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Exercise as a Buffer to Injury

Roger and I had a conversation the other day in which he hypothesized that people get hurt in the gym more than they get hurt in real life.  Wait, let me back up because that sounds really bad– that’s not the kind of thing you wan to say if you actually want people to train with you.

This knee has been tinted red to show you that it's hurt.

This knee has been tinted red to show you that it's hurt.

When I was in school to be an EMT, we were told to make mistakes.  If you make a mistake in the classroom, little real harm is done.  Maybe your ego is bruised, but you learn something and can keep going.  If you made the same mistake a real life situation, you might kill somebody.

While getting an injury in the gym and making a mistake in class are very different, the concept is the same.  The gym is a controlled environment, just like a classroom.  If you get hurt during a workout, you can stop and assess your injury.  You can treat it immediately and prioritize the rest of your day around how to best take care of yourself.

However, if you were called upon to perform a grueling physical task outside of the gym– say carrying a 300lb patient down a flight of stairs, pulling some poor soul of out a burning car, or arresting a a parolee on PCP– then getting injured isn’t really an option for you.  If you twist your ankle, pull your back or blow out your knee on that call, you could hurt somebody, let somebody die or get yourself or your coworkers killed.  These types of situations are the reason why CrossFit was initially (and still is) popular with the law enforcement, fire, and military communities, people who can’t afford to get hurt on the job.  Chances are very good that no matter how bad things get, you’re not going to expend as much energy in an emergency situation as you will doing “Eva,” or “Fran.”  And if you do, you’ll have the advantage of being more fit all around and more mentally ready to expend that kind of energy.

“Yeah, but I’m not a firefighter or a soldier, so why should I train like that?”  Maybe you like to actually do things for fun, things like scuba diving, rock climbing, backpacking or skiing.  If you blow your shoulder out while rock climbing, or break your ankle while backpacking, you could very easily die.  But what if you work in a cubical and like to watch movies and play video games for fun?  Two things.  1) You never know when being strong and resilient might save your life– car accidents, fires, maniacs, and natural disasters aren’t things that you can schedule, but they are things that you can physically and mentally prepare for.  2)  The more fit you are, the less likely you are to become afflicted with numerous medical conditions, like diabetes, and heart disease.

Now make no mistake, I’m not saying that you should come into the gym and try to get injured.  I’m also not saying that CrossFit,  gymnastics,  parkour, or judo is any more dangerous than any other type of activity (and a whole lot less dangerous than sitting on the couch, at least in the long term).  Any physical activity has a risk of injury, but subjecting yourself to potentially injurious workouts in the gym can actually create a buffer against injuries in real life.  It goes right back to Mark Rippetoe’s saying, “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.”  But I guess the point is that not only will you be harder to kill, you’ll also be harder to injure and faster to recover if you do get injured.

3 Responses to “Exercise as a Buffer to Injury”

  1. Rich says:

    I don’t worry about injury, but look at it as a process that means a weakness in my body needs to be addressed.

    The way i look at it, doing crossfit allows me to correct any deficiencies that i have at whatever age. I also refer to crossfit as a steamroller; it will show your deficiencies and “improvement areas” very quickly. I’ve had a number of “deficiencies” show up, and i’ve worked to address them through various means.

    I’m very conscious of what first responders sign up for versus what we first respondees expect. I don’t love the “harder to kill” concept, but i do like the “easier to help” concept.

    I had a coach who said if you’re not working out when you are 45, you won’t be working out at 55, and it stands to reason you won’t be working out at 65.

    At 55, i feel pretty good (code for great) , thank goodness. Said another way, workout with crossfit, fix what need to be addressed, and live and enjoy life. I am looking forward to continue being a warrior in everyday life.

    Thanks Nick.

  2. Patricia says:

    Good point Rich…For me my weakness is my hyper-extended posture, which until I really fix, is going to continue to hold me back, i.e. it really hit home the last few days when we discovered that what i thought was me being “hollow” is really an overextended arch with a pike! Totally wrong! Roger even tried to mimic it in a handstand and his body wouldn’t ever go that way. I had no idea, but again this has to be fixed in order for me to make real gains in strength and already have suffered the injuries as a result of it.

  3. Matt Mihaly says:

    I actually thought you were about 8-10 years younger than you actually are Rich. Way to go!

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