I knew coming back from surgery was going to be both a physical and mental challenge. I thought I was prepared. I had a plan. I was going to walk often especially in the early weeks of recovery. I was going to work hard at lunges so my daughter could stop referring to the movement as “what mom sucks at.” And, I was going to set my ego aside with the very real possibility that I would not compete again for a year.
Everything did not go as planned. The truth be told, I was a hot mess that first week post-surgery. Then the weather was brutally cold and I decided walking was out of the question. My first days in the gym were more social than anything, but at my three week follow-up my doctor cleared me to exercise with instructions to use common sense and still NO CHEST! So, I slowly got myself moving again with knee circles, bird dog, glute bridges, one leg lowering, band shuffles, and yes, lots of lunges. Dragging a prowler became my sanity saver since nothing was weighted.
Between weeks 3-6, I focused primarily on lower body but I did begin to incorporate movements that helped increase my upper body mobility and encouraged my chest to stretch/open up: modified scapular rotation, standing shoulder blade retraction, and light band rows. Jim was constantly asking, “How’s that feel?”
At 6 weeks I was more than ready to take things up a notch. Jim said to grab “light” dumbbells for palm in DB press. I excitedly reached for the 20s when he handed me the 6s! “Seriously?!” If you know Jim, you can probably imagine the deadpan look he gave me.
My first deadlift day felt like a gift. You probably remember the photo on Facebook…the one with the big goofy smile. I only pulled 145lbs that day, what I would normally lift as my first warm-up set, but it helped me to realize that I was already on the road back. It was a good day.
At this point, everything seemed to be back on track…according to plan….until I started squatting. It didn’t take long to figure out that my squat was off. I first noticed it when I was doing body weight squats with a broomstick on my back. My chest, back and hips felt tight and I knew something wasn’t right. Jim told me that I was flying into extension and he was constantly correcting my form.
We all know the Children’s song, “Dem Bones”, right?
Your toe bone connected to your foot bone
Your foot bone connected to your ankle bone
Your ankle bone connected to your leg bone
Your leg bone connected to your knee bone
Your knee bone connected to your thigh bone
Your thigh bone connected to your hip bone
You got the picture. Well, apparently my hip bone connected to my…..breast bone?
A quick Functional Movement Screening confirmed it. My shoulder mobility had decreased but that made sense to me. I was unhappy to learn that I also failed the hurdle step signaling asymmetrical hip immobility, anterior tilted pelvis and trunk instability. Clearly, my surgery took a bigger toll than I ever expected on my whole body. (insert cranky face here!)
If you are interested in more information about the hurdle step test, check out this instructional video: http://smartgrouptraining.com/hurdle-step-performing-and-scoring-the-functional-movement-screen/
Anyway, this unexpected setback is frankly more frustrating than benching 55lbs but I’m putting in the work to correct it. The good news is that I still get to squat with some necessary modifications (using a safety bar instead of back squatting) and lots of attention on form.
So, what next? Should I compete this year? I’m undecided. Jim is encouraging me to get back on the platform at the NASA Kentucky State Meet this May. This is way earlier than I anticipated but he reminded me that openers would qualify me for Nationals in October. And, he seems certain that I’d be ready to put big numbers back on the scoreboard by then. My teammates are all behind this plan too so while I admit that my ego hates the idea of “lifting light” in May, the thought of Nationals is definitely making me consider it. In the meantime, I’m going to train as usual.
P.S. If you were in doubt, I still suck at lunges. More on that later.