And what a year!
You know it is only 13 months ago that I started this blog and re-reading my intro I was full of hopes and had goals to really have a go at building on the success of my novice season. Even though I knew I was in trouble with my shoulders, I guess I was very much in denial, I was hoping somehow that they would just start working again and everything would be ok.
But it wasn’t to be. Everything I hoped for, planned for with regards to training and competing just didn’t happen and instead the worst case scenario did – double shoulder surgery.
And it didn’t stop there.
Torn hamstring tendons in both legs, torn elbow tendons in my left elbow – both sides, and degenerating hip inflammation soon put paid to any thoughts of not only competing but even being able walk or do the simplest of tasks like getting dressed, eating, sitting, standing all became a blur of pain. For months and endless months my life revolved around physios, chiro, doctors, sports doctors, acupuncture, needling and laser treatment – needles, blood injections, cortisone injections, xrays, mri’s, ultrasounds…and none of it seemed to be working, and none of the so called experts seemed to have any answers.
It was frustrating, and tough – I remember sitting on the tram in March with tears pouring silently down my face having had 2 blood injections into both sides of my elbow, blood injections into my right hamstring tendon, double cortisone into my left hamstring tendon and double cortisone into both hips – all in the space of 2 days.
That was the lowest point I think, the situation seemed hopeless, I was doing every thing I knew how to do, seeing every expert I could find, getting every test or treatment done to fix up my battered body, but it just wasn’t working.
And by April I had doctors ordering me not to even get out of bed if I could possibly avoid it. Everything stopped at that point. I almost lost hope. It was as close I have come to quitting – I mean what was the point, why was I even bothering to fight it. I became apathetic about everything, merely going through the motions of existing – I couldn’t train, I couldn’t compete, I had nothing to work towards so what was the point of anything?
I think apathy has to be the worst place you can be – every other negative emotion – fear, depression, anger, overwhelm, grief are strong emotions because deep down there is something triggering that emotion that you do actually care about.
With apathy you just don’t care, you can’t even be bothered to care, its too hard.
I gave up, I stopped fighting. I didn’t care anymore.
And once I stopped fighting, I finally allowed myself to accept what was.
My body was telling me to stop. Just stop. It needed a break – I’ve been pushing myself incredibly hard physically for 2 years ever since I’d decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, and the only way it could force me to take a break was by breaking down so much that I couldn’t do anything physical at all.
It might sound strange to you the way I talk about my body as if it is in isolation to me – but to me my physical body is just one part of a whole that is composed of many parts, mostly non physical. But whatever is going on in the non physical parts are usually manifested in the physical as injuries or illness…a kind of last resort attempt to get me to pay attention to something that I’m neglecting.
My first body talk session with Greg Dolman in May was a revelation!
And it worked in a funny sort of way. Competing is an intense experience, you become so focused on yourself and what you have to do to get onto stage, you can get lost in it, and I guess I had allowed competing to become the sole focus of my life – which is why I fought so hard against the concept of not being able to compete and why I was so upset about not being able to train and seeing my goals for the year disappear down the drain. But it was only when I finally did give up, stop fighting and look outside the gym walls that I allowed other things to happen.
You see, when you’re stuck in a problem, all you see and all you focus on is the problem. And in focusing solely on the problem you close off your ability to find solutions.
How many of you have found yourself worrying endlessly in the middle of the night about something that is bothering you? how many of you have found that when something distracts you for long enough away from whatever it is that is bothering you, you suddenly find the solution or at least a more acceptable alternative?
Writing, photopgraphy, starting up the magazine – with my focus on creativity and exploration of new ideas, I guess I became softer and less driven (sort of – starting up a magazine is hardly the easiest thing to do!) and by moving my focus away from my body being the problem, it stopped being the problem…and started to find its own solutions.
In May I quite my job cold because I hated it so much – so then I had to worry about how I was going to live, in June I was flat out trying to work out how to turn Figure & Physique from a dream into a reality, so it took a while before I noticed things were getting better.
I started back in the gym once a week in June more to just get some movement back, by July I could sustain 2 very light training sessions a week – enough of me was working that we could do an upper body shake out and a lower body shake out – no bench pressing or lifting overhead though at all and anything that recruited my anterior delts was completely out.
Rehab, lots and lots of rehab work and pilates was mainly what I was doing, and each training session was an exercise in delicacy – feeling out what I could and couldn’t do. By this point both myself and Aiden were fearful of pushing too hard too soon – each session was more a matter of ‘should’ we try something as opposed to last year when it was ‘just do it – and make it harder!’. Every time I winced or said ‘ouch’, we’d instantly stop or drop the weight back to something much lighter (bit difficult when its only 1kg in the 1st place!)
To say I wrapped myself in cotton wool would be an understatement!
But it has worked. Through July and August I made significant improvement, to the point were we were using weights heavy enough to get muscle soreness – how good was it to feel just muscle soreness! And then of course, with heavier weights muscle memory kicked in – I didn’t believe that there was such a thing, but all of a sudden every week my body had changed somehow – I think even Aiden was surprised just how well my body has responded and bounced back.
With improvement comes hope, hope that it will continue, hope that I don’t relapse. With improvement also comes optimism and possibility – will I be able to keep this going and make it back onto stage. Its a long road, will I be able to keep my head together and stay focused on the bigger goal?
By September I could sustain a full 5 day split – and I upped my sessions with Aiden to 3 a week in order to maximise my progress as much as I dared and by November I upped my sessions with Aiden to 4 a week because my improvement seemed to be gaining in pace.
My last dexa scan 3 weeks ago revealed that I have managed to restore the muscle I lost and am back to the same lean muscle mass as last year, which was very exciting news. Now I just have to build on that, try to add as much as I can in the next 10 months.
I have to say that I’m loving my training, I appreciate it so much more having had it taken away from me – there is still an edge of caution to our sessions, each time I wince or say ‘ouch’, still elicits an immediate halt to whatever we were doing until we work out whether it was a real issue or just me being a princess, each warm up set is done more carefully with a stop to assess whether its ok to continue on to a full set.
But weekly there are changes and the Possibilites are exciting…
as long as my body holds together!
Every year, just before New Year, I usually find myself some quiet time where I can do some writing. I write about the year that has just been, I write about the year to come, I write down a list of goals and things I want to achieve/see/do, I write about how or why I did or didn’t achieve the previous years goals.
This years writing is going to be interesting as I haven’t achieved a single thing I set out to do at the beginning of the year!
Am I upset about that?
Not on your life!
because I have achieved so much more than I could ever have imagined. By taking the time away from the gym I have allowed other opportunities to appear and have fully taken advantage of them – who know where they could lead? I certainly intend to keep pursuing them to find out!
I thought last year was probably the most crazy, unsettling, biggest rollercoaster of a year, but this year is also very strong contender and next year…?
Well, who knows..but there’s an international stage or two in the plan thats for sure!
Have a Great Christmas, stay well, enjoy yourself, take some time off to relax, reflect, review and then refocus on what you’re going to achieve where you’re going to take yourself in 2013.