I called my dad crying and told him the bad news. On the very last run and very last jump of the day, I landed wrong on my skis and tore my ACL. The doctor said it would be at least a year before I’m weightlifting again and that I’ll need surgery to repair it.
I was devastated and furious at myself for doing that jump. I began to rant about how I should have been smarter. I should have been more careful. I just spent the past six months working my ass off to come back from an ankle injury and was finally making progress in the gym. I did everything right then made one bad call and that’s it.
While my dad sympathized, he immediately said exactly what I needed to hear, “You can go your whole life not taking risks and playing it safe, but that’s just not you. This sucks. But you’ll get through it and come back stronger.”
I snapped out of it. I knew he was right. I don’t avoid things because I’m scared I’ll get hurt. I try shit, I fall down, I get back up and I try again. Anything can happen no matter what. There’s no point in living in fear.
I made a promise to myself that I would not let this injury break me. I have a torn ACL, I’ll be out of Olympic lifting for at least a year, but I’ll come back. Stronger, better, smarter, faster.
So if you have found yourself in a similar position, then here are a few ways you can still pursue your goals.
Use Your Good Leg
I walked into the gym two days after my injury. I looked at my barbell up on the rack and used it as motivation as I began my prehab. I had one leg that was perfectly fine, pretty damn strong even. So I designed my new program around that.
Please check with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen post-injury.
Here are some single leg things you can do:
Read Your Resources
Up your knowledge and learn everything you can. Having an injury is no excuse when it comes to learning.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Catalyst Athletics – Really any of Greg’s books. They’re all jam packed with knowledge.
- Tommy Kono – Weightlifting Olympic Style and Championship Weightlifting
- Dr. Kelly Starrett – Becoming a Supple Leopard
- Bob Takano – Weightlifting Programming
There are so many great books out there, that aren’t on this list, so do some research and find the ones that appeal to you.
Focus on Your Coaching
Just because you can’t train how you’re used to doesn’t mean you can’t take this time to improve your coaching. You’ll quickly find that your verbal cues need to improve, fast, when you can no longer simply show a movement or drill. Reach out to other coaches, read everything, watch videos and help as many athletes as you can during this time.
Train What You Can
My upper body has always been my weakness and since I sucked at jerks, I hated to do them. I’d skip my presses at the end of a long session and it showed later in my lifts. Well, there’s no skipping upper body for me now. Press, push, and pull your way through your recovery. If your leg strength was there, it will come back faster than the first time around, but hopefully you used this time to match it with some real upper body strength.
Work on Your Mental Game
Weightlifting is just as much of a mental sport as it is a physical one. Challenge yourself and dig deep during this time. What are the things that psych you out? What gets you fired up? Are you a competitor or do you shy away from the platform?
Learn who you are as an athlete and improve on it. There are few things harder for an athlete than not being able to do what they love, so think of this time as training. It may not be the training you love to do, but mental training will help you in the long run nonetheless.
So, that’s exactly what I decided to do.
It’s Rough, No Joke
I won’t lie, I get mad about being out of the game, pissed off even. But I decided this was a good thing. It was fuel. It was what I needed to continue to fight and not give up on my weightlifting dreams. My platform dreams, while humble and small to some, have kept me driven and grounded for the past five years. Right now, it’s what is pushing me through my rehab.
If you’re injured, I am truly sorry, I know how much that sucks. But remember, you can sit on your ass and feel sorry for yourself or you can get up and work.
The choice is yours.