Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Recovering from Knee Surgery and Setting Realistic Goals

Three months ago I crouched to pick up a laptop at work.  When I stood—or rather attempted to stand—my right knee cracked and popped and would not straighten or support weight.  My boss was in a meeting at the time, in that very room, so I stumbled as casually as possible to a nearby chair and waited for him to finish.  When the meeting was over, I told him that we had a problem.

“This is going to sound strange, but I think my knee just blew out.”

“You seem very calm for someone who just blew their knee out,” he said.

“Well, yeah.  I can’t stand or straighten it.”

“Again, you seem very calm.  What do we do now?”

I couldn’t walk.  I couldn’t stand.  My knee was locked at 90 degrees and attempting to straighten it was excruciatingly painful.  With no crutches or wheelchairs readily available, we settled for the next best thing: an office chair.  My boss and a coworker wheeled me through the office—not my best moment—and out to my car.  I drove to the emergency room.

My meniscus had torn and folded over itself.  A week later, I was in surgery.

That was three months ago, and as of Monday, January 16, I am officially permitted to resume light activity.  I am still barred from sparring, but I can drill basic grappling movements while continuing to rehabilitate my knee.  Unfortunately, more than just my knee had atrophied.  My entire body is soft.  I know that my techniques have dulled.  Walking up the stairs winds me.

I have been injured before but have never had to sit out for this long.  Over the next few months, I will document my recovery, share my challenges and insights, and continue my tradition of sharing the training tips that I have learned from my travels or deduced from trial and error.

Setting Realistic Goals

Goals are an important part of training.  Setting long term goals gives you direction, and setting a series of smaller goals allows you to divide your journey into manageable chunks.  Goals, both long and short term, should be realistic.  For example, wanting to look like the above photo is a legitimate long term goal, but for me, it is completely unrealistic.  When that photo was taken, I was training in Hawaii upwards of 4 hours a day, and I was on a strict diet.

No normal person with a fulltime job or a family can maintain that schedule, which is the position that I am in now.  I see it often: new students want to be like Georges St. Pierre or Marcelo Garcia.  These are admirable aspirations, but do you have the time and resources to train like they do?  Probably not, and I certainly don’t either.  Instead, you should strive to be your best self.  Set goals that fit you.

My goals are as follows:

Long term
-Perform all grappling movements without pain.
-Reach a level of physical fitness where I am relatively safe from injury (looking good is a plus).
-Participate in a two hour open mat session without pain and without having to rest.

Short term
-Be able to kneel on my injured leg.
-Recover flexibility.
-Recover speed.
-Sharpen basic movements.
-Sharpen basic attacks.
-Sharpen my gameplan.

Stay tuned.  Next week, you get to see what the inside of my knee looks like.

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