As most of you know, I discontinued my competition prep this past fall. The reasons being stress, and an injury I needed to heal. These were both legitimate reasons, however, the latter has caused me, and is still causing me more trouble than anything I have ever experienced. However, despite how horrible my situation may have been/ still is, it has transformed me for the better.
I have had problems with a hip injury since its onset during a workout session in early January of 2013. It came in a series of sporadic periods. During its first arise, it healed fairly quickly with the aid of a local chiropractor, rest, and a ton of stretching. However, the second occurrence didn’t go so smoothly. It was only after 6 weeks of physical therapy, and very low intensity weight training that the symptoms subsided. I was relieved that I had rid myself of the injury once again, however, I still did not know what type of injury was actually causing the pain. If you believe you have a serious injury, do not simply rest it. Get it checked out, and thoroughly at that. That doesn’t mean see a doctor who twists your arms and legs around while asking what’s wrong, and then sending you on your way. When I say to find out what’s wrong, I mean MRI testing, x-rays, and/or whatever it takes to get a solid diagnosis from a qualified practitioner. In fact, I would strongly suggest getting multiple opinions. I waited far too long to do this, and now I am paying for it big time.
The pain subtly returned in April of 2015. Not as a sharp painful moment, but a slowly worsening discomfort. This was unfortunately the same time that I started the competition prep for my professional debut. As the prep went on the symptoms worsened. It was about halfway through the prep, that the pain became unbearable. I was in pain most of the day, and avoided heavier exercises; yes… I was still exercising. I regret that I continued through it, but my goal-oriented personality kept me foolishly chugging away. At only 9 weeks out from the first show, the pain was so bad that I could hardly do day-to-day activities, let alone workout. It was at that moment that I went to a specialist. I was referred to Dr. Petre, who actually happens to be the official physician of the Olympic snowboard team. He then sent me to get an MRI of my hips, which unfortunately showed nothing. This pissed me off severely, because I knew something was wrong, and I felt he thought I was overreacting to something. At this point he referred me to a spine specialist, Dr. Lynch (who happens to be a fellow Mountaineer). Dr. Lynch then sent me to get another MRI, but of my lower back this time.
It was October 30th, 2015 when I was told the worst news I have ever heard. Dr. Lynch had informed me that his diagnosis was a slight herniation of the spinal disc between my L4 and L5 vertebrae. For those of you who don’t know much about body-related injuries, let me explain to you what this injury means in the words of my doctor. “As a bodybuilder, you would have been better off breaking both of your arms in a car accident”. This is because a disc problem doesn’t exaclty heal. When you break your arm, it will eventually set, seal, and calcify, a disc injury does not. According to Dr. Lynch, the cause of the injury was not solely related to lifting, in fact, hardly at all. He informed me that its nature reflected more of a long term development, and he began asking me about my history. At that moment, everything became clearer than a mid-summer’s day. For those of you who
may not know my past, I was once a sponsored skateboarder. I threw myself down large ledges and steps multiple times a day, for years. This, and the fact that both of my parents have a history of back-related injuries, were believed to be the biggest cause of my misfortune. He believed that I may have had this injury for several years, and that the lifting incident had officially initiated the symptoms.
The first couple of weeks after I received the news I was in a state of denial. I would say things to myself like “I will just heal this up, and pick up with prep in the spring”. However, this was certainly not the case. November came and went, then December. During that time the symptoms got even worse. I was in pain, severe pain. Whether I sat, stood, or laid down, it didn’t matter. It was unbearable, and quite frankly taxing my mind and soul. I didn’t handle it very well, either. I took it out on others, and avoided doing a lot of things. I’m not going to lie, there were plenty of times where I would completely break down and cry. It was like no matter what I was doing, or how much fun I was having, there remained a voice in my head screaming at the top of its lungs “YOU’RE IN PAIN, AND YOU CAN’T DO WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO ANYMORE!”.
January came, a new year right? I’m not one to make resolutions, but heck, it was certainly needed this year. It was at that point that I told myself enough was enough. I needed to cut the bullsh!t, accept the hand I was dealt, and make the best of the situation. I made the initiative to become proactive, and not reactive. I spent the time I would normally be working out doing other, but just as productive tasks. I began reading everything, up to 3 books a week. These books were usually self-improvement and nutrition/fitness genres. I found satiety in sharpening my mind and my craft. I began praying more, and becoming more involved with the church. I also focused on my graduate school interviews, and improving my business. I constantly told myself that I would become someone who will achieve great things, and inspire others. So, I focused all of my time and energy on that, each and every day. It was at that time I became overwhelmed with a sense of well-being and happiness. My drive was greater than ever, and I realized that the passion I had lost was not gone, but had instead transformed into something else, something greater.
I realized that lifting weights, and always looking shredded had turned me into a selfish person. It had caused me to miss out on life, and it was unbelievably unsustainable. I would leave family gatherings, and sometimes skip them all together. In fact, my obsessive attitude during my senior year of college had caused me to push away a girl whom I believe was my soulmate, even to this day. While this injury has put me through hell, it has been somewhat of a blessing. It has pulled me out of the dark in which my former self was hiding, and has brought me into the light. That light is the drive to create a future I will love, the enjoyment to cherish every moment with my family, and to actually take appreciation for the life I was missing out on for so many years.
I’m not sure you have kept up with my business, or my life’s happenings, so I will just tell you anyway. Over the past couple of months, I have increased my business productivity by 100%, and I have officially been accepted to a doctorate of physical therapy program (5 to be exact!). More importantly, though, I have realized what truly matters in life, and I have discovered myself more than ever. All of which would not have been attainable without my misfortune, my journey to self-improvement, and my relationship with God. As of now, I am slowly easing back into the weights, with a larger focus on bio-mechanics and proper form. I am also continuing to improve my business every day, whilst maintaining healthy relationships with those around me. Of course there are days where I feel physically and psychologically under the weather, but my new found outlook on life allows me to easily manage these times. It’s moments like these when your world completely changes. You can let it pull you into a dark alley where you will let go of all your hopes and dreams, while becoming depressed, and feeling sorry for yourself. Or, you could do what I did. Man up, face the issues head on, focus on the greater things in life, and make a positive out of a horrible negative. This may seem impossible at times, but with a little faith in yourself, and a lot of faith in God, you can and will, grow for the better because of it.
I truly hope this inspires others who may or may not be facing similar dilemmas. If you enjoyed this post, then I invite you to follow a new series I am starting. This will be more of a personal series, as opposed to my usual fitness-type entries. I will be discussing things such as my thoughts on life, personal growth, my experience during graduate school, and of course the journey of my injury rehab.