Scene: the sweat-soaked, MRSA-ridden, gritty, black stretching mats at the Y. My face is planted in a pool of someone else’s grime while I try and stretch my quads. I am trying not to inhale. Grossed out? It gets better. I look up to see my friend Bobby (Hi, Bobby!!) taking off his running shoe and gasp as his sock is covered in oozy bright red blood, nearly to his ankle. Bobby seems unperturbed. “That’s funny,” he says. “I didn’t even feel anything!”
“Blister?” I ask. I shouldn’t be grossed out – a mother who is a community health ed nurse breeds that out of you right quick – but I suppress a shudder. A better friend would run to get him paper towels and a band-aid. In this instance I don’t even qualify as a decent friend as all I can do is stare.
“Nope,” he answers as he peels off the sock.
Fresh blood can look like a lot more than it is. Now I consider running to get band-aids – to put over my eyes. I blame childbirth. Ever since my little monkeys started spewing bodily fluids I’ve gotten a lot wussier. My mother is not proud.
“Sharp toenail,” he finally declares. I faint.
Ace bandages and knee braces are the fashion statement du jour on the treadmill. Bruises, wrist straps and weight belts abound on the weight floor (but no, all the shaved heads are not indicative of a mental injury or a Britney fetish – although I’d love to see you ask one of those meatheads about it!)
In fact, if you pick any random person at the gym I bet you a thirty-pound dumbbell dropped on your chest that they have an injury story to tell. If they’re really, um, lucky they even have their very own pet injury – one they can feed & clothe and love just like a Webkin but without the yearly subscription fee!
Do You Really Want to Make Me Cry?
I won’t tell you about the worst exercise injury I’ve ever seen (In high school a soccer player caught his foot in a hole in the grass and went down, breaking his FEMUR. It sounded like a RIFLE going off. The bone came through his SKIN. His coach THREW UP. Sorry, that just popped out. I think I still have PTSD from it.) but I can tell you some things to help avoid exercise injuries.
1. Don’t exercise. Oh, wait. Not an option? Fine. You can do Sit and Be Fit. Mmm… except I bet somebody somewhere has fallen off their chair.
All right – if you exercise you’re going to get hurt. To be fair, if you do anything other than breathe you are going to get injured eventually. Which is why you need to be as smart as you can (wear appropriate clothing, ask for a spot when you need it, stretch properly etc.) but don’t despair when the inevitable occurs. (Knock, knock, knock on wood. Well, at least I think this is wood. If it’s not and I get injured today I’m so suing IKEA.)
Working Around An Injury
1. Rest. I am the worst possible person to talk to about this because as long as I can still get my shoes on, I’m in the gym that day. Hopefully you are not as compulsive as I am. But in case you are, at least try and rest the affected part. If your shins hurt (aHEM), try swimming or bike riding. If your wrists are sore avoid pull-ups and push-ups. The key here is to keep resting your Achilles heel even after it starts to feel better. Depending on the severity of your injury it could take weeks or even months. When I stress-fractured my leg last year I was off all high-impact activity for 6 weeks. If I can do it, anyone can.
Ice, heat, massage and those crazy-fun foam rollers can also do wonders for mild injuries.
2. Get the proper equipment. Don’t let your pride or impeccable fashion sense prevent you from getting those butt-ugly orthopedic shoes or knee brace or basketball goggles (hee!) if you need them. Wear them with pride, bro, wear them with pride!
3. Don’t repeat. This sounds like a total duh but since I am so guilty of this one, I’m going to say it: don’t make the same mistake over again. Even if this means you can’t exercise at the level you used to. If you hurt your knee because you upped your mileage too fast then don’t do it again! Up your mileage slowly next time. Train for the surface you run on. Don’t walk and chew gum at the same time.
4. Strengthen the supporting muscles. I can’t say enough good things about this one. If you have knee pain, do more quad, ham & calf exercises. Stronger legs will help stabilize your knee and help it from going out again. Back pain? Make sure you are doing lots of core exercises. Ask a doc or physical therapist for exercises you can safely do to help with your injured area.
I probably shouldn’t ask this but I can’t help myself: what’s the worst exercise injury you’ve ever seen? Have you ever had to work around an injury? Anyone else have a pet injury?