On January 7, nearly six months to the day I tore my ACL, I practiced jumping. I still can’t fully extend my leg and still walk with a slight limp, but by God, I was jumping.
It. Was. Terrifying.
I wasn’t just doing a few little hops. I did switch jumps, one-legged jumps from side to side, and small box jumps. To my surprise, my body was fine, just a little wobbly.
My mind was not.
After all, jumping is how I tore my right ACL. Imagine a balloon exploding in your leg. It f-cking hurts, and I’d like to not go through that again.
Years of generally favoring one leg over the other for standing kicks and jump kicks significantly weakened my right leg, which led to the mess of my hamstring pain in 2015 and the infamous knee blowout in 2020. Excuse me for being a tad cautious and not entirely trusting my body.
But jump I did, and for the most part, I’ve been doing well. However, seeing as my right leg is still the weaker one from top to bottom (or from…bottom to bottom?), it was not going to go into this gracefully. About a week later, my IT band was angry and inflamed. I could barely walk. My leg felt like a twisted tree branch as I hobbled around.
One of the solutions for calming IT band pain is strengthening the gluteal muscles. Weak gluteal muscles can cause the leg to buckle inward, which puts strain on the IT band (and the damn ACL, as I well know). It seemed the problems I was having years ago still hadn’t resolved themselves.
I had to keep working on my weaknesses: glutes, hamstring, quadriceps, AND the knee itself.
Who knew a torn ligament would require me to rebuild my whole right leg?
So, aside from getting some whiny venting out about how hard knee surgery recovery is, what can we learn from this?
I think 2020 burst the collective bubble of traditionally racing into a new year screaming about all the goals we’re going to crush and dreams we’re going to capture.
Goal-crushing and dream-capturing are still possible, but it may behoove us to pay more attention to the little things along the way that help us build a strong foundation. We may need to spend more time than we care to work on our weaknesses, things that make us uncomfortable, or are just plain boring and not as fun and glamorous as others. If we do these things, we may not gas out so quickly on great ideas that didn’t have much foundation beneath them.
My taekwondo school, which I haven’t been able to train in since July, has a saying:
Hard Work Pays Off.
Hard work requires planning, discipline, and dedication. Sometimes hard work includes maneuvering through expected or unexpected obstacles. Sometimes hard work is painful. Sometimes hard work requires us to start over.
Today is the six month anniversary of my ACL reconstruction surgery. This injury forced me to slow down, streamline, and prioritize. I’m very organized but often take on more than I can realistically handle. For the first half of 2020 I was juggling way too many things until I was literally knocked off my feet.
As I continue to recover, I’ve been able to maintain those habits of keeping my life more minimal in terms of commitments and activities so I can focus on the few that matter. Recovery is painful, but I’m actually happier overall.
Staying focused on your goals and being guided by your dreams can help you stay the course and get through the tough times.
As we move into 2021, I encourage you to prioritize and plan for the hard work that will pay off with big goals and realized dreams.
We’ve got this.