We have all had some kind of “injury” come up that gets in the way of our training. More than likely it hasn’t been something as major as a knee reconstruction, but I think we can all relate to a tweaked shoulder or shin splints. I’ve seen all kinds of injuries in this range, and what’s so great about the CrossFit methodology is that it’s infinitely scalable. Often people think of scaling when they don’t have the prerequisite strength, skills, or conditioning needed for something, but it’s just as applicable when an injury comes up.
When we have to give time to an area to heal, and can’t really train it, there’s going to obviously be physical set backs, but they don’t have to transfer to the rest of our body as well. Especially mentally is where I see it get to a lot of people. First thoughts after getting news that you have to give something a break for a few weeks, or more, are similar to “I was just starting to make real progress” or “Great, now I can’t workout and I’m gonna get in terrible shape.” Everyone just immediately forgets they still have the entire rest of their body to use!
Of course there will some overlap in things that hinder other parts. If we hurt our shoulder the loading on it for a squat or dynamic movement during running could still irritate it. Machines and unilateral implements can let us do all kinds of things still though. We don’t use machines in CrossFit, but their usefulness in isolating muscle groups can’t be denied when it comes to something like avoiding an injury. Just because these tools aren’t readily available in most CrossFit Boxes doesn’t mean we can’t achieve the same affect through other means. Using dumbbells and kettlebells to isolate any loading to one side, or taking advantage of bands to use tension as the source of loading if we can’t support a weight in anyway.
I also think it’s important to remember that just because one arm or leg is hurt it doesn’t mean you can’t still train the healthy side. A lot of the time it’s a concern of that opposite side getting way bigger than the other one since it can’t do anything at all. This is kind of a strange concern, not because it couldn’t happen, but because it isn’t the biggest risk. When continuing to work a limb while the other is healing it can be under more load than we’re used to so just using it to keep moving and maintain its current ability is important to avoid a possible overuse injury. Otherwise this cycle of hurting something, overusing the other to compensate, then having to stay off that once the originally hurt side is better can start.
Continuing to train the healthy side can actually be greatly beneficial! Our bodies are amazing things and they love to be symmetrical. So much so that by working one side of our body we can actually see the benefits show up in the other side as well. This doesn’t mean that we can just train one side of our bodies, save half our time, and get all the results in both. The effects of training on the side that actually did the work are going to be much greater, but the fact that there is a spillover to the non-worked side should be encouraging enough. If not to keep the good side healthy, then to help strengthen and speed up the healing process of the injured side.