Grit. Grind. Greatness.

CrossFitter and Optimize Physio client Mike Kan gets real about injury, success and carving out your own path.

Humour us for a moment: Optimize Physio is like CrossFit’s cousin, in the sense that both focus on functionality and the individualized journey. Each person has his or her own mountains to climb, hurdles to jump over (or on, if we’re talking box jumps), and personal accomplishments to celebrate. 

It was those reasons and more that drew athlete, coach and CrossFit Armoury part-owner Mike Kan into the sport. “CrossFit is unlike anything else because you get to witness people pulling each other up those mountains in the gym,” explains Mike. “They do it by shouting encouraging words, lending their own energy, and noticing that someone did something better than the last time. For me, that focus and energy is not only what CrossFit is all about, but also something I take into other areas of my life.”

Pain and gain

That energy and commitment is especially tested when our bodies or plans don’t cooperate. For Mike, it was March 2016. He was a member at CrossFit Armoury but not officially a coach yet. “That morning I was doing a heavy push press with a coach,” remembers Mike. “After the workout I was feeling soreness in my lower back, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it because it was a very challenging CrossFit workout.”

A few hours later Mike went to train with a different coach. It was a high-volume session of wall ball shots. “At the end, I couldn’t stand the pain in my lower back. I realized that something was wrong.” Mike could barely walk out to his car, and had to physically pick up his legs with his hands to get inside. 

Timing certainly has a way of taking challenges to the next level. When his injury happened, Mike was just starting his CrossFit Coach career. Demonstrating movements was nearly impossible as he couldn’t do anything related to his lower back. He soon realized, that’s a lot. “Mentally it was tough,” says Mike. “I wanted to go after my fitness career, but I could barely walk and was unable to lift up weights.”

The push-up gauge

Getting better was an immediate priority. “With Arri’s help we found out I sprained the facet joints on my left side at L4-5 and L5-S1. We started to work on my lower back and strengthen my core,” says Mike. He uses a true testament of strength—the classic push-up—as an example. “Before my injury, I was able to do 40 push-ups easily. When I was hit with the injury, zero push-ups because it was too much for my lower back.” And after treatment? “It took about three months of treatment and rehabilitation with Arri, and I was 100% back to my easy 40 push-ups!” 

Of course, each person is unique, and length of treatment and goal timelines will vary widely. But understanding the process can set up realistic expectations. “When you’re injured or hurt, Optimize will help,” assures Mike. “You just need to listen, do the exercise assigned, and be patient. Everything takes time and you’re in good hands.”

Get-it factor

Despite the frustration of putting his passion on halt, Mike felt understood and therefore was able to truly trust the process. “I think the biggest thing is that both Arri and Aaron understand the sport of CrossFit, and also just how committed to it I am. Both of the boys do CrossFit for fitness so they understand how I injured my back. Instead of me trying to explain and demonstrate to a physio the movement that contributed to my injury, Arri and Aaron have total familiarity.”  

Although CrossFit is known for its requirement of grit and high-energy output, it’s less celebrated for the honesty it encourages within its athletes. It’s forced Mike to be honest with himself and whether or not he’s working as hard as he can. At the same time, it’s taught him that treating his body right is paramount. “CrossFit has given me a place where I meet people who show me what it means to be strong,” says Mike. “And I’ve definitely learned how to become strong in more ways than one.”

Want to overcome injury so you can reach your goals too? Contact us today to meet one of our experienced physiotherapists.