The Teacher Becomes the Student

Going through a personal pain journey is one of the best lessons in becoming a better coach. Pain is the master of all teachers! It gives us empathy; it demands our full attention and reminds us that we must have patience and consistency to see lasting results. Sometimes an injury can be the greatest gift, as has been my experience.


When you are injured, you will do whatever you can to get out of pain. You may see a gifted massage therapist, physical therapist, personal trainer, ATC, chiropractor or orthopedic surgeon. You might try acupuncture, Chinese medicine, ice, heat, or medication to help you feel better. We also seek to understand how and why it happened. The hard part is that oftentimes there isn’t one solid explanation. When you do everything right in regards to training, health and wellness, why does an irritation or injury happen? Sometimes it just does!! When you golf, ski, run, walk, hike, train and live to the fullest, life happens. I have never met a person who loves life, who hasn’t experienced pain. 


A few months ago, I started to have pain down my right leg. The dreaded word, Sciatica! It was the same sciatic pain I felt 7 years ago which stemmed from a serious knee injury a lifetime ago. As crazy as it sounds, I was excited to go through the pain so I could learn more tools to cure the problem and help others. The teacher appears again: Pain!! A brilliant physiatrist/MD informed me that it takes about 6 weeks to go through the pain cycle so I embraced the journey.


Health Strategy for Recovery

I knew my pain was going to get worse before it got better. No matter what I did, it was going to hurt. That is part of the healing process. I knew that I had to move to heal, and that excellent posture was the key to successful rehabilitation. 


After a full assessment, we found my right S-I joint was irritated, inflamed and causing the pain down my leg. A few of the tactics I incorporated into my routine included walking, foam rolling, stretching, heat/cold contrast therapy, sauna, moving in the pool and doing dry land exercises. I also continued to train daily, being cautious and mindful of my temporary limitations. I continued to do strength and cardiovascular work along with the therapy exercises, as it’s during the recovery phase that you get stronger.


Nutrition is a game changer for health and recovery. To keep the systemic inflammation down I did regular intermittent fasting and paid attention to the quality and quantity of the food I was eating. There are many different diets that work. There is not one best diet regime for everyone but this is an easy rule of thumb: stay hydrated and stay away from refined sugars and flours, industrial seed oils, processed foods and trans fatty acids. Doing these things will drastically decrease your inflammation and help in your healing. 


I also added collagen which helps in healing and decreasing inflammation, as well as my favorite green drink which is full of antioxidants. Also making sure you’re getting enough of the micronutrients your body needs is important. While it would be great if we would get these 100% from our food, that is not always easy. A high quality multivitamin is worth adding. 


Sleep is paramount for recovery. You hear all the time about how important sleep is for your overall health. It’s even more true for healing. Adding in a 20 minute nap a few days per week will not only help your body, but also your brain. Adding breath work to your daily routine can also help you fall asleep and improve healing. Nasal breathing increases the nitric oxide levels in your body 6 fold, which increases oxygen in the body by 18%. 


Lastly, consistency is the key to real success. Your nervous system is complex and needs constant reminding of proper movement patterns in order to break the pain cycle and get you on the road to recovery. Even a little bit each day goes a long way! Most people who have an acute injury will see a physical therapist 2-3 times per-week and will hopefully do home exercise (but does that always happen??). I had to take 100% responsibility to return better, stronger and healthier. That is exactly what I did for the past 8 weeks; I approached this seriously so it would not become a chronic issue. Two weeks in, I could not sit in the car for more than 20 minutes without a lot of pain. This past weekend I drove for 7 hours to pick up my son at school, and felt nothing but happiness! It pays to be diligent about rehabilitation.


Bridging the Gap

AXIS has always strived to align with the best medical professionals to bridge the gap between injury and health. We combine our experience with research to create a thoughtful and deliberate plan for your training as well as rehab and prehab. We search out the leading solution, utilizing resources such as PubMed, which has over 25 million studies and adds 1-1.5 million new articles every year. So, if someone says “there isn’t a study”, they have not looked hard enough. You can find multiple studies to support or refute almost any idea, so it’s important to do your due diligence when it comes to research. 


It’s also important to keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for the next. The right mix of trial and error, personal experience with pain and injury, as well as methodical and continual research and learning is how we help you stay healthy and pain-free.


“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”  – Bruce Lee


For More Information:

  • For supplements, we always recommend Thorne as the best of the best in quality control. They have the best high quality multivitamin hands down.
  • For more information on breathing, we highly recommend James Nestor’s book, Breath
  • Here’s a great article from Harvard Health on the benefits of napping.


*Disclaimer: The information in this blog is for informational purposes only. Please always consult your doctor before considering any new diet, supplementation, or other changes to your normal nutrition and exercise routine.