I’m a second degree black belt. I could have tested for third degree black belt at the end of this year.

BIG.DEAL.

I had to relearn how to walk after my July knee surgery. When you can’t walk very well or even stand up in the shower, all that fighting, jumping, and sprinting nonsense goes out the window for a while. It’s hard to feel like the athlete you were before your injury. It’s depressing to feel out of shape. It’s frustrating to go through so much pain as you heal and gain strength. 

Recovering from a major injury when you used to do a high-level sport can feel overwhelming and a bit daunting. 

I got some unexpected and very helpful advice last week from someone who’d been in my exact place. My regular therapist “Cody” (you’ll meet him in my memoir) was on vacation, so he assigned me to another therapist to work on my leg and take me through some gentle stretches and exercises.

The substitute PT and I bonded immediately when we discovered we grew up in neighboring West Texas towns and even shared a mutual friend. We may very well have been at a high school football game together at some point in our youth (I would have been a senior playing French horn in the marching band, and he would have been a freshman playing varsity on the opposing team). 

Then he told me he’d had surgery on both knees, including an ACL repair. Besides football, he was also a track star and kept up with long-distance running into adulthood. I trust my orthopedic surgeon and Cody for their clinical expertise, but it’s a different kind of comfort to speak to someone who’s had the same injury and surgery, and has been able to return to the sport they love.

Looking up at him as he massaged my ever-angry and inflamed knee, I asked, “What’s your number one tip for recovery?”

His answer: “Set small goals. And keep setting them.”
He started with setting a goal of walking without a limp, then being able to jog, then jog without a limp, then run, and so on.

He also advised as I get into more complex activities not to be “mean” to my knee–“Don’t call it ‘your bad leg’ or that’s what it will become.” I’m a believer in the power of both positive and negative thinking, having experienced the outcomes of both. Right now I can’t help but be very cautious around my right leg, and I’m acutely aware of the differences between my right and left (I can even feel it as I’m sitting at my desk writing this). At some point I’ll be running and jumping again, and I won’t be able to totally stave off the fear that I could re-injure my leg. I’ll probably need to work on some psychological healing from this injury alongside the physical healing. 

I do want to test for third degree black belt. I want my body to be in the best shape it can be for that. But for now, I can set small goals. 

That big goal starts with small goals. Just like I said in my previous post you can meet goals one step at a time. That’s how any kind of martial art works too–you learn in small pieces and keep adding incrementally over time. Expertise doesn’t happen overnight. Neither does recovery.

My first goal: getting to 0 degrees extension on my own, without anyone having to push my leg down.
After all, you can’t kick if you don’t have extension. 😉

That’s all I need to worry about right now. Other things will come over time.

This week I was back to working with Cody at the clinic but now I always give a friendly wave to my new friend, the fellow West Texan and ACL Recovery Warrior. He stopped by to check on me when I was doing a one-leg press on the shuttle. I gave him an update. He nodded and said:
“Slow motion is better than no motion.”
 
Yep, and I am a body in motion. 

 

Stay tuned for my upcoming book– “Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts” published by She Writes Press. Coming to a bookseller near you April 20, 2021!

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