I grew up playing every sport possible. If it was pickup basketball, we played until we physically couldn’t play anymore or it got too dark. I wasn’t a physical specimen, but I have enough skill to be a decent player and enjoy the games.
My road into formal strength and conditioning education wasn’t like most. I was a string bean, lanky type of kid that realized I wasn’t jumping as high as everyone else or running as fast. Long legs, short torso, and not much training knowledge was a recipe for disaster as I got older and played collegiate baseball. I still struggled understanding the weight room’s place in my development and instead looked to the skill practice on the field to help me take that next step. Now, fast forwarding almost a decade, I’ve been working in the strength and conditioning field for almost 10 years and had a major surgery on my hip. The details of the surgery weren’t actually related to training, but training has become a very important part of the recovery process. I learned so much from this difficult period in my life and want to be able to share the things I learned to you so that you can avoid wasting time.
Lesson #1: Work smarter, not harder
This lesson is great to start off with because it’s something I struggle with still. I like to push the pace and feel like I busted my tail. I had to learn to pull it back and work within myself. When you’re young, the more you push yourself typically leads to greater return. After a major surgery, you realize how much training wrecks you. Every rep, every set made me more sore than I’ve ever been and I had to look myself in the mirror and say “stop adding stuff for no reason.” It’s important to be extremely selective when you train and detailed in how you go about it. I used to just walk in and lift weights, now I am precise about what I do and why I do it. This has made my post workout pain and soreness much less problematic.
Lesson #2: You are not them, you are you
This one seems obvious, but obvious doesn’t mean easy. It’s tough to watch other people that can do certain things and not wish that you could do it too. But, that’s not how it works. You have the body that you were blessed with and that body has limitations. It’s also important to remember that the person you’re envious of might be thinking the same thing about you. Maybe you have something that someone else can’t do no matter how hard they try. For any limitation you might have, you also have a lot of abilities and blessings. As I struggled with regaining strength, I saw people of similar build able to do things I couldn’t do. If I tried, the repercussions of soreness and pain were reminders that it wasn’t realistic. It wasn’t from the lack of trying anymore and that’s when I really started to grow in my approach and mindset.
Lesson #3: Be honest about what you lack and set proactive goals to fix it
We all have shortcomings or dysfunctions. Physically, it can be a lack of range of motion in your ankle or lacking the self-discipline to stop eating at your favorite fast food place. Regardless of the type, it does NOT change until YOU decide to put in the time to make a change. It starts with a look in the mirror. You can try whatever coping mechanism in the world, but when it comes to changing it will always start by being honest with yourself. If you keep saying, “it’s not that bad”, you will not be motivated to change.
Next is goal setting and crushing barriers. Once you make yourself aware of what the issue might be, you plan your attack. Small, measurable steps that lead to the bigger goal are most effective. Want to lose 50 pounds? Break that up into how many you’d like to lose in the first week or month. Do you want to eat healthier? Start with shopping for healthier food on your next grocery run or trying a new vegetable or recipe. Try to plot the course like a ship had to back in the old days. Your small goals are your map and your motivation is the compass that you stick to in times of waves and storms.
**It’s worth noting that not all goals are physically possible, i.e. jumping 50 inches or running faster than Usain Bolt. But, if you make REALISTIC goals for yourself like improving your ankle range of motion by 1 inch or squatting 45 more pounds in a training program you will be much more successful and less disappointed in the end. **
Lesson #4: Don’t feel sorry for yourself because no one else is going to
I learned this one over time. I have a great family and support system, but I know that when it comes down to it life goes on. People ask you how you are doing and how you feel, but they have their own problems and life to deal with. There is a period of empathy, but that fades. You don’t want to be the person still carrying on about your problems month after month if you want your friends to stay around. It sounds cynical, but hear me out. When you are struggling with something, I think you are person who is going to get yourself out of that struggle more than anyone around you. You have the power to do it, you have the strength and abilities necessary for that task. So, when things get tough reach within yourself and take action. I think this creates a feeling of accomplishment and self-confidence that is unmatched by anything else. When you depend on yourself to get things done, you start to realize that you have all that you need and your friends and family are there to support you as you find your way to your goals rather than them carrying you to it.
So, in an effort to keep this brief and actionable for you I will sum up what I’ve learned below:
- Work smarter, not harder
- Remember that you are you and they are not you
- Look yourself in the mirror and make real goals that are attainable
- Stop feeling sorry for yourself and waiting for someone else to help you. You have all the tools you need now go out and accomplish things with what you have been blessed with.
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