Since taking office as the DA, I'm not able to train for GS like I used to. It's not so much the time commitment - I exercise every morning before breakfast. The true limiting factor is the energy requirement to sustain that kind of training. Simply put, lifting kettlebells is like sprinting up a steep hill. It's hard to "ease" into it, or to work at a low intensity. You're either busting your butt or you're not. There's no halfway.
I've written some posts about my struggles with tendinitis that first surfaced in 2011. For kettlebell sport lifters, it generally manifests itself as a soreness or even sharp pain in one or both elbows. And that's when the fun starts. Since I wrote my blog posts about my tendinitis struggles, several lifters have contacted me about their own experiences, and many have asked for advice. Given how many have asked, I thought I'd write this to help them and anyone else who faces the same struggles.
1. Tendinitis is an overuse injury. The only way the symptoms are going to subside is resting the injured area. You can try to use lighter weights, you can try to switch to other exercises, but at the end of the day, you aren't going to heal until you stop doing exercises that use the injured area. For elbows, that means no pressing or rowing or curling, in addition to the competition lifts. Even some static yoga poses can aggravate the injury. You've got to rest the injured area.
2. Yes, that means you will atrophy. Yes that means you won't look "swole". I know many of us wrap up much of our identity as an athlete and even as a person in our "fit" appearance. Let it go. The sooner you stop lifting the sooner you'll heal the sooner you can train again.
3. You can no longer depend upon GS for your GPP. The greatest asset of a kettlebell sport athlete is a solid endurance base. You can get that base from almost any aerobic activity. Running is the traditional form of GS crosstraining and endurance building, but it can also include rowing or cross country skiing or anything that provides a good endurance base. Considering that we're talking about overuse injuries, it's probably not a bad idea to do a variety of activities to keep any kind of overuse injury from developing. But relying on your GS exercises themselves for your endurance base? Forget about it. Why? Because...
4. Tendinitis may heal, but it never truly goes far away. Yeah, so this is the worst part. Once you get tendinitis, you will always be subject to it coming back. Even after you're cleared by your doctor, even after you've returned to GS and broken all of your old records...it can come back. And if you don't monitor your activity to ensure you aren't training too hard too often, you are guaranteeing that it will come back sooner rather than later.
The sad fact is that tendinitis hits athletes "of a certain age". Call it an arthritis or bursitis preview. But once it's a part of your life, you're going to have to deal with it.
5. All this doesn't mean you can't compete, but it does mean you have to be intentional about how you train. What I recommend is training like you're going to run 5K road races. Run at least three days a week, and walk on the other days. Squats are a good way to maintain strength, although even deadlifts or swings can aggravate your injury if you haven't completely healed. Once all symptoms have gone away (for at least a month), then, and only then return to the kettlebell sport lifts. Use light weights as you resume, and even after you are hitting your old numbers with your competition weight kettlebells, continue to spend a large part of your time using lighter weights at higher rpms. Monitor your training carefully, and any day that you feel any soreness either do a sprint set with lighter bells, go for a run, or both.
6. You will always be tempted to resume lifting early, or to lift a heavier bell when you shouldn't. In those moments, the key thing to remember is that showing up tomorrow is more important than training on the edge today. Anything you do in today's workout that jeopardizes your ability to return the next day is not just dangerous; it's a stupid un-necessary risk that could set you back months. Doing something today that moves your conditioning forward (or even something that "merely" preserves the endurance base you already have) is infinitely better than a risky set that can set back your training months.
Good luck, and I hope to see you on the platform!
I am a 46-year-old married father of three, and a career prosecutor. My wife and I (and our kids) are very involved in our church.
My one real hobby is lifting kettlebells. I lift at home, in my garage, after we have put the kids in bed and made their school lunches for the next day.