You think you won’t make it back, but you will.
Right now, you’re injured or sick. You feel weak and old and sad, and you’re shaking your fist at the gods who stripped you of your strength. You can’t do what you once could. It’s frustrating and you feel like quitting.
I know. I’ve been there. I am there now. Allow me to explain.
A few months ago, I was cruising towards a new back squat PR and keeping pace with my deadlift PR.
Then the gods laughed.
Some intermittent pain I was having suddenly got worse and I was abruptly scheduled for tests by a very kind doctor with a very serious face.
“We have to rule out cancer first,” she said. And we waited.
Just as I was certain I would lose my mind (because who can stay away from Dr. Google and his unending medical info and countless self-diagnosis options?), good news came in! No cancer (most likely) but major surgery, and the sooner the better. On the good side, I didn’t need my uterus anymore. But it would be a three-hour surgery and an overnight stay in the hospital. A bunch of painkillers. And no lifting for 8 weeks.
None. Zippo lifting. I had the surgery.
“She’s being too cautious,” I thought about my surgeon after I got home and ditched the Percocet. I figured, “I’m healthy and strong and my mind is uber-powerful! Hear me roar!”
But the issue wasn’t my mind. The problem was that my 52-year-old body agreed with my surgeon. Every time I pushed too hard, I set myself back. Too much activity? Back in bed for the day. I learned to listen to the kind surgeon. And I learned to only walk and ride my bike.
For 8 weeks.
Ugh. But not as bad as I thought, even though it was the longest period without weightlifting in the last 15 years of my life. I didn’t lose my mind. I didn’t find myself jonesing for a dopamine hit. I didn’t drive circles around my gym or linger in the corners by the medicine balls, trying to get a contact high.
I walked and meditated and read books. I survived. And that’s good news. Because if I can do it, you can do it too.
Yup. You out there, angry at your injury or sad because of your sickness, melancholy because of your malaise. It’s not going to be easy but you’re going to make it through. You don’t have to lose your mind. You don’t have to gain weight or become something just shy of an alcoholic. You can slow your exercise (or even put it on hold) and you’ll be okay. But first you have to adjust your mind.
Modify your plans and deal with your situation. Go slow or go light if you have to. Don’t go at all if you can’t. But – and this is the important part – stop wishing away the days. Fill them with other things.
- Walk like a mofo.
- Sit and stare at the ocean.
- Lose yourself in a novel.
- Download a meditation app and catch some ohms with your dog on the couch. (That’s how I meditate. Screw this perfect posture and special room business. I go for dogs and a sofa. I guess it’s a bit like Netflix but the movie is in my mind and I get to pause it.)
My point is that recovery doesn’t have to be bad. It doesn’t have to be frustrating. It doesn’t have to be sad. Recovery can be exactly what you make it – and you can make it wonderful by learning new things and ways to cope. Your attitude determines what this period becomes. So use your mind and use the time well, whether it’s post-surgery or post-sprain or post-you-did-something-stupid.
And when you are in the gym? Don’t focus on what you can’t do or who you used to be.
Focus on who you are now and what you can do. Like my friend Double D texts me when I’m feeling sorry for myself, “Just focus on what you CAN do and keep moving forward.”
Listen to Double D and keep moving forward. This time won’t last forever. You’ll find a new kind of strong, in your body and your mind. I know because I’m right there with you. I’m still not back to where I was, but I’ll get there or I’ll get to a new me – and that’s the goal anyhow, right? Growth is growth. All rulers are not the same.
Keep moving forward. Good luck.