For men: How to get in great shape, even after an injury
For most guys, an injury means skipping the gym for months at a time. Sometimes, they retire their workout clothes for good.
But here’s the good news: there’s always a way to work around an injury and build the body you want. This post will show you how.
When I hit the loose gravel, I knew I was in trouble.
That’s when I did the very thing you’re not supposed to do during a motorcycle skid: I put my left foot down.
The good news is that the bike didn’t drop; I made it through the roundabout on two wheels.
The bad news is that knee ligaments, even strong ones like mine, aren’t meant to withstand massive torque.
Screw it! What’s a little knee pain?
I knew something felt weird and a little “off”, but there wasn’t much pain. It might have been the distraction of trying to keep the bike upright. Or maybe the fight or flight hormones kicking in.
But since I was on my way to the gym when it happened, I didn’t think twice about it. I put the near accident behind me, drove to the gym, and prepared to work my legs.
With my liniment, knee wraps, and heavy metal music, everything felt fine in the squat rack. Okay, the knee felt a little shaky.
“But what’s a little knee pain?” I thought. “If I work through it, it’ll go away in a few weeks.”
I was sure of it.
When I considered getting help
You can probably see where this is going: my knee pain didn’t go away.
In fact, it got worse. Much worse.
Of course, I was big, muscular, and — I thought — invincible. So I kept training the only way I knew how: with heavy lifts and low reps.
I continued to squat, deadlift, row, and bench press, the way I had been taught by all the serious workout articles and magazines, written by intelligent experts.
Within 6 months, my left knee was ruined.
And not only was the left out of commission, my right knee was in rough shape too. Plus, my shoulders and lower back were also bugging me.
Just a few months prior I had been squatting over 400 pounds for reps. Now, I couldn’t even squat an empty bar. And even that caused serious pain.
I considered getting help. But remember, I’m a guy. So I didn’t. I waited another 6 months until I could barely walk up a flight of stairs.
Advice from the doc
Finally, a chiropractor friend of mine forced me to see a top orthopedic surgeon. And after a full examination, I got a diagnosis. I had partial tears in 3 of the ligaments in my left knee. And osteoarthritis in my right knee.
Oh, and the shoulder and back pain? They were a result of the compensations my body was making for all the stress I put on my damaged knees. Go figure.
With my diagnosis, I also got a prognosis. “JB, if you keep training like this, you won’t be able to walk in 10 years.”
At the time, I was 29 years old.
“So, what should I do, doc?”
She put it as gently as she could: “Uh, stop squatting, you dummy!”
Sure, she gave me other recommendations too. Specifically, she gave me a treatment plan that included lots of manual therapy and a host of rehab exercises. But her most strenuous urging was to seriously reconsider the way I was training.
Either do that, or quit training altogether.
The injury crossroad
Looking back, I now realize I was at a crossroad, the exact same one many guys find themselves when sidelined with their first serious injury or suffering from chronic pain.
What do most guys do at that point? They quit working out.
To a lifelong exerciser — or someone with training in strength and conditioning — this may seem like a strange and unnecessary choice.
But, if you think about it, it’s not really that strange. In fact, considering how much (or how little) the average guy knows about training with injuries, it’s the logical one.
If you can’t do what you’ve always done, and don’t know any other way of doing things, you’re lost.
And, I’ll be honest here. I was lost.
After the orthopedic doc told me I’d have to rethink the way I trained, I was also mad.
I was 29 and had been pretty much training the same way for 13 years. I liked the way I worked out. And, if I’m really being honest here, I didn’t really know how to do anything else, even if I wanted to change my approach.
What happens when you get help
Only one thing saved me from self-pity and giving up entirely on training.
I found a way to ask for help.
For most guys, this is one of the hardest things to do, which also makes it one of the bravest. To reach out and say “Hey, I don’t know what I’m doing here. Can I get some help?” For men, that’s an act of courage.
Even with my Masters training in Exercise Science, I bit the bullet and hired a coach to help me get back into shape. To teach me how to stay lean, strong, and healthy with my new limitations.
And it was one of the best investments I ever made.
He helped me re-write my previous training “rules”. He taught me that my way of training wasn’t the only way to do it. In fact, it wasn’t even the best way to do it.
He showed me how to modify exercises to take the strain off my injured body parts. He taught me how to space out my workouts to allow for optimal joint recovery between sessions. He helped me find the ideal training volume at which I could still improve without aggravating my injuries.
Through the process, I also learned how to eat and supplement for injury recovery. And how to adjust my food intake to accommodate my new training demands.
A year later, I was in as good a shape as I’d ever been in. I was lean, strong, and probably more conditioned than ever before. And my training was totally and completely different.
The most important lesson of all
While it was great that I learned how to strengthen my knee and get in great shape while working around the injury, that wasn’t the most important thing I learned from my coach.
No, the lesson that I’ll take with me forever is this one:
No matter what injury, setback, competing time demand, or other distraction might come my way, with a little coaching and support, I can still be my best. In the gym and out.
Now that I have two kids, a growing business, and my fair share of nagging injuries, that advice has served me well.
Getting the help you need
So what’s holding you back? Is it an injury? Chronic pain? A busy lifestyle? Lots of competing time demands?
No matter what it is, here’s what I have to say: You can still drop fat, get healthy, and get into the best shape of your life.
I know because I’ve been there myself. I also know because every day we help thousands of guys in the same situation in our Lean Eating coaching program.
Keep in mind, many of these guys have serious health or time limitations when they start the program. And they’ve considered giving up too.
But 30, 40, 50 pounds of body fat later, they’re transformed.
If this story resonates with you, we’d be happy to work with you too. Our next Lean Eating group kicks off in early July and we’d love to have you in the program.
But whether you choose Lean Eating or not isn’t important. What’s important is that you get the help you need.
Because the difference between where you are today, and where you’ll be in a year, is the quality of the coaching, the mentorship, and the support you get along the way.
So my question to you is this: Are you man enough to ask for help?
Want some help from a world class coach?
If you’d like some expert guidance we’d be happy to work with you. In fact, we’ll soon be taking a group of new clients looking for the same thing, all as part of our Lean Eating Coaching Program.
We accept a very small number of new clients every 6 months, and the spots in the program typically sell out in hours. However, those motivated enough to put themselves on the presale list get to register 24 hours before everyone else. Plus, you’ll receive a big discount at registration.
So put your name on the list below – because, as always, spots are first come, first served, and when they’re gone, they’re gone.