Updated: Feb 21, 2019
If you spend a certain amount of time in the gym, or playing competitive sports, you can easily become focused on the bigger picture where training objectives and fitness are concerned.
How big am I getting? How much can I lift today? How much weight have I lost this month? Am I winning? All these (and related) questions can drive our physical performance, though this attention to the bigger picture can sometimes distract us from equally important fitness measures which, if ignored, can go on to become more important issues over time.
I was reminded of this principle recently on hearing a friend tell me about his experience after suffering what appeared to be an initially minor injury whilst working out.
Gym-floor injuries are, of course, nothing new. In fact I have written about workout injury and recovery previously and have also spoken about this crucial matter in my podcast, 2 Guys on Fitness. When discussing how best to avoid and recover from injury I have focused on how workouts should be technical and moderated if injury is to be avoided. I have also underlined how recovery must always be allowed to take its course, even if it is frustrating to wait while this happens.
Recognising the true extend of an injury and how different kinds of injuries can have varying impacts (depending on where they occur on the body) is also vital when considering how best to avoid and recover from a sporting or workout injury.
My fiend’s story is a case in point.
For him, immediately after working out he experienced a sharp headache on his right temple, followed by what appeared to be bleeding into his right eye. Both the headache and bloodshot eye seemed to recede over the days that followed and he decided to take no action as the incident appeared superficial.
A week later, after suffering repeated headaches and seeing no significant recovery in his bloodied eye he finally visited his GP for advice and the following then took place on the same day:
The Nurse Practitioner at his GP’s surgery immediately referred him to Moorfield’s Eye Hospital for a consultation to ascertain the situation.
At the hospital he was assessed by a Consultant, who confirmed that he had suffered a subconjunctival haemorrhage the week previously and a series of tests took place with an Ophthalmologist to gauge if his eyesight had been affected. My friend was then tested by a another Consultant and diagnosed with episcleritis (which is inflammation of the episclera, or the surface tissue of the eye), acquired as a result of the original haemorrhage.
All of which, apart from anything else, is a testament to the professionalism and skills of the modern NHS, despite the much publicised pressures and challenges it is currently facing.
A subconjunctival haemorrhage (bleeding beneath the surface of the eye from a ruptured vein) is in itself not uncommon and can typically be caused by heavy lifting, or associated strenuous physical activity.
What is important, as was made clear to my friend, is to investigate such injuries as the occur and not some time after the original event, otherwise the initial damage can lead to additional complications. In addition, where our eyes and cranial region are concerned anything that results in injury or haemorrhage should be investigated as soon as possible because of the location of the injury and the importance of the organs potentially involved.
Or, to put it another way, if you undertake a strenuous workout and experience a sharp headache and/or a bloodied eye or eyes, don’t be shy and get the potential injury checked out.
In the broader context there is also a lesson here on how we conduct ourselves in competitive sports and the gym, particularly if we are driven by a focus to achieve and advance. When in this frame of mind anything that appears to distract from making progress can easily be ignored because it can seem to be an obstacle to moving forward.
But where our physicality and long-term health is concerned, investigating potential head or eye injuries is not an obstacle to achievement, but part of the process of maintaining the body and brain to deliver the results we are looking for. Such investigations (and associated treatments), though distracting on a minor level, are simply the price of doing business in physical development and conditioning.
So move forward in an intelligent and, where possible, a mediated way when working out, be alert to the body’s warning signs if things go wrong and get any potentially injuries checked out as they happen if you want to succeed on the sports field or gym floor.
Because that way you will indeed make progress and achieve.