The bumpy road of physical therapy and injury rehab

I’m now just about 4 weeks post-surgery, and the process of adequately rehabbing an injury is something I find both fascinating and frustrating.

At any given moment, you’ve got two sides of your brain chattering at you at the same time:

left-brain-right-brain

 

The left and more analytic side is warning you to not push too hard, stay safe, and asking “What do you think that little tiny ‘twinge’ means?”…  The left brain looks for reason, justification, and something in the DATA to prove that improvement is taking place.

The right and more emotional side is egging you on, getting wrapped up in the enthusiasm of FINALLY TRAINING AGAIN, and also lamenting your loss of fitness, your slow lumbering progress, and overall lameness.  The right brain also swells with delight when a session goes well, and the iso-lateral movements are getting easier on the weaker side.

 

It’s a push/pull with every day.  The one thing I’m attempting to keep in center-focus is that REST will never hurt, nor set you back.  Much of my time these last couple of weeks has been strengthening the left (affected) side, bringing it into balance with the stronger side.  Too much too soon will result in other injury as the pelvic imbalance is significant.  

It’s a mind game.  So often we view “mental toughness” as kicking in on mile 85 of the bike, or mile 20 of the run, when all the matches are just about gone.  I’m looking at mental toughness these days as the practice of staying positive, having fun throughout the process.  Mental toughness tells you that the discomfort you feel is normal, and that “Rome wasn’t build in a day”, and “Put down that cookie”.  So much of any rehab plan – or any RACE PLAN for that matter – is rooted in “trust the process”.  It has to be, as at the end of the day “the process” is the only thing that is proven to work over the long haul.

In short – “Trust the Process”.

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Catching up – Ironman Arizona, Surgery, Recovery…

I’m surprised it’s been so long since my last post.  Things have been nuts all the way around and I didn’t even have a chance to throw together a post-IronmanArizona blog post.  The truth is that I returned from Arizona completely psyched but also staring down the barrel of a massive work schedule along with getting things ready for my December 18th surgery, so it fell by the wayside.  In a nutshell, here’s my thoughts:

On Ironman Arizona –

Some Sweet Rides

Some Sweet Rides

I arrived out in Arizona on the Friday of raceweek.  In addition to being out in AZ to volunteer (and thus solidify a spot in the 2014 race), I was looking forward to rooting on and supporting TinMen Endurance – a group of 5 heart-transplant recipients that were all racing together to raise awareness for organ donor programs.  My buddy Derek successfully finished Ironman Lake Placid in July becoming the first American to complete a full-Iron race.  We all went to dinner on Saturday evening and I had a chance to meet the guys and their families and learn about their stories.  Sadly, only two of the five were able to complete – one was jumped-on while entering the water pre-start and had to be pulled out before the gun at 7am, and another was swept off the run course late-night.  A third (Kyle Garlett) took a nasty spill on his bike a couple of weeks before the race and just couldn’t make the start.  Many of you might know Kyle from his previous Kona attempts and spotlight segments on the NBC Kona broadcasts.

The race was fantastic.  I was able to join some friends out on the bike course during the day before my volunteer shift at the finish line.  I saw a couple of nasty wipeouts – 3 loops causes WAY TOO MUCH CONGESTION and I sincerely hope the rumors of elongating it to 2 longer loops in 2014 becomes a reality.  At one intersection I saw a tri-teammate from Delaware dash into a porta-john, and shocked him when he emerged to find me holding his bike with a good luck cheer!  My time at the finish line was incredibly inspiring and while I was completely exhausted after a long day on my feet (woke at 3:30am) it’s impossible to NOT keep going while these competitors kept streaming across the finish line.  It was an honor to participate as a volunteer, regardless of my registration.

IMAZFinishLine

I headed back to my hotel and caught a couple hours of sleep, then checked out and headed to Athlete Village to get a place in line.  The word on the street was that there was an unprecedented number of volunteers gunning for slots, and the long winding line appeared to have way too many hopeful people in it.  Once the sun came up the line began to move about 7:40 am and I ended up finding my way to the front and registering for 2014.

I Guess This Makes It Real

I Guess This Makes It Real

Surgery –

My hip really felt a bit “blown up” in the days leading up to the surgery.  Just to refresh, over the past summer I felt more and more discomfort while running.  After a round of PT treating what we thought to perhaps be a “groin strain”, an arthrogram revealed a torn labrum in my left hip.  We tried a cortisone injection to no avail, so it was onto arthroscopic labrum repair.

I look calm here, but I'm totally freaking out.

I look calm here, but I’m totally freaking out.

I’m not exaggerating, I was completely losing it prior to going into the OR.  My wife was really comforting though, and before I knew it I was waking up and only wanted something to drink really bad.

So there was a little more damage than my doc thought:

Beforehip

Red and frayed = not good. This is the anterior, and more damage was seen on the other surfaces.

But, it all cleaned up nicely…

Afterhip

Nice and smooth…

So the first couple of days were tough.  I needed crutches almost all the time and the pain meds were my best friend.  I used the hell out of my 110% Compression shorts and ice – ice and compression might just be the best thing ever.  I kept up stretching and my isometric exercises, and 9 days after surgery my doc was amazed at my recovery.  I had much more range of motion than would be expected, and he cleared me for bike, elliptical, pool, and core strengthening and just about anything I felt up to EXCEPT running!

So off we go.  PT begins tomorrow, and I’ll be working with a tri-teammate who is an excellent PT as well as a Level 1 USAT coach!  I’ve already been on an exercise bike as well as an elliptical, and the crutches are no longer needed.

Ironman Arizona 2014 – you’ll be my bitch…