Without being too cliché, I can’t think of a better saying than ‘when it rains, it pours’ to sum up the series of events that took place over the next few weeks. Just like with any sport, especially one that you’re trying to be competitive at, sometimes you have to play through nagging injuries. It’s the nature of the beast. I had been playing with nagging injuries for way too long – to the point where I should’ve realized my body was trying to tell me something that I decided to ignore. Within 10 days of each other, my left shoulder and right groin were both out of commission and my training plans/goal had a major kink in them.
I record all my workouts – everyday. I make notes in case I needed to modify something, how I was feeling/if I ate or drank enough that day, and if something was tweaked. Without nagging too much like an overprotective mother, I really encourage everyone to do the same. At the bare minimum, everyone should be recording their workouts to track their progress. My shoulder started nagging me over the summer very subtly. The odd part of it all was it wasn’t affected by the vast majority of movements – anything shoulder to overhead, pull ups and toes to bar, even snatches weren’t an issue. There was only one unique instance where I would have flare ups – reracking the weight after front squats. Sounds crazy right? While I was doing the front squat itself, no issue. But once I took the weight off my chest, and my body relaxed, I would feel a dull pain around the inside of my shoulder blade. But it was so unique, and odd that I just ignored it since it didn’t affect 95% of my workouts.
It never went away. At this point it had progressively gotten worse and worse, but still nothing that would derail my normal training. It wasn’t until October 24th when JT was on tap for the class that I regretted ignoring it. JT is 21-15-9 HSPU, Ring Dip and Push Up. It didn’t take long. In my first set of handstands it felt as if someone stuck a hot blade in my trap. Needless to say, I still finished out the workout – smart. By the end, I knew the damage had been done as it was a struggle to even lift my arm the rest of the night. As if that wasn’t a sign enough, after a few days of ice and boat load of anti-inflammatories I was back at it again with my normally scheduled programming.
However, now whenever I would catch a clean, whether it was light weight or heavy weight, I felt that same pain I used to only feel with heavy front squats. I chose to ignore it. I had become so obsessed with achieving my goal of making it to Regionals that I lost sight of what was best for me and my body. That all came to a head less than two weeks later on November 7th. I saw a workout online called ‘Jake the Snake’. It consisted of 10-9-8…1 of push jerks at 205lb and 2-4-6…20 of pull ups. I hope you can see where this is going. I decided to mitigate the pain by taking the weight out of the rack rather than clean it from the floor over and over but kept the weight at 205. Rep after rep, rerack after rerack I kept telling myself to just stop. I knew what I was doing to my body – I could feel it. But I didn’t stop. My shoulder blade paid the price.
Without going too much into it, it was the same pattern that happened with my groin. I had been following a squat program towards the end of the summer and through September. I developed a nagging injury that progressively got worse and worse, which I chose to ignore and ignore. Until mid October when single leg squats were prescribed, I went heavy. My leg resented me for it. And pop, just like a rubber band, something went in my groin and so did the possibility of any squatting movements over the next few months.
After that I decided to shut it down for a while. No more front squats, no more cleans, nothing overhead. I wanted to be smart about it and hopefully look at the bigger picture rather than be consumed by the idea of regionals and training through anything. It didn’t matter though – the damage had been done. Now I could feel the inside of my shoulder blade in almost everything I did – including every time I expanded my ribcage and took a deep breath in. But who needs to breathe heavy during CF anyway. In all honesty, this was probably my lowest point of the year. The fact that my shoulder and groin were tapped out, and now I felt like I couldn’t even push hard during workouts in fear of taking too deep a breath which would cause shooting pain down my trap and shoulder blade. I felt like there was nothing I could do. CrossFit is my life, my passion. It felt like my body was taking it away from me.
But I was good, I stuck to the plan and stayed away from anything that aggravated it. That’s why so many of you saw me doing snatches day in and day out – as if I was blessed from the heavens above I was still able to snatch pain free (I honestly think I would’ve lost my mind if that hadn’t been the case.)
Then came the coup de grâce. On November 9th, Dave Castro announced the changes to the regional format. That rather than the top 48 from each region qualifying for Regionals, instead only the top 20 from each region would advance (*drops mic*). I know for the untrained eye the difference between top 48 and top 20 may not seem like a drastic change, but believe me it is. I’m sure Steve Santos can hit you with the stats to prove it.
You know how they say when something traumatic happens it almost burns the experience into your memory. I know you may think I’m exaggerating, but that’s how I felt. Let me paint a picture for you. Monday morning is my day to coach the morning classes, and for whatever reason on that particular day it was just Chris Lee at the 5:30am (just like the good ‘ol days). The workout was ‘Abbate’ which starts and finishes with a mile run. So while Chris was out doing his thing, I was sitting on the bench in the gym watching the cooldown show after the CrossFit Invitational from the night before. I heard Castro make the announcement, replayed it like 5 or 6 times to make sure I wasn’t imagining things, and then proceeded to slide off the bench and roll into a little ball on the floor knowing my slim chances of making Regionals shrunk even further.
So just to recap: within one month I had toasted my groin, strained my shoulder blade to the point it hurt to breathe, and found out that my chances of making Regionals went from a long shot to nearly impossible. A month prior I was saying this is the best I’ve ever felt in my CF career, and a month later it felt like the rug had been pulled from underneath my feet. Looking back on it now, this was probably the biggest crossroads of the past year. I was faced with a dilemma: either pack it in and feel sorry for myself or keep chugging along and see where that road takes me.