On Kettlebell Workouts And Pain…

A buddy of mine sent me an email the other day and asked me how I coped with pain and still manage to do my  kettlebell workouts. He’s had some serious setbacks since September and was feeling discouraged.

So I thought I’d write a little bit about it today.

It’s funny – because I honestly haven’t felt too much pain anywhere in the last year – and more imporantly, I’ve felt so good I  haven’t focused on pain in any way shape or form. Occasionally when it does rear it’s head – it’s minimally prohibiting and 9.9 times out of 10 I can make it go away and do whatever I want.

It hasn’t always been so.

From 2002 to the end of 2009, I’d been focused on getting out of and avoiding pain.

What am I doing differently now?

Well, I had spent some time doing FMS correctives, and they worked pretty well. I liked them. Challenging. Fun.

Then I started making my own stuff up based on the FMS correctives I learned and some other stuff. (The reality is, I probably am just “re-inventing” something someone else has done…)

And then I started focusing on performance.

What could I do on any given day? And then I started thinking “Screw that – I should be able to do whatever I want on any given day!” And so I’ve been focused on that.

And that’s how I think we should view our kettlebell workouts – or any training for that matter.

We should get out bodies to the place where we can do anything we want to do at any given time. (I’ve been doing some tumbling and rolling lately and ran the stadium stairs on Sunday for the first time in 8 years – because I wanted to.)

How do we do that?

  1. If you’re in pain, go see a doc and get cleared medically. If things still don’t seem right, go see a specialist. Health first, then performance.
  2. Do the best you can not to train in painful movements. Don’t confuse discomfort with pain. Pain is throbbing, sharp and achey. Discomfort is not.
  3. Train in areas that you can move freely in and are fun and enjoyable.
  4. If you are restricted and have been cleared by your doc, go see someone like an FMS practitioner who will actually measure your movement capabilites and give a reference point – a starting point from which to work. Schedule follow up visits every 30 days to assess your progress.
  5. Do physical activity that is fun. (Did I mention that already?)
  6. Learn fun (that word again) and new physical skills. (I’m going to start investigating Grip Training)
  7. Keep a positive attitude – it’s not always going to be this way – it’ll get better. A positive attitude will actually help the process along.

Realize that whether you like it or not, you’ve “earned” the body you’re in right now. It may take you some time to get around your pain and movement dysfunction, but view it as a learning experience. I did. My understanding of the human body, coaching, and business have all flourished because of my “pain.” I’m thankful for having walked that path because it made me a better man.

Finally, don’t own your pain.

It’s not a part of you.

Not really.

It’s just an indicator – kinda like the “check engine” light – it’s there when you need it. Don’t look for it to always be on. Take care of the issues and it’ll most likely rarely come on again.

If you’ve still got some pain and have been cleared by your doc – a good place to start changing your movement patterns is with an Functional Movement Screen. If you don’t have access to an FMS practioner, start with Brett Jones and Gray Cook’s “Secrets of…” series – especially “Secrets of Primitive Patterns.” It’s probably the MOST UNDERATED  and highly beneficial DVD they have, in my ever-so-humble opinion.

If that doesn’t sound good to you, another great place to start is with Kettlebells From the Ground Up. It’s packed with what I call “safe movements” (another blog post) and everybody I know who’s used it, including myself, has benefited from it.

That’s all I’ve got time for right now – I’ve gotta go off and train. Fun and pain free.

Hopefully you’ve found some of these ideas helpful.

4 comments… add one
  • Eric Moss Dec 8, 2010 @ 21:52

    glad to hear you are doing well. I too am investigating grip training (Dave Whitley has that effect that makes you want to start bending stuff)

  • Dave Johnston Dec 9, 2010 @ 15:27

    nice post! i like your comment about not owning your pain. I work in the field of m/s rehabilitation and see so many people that have injured themselves and appear to track along well, until they are given a diagnosis – then the psychology kicks in and they ‘instantly’ become 5-10 times worse in pain symptomology and intensity. In other words, these people have owned their pain and become victims of their condition; rather than accepting that they are injured and may experience pain in the short term and still be able to improve function around their injury. IMO there is a fine line between stupidity – i.e attempting to push through the pain barrier (rather than the discomfort barrier…) and being too conservative: both will cause potentially long lasting damage that may have been recified with the correct treatment.

    • George Pazin Dec 9, 2010 @ 17:04

      Thanks for the advice, Geoff. (FYI, I’m the friend Geoff reference)

      Dave, you state “IMO there is a fine line between stupidity – i.e attempting to push through the pain barrier (rather than the discomfort barrier…) and being too conservative: both will cause potentially long lasting damage that may have been recified with the correct treatment.”

      This gets to the heart of the question I asked Geoff: How does HE deal with pain? I’m no special athlete – played all sports growing up, never really excelled enough at any to play them other than casually beyond high school. I recently got back into training at the age of 40 when I realized my then 4 year old son would soon start to present problems to me if I didn’t get back into shape.

      I was fortunate enough to stumble across ETK at a local Borders and was humming along nicely for about 8 months. Then things started going wrong and I have had a hard time figuring out why. The real problems started back in Sept and I’m just trying to figure out how to proceed. The fine line you describes sounds a lot like where I am!

      First up for me is a trip to the docs – my dad is one and I always took it for granted. Then another visit to Brett Jones to figure out where to go from here.

      Thanks again, Geoff. Look forward to reading more soon. 2 years ago I was thinking Beast Tamer here I come; now I still have it as a goal, but it has moved a good bit farther away. Still in sight, though!

  • Don Rankin Jan 7, 2011 @ 17:53

    I agree that pain is there to tell us something.
    I have worked through pain at times and later regretted it. In my case I had to learn to really recognize physical limitations. I’m not talking about mind over matter. No, I’m talking about those weak spots or awkward moments when we are attempting to perform an exercise with perhaps too much weight and/or poor form. Maybe it is ego or ignorance or for some of us it may be stupidity. In my case I hope I have learned to pay attention to my body and to honestly access some of my areas where I need extra help. My body always talks to me but in the past I guess I just wasn’t listening as well as I should.

    I have Brett Jones’ DVD’s. They are very helpful. Now I have a Russian massage therapist who is also an avid KB user. He helps me by spotting the “little things” I am often not even aware of when I am lifting. Right now I have had to lay off the overhead presses due to too much tightness in my shoulder joint capsules. I’m not stopping my programs just having to modify for a while until I am able to correct the weak spots. I am making good progress and hopefully will be back at the full routine before long. By the way, I have dropped over 30 pounds since the first of September. Part of my routine has been to work out at 5 AM BEFORE breakfast. I also use Hoffmekler’s Whey supplement as soon as I finish my cool-down.

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