How To Train After Giving Blood

Before we get into the tale I’m about to tell, and before you figure it out on your own, I’ll admit that this is a pretty idiotic story.  I wouldn’t not recommend you doing what I did, but I’m going to try to turn this into a positive story about a can-do attitude.  Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s begin:

This past Thursday, the New York Blood Center hosted a blood drive at Adelphi University.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve donated, but it’s something I find important, so I scheduled an appointment.  With an hour and a half between classes, I assumed I had plenty of time to bleed, eat, and head to class.  We all know what happens when you assume, right?

When checking in to the blood drive, I was asked if I wanted to donate whole blood or use the Alyx machine, which takes a double unit of red blood cells but replaces fluids, so the total volume of blood taken is reduced.  I was planning on working out later in the day, so this sounded like a good idea to me.  The processes only takes an extra 10-15 minutes, so I figured it was a better decision:  I’m contributing more, but have less side effects.  By the time they hooked me up to the machine, I forgot that I’m a very fast bleeder, and was only on the machine for a few minutes before I began to get the same tunnel vision feeling that comes at the end of a heavy set of deadlifts.  Unfortunately the feeling continued to get worse, and I managed to tell a nurse who was able to lay me down before I totally passed out.  They reduced the flow of the machine, got me a pillow and some ice packs, and within 5 minutes I was feeling much better.  I finished my donation, and was ready to head to class, but the good folks at the blood drive had other plans.  After nearly an hour of checking my vitals and giving me water and sugary/salty snacks, I was told “No heavy lifting, and no caffeine!” and was set free.  I quickly hurried to my car for food, then straight to class to apologize to my professor.

Once class was over, I headed to the library to do work with a classmate, then did some studying on my own.  I filled my water bottle 4 times in an hour, and continued to eat and drink throughout my study time.  Why so much?  Because I still planned on working out, despite the warnings.  After at least a gallon of water, chicken and broccoli, Greek yogurt and some trail mix, I felt 100% ready to train.

I’ve been using two full body workouts during the week, but I wasn’t about to unwrap my bandaged arm and go through a ‘normal’ workout. (Come on, that would have been really dumb!)  Instead, I trained around my ‘injury’ by doing as much as I could without bending my arms.  This involved sumo deadlift speed/technique work, Paloff presses, some deficit split squats, and an infinite amount of band pull-aparts.  Seriously, at least a thousand band pull-aparts.  It wasn’t a true full body workout, but I did feel very productive for what I was doing.  In fact, I had some of my fastest sumo deadlifts ever and I even waved at a cute girl!

Where am I going with all of this?  Not that I recommend going to the gym after giving blood, or that I was injured, but rather that you can still train around an injury and have a great workout.  I find that in most cases, those who are injured or sick use their condition as an excuse to totally scrap their plans for physical activity or exercise.

Of course there are cases when it’s totally acceptable to rest and recover, and I’d rather you err on the side of caution.  That being said, a head cold is not an excuse to sit on the couch eating all weekend, and a broken finger shouldn’t stop you from training your upper and lower body by figuring out how to train without your hands.  Let’s have an example, shall we?  There’s a great high school student at the JCC who broke his ankle practicing with the local high school team, and he’s been missing form the gym for a few weeks.  When he came in last week, I asked “Cody, where the hell have you been?!”  He explained to me exactly what he’s been doing training at home, which included chin-ups, push-ups, and a variety of pressing and rowing with dumbbells.  As his ankle heals and he becomes more comfortable putting weight on it, he’s going to explore which movements feel comfortable, and check with his doctor for advice.  Perfect!

Let’s say we use the jammed finger example, or a broken wrist; say you just can hold on to anything; you’re pretty limited, right?  Not exactly.  You can either train your lower body with a hands free clean grip or Zercher squat position, use ValSlides or towels for a hands-free pec-deck, or perform hands-free chin-ups with Ab straps.  Don’t believe me?  Check out these videos:



I hope that these videos, and some of your own thoughts and reflections, help to inspire you to create your own training modifications to allow you to work around an injury.  Obviously, take care to ensure your long term health, but remember that a little extra planning and thought is all you need to stay active and keep going strong even when life throws you a curve ball.

(Poor planning isn’t a curve ball however, and I’m going to suggest that you don’t go to a blood drive on the same day you’re going to workout.  Try to be a little smarter than I was when you’re planning your schedule!)


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