Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Difference Between Hurt and Injured

As both a lifetime athlete and coach, I have had a lot of experience with pains, aches, and injuries.  These have happened to players I have coached, teammates of mine, and myself.  These range from serious breaks and tears to simpler strains, pulls, and other minor things.

However, one thing that I have learned is that you can learn a lot about a person from how they perceive and deal with their own injuries or hurts.

I have had players and teammates that go into self-pity mode when this occurs.  I have had others that go to the other extreme of being the most outwardly supportive teammates that you could ask for.  I think that how you deal with the injury when it happens to you can tell a lot about how strong you really are as both a person and as a teammate.

Read Jesse Thomas's blog on dealing with and recovering from injury.

However, the purpose of this post today is to discuss the difference between being hurt and injured and how I personally believe you should go about dealing with both.   Too often, these terms are spoken as the same concept when in fact they are very different in my opinion.  I know that this may be controversial, but this is my rant for the day.


You may continue to be in pain while training or competing.  However, there is little to no chance that you will receive any further damage. There may be pain and/or discomfort during the exercise; however, you are not risking long-term damage to your body.

I personally believe that as an athlete if you are pushing yourself to your potential each and every day that some days there may be muscles aches and joint pains some days.  If this is a chronic thing, then you should have it checked out, but as an athlete, especially an endurance athlete, most days your muscles and joints will be sore.  It happens. 


With an injury, you are not physically able to perform, due to the risk of long-term damage.

While athletes that are “hurt” can continue to participate, players that are “injured” cannot and should not continue to train/compete.  These athletes should take the time to rehabilitate their injury, and they should not continue to train or compete until their bodies are fully healed.

Examples of this are: Tears, Breaks, and other serious injuries that can ultimately affect the athlete long term.

If you find yourself with an injury, then stop and seek help.  It is important that you do this or the recovery will be much longer.  This is a hard distinction to make, and only by learning about yourself can you really make the decision on what to do.


The reason that I am writing about this is two-fold.  One, as a coach, it has become increasingly frustrating how athletes these days seem to "baby" themselves.  They will sit out at the first sign of a sore muscle or joint.

I have been reading a great book about Generation Y's and Z's(Yes, I know I am a part of this group).  The book is titled, Not Everyone Gets A Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y by Bruce Tulgan.             

One of the many points that I took away from this reading so far is that Generation Y's and Z's have been overly-protected and sheltered from birth. While this sheltering has created a generation that is much healthier and less prone to injury, it has also prevented them from experiencing, learning from, adapting to and overcoming the important and inevitable hard knocks(and injuries that occur).

Because of this sheltering, many are crushed when they receive less than an “A” for a grade, don’t get a ribbon for coming in ninth place, get cut from teams or receive negative feedback. 

You could never in this day and age have this conversation(though I deeply wish at times I could).

Read more at this link.          

What they need to understand is that this adversity is a normal part of training. If someone tells you that they have been training for 10 years and has never had an ache, a pain or strain then they probably haven't improved much either.  If you ask any of the best athletes in the world if they ever had to ice after a hard workout or heat prior to one, I would guarantee that 99.9% of them have.

By no means, am I encouraging people to play through ACL tears or broken bones(though I have played with and seen many who have).  I just simply want my athletes to understand that pushing themselves to the point where they do experience muscle and joint soreness, aches, and sometimes pains may sometimes be the thing that guides them one step closer to their goals.

The other reason that I wanted to write about this is because for endurance athletes, the ability to understand this distinction is essential.  Especially because we tend to have a higher tolerance for pain.  Knowing your body and understanding yourself is essential in this process.

Increasing volume may cause aches.  For me personally, this has been a process of understanding how important recovery is, both active and sedentary.

In the beginning, before hiring a coach, I did a poor job of this which may have raised my pain tolerance but also could have led to actual long term injuries if I had not dealt with it.

Here are some guidelines that I believe are essential to prevent aches from becoming injuries:

- Use Periodization: build muscle strength and endurance gradually, over time
- Utilize an appropriate warm-up and cool-down regimen, including stretching and other flexibility exercises
- Dress appropriately
- Stay hydrated
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Make sure that you are using proper technique for whatever sport you are performing

There are many more, but this is what I found helped me.

In conclusion, having a good understanding of your own body and how hard you can push yourself is an essential part of training.  Learn this about yourself.  Fast.

I, also, want to do a better job keeping updated on here.  So to guarantee that I will at least post once a month here are my January totals.

January Totals:

SWIM- 32.5 Miles
BIKE- 490 (Probably another 25 tomorrow)
RUN- 119

TOTAL- about 670 Miles

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