any PTs/sports med folks out there with ideas what this might be?


2 thoughts on “A Little SetBACK + a Big Lesson

  1. It’s hard to take it easy when you’re used to a certain level of activity. I really struggled with this during the six weeks after I had Charlotte. I actually started doing too much activity too soon and I think it’s part of the reason my abdominal muscles are still partially separated – I didn’t take a break when I needed to and overworked myself. I’m not blaming my post-baby belly on that fact alone; however, IMO it definitely contributes. I should’ve listened to my body instead of wanting to ‘get back to it’. I think it’s so wise of you to know yourself well enough and to be strong enough to say no for the short term so you don’t do damage in the long term. 🙂

    1. The recovery time is actually one of my big fears about ever having kids, so it’s really good to hear someone admit that it IS hard mentally and physically. If anything, though, this injury has made me more grateful than ever for my health and the fact that I have a body that can do so much, even when it is mildly injured!

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