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Injury and Other Problems

By Gary F. Zeolla

The following messages were posted in the Weight Trainers United forum and on my MySpace blog.

In my powerlifting book I discuss how it can sometimes be beneficial to skip a workout once in a while to give your body a chance to catch up in terms of recovery. Then I specifically mention how I had found it best to take a day off once a month, and how one time when I didn’t, I got injured in my next workout (pp. 102-4). Well it just happened again.

I should have skipped Sunday’s workout (3/7/10, a Bench Assistance workout) as it had been four weeks since I took an extra day off. But I just didn’t feel like I needed a day off, and that workout went well. Then same thing on Monday (Squats workout), I didn’t feel I needed a day off, and the workout was going very well, until the first rep of my third set of squats--I felt a “twinge” in my right adductor (inner thigh muscle) while in the hole. But I didn’t think it was anything, so rather than dumping the weight like I probably should have and stopping there, I completed that rep and my next two reps, and then the rest of my workout. My leg bothered me a little, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, maybe just a flare-up of my fibromyalgia pain.

I iced it afterwards while eating dinner, and it felt okay. But then when I lay down to rest, my leg really started to hurt, with the pain now  progressing into my hamstring. As many of you might remember, I've had problems with my hamstrings and adductor before (see Hamstring injury and Hamstring injury, again). But making matters worse, as the evening progressed, I began to feel exhausted and just plain awful. By bedtime, I felt terrible and barely slept at all during the night.

When I awoke in the morning, I felt so fatigued I didn’t think I could get out of bed. This was the worst my fibromyalgia fatigue ever felt. Then when I tried to get up, I realized I was paralyzed, yet another flare-up of my stiff person syndrome. I ended up having to stay in bed until noon, and spent the next few days feeling exhausted and stiff.

In addition, I experienced flare-ups of my multiple chemical sensitivities, neurological tics, and other problems, causing me to loose a lot of sleep and to feel just plain terrible. The best I can figure, the trauma of the injury and/ or being overtrained led to these problems flaring up. Meanwhile, my leg continued to bother me, so I iced it periodically.

With all of this going on, I had no choice but to take the rest of the week off. But I was hoping that by Sunday I'd be feeling better. Also, this way I won’t be deadlifting until Monday, giving my leg a full week to heal. As I write this, it is Saturday (3/13/10), and I am starting to feel better, and my leg is only slightly sore, so I might be good to go by tomorrow. But I do need to learn to start taking my own advice! I'll post updates on my workout logs.

Injured and Paralyzed Again

To update my earlier “Injury and other problems” post, deadlifts on Monday (3/15/10) went okay. I dropped back the intensity slightly, and with doing that, my leg only bothered me slightly, so I thought I was going to be okay. It was also clear that the injury was only in my adductor, that the hamstring was fine.

By Thursday, my leg was not bothering me at all. I walked up to get my car from the shop in the morning, and my leg felt fine. And “walked up” is the correct term here as it was all uphill, so with no pain from walking a couple of steep hills, I figured I’d have no problems with my squat workout in the afternoon.

During warm-ups, my leg bothered me a little, but it didn’t seem anything to be concerted about. Then my first work set for six reps went well and felt easy; I could have easily done a couple of more reps. My leg hurt some, but still, not too bad.

With as easy as that set was, I concerned increasing by more weight than I had planned for my next set of a planned four reps, but I thought it best not to push it. The first rep went okay, but then halfway up on the second rep, major pain flared up in my leg. I had no choice but to end the set and the workout right there. In fact, I had a hard time just walking the weight back in and cleaning up.

I took a shower and laid down to rest and iced my leg, and it didn’t feel too bad. It only hurt going up and down the steps. I slept better than usual that night, but when I awoke in the morning, my leg was really hurting and once again, I was paralyzed. I was so bad I couldn’t even turn my head to see what time it was, but I figure I laid there for a couple of hours before I loosened up enough that I was able to get out of bed.

