I am not a big crier; tears are just not generally how I express my emotions. When my doctor told me that nagging pain in my shoulder, that just would not go away, was actually a torn labrum and rotator cuff, and the only way to fix it would be to rip it open and sew it back up, I had a bit of a meltdown.
I could picture it all – all my fitness and gains – slipping away while I stood by – in my sling – completely out of commission and unable to do anything. There I would be watching, while all my friends and competitors grew stronger and faster, and I just regressed. I was sure I would backslide, gain back all my pre-crossfit weight, and my cardio-engine I had spent so many hours painfully building, would just dwindle down to nothing. I start here because this was truly my first thought, and because with what comes next, I want to highlight that I was in no way impervious to the moments of self-pity and fuck-it-all-ness that always comes with injury. The trick is though, you can’t let that shit win.
When I called my Husband from the parking lot of the doctors that day, he told me I could have the rest of the day to feel bad for myself, but that was it. That is all I was allowed, just the day. When we both got home later than night, my time limit on self-pity would expire and it would be time to put a plan into action. As we ate dinner that night, I took out a notebook, and we made a list of everything that can still be done with one arm in a sling. The question immediately shifted from, “What are all the things I can’t do?” to “What are all the things I can do?” And that my friends – that change of one little letter, is monumental.
In figuring out what movements I could still do, I am lucky to have enough experience and a significant other with knowledge, that we put together a pretty comprehensive list. If you don’t feel confident with that – GRAB A COACH- schedule a brief meeting to talk about how you can modify your workouts and movements, and I promise they will help you.
Here is a hint for anyone regardless of the injury – the #1 thing on my list of things I could control and focus on – nutrition. No matter what you may be recovering from there is no better time to dial that nutrition in. I actually went so far as to get a meal delivery service for a few weeks because I can barely cook as is, so cooking with one arm was not a thing I was looking to do.
Now, obviously the list of things that can be done with an injury is not going to be anywhere near as comprehensive as the list of things you can do normally; of course there are moments when that is frustrating. There were many days when I could come to class at Shatter only then to realize I would have to modify every single movement. But again, a simple shift of perspective can change an entire approach to this. With a smaller list of things you can do, comes the ability to focus on them with laser precision. For me, I could not do anything with my upper body, which meant every day I was building legs, butt and core. Squats, lunges, biking, etc – ALL the time. My lower body has never been stronger. A lot of people forget about pistols and rarely do them, but I had probably done about 10,000 over the course of the year. When pistols showed up in the Crossfit Open this year, I had never felt more ready.
Even the way back for movements with my shoulder presented new opportunities to get better. Lighter weights overhead (and yes, PVC/broomstick only for a looooong time) meant a long overdue focus on weightlifting form.
In short, an injury forces you to confront a truth about yourself, that probably rings true in all areas of your life: do you want to be a person who focuses on what you can’t do, or drives hard at what you can do? Do you want to see limitations or opportunities? It really, truly, is entirely your choice.