“It’s Just Shoulder Surgery.”
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I am an athlete, I am a competitor, and I don’t like when things slow me down. I find the more people I talk to the more people are true competitors. People like to win, it makes them feel, well, like winners. Whether you are a professional athlete, a professional business person, or just a professional human being, usually, people want to advance their lives forward. People, myself included, don’t respond well to setbacks. Setbacks involve an element of fear. Fear of losing what you’ve already gained, and fear of not getting what you want. But, it is inevitable. Setbacks do occur in everybody’s life. So, when I was hit by a car while training on my bike last year These fears immediately cropped up. Some months later I was told that the only way to return to form was to have shoulder surgery. I trusted the people that were around me and built a team to help me recover. Then I tried to fool myself by saying “it’s just a shoulder surgery. ”
I remember telling my fellow trainers the day before the surgery that I would be back tomorrow. I didn’t want to miss a day. I didn’t think it was going to be that bad. But as it turns out AC joint reconstructive surgery on your shoulder is kind of a big deal. I was scared, and like a child walking through a dark cave, I was simply whistling a familiar tune to try to keep my mind off what might lurk in the darkness. I showed up the next day, and was met by a friendly nurse. She took me to the pre-operating room where I waited for the doctor. Shortly after Dr. Nicoletta came in and put a mark on my left shoulder. That was the last time I remember seeing him. The anesthesiologist came in and started to pump me full of meds. I got to feeling relaxed, real relaxed. They wheeled me into the operating room and placed a mask over my face. I looked at everybody in the room, there was about seven people present, I asked the anesthesiologist if this was it. He replied with a yes, as I gave one last look, I smiled and I said “be careful guys, this is important.”
Needless to say I did not make it to work the next day or several weeks. I immediately thought my days of competition were over. I’d walk down the street and people would see me and say things like “shoulder surgery, you’ll never be the same. ” That’s a comforting thought. But I believed them. I thought I had made a mistake, I started to tell myself that my shoulder before the surgery wasn’t that bad. Before the surgery I was Cycling somewhere around 200 miles a week, running 80 miles a week, and swimming few miles a week as well. Then, over night I was incapacitated. I’m grateful to those who rallied around me to make sure I wasn’t alone, or losing my mind. But I started to slip. I wanted to recover quickly so I would do stupid things like run up and down stairs or practice lunges. I had no patients for healing, I was too afraid of losing ground. This went on for about a month, and then I finally gave up to recovery. The best things in my life happen when I simply fall into the stream of living. I told myself, that’s what I must do with this time to recover.
I couldn’t move my arm much, but that was okay, I had to let it go. I started training clients again, I started physical therapy, and the doctors told me that I was healing quite well. Three months had gone by, and I wanted it to be over. I revisited the idea that I would never be the same again. This fear cropped up on me and I went for a run. One mile felt good, so I ran four. Four miles felt great so I ran 10. I ran too far, Was forced to stop and take a cab home. The next day I went to the beach, and threw my back out. I was embarrassed, scared of never returning to good health, and angry. I had to surrender to my injuries once again. Anyone that has ever been injured before will tell you there is no other feeling of powerlessness than not being able to control your body. Truly a humbling experience.
Another month gone by, and my parents visited from St. Louis. They rented a little cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. My girlfriend and I went down for a visit. I woke up one morning and made some coffee. As I leaned against a column inside the cottage something happened. My arm felt free from stiffness. I started to push my elbow up the column, and got my elbow above my head. It had been the first time my elbow had been above my head in four months. It was a breakthrough. I could not have planned, I didn’t see it coming, and it’s what I had been searching for since having the surgery. I was motivated. I called my doctor, and made a follow-up appointment.
After seeing my doctor, and having him show me the x-rays, I knew I was healing. I started doing things slowly, like running, swimming, cycling, and resistance training with Thera-bands. As I gained momentum I felt like I was healing faster every day. I was on the “backside of recovery. ”
I am nearly recovered and able to perform tasks important to me. Going through this ordeal, I am reminded of the buffalo. The buffalo is the only animal that when a thunderstorm is on the horizon will instinctively heard together and run directly toward the thunderstorm. Nature tells the buffalo that the fastest way through the thunderstorm is directly into the storm. Having felt defeated by an injury, then slowly recovering, and finally breaking through to a competitive form. I can relate to the Buffalo. My hope for anyone who reads this is they see that setbacks do occur, we don’t know what we don’t know, and sometimes what we think slows us down actually makes us stronger. It takes action, I could not think my way through this recovery. I had to take the action. Even though I Didn’t believe I would get better. I listened, and took action. I find, that if you show up and suit up your body will know what to do.
I am now training for the USAT triathlon trials for team USA in Oregon. I am also training for the Chicago Marathon. And many races to follow. I am constantly looking for ways to improve. And I am constantly looking for people who also want to improve. We feed off of each other. With action will come breakthrough, and with breakthrough comes empowerment. This is why I compete, this is why I am a personal trainer, and this is why I started TriJake. Come with me, together we will build a confident, productive, successful future.