A little over a year ago I tweaked my back pretty significantly, it was early October 2021 in fact. To be more precise, it was October 5th - yes, it was that memorable.
I was bending down to routinely pick up a pair of 45 pound dumbbells. Something I have done day in and day out for 15+ years. But for some reason, this time, my body was NOT having it.
It progressively worsened over a few days to the point where it became easily the most significant orthopedic injury I have ever had.
The only benefit I can take from what turned out to be almost 4 months of struggle is many lessons learned about pain and healing - which I've used to help me become a better coach.
LESSON #1 - WHEN YOU ARE IN CONSTANT PAIN, YOU BECOME A REAL CRABASS.
For the first month of this injury, I was in pain every waking moment, usually a consistent 5 out of 10 pain that would shoot to an 8 to 9 of 10 with certain movements.
This level of pain and discomfort really negatively affected my attitude and patience, and I could easily recognize that I was much more crabby and mad at things that usually would have zero effect on me.
LESSON #2 - BEING IN PAIN LEAVES YOU 100% UNMOTIVATED TO DO ANYTHING.
It was much harder to get excited to work (both coaching and desk work), which I generally enjoy and always prioritize getting a lot done, and I couldn’t get to that level.
Along with being unmotivated at work, the lack of ability to do the little things, like simply taking the garbage out or hopping out of bed in the morning, was extremely frustrating and even more demotivating.
LESSON #3 - WHEN YOU ARE IN CONSTANT PAIN, SLEEPING SUCKS.
Finding a base position even to start to fall asleep in without pain proved itself to be quite a chore. I would have to construct a mishmash of pillows stacked here, there, and everywhere just to get into a comfortable enough spot even to fall asleep.
Then during the middle of the night, if you move out of that position or have to get up and out of bed after getting tight and stiff, it’s really tough and taxing.
LESSON #4 - PAIN = NO WORKING OUT = TERRIBLE STAMINA.
I have been consistently working out for around 20 years, really ever since I started in the early years of high school. During this period, I wasn't really able to do anything besides some physical therapy.
Without consistent training of any kind, my stamina and endurance decreased to record lows, my strength was zapped, and overall I had a lot less energy and simply didn't feel good.
LESSON #5 - DUE TO A LACK OF EXERCISE, I INITIALLY LOST WEIGHT, BUT THEN GAINED WEIGHT.
Initially, I lost about 8 pounds over the first 3 weeks of pain due to the complete stop in strength training. Which I attribute to losing muscle mass as I went from lifting 4 days per week to 0 days per week.
I could see this in my arms and legs. They were already starting to get smaller - and it’s not that they were very big, to begin with! However, after that initial body weight loss, I slowly started to see the scale creep back up, and not in a “good, my muscle mass is coming back” way but rather an increase in body fat and a general “softness” feel.
LESSON #6 - WHEN YOU ARE IN PAIN, YOU MOVE IN DIFFERENT WAYS, AND MOVING IN DIFFERENT WAYS CAN CAUSE “COLLATERAL DAMAGE”.
Because my gait was affected by my back, and I was bending and moving in totally different (and dysfunctional) patterns, I noticed other aches and pains.
Specifically, in my left foot and left hip flexor area, these areas both picked up some tendonitis which created more issues in addition to my back, which I then had to spend a lot of time working on to get better.
LESSON #7 - IT’S GOOD TO SEEK HELP TO START GETTING BETTER.
After about a month post injury and things not getting better naturally through rest, I sought physical therapy for the first time in my life. The acceleration in my healing was apparent quite quickly through consistent, multiple times daily PT exercises.
If you’ve ever been to therapy, you know the prescription is often 2-3 times/day, every day, which can sometimes be hard to accomplish. But the decision to seek help in healing was certainly a good one, and consistently doing the exercises multiple times per day was defiantly part of what moved me down the path to feeling better.
As I mentioned at the start, the only "benefit" to all of this was the opportunity to learn through this injury and subsequently healing process.
Which no doubt has helped me to become a better, more empathetic, and knowledgeable coach.