All day Friday I felt very tired and my leg was really hurting. Today (Saturday, 3/20/10) my leg has been really hurting, starting from the moment I woke up. It is so strange that it would hurt worse the next couple of days than right after the incident. But whatever the case, my adductor injury is now obviously a much more serious injury than I originally thought or at least I made it worse by squatting on Thursday. But either way, this injury ends any contest plans for the foreseeable future.

In fact, I’m not sure if or when I will start to lift again. With getting injured and paralyzed two weeks in a row from lifting and all of the other problems I have to deal with, I am getting very frustrated and depressed. I could easily just give up even trying to stay in shape let alone having hopes to compete again. But I’ll take a few days off and then decide how to proceed.

Rehab/ New Routine Plans

I’ve been struggling with why I seem to keep getting injured of late and what to do routine-wise.

Going back over my workout logs, it looks like very time I’ve been injured it has been on a planned set of 1-4 reps. I’ve never gotten injured while doing five or more reps. So I could easily conclude that my body can no longer handle doing lower reps, so I need to just accept that and stick with five or more reps in training. But if I do that, it means the end of any thoughts of competing again.

However, as I’ve posted many times before and even mention in my powerlifting book, thoughts of competing give me an incentive to keep working out despite all of my health problems. If I give up on ever competing again, I am afraid I could easily give up on working out altogether. In addition, I much prefer doing lower reps versus higher reps.

But now that I am injured, maybe I should do what I did for rehabbing before, start with higher reps at a low intensity, then gradually increase the weights and drop the reps over a period of weeks. But the problem is, it seems like when I get to the lower reps I get injured. My thought is maybe when I drop the reps it is just too much of a change and increase in weight all at once, and my body cannot handle it.

However, if I start with low reps but with light weights and gradually increase the weights while keeping the reps the same, maybe, just maybe, I will gradually prepare my body for lower reps. I will try this approach for my rehab workouts as I am not ready to give up hopes of competing again. But if this plan doesn’t work, then I will have no choice but to stick with five or more reps and give up any plans of competition.

Then again, it really is only squats that I am “rehabbing.” Deadlifts went okay last week, but I’m not sure with aggravating the injury if that will still prove to be the case. But at least my upper body seems fine, so my bench workouts should all be “regular” workouts, and a bench/ deadlift contest might be a possibility before a full power meet would be.

Otherwise, the “Three Week Rotation” I was using didn’t seem to work very well, for the same reasons I give in my book for a “Four Week Rotation” (p.118). But the most important point here is that with only doing a given exercise once every three weeks, I felt like I am not getting used to it, and that very well could also have contributed to my injury.

As such, I will go back to and stick with an “Alternate Weeks” plan (discussed on pages 117-8 in my book). That plan seems to work best for me. Doing the same exercises every other week provides enough variety while at the same time avoiding the problems of a three or four week rotation. Specifically, during “Week A” I will be doing major assistance exercises while “Week B” will be the actual powerlifts. I will plan on each routine lasting 10-12 weeks, thus doing each set of workouts five or six times.

I will stick with my basic plan of working out four days a week, alternating Bench Assistance/ Squats/ Benches/ Deadlifts. But since I did B.A. and Squat workouts in the last week of my last routine, the first week of this new routine will include just Bench and Deadlift workouts.

As for sets x reps, for the powerlifts and “look-alike lifts” I will start with 3 x 5-6, 3-4, 1-2, but later I might switch to a “Drop Reps with Backoff Set approach of doing 3 x 3-4, 1-2, 7-8. I discuss both of these rep schemes in my book (pp. 121-3).

Going back and forth between these two rep ranges and between the higher and low ends of each should provide sufficient variety. But it will keep me used to lower reps (and higher reps) throughout. This way, I should be able to enter a contest whenever I feel I am ready rather than having to plan months in advance what contest to enter like other routines forced me to do.

