How An Injury Led Me To Become More Fit Than Ever

Photo: Tom Lew

In December, I severely injured my neck and upper back, making basic, everyday movements excruciating. It was a humbling lesson for me: a tightness that I failed to address turned into paralyzing pain that I didn’t think was possible.

Although it became clear that my injury was a result of not warming up enough before workouts, I thought I had been! What I didn’t realize at the time was that sometimes the body needs a full spectrum of fascial manipulation to be truly prepared for physical exertion.

Foam rollers, lacrosse balls, sticks, and massage all play a role in manipulating connective tissue. Although I made sure to stretch before every workout, it wasn’t enough to loosen me up. It’s a lot like trying to brush hair that is tangled with a comb first. You can try, but it will be gnarly as it tries to move through your strands. Similarly, I found that taking time to get warm, roll out, and activate before moving into my more advanced training was crucial in preventing injuries. Now that I've learned my lesson, here's how I prepare my body for movement:

1. Layers.

Photo: Tom Lew

I prefer layering my clothes to create more heat to help my body open up. Kohl’s has a wide range of brands I can mix and match. I like layering my Tek Gear Long Sleeve Tee over my FILA SPORT Racerback—both pieces are moisture-wicking and provide extra warmth! I also love my FILA SPORT leggings, which have great stretch without sacrificing heat. While clothes that help you warm up are crucial to injury prevention, it’s equally important that they allow you the freedom to move with ease. Comfortable sneakers that provide grip and support without being too heavy are also essential for ease of movement; that’s why I rely on my New Balance sneakers when warming up.

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2. Myofascial release.

Photo: Tom Lew

One of my favorite ways of warming up is combining myofascial release methods with physical therapy work. If there is acute tightness or discomfort anywhere in my body, manipulating the fascia and activating the muscles before stretching will loosen it up.

I use the Gaiam Restore 12-inch Foam Roller to apply just enough pressure to get my muscles moving and then follow up with some rehab work using my P90X resistance bands. The three different levels of resistance offer me a variety of exercises to help prepare my back and shoulders.

Photo: Tom Lew

I loop the resistance band under my stomach and hold on to the ends to lift my arms without lifting my head and chest. I also loop the band around a mounted object and cobra up with resistance. Throughout all my drills I work to move with great articulation and slow down, imagining myself working from the inside out.

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3. Mental preparation.

Photo: Tom Lew

When I think back to the years when my only motivation for exercise was aesthetic and how hard I pushed myself, I can’t believe that was ever me. Now, I strive to be pain-free and mentally sound before any workout. And when my mind slips back into my old habits, my body always reminds me to slow down and warm up. As I recover from my neck injury, I’m reminded that having the right tools and programs in place to prevent injury helps ensure that my body lasts as long as possible.

Kohl’s has a great selection of apparel, shoes, and tools that are essential for physical and mental preparation. They've become my go-to for all of my wellness needs. And now especially after my injury, I know how important it is to have not only the right mindset but the right gear as well.

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