Everyone at some point will experience some type of injury. It happens. If you don’t, you are probably living like bubble boy.
So I wanted to share something that happened 5 weeks ago. I had a little spill while mountain biking, I mean I wasn’t even doing something that cool. I dismounted from my bike after I realized I wasn’t going to make it up a rock ledge. I landed awkwardly and injured my knee. I had all sorts of thoughts racing through my head, like: my wife is going to kill me, how am I going to work, and am I going to make it back to the car without a being carried out by EMS? With a lot of help from my friends, I made it to my car and drove myself to urgent care.
Fast-forward after a couple appointments and a MRI, I just had a non-displaced fracture in my tibia at the knee and my ligaments and meniscus were fine! The happiest I’ve ever been to break a bone. I could walk short distances, but not do any squats or lunges or ballistic movements. So my favorite activities like biking, golf, and hiking were out for the time being.
While I was down, but not completely out, I had to focus on what I could still do instead of what I could not. I still had an upper body, left leg, and core to strength train.
For my lower body, I just did things like single leg squats (in the video above), and single leg stiff-leg deadlifts with my left leg only. Studies show that there is some cross benefit to the affected limb when training only the non-affected side. I stayed consistent with this for the last 5 weeks. I felt better (duh!) when I worked out, and it helped keep my mind right as I patiently waited to get cleared by the doctor.
With my nutrition, I had to be a little more careful. I was no longer mountain biking 2-3 days per week, so I had to cut back on how much I was eating. When you are used to burning 500-1000 kcal per ride, you get a little more wiggle room in your diet. I’ll be honest, on occasion I eat pizza and ice cream, and drink beer (maybe not all at the same time, but I am a real person). When I wanted ice cream, I went for lower calorie options like Greek yogurt with blueberries and some dark chocolate sea salt granola I found at the store.
It was hard to not get bored or impatient with my down time healing. I had to keep a positive attitude and remind myself that this will pass and I’ll be good to go soon enough. I know myself and if I don’t eat right or exercise, I am not always pleasant to be around, so I had to keep going instead of feeling sorry for myself.
Sleep was another big thing I focused more on. I didn’t nail it all the time (I like to stay up and watch the birds on the bat if the game is close), but I know better and that my body needs enough sleep to work better and to heal. I have a bedtime alarm and tried to not blow it off so that I got about 7 hours of sleep instead of 6.
Once I was cleared to return back to full activity, it was hard not to dive in head first and start where I left off. I had 5 weeks of not doing anything with my right leg besides some hip work with bands and walking (around the house and while working). It doesn’t take long for muscle to atrophy. My right thigh at the mid-thigh measurement is 1/2″ smaller than my left now (and my goal is not weight loss).
I started mountain biking again, and my aerobic endurance took a hit. I was gassed faster than normal keeping up with the fast guys in my riding group.
My first weight training session since I was cleared was tough. Before I got hurt, I was doing rear foot elevated split squats with 70 lb dumbbells for sets of 8 reps. Now I am doing regular split squats with 30 lbs in each hand for sets of 10 and my right quad burned like crazy!
Just a side note about detraining (quitting exercise), the effects are dependent on your age, fitness level, how long you have been exercising, and the type of exercise you do. If you are a higher level exerciser and have been at it for a long time, you will bounce back more quickly than a novice exerciser. Novice exercisers may lose all of their gains with a couple months off. Aerobic fitness tends to take a bigger hit than strength too.
So for now, I have to just keep going, and gradually get back to where I was. It won’t happen overnight, I have to keep consistent with the process and not lose sight of where I want to be. I’m very grateful that I didn’t end up in a worse situation! I know I’ll be back to 100% strength in no time and crushing personal bests on mountain bike trails soon enough.
So to sum up that ramble, if you face some downtime due to injury or illness, focus on these things:
- Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can’t.
- Keep a positive attitude, it could always be worse.
- Adjust what you need to (i.e. food intake).
- Stick to what is in your control (sleep, which is part of recovery).
- Keep your expectations realistic, you will need to slowly build back up when you’re ready.
Here’s a little humor for you, my friends had a moment of silence for my knee a few weeks later where it happened. I have great friends!