The Comeback: a story not about an injury

I wrote this post already. It was about a week ago, a few days after I finished my first weightlifting meet. The post was ok, but I wasn’t vibing it, you know? I was coming off of the high of lifting while simultaneously dealing with all of the fallout of having a huge (and, unusual) adrenaline surge over the weekend. The meet was actually so great; I did the best I’ve ever done in the Clean & Jerk at 76 kg (to get to pounds multiple by 2.2) and pretty good for my “sitch” in the Snatch, ending at 50 kg. My follow up post started out talking about consistency but it wasn’t quite right and left me wanting more. You see, over the past few years I’d been pretty inconsistent with working out and instead dedicated a decent amount of time oscillating between anger, pain and feeling sorry for myself because I was injured so to write a blog post extolling the benefits of consistency felt a little slimy.

 

The long short story

It must have been about 4.5 years ago that I hurt my left shoulder for the first time, only 6 months after starting CrossFit. I’m going to spare you a decent amount of the details because this story isn’t about my injury. Well, not really anyway.

For the following year and half I was in and out of Physical Therapy (PT), getting treated and working through the injury the best way I knew how – go to PT, wish I didn’t have the injury, continue to do as much as I could in the gym that didn’t hurt and not do anything else. It helped – my PT was great and when I did my exercises I felt good.

Fast forward to a new gym: I’d eased back into CrossFit and had since become a Licensed Massage Therapist and CrossFit Coach. Life was great. Then, in my free time, I was playing in the gym and BAM! – something ELSE happened to my shoulder. This time was different though and I knew immediately it was serious.

[Call PT. Get treated. It’s bad. Go to see sports doc. Nerve damage. Don’t go overhead, don’t pull anything heavy, we don’t know when it’s going to heal.]

Since this story isn’t about the injury, well…not really anyway, I won’t go into detail about how the doc told me to get an EMG that I never went to get. PSA: if this happens to you, listen to your doc and you might have a better chance of knowing when your left shoulder will heal. If it’s your right shoulder, eh…judgement call.

So I continued what I was doing, stepped out of the CrossFit classes and got personal programming. I didn’t do the things I wasn’t supposed to do and instead I filled that time with PT. Finally, after about 6 months things started looking up and I was feeling more confident with movement and increasingly able to do more in the gym. By then I was itching to get into a weightlifting program, but I knew I wasn’t there yet.

Cue business + life changes + interesting coincidences

I randomly opened an email from Jen Sinkler and discovered that she was holding an online coaching group with this new-to-me idea of biofeedback training. Not only did I love the woo-woo nature of this training, I was hooked at the idea that my body would tell me if I should/shouldn’t do each and how much of each movement. At this point, about 3 years after my first injury and a half year after my second I still considered myself INJURED. That label had been with me for 3.5 years and it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It was a comfort blanket and I used it as an excuse. And, that’s what this story is about.

Once I finished the biofeeback program, successfully – as in I completed the programming and there wasn’t any pain and my shoulder didn’t get worse, IT. WAS. TIME. Yes, powerlifting was great, but I really, so desperately wanted to do weightlifting. I knew the owner of CrossFit Center City and Liberty Barbell Club, Erin Davidson Farmer. Her specialty (I’m calling it that) is to work with clients who are recovering from an injury. She’s great at it and was willing to take me on as a client.

People knew that I had an injury and if they didn’t, they soon found out because I was always explaining myself and my bum shoulder. For over a year I worked with Erin on coming back from this injury and the whole time I continued to label myself as injured. I never even considered a time when I wouldn’t be injured. This was feeling like a life sentence; I would forever be known as “Julie and her injured left shoulder”. It was me and then there was my shoulder. It was it’s own thing. And, I fully allowed it to be like that.

About a year after Erin took me on, the Liberty Barbell Classic signups came out. It was at the end of April, 3 months away. Erin, said “ok, but you have to come to the gym 3x/week”. (Now, here’s where I started that other blog post. It was much shorter and less, you could say, dramatic?) I’d been on and off with consistency while working with Erin, but she knew what it would take to get me ready for the meet and was unwavering in her requirement.

Throughout my comeback there were definitely ups and downs. One week would feel great and the next would be less-than-great. Sometimes I even felt as though I was regressing. In the past I would “take time off” which in reality meant go home and wallow in my injury, feeding feelings of regret, anger and sadness. But Erin said 3 days and damn it, I went to the gym 3 days every week from that moment until the meet. The ups and downs are too numerous to count, but Erin expected them and was able to calm my fears as the downs were happening. It turns out that I also needed reigned in when the ups were really up, too. When I felt a twinge I knew the protocol: more shoulder stability + emotional support + massage + chiropractor + acupuncture (not all at once).

Parting ways

The final lead up to the meet was going so well – I hit a Clean & Jerk PR in training 2 weeks before the meet. And, I was itching to go heavy in the Snatch. It was the perfect time for the meet and on competition day I crushed it. No, I didn’t win, but I went 6/6 (as in I had 6 attempts to lift and I completed each lift successfully), PR’ed my Clean & Jerk, and lifted more than I had in the recent past in the Snatch. It was one of the best days I’d had in a long time and it felt like a graduation day.

So I treated it as that. In the lead up to the meet my goal was simply “to attempt 6 lifts and not re-injure myself”. When I crushed that I felt as though I was finally able to get rid of the term “injured”. Not having that label is so freeing and in reality I didn’t need to carry that burden around for so long. What I needed was to set a date that would end one phase of training and start a new one – that’s how strength training works, so why should recovery be any different? I needed a significant moment that would help me move on from “being injured” and look forward instead of back. There will be moments when I need to focus more on stability and days when it feels like I haven’t moved on, but I’m finished carrying the weight of the “injury” and the term “injured”. Besides, I’d much rather Clean weight than carry it anyway.

 

 

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