I sat at the table’s edge adorn in those lovely paper shorts supplied by the doctor’s office. My surgeon scrolled back and forth through the MRI, showing me various areas of damage in my knee.
“I don’t know what the heck you did to your knee, but it’s bad. Really bad,” he said as he pointed out my missing ACL (it disintegrated after the tear) and medial meniscus tear that spanned from my medial condyle straight to the middle of my knee.
As he went over surgery options a single thing weighed on my mind. I couldn’t fathom the compounding impact of knee surgery on my life and career at the moment. It was too much to wrap my head around.
“Okay, so you’re saying I shouldn’t do the Spartan Race this weekend?” I blurted out my primary concern as he discussed the difference between my joint repair options.
He looked at me with a deadpan face, crossed his arms and said, “Is it paying your mortgage for the next three years?”
Right then I knew the severity of my injury. I was wide awake for the first time since I felt an acute injury three years prior. I realized that all the hard-nosed, bull-headedness of pushing through pain, taking only a day off to recover, and hobbling off sports fields due to swelling and immobility…
… well, it was all STUPID.
What was likely an ACL tear three years prior turned into a full-blown multi-injury in my left knee that could lead to arthritis and lifelong issues. I had to make a serious choice.
I walked out of his office with surgery booked ten days before Christmas while I was in the middle of a divorce, living as a single parent with no relatives close by, and in a home listed on the market.
This was the lowest point in my lifetime of sports and recreation. The total recovery time was at least 8 months-- and that was when I could start jogging on a padded treadmill.
My entire profession relied on my body. I couldn’t wrap my head around any of this.
I dug deep into research and soon realized that knee surgery wasn’t always successful. Layer in that I was uninsured, plus the physical burden of the surgery and rehab, added to time away from work-- it was mentally debilitating.
I didn’t sleep well for two weeks. I finally called my doctor’s office and canceled the surgery.
My stubbornness served me well in many tough situations, and it was going to save me in this one.
I re-evaluated every aspect of my gym training and recreational sports activities at that moment.
I had to change what I was doing otherwise I was on the path toward a devastating injury that could leave me broken and even disabled. I could lose the business I spent five years building because there would be no way to do what I love if I further exacerbated my injury.
I shifted my focus to getting ridiculously strong on a fundamental level. My injuries occured due to weakness/imbalances within my body.
I focused on balance, stability, mobility, and all the little supporting muscles that we often neglect on our quest for brute strength and athletic prowess.
I changed everything about my movement, becoming a machine in the gym destined to work better than I ever did in the past.
This was two years ago. Though I still have the injury, I am stronger than ever and have more muscle mass. I am able lift, play, and enjoy daily activities mostly without pain. I quit all sports that require agility-- a tough but worthwhile decision.
I found other ways to feed my competitive edge by exploring new sports and activities that still challenge me, but keep my joints safe.
Not only did it change the way I train, but it changed me as a coach. I’m more well-rounded, have a greater understand of movement and how the body works, and design programs that build foundational strength for my clients so they know what it’s like to be truly strong and to move well.
Next week Meghan, Sarah, and I are launching a collaborative fitness and education system called Glutes, Core, and Pelvic Floor. We joined forces to create a 12-week system that not only provides an incredible workout, but also helps you learn how your body works, how to troubleshoot issues like pain and weaknesses, and gives you a full perspective on health holistically-- because what is going on inside is reflective of what's happening outside.
I've learned an incredible amount from both of these powerhouse women over the past two years. Our combined education, coaching/teaching experience, and what we've learned about our bodies after overcoming injury, setbacks, and challenges is built right into this system.
I know what it’s like to feel broken and hopeless. I know what it’s like to fear the loss of athleticism and movement. I came out of what could have been a career-ending injury a far better coach.
Hope to see you inside the course soon!