Don’t Ice Injuries or Swelling

Compress, rest, move as much as possible without agitating, and let the healing happen on its own instead.

Brilliant Friends,

I picked up a lot of good input during my friend’s bachelor trip last weekend. We dudes spent some time in our packed little hotel room doing MWOD’s and various torture techniques to get ourselves more mobile.

An unintended result of this was the surfacing of common problems we all experience. Particularly, I think many guys and gals suffer from pain of old injuries, bad habits of the postmodern life including diet and physical restrictions, and just bad information.

Chronic pain is something we sort of push down into our subconscious, not talking about it or directly trying to get rid of it, once we’ve determined that it’s pointless.

We all know that when you get a sprain, bruise, or other injury, the best treatment is RICE: rest, ice, compress, elevate. Right?
No! As Kelly Starrett points out here (http://www.mobilitywod.com/2012/08/people-weve-got-to-stop-icing-we-were-wrong-sooo-wrong/), the component of icing an injury or swelling is faulty. To make a long story short, here are the basic points to note:
  • Ice delays healing
  • Inflammation of injuries occurs to speed up delivery of healing blood and lymph components to the site – this is one type of inflammation that you actually want to have
  • Icing swollen tissue can cause tissue death if prolonged
  • Use ice sparingly for injuries only for pain management
  • Same goes for pills used to treat pain by minimizing inflammation – corticosteroids, ibuprofen, etc. do more harm that healing.
What to do instead?
Methods:
  • Stop the training if you’re injured. Get out of the gym.
  • Wrap up the injured location with a bandage or long sock or stocking
  • Or use compression pants or socks (I have not tried this but have heard multiple people say it works, including Kelly Starrett)
  • Without agitating the injury, keep blood flowing and stay mobile with as much movement as possible.

Nutrition:

  • Collagen (building blocks of tendons and ligaments, which make up your joints)
  • Vitamin C (allows you to utilize collagen in tissue formation)
  • Vitamin D3 (moderates inflammation)
  • Cinnamon for reducing inflammation (if it gets really bad)

I realize not icing may be hard to swallow. It was a horse pill for me, at first. It works, though.

If you want more reason to throw icing out of your toolkit, read this one-pager (http://drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html) from the very man himself, Gabe Mirkin. He is the author of the 1978 book titled Sportsmedicine Book, the classic that dictated icing for injuries. He humbly acknowledges that newer research shows that icing to reduce injury delays healing, and suggests not to ice. Instead, do the things mentioned above.

To powerful living!
Steve

On Being Recovered

How do I know if I’m ready to train again? Recovery can be a difficult thing to measure. Rather than focus on the doing, I focus on the being. No matter how well I eat, how much sleep I get, and how hard my last training session was, I measure my recovery based on Symptoms. This is how I feel upon waking. After reading this you might think these are soft and subjective measures, and they totally are. But I trust these signs because my mind and body are connected, and I have noticed that I benefit most from training when I feel all these symptoms.

Symptoms of being recovered:

1. Waking up fresh in the morning. You open your eyes and feel

  • Calm.
  • Positive energy.
  • Positive excitement.

2. Heart Rate Variability is high with minimal effort.

  • During breathing awareness practice, or meditation, you are able to focus quickly.
  • If you have the EmWave or other HRV measuring tool: You are able to get to Green or high HRV relatively quickly and you are able to stay there relatively easily. Compare this to any other day’s mental performance.
  • You have high control of your mind, and your mind is quiet. You are excited and thinking of what you can do or accomplish as you wake up and get your day started.
  • You have easy control of your breath, and breathing feels good and your lungs feel strong. You can breathe deep, both in and out.

    Taking a quiet moment in my car to breathe and get my HRV higher before my powerlifting meet. This helped me to stay focused throughout that tense, crazy day and hit two PR's.
    Taking a quiet moment in my car to breathe and get my HRV higher before my powerlifting meet. This helped me to stay focused throughout that tense, crazy day and hit two PR’s.

3. Joints and muscles are happy

  • You have good control of your body and legs feel strong under you as you get up and take your first steps.
  • They are willing to do the work you want them to do.
  • Your body may still feel a little tight or crusty from previous training, but it is quite responsive and good to go.

That’s it.

If I wake up and feel these symptoms, I train.

Symptoms of not being recovered:

1. Waking up stale in the morning. You open your eyes and feel

  • Tender
  • Low Energy
  • Negative

2. Heart Rate Variability is low and takes a lot of effort to raise.

  • Or just never gets to a high state, if you are using a device to measure it.
  • You have trouble taking deep breaths in and out.
  • You cannot get negative, repeating thoughts and emotions out of your head – even when you sit down to meditate.
  • You cannot focus.

3. Joints and muscles are like cement that hasn’t dried.

  • They feel like yesterday’s joints.
  • Rather than sore, you feel achy.
  • They don’t want to work for you.

If I wake up and have these symptoms, I know I’m not recovered. I refrain from training, even if it’s been two days, even if it’s been two weeks. I don’t care, I know that no good will come of it.

If you’re not recovered, don’t worry. Just realize that you are in a state of getting stronger or more resilient, and you just need to take more time to get there. Don’t push it. Look into meditating or deep breathing upon waking, journaling, getting some sun, and eating well. Supplements help too. Above all else, sleep until you awake fresh and feeling the positive symptoms described above.

I don’t have much time now to lift, and have been taking up to two weeks off between training sessions. That’s why I make the most of each session. I don’t go unless I know I am ready to take on the cost of growth. Nutrition helps to maintain muscle mass and strength, and allows me to go on these long stretches and still come back to train at where I left off. With late nights at work and then early mornings the following days, I refrain from training even if I had the two or three hours free. There is a biological cost to training that we must pay in order to benefit. Training while not fully recovered is like taking out a loan while already deep in debt. You just end up deeper in biological debt.

Stay wealthy. Cook while the frying pan is hot, let your body and mind tell you when that is, and do everything you can to recover.

To powerful recovery,

Steve