“Don’t be a hero” – was said to me by a good friend of mine, Rori Alter. She’s a physical therapist based out of New York. It is the best advice that anyone could’ve given me as I was recovering from an SI joint injury.
This is a long overdue post. Something that I wanted to write on but my feelings about the subject matter exceeds the characters that the average human being would be interested to read. Over that last few weeks, I’ve briefly mentioned my injury but not in great detail that would express the magnitude of the situation.
I’m taking the time out to write my thoughts because I believe my experience may help someone in the future.
You never realize how common something is until you experience it yourself. It’s like buying a new car…You never see a yellow Nissan Altima until you or someone you know buys one and then all of a sudden you see one at every stop light.
The excerpt below was sent to me by one of my Instagram followers as I was exactly one week out from Raw Nationals. She sent it right at the moment that I was finally feeling 100% but it made me reflect on the long journey it took to get there.
Friday September 9, 6 weeks out from Raw Nationals
I was programmed to do 405lbs x 2 reps as a top set on deadlifts. Nothing far fetched since 440lbs is my max. Warm up sets felt really good however when i came up with the first rep at 405 lbs, I felt something shift. It’s hard to explain but something just felt off. I knew something wasn’t right. So I shut everything down and just did bench for the rest of my session.
Within a couple hours I went to the chiropractor to get adjusted since I knew it was a structural issue and not muscular. At that time I had no pain while I was in a static position but I couldn’t bend over at all! Touching my toes, putting on shoes, even putting on socks was out of the question. That night I had a client to train so a coworker of mine had to demonstrate the exercises to my client and set up everything. It was actually really embarrassing. I literally couldn’t function at all. At this point I’m 6 weeks out from the meet. My main goal at this point was to manage the pain and somehow get back to training. I never stopped moving (movement goes along ways) and started doing various stretches such as Mackenzie presses.
By the following Monday, September 12, I regain full range of motion. I’ve never been so happy to touch my toes!! I still had some hip pain but atleast I was able to function. Monday I did what I could without pain.. lunges, step ups, leg extensions, leg curl + upper body work. Squatting was still out of the question.
The following Friday rolled around.. deadlift day..at this point I’m feeling good. Not 100% but relative good compared to before. Even with that being said, every rep was still a mental struggle. I was overly careful. I still had some hip pain but nothing deliberatating. I worked up to 315 lbs and 315 didn’t even move off the ground. 100% mental. So once again I just shut deadlifts down and did things that didn’t cause me pain, leg press, front squats etc.
Later that day as I was driving to work I talked myself into trying again. I was just so pissed at the thought of being a mental midget. I was 5 weeks out from a meet and the last thing I needed is to become a head case.
After my last client on friday, September 16, I tried deadlifting again. 5 weeks out, no time to slack. The work still needs to get done!
Everything moved well, 315,365,385 lbs. Then attempted 405lbs and this time I felt a crack and pop. Way worst feeling than the previous time. And this time the pain was directly in my back. There wasn’t an option to shut things down and do something else. The pain was so bad that my coworker had to pick up all of the weights for me and put all my crap in my gym bag. My drive home was miserable. Sleep was non existent that night. The next morning I could barely stand. I had localized nerve pain in the middle of my back. My roommate had to drive me to the chiropractor. Once again, another embarrassing moment.
After the adjustment and some ibuprofen about 60% of the pain went away and I could at least function. At this point competing at Nationals was out of the question. That Saturday I emailed my coach and told him that I was pulling out of the meet.
The following week I just did some light conditioning and upper body work. Damn sure didn’t deadlift that following Friday. The next week I started to get back into the groove… light squats and very light conventional deadlifts . Each week i carefully progressed the intensity on my lifts.
I think by me mentally taking myself out of the meet, it allowed me to relax and just focus on recovering. I wasn’t stressed about being ready in 4 weeks and needing to train and hit certain numbers.
The People around me kept the fire lit by telling me to just take it week by week and see how I felt come the week of the meet. They were confident that I would still be ready to compete. As annoying as it was, they kept the thought in the back of my head so Brick my Brick I rebuild from the bottom up.
Luckily, I never officially took myself out of the meet. Each week I felt better and each week I carefully progressed the weight on the bar. About 5-10 Lbs each workout. Literally had to build everything back from the ground up. Week by week my main goal was to just build up my confidence. The raw strength would always be there.
The biggest huddle was to attempt 405 again since that’s the weight that broke me, twice. Wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it in training or wait until the meet. I decided to go for it, no mental midgets.
After I jumped that hurdle, I knew I was finally ready to push the limits and move some weight. I was back. Confident and ready to compete. Literally just in the knick of time, 1 week out.
My confidence came back as the weeks went by and I seen improvement in how I was feeling. Time took care of everything. I got adjusted by a chiropractor once a week to make sure everything stayed in proper alignment. The exercises that was a staple was: deadbug, bird dogs, Mackenzie presses, clam shells, hip flexor stretch, hamstring stretch
For 4 weeks, I left my ego at home. I didn’t try to be a hero and have some amazing comeback story. I did what my body allowed me to do on that day and didn’t I force anything.
If you are hurt, take the time to heal. Nothing is worth your health and well being. Whatever it is that you are inching to get back to, know that it will be there when you are ready and able.
Don’t be a hero.
After all of that, I still somehow manage to pull an easy 6lb.PR at Nationals. The body is an amazing vessel. I didn’t have my best overall meet, but to overcome all of that and still place top 3 in the NATION, how can I not be proud of myself