Injuries and Becoming a Better Athlete

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3. Injuries are an opportunity to correct movement patterns

First time squatting 105kg (231), this was less than a year into Weightlifting and I hit 109 about a week later.

First time squatting 105kg (231), this was back in 2012 when I was was less than a year into Weightlifting. I hit 109kg (240) not long after, but then injured my back and it took until 2016 before I could hit these numbers (and then some) pain free.

[I]n the end I’m almost glad I hurt my back, because if I hadn’t I don’t think I would have taken the time to fix my mechanics.
When I first started squatting, I didn’t have any concept of what a good squat should look like; instead of using my hamstrings and glutes, I squatted almost entirely with my quads. I was still able to move a decent amount of weight — I think I hit a 240# back squat within my first year — but my back almost always hurt when I squatted/did anything under load. Despite the back pain, however, I didn’t want to stop/try to find the problem, because I was still able to push through and was getting stronger. Furthermore, I don’t think I really realized that it wasn’t normal to have constant back pain, because that’s what it had felt like almost since I started.

But eventually it became too much for my back, and after doing a pretty heavy/high volume squat cycle, my back blew up and I couldn’t squat any load without severe back pain. I spent almost a month squatting just the barbell and working with a couple specialists to reprogram how I squat so that I was actually using the right muscles. It was by no means a fast process — I hurt my back early in 2014, and it wasn’t until 2016 that I was able to hit and pass my old PRs — and it was definitely really frustrating. However, in the end I’m almost glad I hurt my back, because if I hadn’t I don’t think I would have taken the time to fix my mechanics. And it’s not just my squats that got better; it’s my wallballs, thrusters, kettlebell swingsbox jumps, Olympic lifts, “odd objects” movements… pretty much every movement that uses hips, glutes and hamstrings has improved because of it.

Injuries are an opportunity to correct movement patterns

135lb Atlas Stone at the 2015 Stones and Strength Competition

Injuries are an unfortunate risk that come with an active lifestyle. While I’m not saying we should try to get injured or ignore preventative measures, I am saying that there is a good chance we will sustain an injury at some point during our athletic career. And when we do, it’s important to see and treat any injury as an opportunity to become more complete and better athletes rather than a setback. Injuries don’t define us as athletes. How we react to injuries, however, and what we learn from them says a lot about us and can have a huge impact on our success as athletes.   

Visit Taryn Haggerstone’s blog Go Hard Get Strong for more of her thoughts on training. Follow her on Twitter at @TarynHaggerston and Instagram at @tarynemilyh.

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