It began yesterday, when I was thrust into yet another battle with "conventional wisdom," only somewhat against myself. For the first time in quite a wile, I ended up last Friday with a sciatic nerve flare up. How did that happen? Well, it's probably related to the much heavier dead lifts and squats I'm doing. But I can say there was no specific lift or event that gave the slightest clue.
Anyway, it was pretty uncomfortable over the weekend and I took it easy. Sitting in any position but a contorted one with my right big toe touching my left ear was painful. Monday came around, and I moved my workout to Tuesday afternoon (the 'yesterday' from above). I took a long walk in the morning and noticed something. Whereas, I could hardly move my right leg forward without a lot of pain upon getting out of bed, once I was three minutes into the walk I had total relief. Then, when I got back I sat at my stand-up computer bench on a barstool. Pain returned. I stood the rest of the day and felt good. But, pain was still there various times. The relationship was pretty clear: the more activity, the less pain. Sitting and even laying in bed was more painful.
So: should I work out, or not? I recalled that in a number of cases where my back was a bit tired or sore — and other muscles or joints as well — a workout was exactly what I needed.
So, while the conventional wisdom is take drugs, take it easy, lay in bed, I decided to move around, but in a sensible way.
So I went to the gym.
I told my trainer what I wanted to do and he agreed. We went back to an old-style mostly isolation routine, full body. First I did chest flys on a machine, then lat pull downs, some push ups, dips (triceps) machine, more pushups, some curls and a shoulder exercise I can't describe. Funny thing is this: back when we began doing the high volume compound stuff (linked above) my trainer said it would be instructive to go back and do the isolation periodically as a measure of progress.
Well, I had told my trainer of the nerve issue and said I wanted to do a light & easy workout, mainly for the activity. It turns out, however, that light and easy was actually more weight in every exercise than I was doing intensely just a couple of months ago. It was so easy, in fact, that I barely broke a sweat.
For legs, we did some extensions and then did the incline leg press with only about 160 on it, and I did a bunch of very, very slow reps with a wide, high stance in order to get into a very deep squat. This was basically a weighted stretching exercise and it felt good.
My sciatic is far better today, and I think I'm on the road to a near-term recovery. If anyone has experience with this or knows anything about it from a training and conditioning perspective, I'd love to hear your comments.