Mountaintops.

September 13, 2012

My friend/training partner Alex “The General” Lee and I used to poke fun at our training, saying that “it’s a long road to the top of the mountain” and then proceed to list off our progress (or lack thereof) in our journey.  “Bro, I’m still at the liquor store picking up CLIFF Bars.  Or “Bro, I haven’t even pumped air into my tires yet.”  Presumably the mountain trail was accessible by bicycle?  “Bro, I’m still at REI picking up my windbreaker and hiking boots.”  Keep in mind all of this was said as we were taking sets of hang snatch at 130 or 140.

“Bro, I can’t leave yet. I still gotta pick up some trail mix!”

That seems like a long time ago, especially given what I’m able to do right now.  I’ve been rehabbing over the last 3 weeks, slowly taking out some of the general strengthening and bodybuilding that I’ve been doing and shifting my focus back to what I know and love.  The process has been slow.  It’s been humbling.  But at the same time, I’m just as pissed off and motivated as I was when I wrote my last rant.  Last Friday I was actually able to hit a 135/160, which is like a bad day when I’m healthy.  I was happy.  That Saturday I followed up with my normal routine adding in heavy back squats for the first time in a month and a half.  It wasn’t even really heavy (3×5 at 180).  But it was the most weight I’ve handled since my injury.  That Saturday, I felt fine.  That Sunday, I felt fine.  Monday morning I woke up to my back spasming as bad as it was 5 weeks ago.  I took the day off.  Monday night seemed like it was the longest night in recent memory. It was pretty much exactly like the scene in The Last Samurai where Tom Cruise is like, “SAKE!!” except I could watch weightlifting videos on Youtube to pass the time.

Feeling the need to try a different approach, I went to see a chiropractor.  He tested me and after a few minutes he concluded that it was possible that I had a disk injury, the severity not yet known.  He said that I should be able to rehab it myself just as I have been doing and that surgery shouldn’t be required.  This was relieving; as I didn’t even consider that my injury was that serious to begin with.  He gave me an adjustment and electro-therapy.  I see him again tomorrow.  More than anything it’s helpful to have another opinion on the matter.  I still feel hopeful that I should be back up to speed (like 135/160 status) within 3-4 weeks, especially considering that this time around there was no acute phase of injury.  I suspect that whatever I did on Saturday (probably back squats) pissed off my old injury and caused some inflammation which created pressure on whatever nerve was being fucked to begin with.  In any case, we both agreed that I should take the rest of the week off and begin the process over again on Monday.  When I do transition back to lifting everyday, I’ll probably leave out back squats for the first month or so.  He did say that I have an advantage over other patients with the same injury: I am strong.  And as we all know, stronger is better than weaker.  Also, I won’t be starting from scratch.  I’ve done a pretty good job of rehabbing the injury so far and have regained about 70% of my strength.  As long as I’m careful this time around, I should be up to full strength within a couple months.

A couple of considerations for those that ever find themselves in a similar situation:

1)      First restore function.  Then Improve it.  Reverse hypers are great, but isolating the injured body part on week one would be a mistake in my opinion, especially with a load.  Begin with just your own bodyweight.  And start with exercises that don’t specifically stress the injured site.

2)      Discipline.  I have discipline when it comes to training.  I never miss a day.  And I never skip my primary lifts.  Unfortunately, training (especially while injured) requires a different kind of discipline.  It requires you to accurately prescribe how much of a stress you want to induce to your body.  While injured, you may feel perfectly fine while training.  But it is imperative that you acknowledge that you are not the same person that you were before.  The injured you might only be able to handle so much stress at a given time.  Pace yourself so you do not relapse.  It will come back.  Give it time.

Indeed, it is a long road to the top of the mountain, especially if you have fallen as I have.  But here is a piece of advice from my friend/mentor, Jasha.

“To get to the top of the mountain, you must shoot for the fucking moon.” 

So for now I wait.  But even if I’m reduced to handling 50kg for the next week and a half, I’m going to do so guns a’ blazin.’  The American Opens are coming up and there is still a chance that I will be healthy enough to compete.  We will see.  But regardless if I make it or not, I’m still a weightlifter and weightlifters train year-fucking-round.

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