As most of you know, I recently had shoulder surgery to correct a torn labrum and to tighten the ligament and socket in my left shoulder that was giving me such pain and discomfort over the past year. Surgery certainly wasn’t my first choice. I first tried physical therapy for a few months to see if that would help, and it did for a little while. My shoulder got slightly stronger and I had full mobility, but I still couldn’t do what I was doing before like lifting weights over my head and kayaking for hours. It wasn’t anything that I was doing wrong at PT – just something else was going on inside my shoulder that needed more attention than I thought.
One night I found myself sitting on the table at physical therapy so upset thinking about what life was going to be like feeling limited like this (I know I sound a bit dramatic, but when you go from working out 5-6 days a week to not even being able to do one burpee, you get discouraged). This is when my amazing physical therapists I had been seeing, recommended that I go check back in with my doctor.
So I headed back in for another appointment, already 100% convinced I wanted to get the surgery. While the surgeon explained what was going to happen, I knew that this was something I was going to have to do in order to have a better quality of life. AGAIN – my surgery was by no means life threatening or was I put in a “life or death” situation, but I asked myself, “do I really want to live like this for the rest of my life? Working out is one of my favorite things to do, and I’m not ready to give that up.”
The surgery went really, really well (because I had an amazing surgeon!) and I had a great first few weeks after surgery. About three weeks out, I started my physical therapy sessions again, and the journey to recovery began from there. I knew that it was going to take about 4-5 months to be myself again, but I was ready to get to work.
About three months in, I got the go-ahead from the physical therapists that I could work out again. Nothing that involved heavy lifting or anything, but I could finally start doing cardio – which meant I could start to feel myself again. THANK YOU!
One thing they don’t tell you when talking about surgery and recovery is how it is going to affect you mentally. Yes, your body is going to go through some ups and downs, but so doesn’t your mind. It was a similar feeling to what happened when I found out I had celiac. You hear or tell yourself “no” a lot. No you can’t do that yet, or no, you’re not ready for that yet. All you can do in that type of situation is stay positive and surround yourself with positive people. My friends and family were extremely supportive throughout my recovery and not once did they laugh at me when I would share my small accomplishments: like being able to actually put on a shirt again for the first time, or being able to blow dry my hair, or even the first time I was able to put my hair up in a bun. Don’t take advantage of the small things friends.
So now with me being able to go back to the gym, I want to make sure I’m working hard, but not to the point where I might do more damage than good. Here are a few tips to get back into shape and working out after an injury:
- Check with your doctor before doing anything: Take advantage of working with a doctor or physical therapist on a weekly basis. Pick their brains about what you can and cannot do. I can’t tell you how many times I would ask for a modification or ask if there was anything else I could be doing at home to help with my recovery. That’s what they are there for, and sometimes just hearing the “you are going to be fine” line from them does make you feel a little bit better and gives you the confidence you need to move forward.
- Start slow, but don’t be afraid to push yourself: Once I got the okay from my physical therapist that I could run again, I couldn’t wait to get back on the treadmill and/or run outside. I knew that I wanted to get back into running, but I didn’t want to undo the good I had done the past few months. So I started running slowly to make sure I felt okay, but would push myself a little bit further every time I went to the gym. Now I’m up to 2 miles – half way to where I want to be.
- Just go, just do it: I kept saying that I was going to go back to the gym, but then it didn’t work with my work schedule, etc, etc, etc, – all excuses. So I finally just went out, signed up for a gym, and got back into my 5:45am workout routine. Don’t let yourself make up excuses – just get up, get dressed and head out. Or if you prefer to workout after work or school, bring your clothes with you and get changed there so you have no excuse but to go.
- Do your exercises outside of PT: Like me, you might be going to physical therapy a few times a week. And while it’s important to go to those, it’s just as important to do those exercises at home. The more you are able to strengthen what you need to, the faster you are going to recover. Ask your physical therapist what you can do at home or at the gym.
Got a tip to share that can help your fellow friends get back into the gym? Share it below!