Trying to plan that far in advance has led to much disappointment. Almost every time I have done so, something has gone wrong, and I’ve had to cancel my plans. In fact, I just received the entry form for the contest I had been planning on entering Memorial Day weekend. Very depressing that now I won’t be able to enter it.

In any case, as long as I am able to lift raw, there is at least one contest every month here in Pennsylvania or in adjoining states that would be a possibility, so I can wait until I am ready and then decide at the last minute to enter the next available contest, though it might mean having to travel a little further than I prefer.

All that said, I’m taking a few days off of lifting to give my leg a chance to heal, while I catch up on things I need to do at home. As of today (Monday, 3/22/10), my leg’s feeling better than it was, but it still bothering me, and for some reason my fibro-fatigue seems worse than usual. As such, I’m not sure exactly when I will lift again, but I don’t want to wait too long. Tentatively, I am hoping to start my new routine on Wednesday, but I’ll wait to see how I feel then. Any more updates I’ll include with my workout logs.

It’s Over

any hopes of competing again that is, at least for now.

My squat workout yesterday (3/29/10) went terrible. For perspective, the set I injured my adductor on three weeks ago was 285/3. For yesterdays workout I warmed up with 45/10, 95/10, 135/6, and then did a “work” set of 175/5, and it felt very good. I had my form down just right and my leg did not bother me at all.

Then I went up to 195 with plans on doing a triple. I walked the weight out, but then just stood there. I couldn’t bring myself to even bend my knees as I “just knew” it would cause pain. After several seconds, I walked it back in and paused for a couple of minutes. I then tried again, but the same thing happened.

I rested and thought about it for a few minutes, then lowered the weight to 185 and tried again. This time, I did bend my knees just slightly, and sure enough, immediately felt some pain, so I stopped. I then sat down for several minutes feeling very depressed and trying to figure out what to do. I decided to drop the weights and do a light set of ten,

I first tried 155, but same problem again, I couldn’t bring myself; to even bend my knees, and then again with 135. None of this made any sense. The set with 175 felt fine. But maybe I somehow aggravated the adductor in the process. In any case, with not being able to squat hardly at all, that ends any plans of competing, at least for the foreseeable future.

Now I could still go heavy on benches and to much lesser degree on deadlifts. But frankly, I am afraid that if I continue to try to lift heavy, yet one more thing will go wrong. I’ve long said that the day an athlete becomes afraid of getting hurt, his/ her athletic career is over, and that is where I am at now. I just don’t feel like I can handle the low reps and heavy weights that powerlifting requires.

But I do thank the LORD that I’ve been able to compete for as long as I have (from 2003 – 2009) given all of the serious health problems I’ve been dealing with over those years. I only entered ten contests during those six years, but that that is ten contests more than I every thought I enter after my powerlifting career ended back in college. But one injury after another on top of my various health problems makes it too much to continue, at least for now.

What I am planning on doing is to follow the same program I already started, except to do higher reps with less weight and less intensity. I don’t want to make the same mistake I made back after college. Back then, when I could no longer compete any longer I just couldn’t bring myself to lift weights at all. That meant of course that I very quickly loss all of the musculature I had gained.

Specifically, for the powerlifts and other major exercises I am planning on doing 3 x 10, 8 6. I have no desire to do more than ten reps on the big lifts, while working up to a set of six will at least have me handling somewhat heavy weights. That way, if I do want to try competing again, it won’t be too difficult to cycle down the reps. I’ll also be doing exercises to rehab my adductor in addition to squats and DLs. After the 10-12 weeks, I see how I am feeling and decide then how to proceed.

However, I am sure I won’t even think about competing again this year. That means when the various ranking lists for 2010 come out, it will be the first time in years that my name won’t appear on them as I always managed to enter at least one contest each of the last seven years. That’s depressing, but there is nothing I can do about it.

For a follow-up to the above messages, see Motorcycles and Sleep Deprivation.

Injury and Other Problems. Copyright 2010 by Gary F. Zeolla.

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