Friday, November 25, 2011

Recovering From Injury--The Good Side of Getting Hurt

I have thought about writing this post for a little while but I was hesitant for a couple of reasons.  First, I didn't want to make it absolute public knowledge that I was still trying to recover from an injury.  Secondly, I wanted to wait long enough to actually have results to share.

When I was first thinking of a title for this post I thought about "The Good Side of Being Hurt".  I changed it from "Being" to "Getting" because being hurt sucks regardless how you look at it, however after you recover from an injury, many times you could look back and say that getting hurt was one of the best things that could have happened to you.

There are really two types in injuries in sports--traumatic and overuse.  Traumatic injuries are the result of an acute stress that causes injury.  These injuries are usually unpredictable and tough to prevent.  The recovery form them tends to be quick (relatively speaking) and may even give the athlete a much needed break from the sport (no pun intended).  Overuse injuries on the other hand are caused from a chronic stress that causes injuries.  These are usually pretty simple to predict and can be prevented if caught in enough time.  The recovery from these are long and many times extremely frustrating.  These are the injuries that I want to talk about.

Overuse or chronic injuries are usually the result of a muscle imbalance or improper training (usually leading to a muscle imbalance).  These imbalances are, in most cases, tough to recognize until they start to hurt.  I am going to use my injury and time line as an example.

In February of last year, on my 35th birthday, I was doing a plyometric strength workout.  I woke up that morning with a little ache in my lower back.  I had the "I'm not old and this is not going to stop me" attitude.  Near the end of that workout I was in a lot of pain.  By the end of the day I couldn't stand up straight or move very well.

In the next couple of months, I stretched out a lot and felt like I was making progress.  I also, at home, installed new flooring in my entire downstairs and built a deck in my backyard.  Both of these projects seem to reset my pain.

Well into the racing season, I was not willing to take time off the bike to work this injury out.  It seemed not to bother me much riding (so I thought).  What it did do was flair up every couple of weeks and force a week off of training.  My season was very inconsistent.  I finally went to the doctor in which they said I had a bulging disc in L5/S1.  This was diagnosed by a specialist but not confirmed by an MRI.  I was given physical therapy which helped tremendously.

After physical therapy, many of my symptoms were gone, but not all of them.  I decided to take the CX season off and really work on recovery.  This is when I was able to really take a look at myself and find out what was wrong.  My body was not properly aligned.  I decided to try a chiropractor just to see what that was about.  It was not bad.  He definitely had an understanding of the body and was able to really point out my imbalances.  I went for a couple of weeks but really did not feel much different.  My problem was really due to a muscle imbalance, and I felt that until I corrected that, the chiropractic adjustments wouldn't hold.

I had a colleague of mine at the gym help me evaluate myself (its tough to find imbalances on yourself).  We determined that I had a forward rotation of my pelvis probably a result of weak hamstring muscles in compared with my quads.  The numbness that I feel is probably the result of a pinched nerve (sciatic) due to piriformis syndrome.

Over the past few weeks I have really focused on posture.  Changing your posture is tough and could feel a little goofy at times.  I told my wife her job was to evaluate me and remind me to tilt my pelvis back and have everything aligned.  Then for my training, I have pretty much stayed off the bike because it bothers me a little.  Since I am aware of my weaknesses I can fix them.  My strength training this year has included a large variety of work that I have not done in the past few years.  Most of the things that I dislike (which is probably why I was weak in them).

Currently I still have my good and bad days, but there are starting to be more good days than bad ones.  I think I will be ready for the racing season.  Without this injury, my weaknesses would have gone unnoticed.  The strength training and cross training that I have done has put me remarkable shape.  The only thing I am missing is miles on the bike.  I will get those.  Just remember that out of injuries comes a better more rounded athlete.  Stay positive and stay motivated.  Fighting through these issues have made me a better athlete, a better coach and has really improved my mental toughness.  That is the good part of getting hurt.