Just over a week ago I ruptured my achilles tendon. The irony of being injured while a physio is not lost on me (not that this stops my friends from repeatedly pointing it out)! The consequence of this incident is that I’m in a cast over the next 6-8 weeks. I have to say, modesty be damned, that I’m quite proud of how fully I’ve lived an awesome life since the incident.
I was initially nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do my job given the physical demands of seeing clients, this has turned out not to be the case. I’ve adapted the way that I move about the clinic so that I can give a no compromise professional experience. I was nervous that my physical health would suffer, but I’ve been able to continue with modified calisthenic resistance training exercise program, have cleaned up some of my eating choices, and BONUS: puttering about on crutches turns out to be GREAT exercise! I was worried that I’d be unable to participate in social activities, but quite the reverse, I’ve been at theatres, bars and clubs, restaurants and I write this from cuba where I’m on a ballroom dancing vacation for a few days. Ok so I’m not nailing any hot latin steps right now but hey, I can still be here in this space, enjoying sun, music and great company. It’s a huge net positive!
I have a few thoughts how how to make an injury experience as positive and full as possible that I’d like to share. Obviously every person’s experience is different. Injuries vary, life demands are unique (for example, I don’t have kids that need attention, while others do) and circumstances are very much different person to person. However perhaps there is some value here for anyone looking to have a great experience while they recover from physical trauma.
Expect great things!: I’ve found that I’m pleasantly surprised at what I’ve been able to accomplish after setting the intention early on that I had no choice but to accomplish it! I decided while sitting in the hospital waiting room that I would not cancel any clients. I had no idea how I was going to achieve this but when other options were simply not on the table I found ways to make it happen! So expect to perform well. This attitude allows you to show others what’s possible as well. You can show leadership in the most important way, leading by example.
Accept help: People have been exceptionally kind to me since the injury. Commuters are practically jumping out of their seats on the subway so that I can sit. I’ve had numerous individuals offer to carry my crutches as I hop down the stairs (even though I need those crutches to get down the stairs, but it’s the thought that counts!). People hold the door, offer to carry my coffee for me and even just offer sympathy. This stuff matters and makes my experience so much easier. Initially I refused help but have since opened up to the practice of accepting offers of help with gratitude. This creates a win-win: first, it goes without saying that my life is easier for the help. Secondly though, the person offering help offers because they WANT to give, and graciously accepting their offer can be a real gift in return! The person offering help gets the experience of giving freely, which is really quite an awesome experience. I strongly recommend that you try it yourself next time you can do something of value for someone. Giving value without expecting anything in return makes you feel awesome! We all deserve this experience… often!
Have a team: This item dovetails with “accepting help” as per above. Obviously I’m biased in this regard but it really helps to have a great team of professionals around to guide you through the healing and rehab process. Find yourself a great physiotherapist who can answer all of your questions and who will be your coach as you work your way through the rehab and conditioning. Expect excellent outcomes from your rehab and communicate these expectations clearly to your physio. If they are worth their salt they will not hesitate to get excited right along with you about your goals and should be able to communicate how it is that you’ll be able to get there. Brainstorm together! This process is also really healthy because it helps you to build a clear vision for where you’ll be coming out of the injury – which is encouraging and helps to motivate continued hard work when the results are still far off. Further have a cadre of friends to help with everyday errands like getting groceries keeping up with household chores. you will find people are excited to pitch in, so give them these important roles as you need and accept their service with gratitude!
Be healthy. I have to admit that being in good shape before my injury has really helped me to perform well after it. Everything from sitting in a chair, to getting up stairs, bathing and moving from place to place is easier in a significant way because I’m strong and am not carrying too much excess weight. As Mr. Miyagi famously said in Karate Kid 2 (watch it!) “best way block punch, no be there”. Avoiding challenges preemptively be being in good physical condition will without question make your life easier. Furthermore, understand that because your regular exercise and movement patterns will likely be disrupted, you’ll have the obligation and the opportunity to make better eating choices. This can actually be a silver lining, managing eating habits is the lion’s share of body composition management and if you aren’t working out in the way you’d like because of your injury then you can enjoy knowing that you are maintaining the discipline of healthy habits by making a few more good eating choices. No one expects perfection, just practice the principle of “make better choices more often”. Other people who I admire have suggested focusing your efforts on just one meal a day, say breakfast. When you are happy that you have a habit of great choices at breakfast time then move on to the next meal, lunch, or even your snacking habits.
Don’t forget the other fundamental health habits too! Get lots of sleep, nurture the relationships that matter in your life and keep some kind of deep reflective practice like meditation or journaling. Building a culture of health in life creates the environment for healing and provides a buffer for the maintenance of overall health despite injury.
Listen to your body: Just a thought, listen to what your body is telling you regarding the state of your physical health. I could have avoided my achilles rupture entirely if I’d have paid attention to the aching in my achilles over the month prior to injury. I certainly was suffering from a reactive stage tendonopathy which is a major risk factor for rupture. I could have been engaging in remedial eccentric strength training to toughen up and heal my cruddy tendons.You’d better believe I’m working on the uninjured side now and will be training very carefully in rehab to ensure that the state of my tendon tissue is such that this never happens again!
Secondly if your injury requires that you use a mobility device like crutches or a cane, or if it forces a change in the way that you move you will notice that aches and pains develop as a result. Listen to your body, if you have a secondary onset injury get it attended to by your physiotherapist quickly. Remember too that your job whether fully functional or puttering about on crutches is to MOVE BEAUTIFULLY! Keep your movement patterns clean, pretty and consistent, this will help you to avoid overuse or repeated strain injuries. Definitely consult your physio to help train you in awesome movement patterns, even if you are movement impaired!
Try these tips the next time you are working with a injury. Remember to have fun in your life and know that there is always plenty that you can do to life a full and robust experience even when you are hurt. Show the world what you are capable of, it’s a gift you can give that will add value to you, your circle of connections and your community at large!
Further reading (if you really want to impress all of your friends).
Cook, J. L., & Purdam, C. R. (2009). Is tendon pathology a continuum? A pathology model to explain the clinical presentation of load-induced tendinopathy. British journal of sports medicine, 43(6), 409-416.
Wolfe, J (2015) Level Up: Your Guide to Authentic Confidence and Internal Bliss
Van der Plas, A., de Jonge, S., de Vos, R. J., van der Heide, H. J. L., Verhaar, J. A. N., Weir, A., & Tol, J. L. (2011). A 5-year follow-up study of Alfredson’s heel-drop exercise programme in chronic midportion Achilles tendinopathy. British journal of sports medicine, bjsports-2011.