When Injuries Force Us to Embrace Goal Cycling

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Is Rocktape magic? Am I a unicorn? These were some of the questions floating around in my head as I peeled the black tape from my leg. Pulled tightly, both legs were marked with giant X’s from my calves to my thigh, crossed over nickel-sized pain points on the insides of my knees.

stacey on motorcycle

When my Physical Therapist asked what I thought about using tape, I told him I was in, but wasn’t too excited about it. Having dealt with a lot of knee pain for well over half a year, though, I’m at a place where I’m ready to try new things.

Dealing with a setback like this is pretty upsetting. And since our goal here at GMB is to redefine what “fitness” means to active grown up humans with families, lives, and jobs, experiencing these physical limitations and restrictions seems harder to accept or admit these days. Maybe it’s something about working for a fitness company that drives me to these righteous thoughts that I should some how be above injury or fatness? I should be great at fitness at all the time. I should know better. And though I’m happy to say I am “fit” more often than not, for the things that are important to me, thinking anyone is above injury, or setbacks is simply bullshit.

I guess in spite of what my sister might say, I’m probably a petty normal person. I don’t live in a bubble. The world, my life, is very dynamic. Sadly, I am not a unicorn. I am an active grown up human, with a family, life, and job. And I have setbacks too.

A couple of things that changed for me right around the time of my injury:

  • I bought a motorcycle (a sweet little Yamaha XT250)
  • I started doing a lot of heavy deadlifting

Both of these things, in and of themselves, are great, and totally fine things to do. However, the mix of doing both of those things concurrently and to a bit of an extreme was not a good recipe for me, it turns out. I squished, and tore, and really just thoroughly pissed off my knees.

deadlifting with valgus knee

Whenever I would ride, I’d focus on keeping my knees tight to the gas tank. I was new to riding, and that’s the way I learned. It put me in this weird valgus knee state quite extensively. And I rode that way a lot. I put about 4000 miles on my bike in one year—that’s probably more than most people do over the course of many years.

In conjunction with that, I started doing heavily weighted deadlifts again, probably leaning more toward this newish valgus position than when I’d done them in the past. I’d backed off of weighted lifts for a number of years prior, and I remember being kind of surprised at how heavy I could go. It didn’t take me much time before adding more and more weight. And I should have anticipated the results. Holy shit, I hoped I’d be smarter by now.

There’s nothing inherently bad about riding a motorcycle or moving heavy things around. I like to be able to move furniture off a truck, around my house, give someone a push start, pull my niece onto the dock, pull myself into a boat, climb a tree, carry someone out of the woods—you know, all the normal things. It’s reasonable for me to want to be strong for the people I care about. But the combination of excessive weight, positioning, and frequency turned out to be problematic.

stacey doing l-sit on cow statue

My happiness, and life pursuits are not dependent on whether or not I could lift ALL that weight on the bar. And it turns out that, sometimes, when I’m searching for my limits, oops, I find them.

As a result, parts of my usual routines, and regular training and activities have been affected. I went through this weird state of resistance and mourning about that for awhile, because I really like moving my body around in certain ways. Being able to bear weight, and function at the end range of motion in both flexion and extension, various angles, twisting, sitting seiza, stepping up onto high things, jumping up out of bed in the morning, running down the stairs, playing volleyball with the kids, chasing my dogs, pushing things around. These are the things I was used to doing without issue before my injury.

And it’s been a real bummer, that for now, many of these activities seem to aggravate my knees. Certain movements are painful, and I generally feel less stability. It’s taken me from the time this all started, until now, to come to grips and decide to make a change.

So I’m figuring out new things that I can do, that don’t move me into pain. Considering what’s working for me right now and what isn’t, I’m content with giving my knees a chance to relax a little, provide them with some new inputs. I consider it cycling my training. Thinking about it in this way seems less like a loss, and more like progress. Instead of thinking about it as giving something up, I’m just focusing on other priorities and attributes for a period of time. I’ve started working with a physical therapist a couple of times a week and I’m committed to a few things right now:

  • Working with a professional
  • Dedicating the time to unscrewing myself
  • Switching my focus
  • Exploring my options

It’s been really helpful to have the help and support of another person, for starters. I’ve found someone I trust, and we seem to understand each other well. I feel like we’re working through things together, and getting things figured out. He’s pointed out some things out, and brought things to my attention that I might not have noticed, or would otherwise choose to ignore. I thank him by saying things like, “I needed to hear that,” even when it’s not really what I want to hear. He’s holding me accountable to a certain degree.

Also, I figure what I’ve been doing for the last 6-12 months hasn’t been working out the best for me. I can at least commit to trying something new for awhile and see how it goes. It’s an experiment! And I love science! Seems like pretty good rationale ;)

What am I doing to improve my situation?

stacey on hike in vegas

I’ve got some extra energy now because I’m not burning it with as much vigor and enthusiasm in the physical ways I used too. So one of the things I’m working on is my eating habits. I apparently don’t need to consume as much as I did before my injury because I’m not doing as much these days. My body doesn’t have the same needs. So that’s something I’m tuning into.

I’m also dedicated to exploring new and exciting opportunities to be active within my current capabilities. I dropped in on a dance class yesterday for example, after my PT taped up my legs. I wanted to see how it felt to move around with it on. Taking a class like that was way out of the norm for me. And it was FUN! And I got to release a lot of energy. Focusing on stability, and paying attention (and avoiding going into valgus movements is something I’m working on too). I’m not training loaded movements right now either, and only ‘working’ in the in-between ranges of my knee joints.

I’m a creature of habit. I appreciate the effects of change but, as a human, I’m naturally resistant to it. It’s hard. Small changes like these are totally doable though. And as ridiculous as this may sound, I’m kinda fan girling this kinesiology tape. I felt a little more stability in my knees after he put it on, and I danced my goat metal booty off in that class without aggravation. I don’t even have to know intellectually how important it is to believe in something, to know how important it is to believe in something. It’s a big step forward towards improvement!

And damn, the human body is weird, and amazing. Just like my magic tape 😉