The Mental Work of Working through Physical Recovery

It has been one week since my foot surgery and hopefully only another three until I can walk again.
The physical recovery has not been as difficult as dealing with emotional issues that come along with an injury/illness. The first few days after surgery were not that tough; the block on my lower leg meant that I did not feel anything below the knee–especially pain. Once that wore off, I began to feel the discomfort. I really wanted to avoid taking pain meds since I don’t like the side effects, so I’ve been icing and trying to take it easy with several doses of acetaminophen daily. Today I wanted to go to morning minyan (prayer services); I got up, showered, got dressed, but was in too much discomfort to go. Big bummer.

The past several days have been difficult since I am so accustomed to doing a lot of the work to prepare for Passover. For those unfamiliar, imagine two Thanksgiving Dinners two nights in a row, but having to start with all new ingredients. In the past, I did a huge amount of the work and my wife pitched in with some sides and desserts. We were so excited to be doing all the preparation for the Seders together this year, but it ended up being all her. I tried to help where I could, but I felt kind of useless.

That feeling was made worse when I started receiving all the emails from the gym that all my clients were being cancelled for the entire month. That is a tough situation for anyone, but when you are just starting out in the industry and trying to build your client base, it feels devastating (even if the real effect may be much less). Since I don’t know what my recovery will be like and whether I will ever be back to where I was nine months ago before the pain began, there is an added level of anxiety. Will I be able to get back to training as quickly as I want? Will I have restrictions? Can I be successful at this new endeavor in my life? All questions swirling in my head.

It is always nice to have an objective party to discuss these issues with, and I did that today. I have in my mind that these four weeks are just a total write-off, but I can use this time productively. I will spend the week studying and hopefully obtaining my Functional Aging Specialization. Getting ready for that basically requires me to sit on my butt and read…I think I can do that this week. I also have to take things one at a time; I think we can all sometimes get into a downward spiral and follow a rabbit hole into the worst-case scenarios. I have to stop myself and let things unfold as they do without getting ahead of myself.

What has surprised me is just how much this recovery from surgery is emotional as well as physical. I have to deal with not working out, which is my usual stress reliever. I have to consider the possibility that my body may not fully recover. I have to face the fact that I am aging; this doesn’t mean that I’m all washed up, but rather that I have to change my approach. Hopefully, that awareness will make me a better Personal Trainer in the long run–especially as I train those in my peer group.

Wishing everyone a Happy Passover, belated Happy Easter, and all the best in whatever you celebrate. I also celebrate the process of healing–physically and emotionally. But it is hard work!

Learning from our Challenges, and Applying it to the Work We Do

The dog trying taking care of me

I am used to being very active–at the gym every day except for Shabbat training and working out. For the last 8 years or so I’ve been a runner: 3 half-marathons, more 5k races than I can count, several obstacle course races. So the thought of having to not WALK for four weeks is killing me!

I started having heel pain (most likely Plantar Fasciitis) back in late September when I was training for the Columbus 1/2 Marathon; it was a few weeks before the race so I couldn’t quit. Besides, it didn’t hurt when I ran…only afterwards. I finished the race (with my personal best time) but within a few days I knew I had a problem. I went to my podiatrist and we went through the usual conservative steps: new orthotics, stretching exercises, cutting down on the running. I even had a boot to wear at night that was supposed to flex my foot, but that was more annoying than the foot pain. Finally, I spent the last 5 weeks in a boot that went up to my knee. Unfortunately, while it improved at first, when I tried to walk for one hour without the boot, the pain was back.

Yesterday was surgery: stretching the Achilles Tendon was part 1, thinning out the plantar fascia was the part 2. Today I got my knee scooter so I can begin to get around again. Still, it is unclear how much or whether I’ll be able to train for the next month. I’ll need clearance from my doctor before I can go back to being on the Fitness Center Floor.

I am being forced to take a break–for a while at least. It makes me nervous. I rely on my workouts to ease stress, keep in shape, and for the social element as well. Training also helps to pay the mortgage. If I am unable to train, perhaps I will see if I can work at the Welcome Desk so I still feel a part of things.

Here is my real concern. All along I’ve told my doctor that I just want to be able to run again. We all have met people who tell us “I used to be a runner until….” I’ve also met folks who have said, “I was told I would never _____ again, but I did not give up.” I’d like to think I will be in the second category, but I hope I don’t have to make the choice.

When I am “fully recovered,” I hope I’ll understand what this all means. In the meantime, I now have a greater understanding and empathy for my clients who have had injuries or surgeries that have limited their ability to do the things they are accustomed to doing. When we talk about “Activities of Daily Living,” I now have a better sense of what that means.

When I am met with challenges, I always try to learn from them and then apply them to the work that I do–as a rabbi and as a personal trainer. This time will be no different. I will keep you posted on my progress.