Health Nook: Studying from limitations

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Ask one of my clients and he will tell you that I am an expert in dealing with all kinds of physical and mental limitations. For example:

Client text: I pinched my knee so I don’t think I should train today.

Answer from Coach Pritam: We can do all sorts of things that don’t affect your knee. We’ll see each other soon!

Likewise:

Client about to lift more weight (safely) than ever before: I don’t think I can do it

Coach Pritam Response: Oh, I know you can! (They successfully lift the weight and break their self-defined limits of their abilities.)

In all my years of training, on the one hand, I can count the times when I couldn’t handle a problem presented by one of my clients or athletes.

As the past year humbly reminded me, I am not that good at applying the same principles to myself.

I had a hamstring injury more than a year ago. There was no sharp pain or obvious cause, so it was hard to pinpoint, but something was actually wrong. However, since I was myself, I was able to continue my normal workouts and activities without any problems. Eventually, however, it became impossible to ignore the discomfort. When diagnosed with high hamstring tendinopathy, it developed into a painful, chronic, and persistent injury, and significantly reduced my exercise, mood, and even daily life. (Simply sitting, which we do repeatedly and for long periods of time every day, causes pain and resets the healing process.)

I have been actively treating this painful problem for a year now and there is no telling how long it will be before it is cured. In the meantime, I’ve had plenty of time to think about my own limitations and how to deal with them. My experience has taught me the following:

Give your best
I have followed my tried and tested injury management practices, including rest, stretching, foam rolling, active release technique, losing weight, sets and reps in my workouts, and eliminating exercises that made my Achilles tendon significantly worse. I have also thoroughly investigated this injury and tried to rehabilitate it myself. Nothing I’ve tried has improved this injury. But we always have to do our best.

Accept your reality
My reality was that I was unable to fix this or work around it. It was humbling to accept this as a fitness professional. Nothing worse to do either! Once I admitted that, I could take the next step. After all, the reality of a particular situation must be accepted before we can move forward.

Find the right support for you
I visited a respected orthopedic surgeon who referred me to a physiotherapist. But it was only after hundreds of dollars, wasted months, and additional problems caused by the prescribed treatment that it became painfully clear that I had not found the right support. This physical therapy practice has been great for a lot of people, but not for me. Frustrated, I went online to look for an alternative physical therapist, where after a brief search I found an independent physical therapist who turned out to be groundbreaking for me. Support is important. The right kind of support is crucial.

Change your perspective
When I started working with my physical therapist Steve, I was physically injured and mentally depressed. I was too frustrated to see anything that went beyond my perceived overwhelming limits. My outlook was pretty pessimistic, but Steve provided a much-needed objective view of my situation. Not only did he prescribe exercises, he also helped me change my approach, get back involved in my rehab and training program, and get back to areas that I had let go of. This is the role I’ve played for my clients, but in this scenario I couldn’t do it for myself. It is entirely possible to change the way we think on our own, but sometimes we need an objective reminder from outside of us. Either way, if we can’t change our thinking and approach, we can’t go beyond our limits.

My Achilles tendon is far from healed. But I have resumed some activity and see more on the horizon, with a clearer mind and a new sense of confidence. Above all, I have never completely given up hope. We must never give up hope.

Limitations are part of our physical and mental selves; whether thoughts, beliefs or perceptions or physical problems, injuries or challenges. It’s easy to focus on what we lack, and it’s much more difficult to focus our attention on the many skills we have. I am humble and grateful for this experience because it reminds me that there is always a way forward when we find the right path. Always!

– From Pritam Potts

Coach Pritam Potts is a writer and strength trainer. After more than 16 years of educating athletes and clients of all ages as the co-owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. She writes about health & fitness, grief & loss, love & life at www.advancedathlete.com.