Kryptonite happens! Let me give you the short points of the story – While racing my Irishman down a hotel hallway in Galway, and we were dead out racing and stone cold sober I might add- I suffered a Grade Three Complete Avulsion Tear to my hamstring. In layman’s terms that means I tore my hamstring, the muscle on the back of your leg all the way off the bone and bled four pints of blood into my leg. Essentially it’s a misfiring of the brain. In a sprint, the quadriceps and the hamstrings maximally contract in opposition. One contracts while the other lengthens. The brain is supposed to cue the hamstring to release when the quad contracts, but in this case it only cues the muscle to stay maximally contracted and then the thigh muscle maximally fires and you rip your own muscle off of the bone. Don’t worry, it’s not an accident that happens in the general population, only among sprinters and gymnasts.
“Wow, so how much did that hurt?!” That’s what people keep asking me. Actually, I feel like cutting your finger with a sharp knife while cooking or bashing your little toe against a piece of furniture feels way more painful, because in a case like this it’s so systemic that the brain just goes, “Oh shhhhh….! I’m just gonna switch off these receptors. ‘Cause it’s bad.” In my case, I decided to head to the bar for a pint of my favorite, Guinness. It wasn’t until an hour later when I stood up, sat back down, blacked out, bashed my head on the table and ended up on the floor under the table, that I thought, “um…this isn’t a normal strain.”
Which brings me to my teaching point for clients: Athletes are crazy. We have been trained through years of physical intensity to literally alter our chemical and neurological processes. Yes, exercise helps the brain to be healthy by creating new neurons that are less affected by all types of stress, but pain tolerance also increases. Most athletes routinely override pain signals. We have to in order to do what we do. But it’s a double edged sword. It can have a price, which is to ignore true pain signals and push when we should be standing still. So the next time you head to the gym after a long day at work and short night’s rest, let go of the ego and remember you can be strong without pushing yourself into injury. Also, don’t ignore pain! It is the body’s way of telling you it needs love, not a drill sergeant. And while imagination can be fun and augment your workout, LeBron”s agent is not about to call you!
Let’s be grateful to our bodies for serving us so well and take care of the whole picture by listening to yourself. Strength isn’t just about power. A strong body must be flexible, powerful, balanced, agile and quick. You don’t have anything to prove; you just have to take care of yourself so you can play pain free for your whole life!