Don't Be a Bad Customer: How to Be a Good Client and Stay Healthy
If your car had a wheel that wasn’t working properly, you’d go and get it seen to, right? Or if your dog were acting funny, you’d take it to the vet, right? Then why is it that when it’s your own body you fail to treat it with the respect it deserves and neglect to spend the money to get it looked after properly?
Nothing makes me madder than people who neglect their own bodies and then wonder why they suffer catastrophic injuries during training. Small little niggles are a sign that something bad is possibly going to happen if you keep pushing. They are like a warning light on the dashboard of your car telling you if you don’t take notice the engine may blow. It’s your choice whether or not you want to spend a little now by seeing a physiotherapist or spend a lot later when you visit the surgeon.
When it comes to training, I often have to exhort people not to be bad customers. Bad customers:
- Eat crap.
- Don’t turn up to train often enough.
- Don’t do their homework.
It’s this last one in particular that is usually where people trip up. Building good eating habits isn’t really that difficult for people once they go through that initial break-in period. Neither is coming along to train, if the trainer does a good job of slowly bringing them along, teaching them new movements gradually, and not crushing them with weight. (I believe that one of the main reasons people drop out of exercise programs early is that they’re simply not able to deal with acute DOMS during the early stages – little steps are good here.) But it’s that last item where even the experienced guys and girls fall down, and it is the one that quite often leads to needing to take the longest breaks from training, virtually halting progress.
If you’re old, and by old I mean over thirty, and have trained for most of your life, there’s a fair chance you’ve got some issues. If not, they’ll come soon enough. Before thirty all I ever had done to myself was break a few bones in my feet from kicking people, but then all of a sudden I got to thirty and things started going pop. And all of these things that started happening also changed the way I move slightly. I needed to start taking care of these issues or I was at risk. These niggles could prove to be like a bearing in need of grease that can rub and destroy an engine. If your training involves a lot of reps or load, where the stress is much higher, even tiny little things can become massive problems.
That’s where a decent warm up comes in. Now at forty, I find that if I don’t spend at least twenty minutes on warming up I will definitely feel worse the next day. My warm up consists of some myofascial release - I use a combination of a roller and my Gemini and Super Nova from Rogue - and then some gentle Primal Move practice. During this time I am self-assessing and searching for things that will inhibit me during my actual session. When I find them, I stretch those things. And contrary to what the fitness gurus tell you to do, I static stretch. I can’t stress enough how important I think static stretching is - if more people stretched more, then training them would be ten times easier.
The last part of my warm up is what I have come to call structural work. Structural work is simple. It’s core work, rotator cuff work, hip stability - anything that holds me in place is structural. Again, just like with stretching, I know most experts tell you to do it last but in my experience most people neglect this like they do their stretching. I am big believer in front loading sessions so that people are actually forced to do the thing that they need the most when they are freshest and can focus best. Examples of this are light pressing done with the “rest” being in the overhead position, or squats with the rest in the bottom position. I always do a hold for my shoulders (a favorite is a get up with a thirty second hold at the top), a pair for my midsection such as push ups and planks, and then one for my hips (current favorite is single leg deadlifts and a static calf raise).
After all that I train.
If something goes pop during training I have a general rule: If it hurts for more than two weeks you need to see someone. In fact, we even have that written in our contracts with our clients. If they don’t go, we ban them from training until they have sorted it out and I have spoken with their therapist.
And when it comes to a therapist we have one physiotherapist we send people to and two massage therapists. That’s it. Getting on our list of preferred practitioners is very hard for a reason - I expect results. Our general rule is that for minor injuries if they’re not better in three visits then you’re wasting your money on treatment and need to go find someone else. None of this “come back every week for the rest of your life” garbage. And our treatment team all feel the same way - if they can’t fix it fast they will escalate it to the next level quickly, so that if clients need a shot or surgery they’re getting it done as soon as possible.
But the thing is most people won’t do all of that. They come to class as late as possible, skip their own needs for a warm up, and then try to save a few bucks by not getting treatment. If you think saving fifty dollars now is a better idea than a month off work post-surgery and thousands in bills for the surgeon and anaesthetist, then by all means, skip it. Otherwise be a good client and go get treatment. Even something as simple as a massage each week will go a long way towards keeping you healthy long term. Yes, I know it’s expensive, but again, if you want to run with the big dogs as an old dude you need to pay the price. Performance ain’t cheap - look at what it costs to run a race car for proof.
Performance costs. Period. And the later in life you are the more you need to spend, both in terms of time and money, to make everything work right. Don’t be a bad customer. Go and get yourself treated regularly when things go pop and spend the time you need to on your own warm-up. If you’re in this fitness thing for the long haul you need to smarten up now or you’re going to spend the next forty years telling everyone about how you can’t do X or Y because of (insert name of body part here). Be smart. Be a good client.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.