I hate down time. It’s a battle every rest day to make it an actual rest day. Deload weeks leave me feeling sluggish and grouchy. Now I have a new thing to add to the list—I hate being injured.

Three weeks ago, I was on the final week of Wendler's 5/3/1 program. Bench day came along, and I did my prescribed reps of five, three, and one. The bar flew off my chest. So I thought, “Why not do some singles?” Ninety percent had felt so light that I went up to 100 percent, and it went up like nothing. Then I decided to go for a bench PR. After punching myself in the head a few times to psych myself up, I hit a 10-pound PR. I thought about going for more, but I work out alone in my home gym and wanted to play it safe.

Pumped about my PR, I set up to do my 5 X 10 boring but big protocol—neutral grip dumbbell bench presses. Because things were going so well, I decided to push the envelope and add some more weight to my sets. The first two sets went well, but on the third set, I heard a “pop.” That pop was my right shoulder. The pain wasn’t too bad, so I decided to continue my workout. I lightened the poundage, finished my sets, did my assistance work, and went about my day.

That night I felt like someone was stabbing my shoulder with an ice pick. So in typical fashion, I took some ibuprofen and hoped that if I ignored it, it would go away. The next day was a Strongman events day. On Saturday, I woke up, took some more ibuprofen, and did the events. I pulled some stones and did rack pulls. By the end of the workout, I was wishing that I had something stronger then ibuprofen. Like I said, I hate downtime. I decided I would find a way to work around the shoulder. Well, it’s been three weeks of “working around” and it isn't getting any better. So in this case, working around and keeping it aggravated are the same things.

I went to the doctor. I avoided him for two weeks, but he said that I have a strained or partially torn bicep tendon. Without an MRI, he can’t tell me which, but the treatment is the same—don’t lift anything heavy with that arm and take some pills. It should get better. Lesson learned and lesson shared.

Here are the things I learned:

1.   Keeping the schedule can keep you injured:

My wife calls me Rain Man. Yeah, definitely squat on Monday, press on Tuesday, Wapner on Thursday, and underwear from Kmart. You get the drift. You have to listen to your body. When my shoulder popped, I should have ended the workout right then. Instead, the plan said 5 X 10 and by God that is what I was going to do. Now, three weeks later, I haven’t benched at all. The plan is to get stronger and stay uninjured. If one part of that breaks down, the whole plan falls apart. A few days of unscheduled rest are much better than a few weeks. Look at the big picture. I celebrated my PR with a fist full of ibuprofen.

2.   Don’t avoid the doctor:

I waited two weeks to go to the doctor. Why? Because I knew he was going to tell me not to train and I hate down time. Now I have more down time. I compounded my down time. If I would have gone to the doctor after I realized this was more than just a little ouch, I might be happily pounding weights instead of what I am doing now (which isn’t much). Once you realize something is more serious than a little boo boo, go get it taken care of. Get the right medications and get back on track. I hate going to the doctor, but I hate not training more.

3.   Be smart with your contingency plan:

Have I mentioned that I hate down time? As soon as I realized that this wasn’t going away fast, I decided on a “work around the injury” plan. Mine was lighter weights, some kettlebell work, and cardio. I should have stepped back and asked myself some questions: Will this help me reach my goals? Is there even a chance this will aggravate the injury more? What is my reason behind choosing this path? My answer to these questions is that I didn’t want the down time. Yes, the contingency aggravated it more, and no, I'm not closer to my goals. Sometimes less is more. Instead, three weeks later, I'm doing what I should have been doing all along—foam rolling and mobility work and taking walks.

To some of you reading this, you will agree that this is a rookie mistake. I can agree with that. I'm a rookie. I'm still learning for sure. Like most things in life, I've had to learn things the hard way. In the iron game, sometimes the learning curve is a painful one. I'm sure I'll make plenty of mistakes in this journey, but hopefully knowing when to rest won’t be one of them. The key to this though is knowing when to pick your battles... or you won’t be in the fight at all.