I am a firm believer we do indeed grow wiser with each passing year. For us fitness fanatics and serious athletes, however, that wisdom can be tested when setting our sights on a new or big goal. Unfortunately, I’ve failed that test yet again on the subject of do as I say and not as I do. That means I’m spending a good part of this Workout Wednesday back in physical therapy.
Rewind to mid-July of this summer, and I was exactly halfway through my 15-week prep process for my first ever bikini competition. After seven-and-a-half weeks of serious weight training, extended cardio sessions and strict dieting, I noticed a twinge in my left shoulder and left pectoral muscle. That twinge turned into serious pain almost overnight and spread down my arm, particularly in the bicep area. My coach got me in to see a master manual therapist who worked on the angry muscles, but the temporary relief wasn’t a permanent fix. My coach of course gave me the option of taking a break and possibly putting my competition plans on hold. Long story short, I made the decision to keep grinding on. I had the window of opportunity to train this summer and had no idea what would happen later this year or next in regards to my parents’ health or life’s other uncertainties. So, with some modifications to the upper body workouts, I kept training. As you all know, I made it to the show on September 28th and it was an experience I’ll never forget or regret being a part of.
Fast-forward to the beginning of November. The pain remained, but it had centered mainly in my bicep. When the discomfort started waking me up in the middle of the night, I knew I couldn’t ignore the problem any longer. I saw the same sports medicine orthopedist who helped me conquer a knee injury last year, and this time the diagnosis is biceps tendonitis. The doctor basically told me if I want to heal, I have to totally refocus my energy on physical therapy and stop kickboxing and other heavy duty upper body work for six weeks. If not, the severe bicep tendonitis could lead to a tear or rupture – and fixing either of those problems would require surgery.
I am well aware there is only person to blame for this mess: me. However, so many serious athletes face decisions like this all the time. There’s a drive to push through the pain and red line it just enough to reach that goal, to hell with the consequences. In the grand scheme of things, six weeks “off” is obviously a much better outcome than surgery. While I’m mad as hell at myself for letting it get this far, I know I’ll heal. And I’ll shift my be-a-good-solider focus to following my physical therapist’s instructions, taking my prescribed anti-inflammatories and babying the arm as much as possible. Some sacrifices now will only lead to a healthier Laura later.
At the end of the day, I realize not everyone makes such extreme choices. But when we do make a not-so-smart decision -in or outside of the gym – we have to accept the fact that we can’t go back in time and change it. We can only go forward, use what we’ve learned and hopefully not make the same mistake again. It’s just another part of the sometimes crazy learning process that comes with traveling the windy road to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Many of us mark the official change of seasons by packing up the beach gear and craving all those pumpkin-flavored treats. So I thought it was the perfect time to offer yet another reminder about how a little patience can go a long way when it comes to adjusting to a new season filled with new demands. That reminder isn’t just for my loyal readers. Putting the words “on paper” in this post is another kick in my own you-know-what to be better to my body in the days ahead.
The great news is I start the fall season with a discharge from physical therapy! After nearly two months of treatment for an overuse injury in my knee, my wonderful physical therapist Jun Zhang deemed it safe to let me back into the wild. However, just because I no longer have to meet with Jun at the Orthology studio in Chelsea, I still have work to do on my own. The stretches and strengthening exercises he taught me for my adductors and abductors will continue to be a part of my daily exercise routine. I also have to wait just a little bit longer before I can run back to the heavy bag at Best Kickboxing NYC. I’m going to “test” my knee over the next couple of weeks with jab / cross / weave drills to make sure my knee can handle the twisting needed for the tough muay thai inspired classes. Now that I’m so close to getting back to doing what I love, it’s almost harder to wait it out. But I will. I keep reminding myself of something I’ve told others so many times: going back too quickly could mean end up exactly where I don’t want to be – back in physical therapy.
I have shared a little about my physical therapy journey as a reminder that injuries can happen whether you’re a novice or a bona fide fitness fanatic. The key is to not ignore the pain in your body or the voice in your head telling you something’s not right. The longer you put off treatment, the longer it can take to get back in the game that you love. So, listen to your body and follow through with your prescribed treatment. In a world of instant gratification, it’s important to realize slow and steady will always be a way to win the continuous race to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I realize I’m probably “showing my age,” but I’m absolutely blown away at how each summer seems to fly by faster than the last. It’s even harder to believe my annual month-long hiatus from blogging has come to an end, too. I hope your August was filled with at least a few lazy days, plenty of laughter and some precious moments with friends and family. Let the memory of those happy days give you a boost when the back-to-reality blues come knocking at your door.
Since everyone seems to be in back-to-school mode, I thought it was the perfect time to offer what I learned in a different kind of summer school: physical therapy. Fortunately, I am close to wrapping up my PT sessions, but I’m still uncertain of the date I’ll be able to return to my ultimate happy place: the kickboxing studio. So the lesson I hope you take away from this first post of September boils down to this: do what I say, NOT what I do. Seriously.
Since 2011, I’ve written multiple posts about the importance of listening to your body and taking a step back if it tells you something’s wrong. And what exactly did LauraLovesFitness do in this situation? I didn’t listen. I ignored the pain that started as a small twinge in the medial region of my right knee after a kickboxing class back in February. Sure, I’d take a day off, maybe two, here and there, but I never rested long enough to give my body a real break. After several months, that twinge had turned into a steady, searing pain that began impacting life away from the heavy bag. It started bothering me during long walks, at Physique57 classes and even after periods of sitting. When the pain started waking me up at night, I knew it was time to do something. Fortunately, a MRI ruled out a tear in my meniscus or any ligaments surrounding the knee. However, I was diagnosed with bursitis and tendonitis due to a probable strain in my adductor followed by overuse. That meant I had to take a step back from kickboxing and get my butt to physical therapy.
Now, after five weeks of manual therapy, ice massage, various stretching and strengthening exercises and wearing kinesiology tape (also known as elastic therapeutic tape or K-tape), I’m finally feeling like myself again. For someone used to going a million miles a minute, it’s been frustrating as hell and I miss kickboxing more than any other workout in my life. The bottom line is I have no one to blame but myself. If I could go back in time, I would have addressed the pain not long after it started, made sure I was executing the moves in my workout with proper form and taken the rest I needed.
So, as I continue to heal and look forward to a return to kickboxing, I encourage everyone to take things nice and slow as we transition from the “lazy days of summer” into more intense routines. Many are shifting from long walks at the beach back into more intense fitness classes or weight training sessions at the gym. Be sure to warm up and cool down; stretch; hydrate and when something doesn’t feel right, don’t keep doing it! If you don’t start feeling better after a few days of rest, consider seeing a doctor to make sure you haven’t done something that needs more than just ice and elevation.
I close with a hearty thank you to Dr. Andrew Rosen at Upper East Orthopaedics and Jun Zhu Zhang at Orthology in Chelsea for their expert care and for understanding my need to get back to the heavy bag. Here’s to healthy and happy September ahead and making smart choices along the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!