It’s not easy to recover from surgery but I sure am gaining a lot of perspective from it and I have a lot of appreciation for how “fit” I was before surgery. I have a new respect for those who have never worked out before but have decided for whatever reason to start on their fitness journey. I also have a new respect for those who have worked out before but stopped for whatever reason, gained some LBS and lost all their cardiovascular ability but are now working towards getting back in shape because shit man, it’s rough to know what you used to be able to do that you cannot even come close to doing. I am feeling very humbled these days and very appreciative of the whole process of getting my fitness back. I knew taking a forced 2 months off from really any working out would cause some decreases in fitness and as I work towards getting it back, I realize just how gosh darn hard it is to motivate myself to do what needs to be done in order to get to where I need to be but more importantly where I WANT to be. One word: FRUSTRATING.
Looking back, I realize that it’s easy to be in shape. It’s easy to show up to the gym with a solid cardiovascular and strength base and absolutely crush yourself to the point where you are on your back gasping for air and you can’t fathom how you are possibly going to get up and do another set but you do it because you can and because you absolutely love the pain. I miss and long for those days. These days it’s easy for me to show up to the gym (because I work in one) with my not so solid cardiovascular and strength base and absolutely crush my foam rolling, my mobility and my PT exercises and lie on the floor and say, “Fuck I hate this all”, hardly being able to see a light at the end of the tunnel, wondering when I will feel like ME again. I will admit, it’s been a nice break for my body and my mind but it’s time to start putting in the even harder work now that I am 3 months out and the reality of these 10 LBS that have made it so I don’t fit into any of my non athletic wearing clothes and the fact that walking up the stairs puts me out of breath has hit me. But I find myself NOT WANTING to put in the work. It’s too daunting to me and spending most of my time foam rolling and doing mobility drills just so I can spend a little time doing my “strength” exercises just seems like such a waste. Some days I just want to throw in the towel.
BUT, I know it’s not a waste and I know I don’t really want to throw in the towel. I want to come back stronger than I was before I went in for surgery which requires me to start from square 1: corrective exercise. It’s a progression I have had very few clients go through and I therefore don’t have much experience, but to go through it first hand allows me to appreciate the grit, the mental energy, the patience and the perseverance it takes to get it all back. I’m not discounting what it takes to stay in shape because it’s really hard especially as you get fitter and fitter because you have to kick your ass that much more and eat that much healthier to see results but to GET BACK IN SHAPE..shit. You don’t know what it’s like until you go through it (and I’m not even THAT out of shape comparatively speaking). It’s not just a physical thing either, it’s more mental than anything because you know what you used to be able to do and how easy it was but now it’s just all so gosh darn hard.
As I am doing my clam shells, side lying leg abduction, stability ball hamstring curls, body weight step ups, lateral leg slides and best yet, wall ball squats, I can’t help but wish I still had my crutches near me or a sign that says, “I’m not this pathetic I promise! I had hip surgery 3 months ago! You should see what I used to be able to do!” Needless to say, I don’t feel as badass as I used to when I was throwing around heavier weight than half the boys in the gym. For the sake of my own sanity and macho ego that I admittedly possess, I decided to bench press some dumbbells the other day and to my surprise I was able to bench the 40 lb dumbbells for 12 for the first time in 2 months. YES!!! I still got it!!!! Ego intact.
The next day my ego went right to hell. I was in pain and it was not the kind of pain you are supposed to feel from a solid workout but the kind of pain that makes you realize that even though you CAN bench the 40s, you really SHOULDN’T bench the 40s because your body simply isn’t ready for it. So, I’ve decided to listen to my body and put my ego aside for a little while. Thankfully my co-worker Pat has agreed to help me out with my corrective exercise in exchange for weekly cookies because let me tell you, corrective exercise is not only boring as all hell but it is harder than you can imagine because it forces you to focus on the weak links that prevent you from reaching your actual potential. And plus, I really don’t know that much about corrective exercise as I have never really had to apply it to a client in the amount of depth that it is being applied to me so not only do I get help fixing my body but I get to learn a hell of a lot of information I never knew.
Yesterday was my first day as Pat’s trainee and he had me doing hip mobility drills lying, hip bridges, hip marchers, hip lifts with external rotation, band resisted quadrupeds, planks with a slight leg lift, and because my shoulders are nice and messed up from my crutches I did some serratus wall slides, some decline plank push ups, some thoracic rotation drills and thankfully some bent over rows. Dear Lord. I lifted ONE weight. ONE. It was a 14 kg kettle bell for my bent over row. Not only were my arms and back on fire after the rows but my biceps felt like they were going to explode when I was doing the planks and the wall slides. And then there were my hips and legs that felt like they had just squatted a million pounds solely from the mobility drills and all that bridging! It’s humbling, demoralizing and frustrating but I know it needs to be done. Needless to say I was exhausted after our session. Normally what we did would have been a warm up for me but it was ROUGH.
(Quite fitting. Post first day of training with Pat. Rocking my side pony of course)
This whole process has made me appreciate how fit I was, how much fitness I lost and how difficult it is to get back to being fit. When I am doing an exercise that has never been difficult for me but is now because of the surgery, I refuse to say to myself, “This shouldn’t be that hard” because quite frankly, IT SHOULD BE! And I am OK with it being hard. The hardest part is sticking with it, sticking with the boring, mundane, corrective exercises that just don’t seem to be doing a thing until one day you are able to do a deep squat with no pain for the first time in two years. I can’t wait for that day. As I go through this process I am taking notes of how my body feels and what exercises hit the nail on the head and what exercises don’t seem to be quite as beneficial. That way I can apply the knowledge and experience I am gaining through my own recovery to my clients. I’ve never been able to relate to my clients in terms of working out because I have never not worked out and have never been so out of shape that it’s a downer to try to get back in shape but with all of this, I can easily say that I now understand and now have first hand experience of what it takes. It allows me to empathize with everyone around me a little bit more and to tone down my sergeant like attitude in my training.
I’ve gotten to the point where I laugh at the fact that a front plank makes my arms BURN and that stability ball squats on the wall fatigue my legs like a 90s race course used to. Sure I say I am frustrated because I am but I don’t let it stop me. I don’t let it get me down and I don’t let it tempt me (too much) to quit because I am not a quitter. Never have been and never will be. I find laughter makes everything better. Laughter and a 3 word phrase that has become my mantra…
I keep saying I cannot wait for the day where I work out so hard that I am lying on the floor gasping for air with my entire body feeling like jello. That day will be the day that I have never worked so hard for a bacon, cheddar and avocado burger with sweet potato fries and a Allagash White. And yes, I will eat the bun and yes I will eat every single last fry. That is my motivation right there. Oh and to be able to get these max lifts back:
1RM back squat at 235 lbs
1RM front squat at 205 lbs
1RM trap bar dead lift at 255 lbs (I sucked at straight bar because of my hip mobility but that’s all gonna change baby!)
Those are my little meat head Kara goals. Oh and to run another half marathon and beat my time of 1:42:45. They say write down your goals because they have a better chance of becoming a reality. So there ya go world, those are just a few of my goals. Until then I will stick to my wall ball squats…
…and my battle ropes (decked out head to toe in my new Reebok gear of course) when frustration gets the best of me.
At the end of the day, as frustrated as I do get, I realize this is all just a fun learning experience. It’s pushing me outside of my comfort zone and challenges my patience. I’ve never had to work so hard for something that used to be so easy. Progress comes slowly at first but it’s the ability to stick with the plan that makes all the difference in the world.
And don’t forget to laugh and smile along the way. 🙂