Coach Rachel on Training Beyond Injury

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At Faction, we train hard. With the help of our diligent and knowledgable coaches, we do everything possible to prevent injuries.

However, from time to time, injuries happen. When they happen, giving up, throwing in the towel, and “couch-sitting” are the last things we do. Injuries change the course of our training, but they don’t prevent us from training altogether.

Lifelong athlete and coach, Rachel Northam started Crossfit/strength and conditioning training with an existing shoulder injury. Here, Rachel discusses her injury, her therapy, and training around injury, through injury, and beyond injury.


1) Tell me about you shoulder injury. When did it happen? How did it happen?

My right labrum is torn. Therefore, it makes some lifts/exercises extremely difficult for me to handle. My right shoulder can “sublux” or “come out of socket” due to instability within the shoulder.  This injury initially happened when I was playing basketball years ago. I was going up for a layup, and there was a stage behind the goal. I was running pretty quickly and stuck my hands out to stop myself. It jarred my shoulder, and that was the first time it ever happen. Since then, it has just been through a lot of  wear and tear.

2) Tell me about your recovery.

Recovery consisted of a lot of mobility, external/internal rotation with bands and, obviously, refraining from movements that made me prone to subluxing my shoulder.

3) What did you do to help the recovery process along?

I was very mindful and conscienous about what I did with my shoulder and when I did it. I only put it under stress/heavy load once or twice a week. I still continue with that training pattern to this day. I still stay away from movements that hinder my shoulder, unless I am preparing for a competition. I am also very diligent with mobility.

4) Did you refer to any resources (websites, books) to aid you in the recovery process? Did you follow a prescribed plan?

The only resources I used in the beginning were my doctors, who suggested surgery. I wanted to exhaust everything before surgery, so I was referred to a doctor at Campbell Clinic who suggested a treatment called prolotherapy. That is basically “tightening of the ligaments” in the joint using a dextrose solution. Anyhow, I figured it was worth a shot because, at that point, my shoulder had unfortunately gotten worse from the stress I had put on it through training. It was coming out of socket regularly. I received 4 treatments of prolotherapy, and that helped a lot. I had to wait a month in-between treatments because of the intensity of the treatments. They would leave my shoulder black and blue for a week after each one.


5) How long did this process take?

As stated previously, I received 4 treatments with a month’s wait in-between each. Prolotherapy is a treatment that can be ongoing, depending on how damaged your joint is. So, if my shoulder starts giving me problems again, which I am sure will happen (because I can be pretty stubborn when it comes to my training), then I’ll probably get more treatments done.

6) Where are you (and how are you) now?

Now, I’m just trying to be very mindful of what I do with my shoulder, when I do it, and the volume that I use. I am also doing my best to keep my mindset on longevity and health, and not so much on “Crossfit” and competing.

7) What did you learn from this?

Mobility is IMPORTANT!!  It is imperative that you must move well.  Everything is connected, and if one thing is missing, it’s probably all missing. Movement is everything!

8) How do you integrate what you learned from this into your coaching?

I’m very mindful of athletes with injuries. I assure them that, even though they think they cannot perform a movement/lift due to injury, they absolutely can. They may not be able to do something the way they want or the way it is written. However, everything is adjustable!  You have to be aware of your limiters and work around them.  It doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means you may have to tweak it a little. Train those weaknesses! : D