Athletic Injuries: The Seven Stages of Grief

Ice & Ibuprofen

Last night I was excited for my workout. On the agenda was an hour on the elliptical followed by back, bicep, and ab weights (Right now, I’m doing a 3-day split routine, which I plan to discuss in a future post). I pushed through cardio despite leg fatigue– the day before, I did an hour on the StairMaster in addition to a fabulous but tiring night of dancing with my hubby at a Relay-for-Life fundraising ball.

My planned weight routine was 3 set of 12 reps of the following exercises:

  • Assisted Pull-ups
  • Lat Pull-downs
  • Rows
  • Cable Curl with Squat
  • Super-Girl Cable Curl
  • Incline Curl
  • Back Hyperextensions
  • Side Hyperextensions
  • Russian Twists

Assisted Pull-ups felt tough after a hard chest and shoulder routine the day before — I almost felt like I was working my pecs and shoulders more than my lats on this exercise. Then I moved on to Lat Pull-downs, where at the end of the second set, I felt a sharp pain in my left anterior deltoid. From there I basically entered the Seven Stages of Grief…

Stage 1, Denial: I’m fine, that was nothing. I’ll just finish this set with a lighter weight and finish my workout.

Stage 2, Pain: I’m talking literal physical pain. I tried to move on and do rows, but there was no denying that I had just pulled a muscle in my shoulder.

Stage 3, Anger and Bargaining: Pissed off cuss words in my own head… Maybe if I just go light on the biceps and twist my arm just so it won’t hurt. Wrong.

Stage 4, Depression: Oh my gosh, I’ve pulled my shoulder. I’m not going to be able to work out anymore. I’m going to get fat again.

Stage 5, The Upward Turn: Okay, maybe this won’t ruin my whole workout routine. I still have working legs and all.

Stage 6, Reconstruction and Working Through it:  I’ll take some Ibuprofen when I get home, and tomorrow I’ll just work legs and see how I feel.

Stage 7, Acceptance and Hope: I accept that like a dummy, I tried to lift too much weight and pulled my deltoid, and I hope like hell it gets better soon. In the mean time, I’m still going to kill in in the gym, doing any and all exercises that don’t hurt.

I could have still finished the abs portion of my workout, but I was in the Anger/Depression stage and just wanted to get the heck out of the gym. So I cut that workout short, went home, took 3 Ibuprofen, and tried not to obsess about it. My shoulder is still sore today, so I’m going to take more Ibuprofen and ice it.

There is a lesson in all of this… I worked my shoulders to failure the day before and was proud and naive enough to think I could come back the next day and lift heavy (even with different muscle groups), because I still need my shoulders to stabilize in some back exercises. Next time I will give my upper body more time to recover in between workouts, even if I think I am working different muscle groups. Lesson learned!


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