I hurt myself on Friday, running to first base in a playoff game that was already over; my feeble ground ball to the third basemen would be the final out. In typical johnny-hustle like fashion, however, I made sure to run it out, pulling my hamstring in the process. Needless to say, I won’t be running for a while.
I’ve been injured before. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. I was the player on my college baseball team who was in the training room an hour before and an hour after each practice and game. I had figured out how to ice every part of my body effectively. I have pulled my groin, quads, and hamstrings. I’ve torn a muscle, I’ve ripped up my shoulder in multiple ways, and it’s a miracle my elbow even works. Cuts and bruises were just part of the uniform, as far as I was concerned. I even suffered an injury IN the training room. So, when I pulled up lame on my way to first base Friday, I knew that most of my fall plans, such as riding my bike to the library, running a 5k, and dropping those pesky ten pounds of Jersey Giant subs I’ve been eating this month, were going to be pushed back. I also knew that a lot of the gains I’ve made as far as strength is concerned over the past year will be gone. Getting injured can be mean starting over in many ways. Regaining those steps takes time, and comes in stages.
The first is adjusting to your new situation. Everyday activities become enormous obstacles: everything that is second nature to you becomes nearly impossible. Did you just drop something? Well, that wouldn’t have been a big deal Thursday, but it’s Saturday now, and you’ve pulled your hamstring. You can’t bend over. Good luck with that. When I had shoulder surgery, getting dressed was one of the most frustrating moments of my day. Currently, putting on pants is a struggle. You can understand how that might be a problem.
Once you start to gain a bit of functionality, the issue stops being adapting, and becomes relearning. You have to relearn how to use your muscles again. Strengthen them. Work them out. Build up the flexibility. Start walking. Then jogging. Then running. For a more serious injury, this could take quite a while. For example, when I partially tore my hamstring in high school, it took almost a year for me to get full strength back, and I never regained the speed I had in high school (I did get my flexibility back…see photo above). My current injury shouldn’t take nearly that long; I anticipate a month of rehab and I’ll be back to normal. Provided I do what I’m told.
This is the hardest part for me when it comes to recovery: Patience. I constantly want to push it to see if I can do a little more, or just “test it out” on the track or the bike. This weekend I went the pool and did some walking around in it. When I mentioned it to a physical therapist, she made a face that looked she’d just swallowed a lemon. “Ice and stretch,” she said. “That’s all you do this week. Doing anything else is just like picking at a scab”. But that’s the most difficult thing for me. I’m an active guy. I want to be moving around, doing things. I at least want to know that I can go to the gym if I want to. At the moment, I can’t, and that bothers me to no end. This gets even more dangerous as I gradually get better: the more functional I become, the more anxious I am to try more things.
I am actually hoping that I will get linked up with some physical therapy. It helps to have a trained professional tell me that, no, I’m not ready to start training for a 5K, but yes, I can tack on additional weight to my hamstring curls. Also, I enjoy the repetition, it helps me get back in the groove of going to the gym regularly, so I can hit the ground running (or slowly jogging) once therapy is over. In the long run, these injuries only serve to make a stronger person. Adversity leads to a need to work harder. I learn more about my body, what its strengths and limitations are, and more about myself: what am I willing to take? What am I willing to give to recovering? How bad do I want to be back on the field next season?
I can assure of this, I want to be back pretty badly.
Which means you can catch me at home, icing and stretching.