2 key principles for training around an injury | The Cloudfoot Diaries #80

I’ve been injured numerous occassions with various grades of severity and as time goes on, I’m discovering more and more what are the useful mindsets to employ whilst recovering and what thoughts and practices should be discarded.
All too often, people let injuries snowball into excuses for stopping. Stopping their training, stopping their goal-hunting, stopping their positive attitudes etc. And I’ve realised that thinking this way is not useful because it’s the “I’m a victim of circumstance” attitude instead of “I am going to seize this opportunity!”.

It might not be obvious but if you’re injured and it’s not life threatening, you actually have a set of real opportunities you must capitalise on.

I’d like to share with you some of the useful mindsets and principles I have discovered. Perhaps they will assist you in overcoming whatever injuries you currently have.

What is an AC Joint Separation?

It’s a super common sports injury where the collar bone becomes separated from the scapula, usually due to impact. I currently have a grade 2 separation; one of two of the acromioclavicular ligaments has ruptured, the second is slightly torn. The coracoacromial and coracoclavicular ligaments are fortunately intact. If these had ruptured it would have meant a grade 3 separation or worse and likely surgery.

Does it hurt?

First evening was absolutely brutal and I barely slept a minute. I’ve never been shot but it felt like I had been. First 4 days were pretty savage yes. The location of the injury is a nerve highway and if you bump it accidently, you know.


I can feel the start of a nice little bump manifesting on top of my shoulder. My X-ray wasn’t as drastic as this, but you get the idea.


For the first week, the pain was pretty intense and restricted me from doing most things, let alone training. Trying to exercise deliberately at this time would not have been wise.

After seven to ten days though, the pain dropped a couple of notches and a little range of motion started to return. This was my go ahead to start training around the injury. Fortunately, I’d been spending the acute phase plotting my route to recovery along with various options to maintain strength and mobility in the rest of my body.

My training is based on a couple of key elements that have proved to be invaluable during this time of injury. In my opinion, training the human body should be based on foundationary principles of adaptation and awareness. Here’s a little look as to why.


Noun; The state or condition of being aware; having knowledge or consciousness.

To become aware; compound verb –  a verb that is made up of multiple words.

Here, to become aware is based on action. One must combine becoming with awareness, in order for awareness to work for them. On its own, awareness is just a noun (name/label) and does nothing until it is embodied.

In this instance relating to a shoulder injury, awareness is highly valuable in the sense of body awareness. Mental awareness is just as important but without trying to go too far down the wormhole of consciousness, let’s focus on body awareness for now.

I believe that strengthening the body, however it is done, should aim to include improvement of one’s body awareness. This translates as; knowing more about human body biology and physiology, learning to differentiate between how your body feels when it is tired, rejuvinated, injured, healing etc, and how it feels in the moment of performing an exercise.

As soon as I was thrown on to my shoulder during a sparring round in a BJJ class, I knew something wasn’t good. Adrenaline masked the pain but my body awareness let me know that damage had ensued under the surface. It’s highly probable that without any body awareness I would have just carried on, unaware of the potential damage lying around the corner. (Until the adrenaline subsided of course, after which I’d be surprised if anyone could continue sparring with a separated shoulder.) Body awareness also came in handy to pay attention to the pain I was feeling, using it as a guide to know when I could start training around the injury.

Awareness is an illusive word to try and pin down to explain. An easy way to unpack the term is look at its antonym, its opposite; obliviousness. (Also a noun and also does nothing without a compounded sense of ‘being’ attached to it.)

Lots of people, if not most, train themselves or are trained in, a state of oblivion with no focus on improving body awareness. Just look around at your local gym. I’d estimate 80% of gym membership-bases are built of people who just go through the motions.

My only problem with going through the motions is what do you do when your plan fails? What are you able to do when the rug is pulled from under your feet, for example, when you separate your shoulder, if you don’t possess any body awareness?

I’m sure you can still manage and probably still recover from an injury without body awareness but I feel it would take much longer to repair and come back to a status of full health. I can’t prove this, however.

If a goal of training is self-dominance (I believe training the body should include this as a primary aim) then it cannot be achieved by compounding states of self-oblivion. You cannot maximise your potential in your body by being unaware. You can definitely do things in states of oblivion, but you will never do them optimally. Mastery of a skill or subject requires awareness of it, by definition.

There are many talented movers out there. I believe that some people are naturally more talented than others when it comes to performing physical movements. Personally, I have to put it more time than other people I know when it comes to learning and performing physical movements, because learning kinaesthetically takes me far longer than learning visually or audibly.
But here’s the mindfuck. Just because you’re a naturally talented mover doesn’t mean you’re exempt from training with an intrinsic goal of improving your body awareness. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn more about your body’s physiology and biology etc. Everyone with a goal of self-dominance should strive to learn as much about their body as possible and to become aware of their bodies day-to-day as much as possible.


Over the time that constitutes one’s ‘Training History’, i.e. the hours spent making the body stonger, more agile, more flexible etc, the body should be constantly required to adapt to a new set of stimuli, immediately after adapting to the old set of stimuli (characteristics of good programming).
For example, a change up of exercise variations in a training programme every 4-6 weeks, depending on the person, is one way to prevent stagnation in the body’s progress and ensure a process of adaption is constantly occurring.

This is a basic principle that still so many people I see training get so, so wrong. There’s two schools, usually; the guys and girls that change what they’re doing every workout, so they never make any real progress in one area but do maintain some of the physical qualities they currently possess. And then there’s the guys and girls who do the same kind of workout, day in, day out, for years, without ever giving programming any real thought, which strangely also falls into more of a maintenance category than a progressive, adaptive one.

Very often, these two schools of exerciser are not tracking their training, either by writing it down, logging it in, recording it etc. Nowhere to be seen. Therefore, they are not able to manage their training. And training that is not managed, is not having an optimal impact on the body. If we’re being harsh, then we would say this kind of training is a waste of time.
Better than nothing, arguably, but still inefficient.

It is my opinion that a major reason for training the human body is to reinforce the skill of adaptation. After all, adaptation is a major player in the evolutionary cycle; the species that cannot adapt to its environmental requirements, inevitably dies off.

Not only does the body respond very well to sensible programming based on adaptation, but it’s also bloody useful for times when you get injured, like I just have. Everything was going very well for me in life, especially in the corporal realm. And then one bad fall in a grappling class combined with the sensation that my shoulder had just popped in on itself, changed everything.

However, whilst I was still trying to make sense of what was happening during the acute phase of the injury, my focus kept returning to the principle of adaptation, over and over. How could I do my ski and snowboard boot-fitting job, one handed? How could I drive? How could I coach people how to balance, grapple or get stronger? How could I sleep?

Lo and behold, I’ve managed all those things. I attribute that success to having a focus on adaptation in my day-to-day training regimes. My body hasn’t stopped adapting over the last 4 years or so, since training far more regularly with more knowledge than I’ve ever had. But the real value in all that training has come in to play now that I can’t physically train how I’m ‘used to’ training. I have been forced to adapt. I’m so grateful that I have practiced the art of adaptation over and over, so that when forced to, I am not daunted by a task with real, painful consquences if I fail.

Being familiar with adaptation as a principle has meant that I have been able to create a lifestyle that favours the recovery of my injury and adapt to its requirements, without too much hassle. Going to work only using the left arm, changing the way I get in and out of my car and how I drive it, paying more attention to verbal coaching cues when I can’t demonstrate, etc.

Next episode I’ll explain what training I have been doing and why.

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Harry Cloudfoot is a writer and explorer of movement and mind. You can check his social media if you want but you'd be better off going and doing something, instead.
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