Posted in Health, Wellness

Eyes on My Own Paper

I haven’t written a blog post in a long time. Like, a really long time. February, to be exact.

Even before that, my posts had become infrequent compared to when I first started. The reasons were actually positive. I had plenty of time to blog when I first started my business, because I didn’t have any clients.

Within a few months that changed. I picked up my first client, then another, then another… Gradually I found myself with a small but consistent little business.
Life got busy. I was seeing clients three days a week, and I still had my full-time job at Trader Joe’s to pay the bills and maintain health insurance. Suddenly my time was at a premium. A quality problem indeed!

I also found that sometimes I would put out a blog post and it didn’t get many views, so I increasingly focused my marketing efforts on social media. Facebook and Instagram provided a greater “bang for the buck” with a much lower time investment. A blog post required hours to complete; a well-received social media post took minutes.

But I missed the blog. There is something about long-form writing that soothes my soul, whether it finds a large audience or not. It’s cathartic.

Which finally brings me to why I’m breaking my almost six-month silence on the blog.
Because I have suddenly found myself with unforeseen time on my hands, and the need for a little soul-soothing.

What happened?

Easy. I got injured.

And not my usual, run-of-the-mill, “I tweaked my back a little and I just need to modify my activity for a few days and then life will be back to normal” injury that I’ve discussed on this blog many times.

This is different. And it has turned my “busy” life on its head.

Early in June of this year, I went to bed on a Sunday evening. I noticed a mild pain in my left groin, and the top of my leg was a little achy.

“Huh, that’s weird,” I thought. Definitely not my usual ache or pain. But I didn’t think much of it and went to sleep.

Next day it was still there, and the day after that. By Wednesday morning, my heavy leg day at Ludus Magnus, it was definitely worse but still fairly mild.

Here’s the thing: I go into the gym on Wednesday mornings not feeling my best all the time. My day job is physically demanding, and it’s not uncommon for me to be quite stiff when I first get to the gym. But after some warm-up sets, I typically loosen up and I’m good to go. Some of my best lifts happened on days when I walked into the gym feeling less than stellar. I’ve discussed in this blog many times how I learned to not let my feelings deter me from having a good workout, about relying on habit rather than motivation.

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In the weeks just before my injury, I had some PRs at the gym I was feeling “badass” about, including box-squatting 185 (top weight) for 2 and deadlifting 165 off blocks for 5. Maybe not big weight for some, but huge for me!

I also know from experience that if I tell my trainer, Matt Wenning, that I’m having a physical issue above and beyond the usual stiffness, he modifies whatever he has planned so that I protect my body while still getting a great workout. On those days, 9.9 times out of 10 I leave the gym feeling exponentially better.

But on that particular morning, the gym was abuzz with activity. Matt was doing his upper body dynamic workout since he had to travel that evening. Brooke Sousa, our resident professional Strongwoman competitor, was doing her thing. Several of Matt’s police and firemen that he trains were preparing for their upcoming powerlifting meet.

I was surrounded by badass people doing badass stuff. And I wanted to be a badass too.

So I didn’t say anything to Matt about the weird pain and he told me to warm up with four sets of belt squats increasing in weight each set.

As soon as I began squatting, I knew I was in trouble. This was not the usual stiffness. With each squat, that spot in my groin burned hotter and radiated down the inside and front of my leg.

When I finished that first set my bodily intuition screamed at me to stop. But the dark voice of insecurity looked at everyone around me and said, “don’t be a pussy.” I ignored my body and listened to insecurity. I kept going.

By my last set I was in tears it hurt so bad. I finally came to my senses and told Matt what was going on with me. He of course scratched the rest of the planned workout and had me do something much lighter. But the damage was done. Whatever smoldering embers were burning inside my leg, I had just poured gasoline on them. In the following days I tried to carry on with life as usual, but the injury continued to worsen and made denial impossible.

The past several weeks of navigating the health care system, dealing with near-constant pain that makes simple tasks difficult (sitting, bending, tying shoes, etc.), and experimenting with training around the injury is a whole other post for another day. But after several weeks I was finally able to get an XRay and an MRI. The verdict is nothing exotic; it’s a fairly common soft-tissue injury in my hip that is just slower to heal than I would like. Still, after weeks of speculation, I was grateful for answers.

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Part of dealing with this injury has been going to physical therapy in addition to my work at Ludus Magnus. My favorite part is getting hooked up to the cold compression sleeve at the end!

So why am I sharing all this?

Because I think the mistake I made that day is a cautionary tale that I hope may help someone else avoid a similar outcome.

Sure, even if I hadn’t attempted that warm-up, I could have wound up where I am right now. I still don’t know what triggered the initial pain that Sunday night or how long my hip had been compromised without showing symptoms. Some other incident in the gym or at work could have lit the fuse. But I’ll never know, will I?

What was my fundamental error?

I compared myself to others and judged myself based on what they were doing. I didn’t “keep my eyes on my own paper,” to borrow a phrase from elementary school. I ignored my body and listened to insecurity.

Here’s the deal: I am privileged to work with a world-class strength coach and biomechanist like Matt, to train in an environment filled with top-level athletes, to be surrounded by badass people doing badass stuff. There is nothing wrong with admiring their accomplishments and work ethic, to use that as inspiration to do the best I can in my own program.

But I am not them. I am not a top-level athlete. I am just a regular person, a former compulsive overeater and couch potato who managed to transform her body and life through strength training and sensible dietary changes. Like anybody, I have my own set of physical challenges and I work through them to the best of my abilities. I have learned a new way to live that would have been incomprehensible to me just five years ago.

That is its own form of badass-ery.

And my clients are people just like me who want to do the same thing. They aren’t concerned with competitive sports or getting “jacked,” they just want to lose some weight, be stronger, and feel better inside their bodies as they navigate the world. It’s been my honor to help them do that and witness the gains they’ve made. They inspire me. I would never talk to them like I sometimes talk to myself. Working with them has been my saving grace through this situation.

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Single-legged cross body toe touches are just one of the exercises that have helped me in my continued recovery!

When I remember who I am and where I’ve come from, and keep myself right-sized, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the progress I’ve made and am content to improve myself bit by bit and do the best my body is capable of on any given day.

But when I forget that, the dark voice of insecurity creeps in and tells me that I don’t measure up, that I’m a weakling surrounded by giants. When I ignore my body and listen to insecurity, that’s when I place myself in a position to be hurt.

There is no shame in keeping my eyes on my own paper. Who and what I used to be is the best measure of my own progress.

Taking action, however small, towards reclaiming your health is one of the most badass things anyone can do! If you are ready to start your own journey, please reach out to me at gtlwithjennifer@gmail.com, or direct message me on Facebook or Instagram!

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