When I was first injured I was like “Okay! What workouts can I do with one leg?” This turned out to be the wrong question. First, as I think I made clear in my earlier injury blog, just having one leg in a cast is a massive workout for the healthy leg, and to train it even more would not help my alignment. Once I had surgery it was a moot point, because moving around a lot hurt too much anyway. I went about ten weeks without a workout.
While it is important to note that the world didn’t end because of my lack of workouts, I did feel the difference. I was still in my cast when I started working out. Being primarily sedentary for ten weeks, I had officially stagnated. My blood wasn’t moving, I wasn’t sleeping well because I wasn’t expending my usual amount of energy; I needed to move.
Reapproaching fitness was as much a mental struggle, as a physical one. I had lost a lot of conditioning, and it was a struggle not to get frustrated and disheartened. I did very short workouts, that totally kicked my butt, and I tried to be proud of them. I took the emphasis off intensity, and put it on consistency. Instead of four or five very intense, heavy workouts during a week, I tried to do six or seven small ones.
What workouts could I do in a cast? You might ask. Well I’ll tell you!
Modify, Modify, Modify
I had been forced to train in a different way. I couldn’t fall back on my favourite workouts, or style of workout. For example I really hate the low weight, high rep thing. To me, it’s never been ‘a workout’. I really only believe I’ve done a workout if I’m a sweaty, panting, exhausted mess afterward. I want to feel my muscles ache the next day, I want to feel like I accomplished something, I want to feel spent. If I’m being honest, that’s still how I feel. But I could not afford to do nothing and wait until I could get back into my old routine.
So, I called up my friend (actor and trainer) Aniko Kazsas, to help design a few workouts. I couldn’t lunge, I couldn’t bridge, I couldn’t even plank! So since I had no legs to stand on, I worked out on my knees, and blasted arms.
<I am learning to make GIFs – to show you some examples of these workouts – coming soon!>
Proprioception Wake Up Call
When I first got out of the cast I thought I could go straight to strengthening and mobility training. But my first task was literally to stand on one foot. My first thought was – ‘you mean balance on my tip toe? Jump on one foot?” No. Stand. Then try it with your eyes closed. Try for 10 seconds.
I couldn’t do it.
From what I understand, proprioception is the ability to sense where different parts of your body are in space, their rate of motion, and direction of movement, through the use of proprioceptors, or nerve receptors. When you tear your ligaments, you have to rebuild this connection.
I had a lot of work to do. And I did it constantly! I was always on one foot, closing my eyes, trying to count to ten. When I hit ten seconds, I then stood on one foot and threw a ball back and forth between my hands, or to another person. Then I stood on one foot on unstable surfaces… It was surprisingly difficult.
It was also totally fascinating. I was quite literally re-learning how to perform fundamental physical tasks that I had been doing unconsciously almost all my life.
To Become Better, You Have to Spend Time Being Bad
Training your fitness and strength back up can be extremely humbling. I have cried through several workouts, miserable with my fitness level. But it can also be an opportunity to work some fundamentals up slowly and mindfully. Having one leg in a cast, you compensate all over without noticing and it can create a chain of little misalignments and strain. I have been much more mindful about my form and the ways that I compensate. This is a great way to get a deeper understanding of your body, and as an instructor it was valuable information.
I tried not to compare my workouts to the ones I did before, because I knew it would be a sad comparison. I had to mentally commit to the fact that I was going to be terrible and weak for a long time. And I was! But after a few weeks, I did notice that was getting stronger. It happens. It’s inevitable, if you commit to the attempt.
You have to use yourself as your benchmark. I got injured just in time for the end of the Winter-That-Wouldn’t-End and I was just getting back into my outdoor jogging routine. It had been over six months since surgery when I did my first slow, treadmill jog. I had to alternate between jogging and walking. There were all these joggers and sprinters beside me, and it stung to think they were looking at me thinking I was slow or unfit. Of course: they were probably not thinking that about me, they were probably not thinking about me at all. What really mattered was that despite my judgemental inner voices: inside I was so excited to be running again – and I was proud of myself. I had to nurture that little flame, and be proud of every step. After all – I had been on the stationary bike for months staring longingly at the treadmill – and I’d made it! So what if I was still a long way away from my precious outdoor 10k jogs, I was moving forward.
Ultimately when you have a break from routine you get an opportunity for a new perspective.
With the loss of my beloved high intensity, high impact training, I did pilates and yoga. And, in all honesty, it felt good. I noticed myself getting stretched out, but also stronger in ways I don’t normally consider. I think of strength in terms of how much I can lift; power in terms of how high I can jump. But of course it’s there in sustained movement, it’s there in balance. I think yoga is good for my digestion, good for my nervous system, good for my mind. I think I should keep it as part of my regular life.
But, Man!! I still can’t wait to be able to do some quad-burning, lung-bursting plyometric interval training!
That’s a wrap on my WhateverDoesn’t Kill Me Makes Me Stronger series, I hope you enjoyed it! If you have any questions of comments please tweet me @CaseyHudecki! Next blog I will be looking at Slapstick Violence!