A few month ago, I dealt with the thing active people fear the most: an injury.
I was doing so great with my workout routine. I was following my personalized workouts, going to the gym almost daily, increasing the amount of weight I lifted each week, and seeing some great results. Then, as I’m walking back to my desk after a workout at my company’s fitness center – bam! All that came to a screeching halt.
Halfway down the flight of stairs, I felt a sharp jab at the back of my left calf. It felt like I’d been shot in the leg. Then, I felt the most bizarre sensation. It felt like a little ball of liquid burst and spread throughout my calf. Then, it froze up and the pain radiated throughout my entire calf.
I’ve had “charley horses” and muscle spasms before. This new pain was similar to those, just more intense – but this time , the pain did not subside. At first I tried to massage it out with a roller my colleague had fetched for me after I managed to hobble back to my desk. When I realized I couldn’t walk and had a slow-like-molasses limp, it occurred to me that I might have seriously injured myself.
I called my doctor and made an appointment for the next morning. Then, I cried to my husband. Seriously, there were tears. I don’t cry often but after researching this type of injury online (not recommended) after the call to my doctor, I read that it could take up to six weeks to recover fully from calf injuries.
The thought of being out of commission for six weeks caused overwhelming emotion and worry. My biggest fear is not being able to be active. What about going to the gym, walking, riding my bike or hiking? What about my upcoming trip to Costa Rica to surf and do yoga?
I went to the doctor the next day. Sure enough, my calf was sprained. I got some medication for the pain; and was instructed to ice, elevate, and rest. The last thing would be the hardest for me and my doctor knew that. She told me not to run up a mountain once I could walk normally again because I could reinjure it.
I was a good patient. At about seven weeks, I’d fully recovered. I did rest- a lot. I took off four weeks from the gym and returned at an easy pace. I took walks around my work building when I could walk on it normally. I wrapped it, iced it and elevated it. I dealt with the mental frustration with positive thoughts and self-love, including an extra chocolate bar or two each week. While walking on the beach at week four, I felt a twinge of pain again and immediately stopped instead of pushing through and finishing my walk.
In retrospect, I could’ve returned to my routine sooner and worked around my injury. I spoke with personal trainer and strength and conditioning specialist Tim Rabetoy about dealing with injuries. He told me that first things first, you need to stop doing the movement that will aggravate an injury.
So if your calf is injured, don’t do movements that will aggravate, reinjure, and prevent healing. He said that a big mistake people make is they try to work through an injury, instead of around it. This can turn something small into a much bigger problem. He emphasized that you don’t need to quit when you’re injured. You just need to be smart about it and listen to your body.
“Stay away from the injured part, work everything else as you normally would and if you feel any pain, that’s just your indication that you need to stay away from that movement and when it starts feeling better, reintroduce it back in and start going like you were before,” he said.
Returning to the gym and working around my injury right away could have improved my mental state and allowed me to get out frustration about being injured. It would have also made it easier to return to the level of fitness I was at before I injured myself. I’ve learned a valuable lesson through this experience. I’ll listen to expert advice next time and I’ll work around injury. Even when one part of your body is hurt, you’ve still got all the others, right?
Are you an active person who has dealt with an injury? How did you deal with it mentally and physically?