I Don’t Like to be Told……
I just finished another workout from the book, Mass Made Simple by Dan John. The workout is specifically geared towards building mass, and nothing else. With race season winding down, I’ve decided to fully dedicate myself to strength training. I have spent more time as a race volunteer this year than actually racing and it’s given me a different perspective. I am not sure what I think of it yet. Don’t get me wrong, I love to help, but I also love competition and it’s hard to be on the sidelines instead of mixing it up. I have also been suffering with low motivation for endurance training since I have had no competitions to train for. With that being said, I have found it easier to strength train. I can squeeze it in between clients since I am already at the gym. So this Mass Made Simple program really is a simple one, not easy, just simple (maybe I am reading too much Dan John, because I am starting to sound like him). It includes five different exercises and one complex (6 different exercises done consecutively without setting down the barbell). Dan John claims that the real secret to building mass is the high rep back squat. Starting more conservatively, but eventually building up to a 50 rep set with as heavy of a weight as you can handle with good form. I don’t have a lot of past experience squatting, so I find this to be the most interesting aspect of the program. It has also been the toughest, and it leaves me huffing and puffing on the mat at the completion of a long set. That’s beside the point and not completely what this post is about. I will blog about my experience with the workout in the future. Let me get to the point. Before the workout, I was cleaning out one of the drawers in my night stand where I have put everything believed to be worth keeping. In the pile of cards, pictures, and mementos were a bunch of race ribbons. I started reminiscing about all the races I have done in the past. I’ve competed in everything from a 100 meter sprint to a 50K, and from sprint to long course (Half Ironman Distance) in multisport races. I am also able to squat and deadlift without any problems and I am feeling pretty grateful for it at the moment. When I was in my teens, I injured my knees several times and I was told I wouldn’t be able to participate in high impact activities.
The knee injuries started in my teenage years. I had several episodes where my knee cap dislocated, and in one particularly painful incident on the basketball court, I tore some significant cartilage. I ended up having surgery to remove chunks of cartilage and smooth out the jagged remains of the meniscus. I was told that my kneecap didn’t track properly and this was mostly due to genetics (a shallow groove where the patella sits). However, it probably had more to do with muscle imbalances and weakness. I played sports but never did any forms of strength training. I continued to struggle with pain after surgery and rehab, so the doctor convinced me to have another surgery known as a lateral release. Apparently, lateral releases have been found to have mediocre results and they no longer perform them. Physical therapy has been proven to be more effective than the procedure (so I have been told by a physical therapist). I struggled with limited mobility and pain from that point on. I was told countless times by many different doctors that I would need to forget about running, playing basketball, and performing squats. It was going to be a lifetime of swimming and biking for me (which by the way, are awesome sports, just not of interest to me at the time). I became very depressed, inactive, and sorry for myself. It was a very bad combination and a dark time for someone who thrived on activity. I transferred up to the University of Oregon for a change of scenery and along with it, an unexpected attitude adjustment. Thankfully, my friends were active people and I started going to the gym with them. We would strength train and then play basketball. Even though my knee hurt, I decided I was going to do all the things I once did. I was determined, and knew things probably couldn’t get much worse with my knee, so I might as well try to have some fun. Something interesting happened, each week, I felt stronger, and my knee felt better. Eventually, I was back to 100%, playing basketball as well as ever, and able to grab the rim. It didn’t happen overnight, it was a slow process, but a consistent one. Up until recently, I still had the bottle of knee cartilage (a few years ago, I looked in it and it had all dried up). I know that probably sounds weird, but it was a memento from a dark time in my life. It was also a symbol of what we can overcome if we have a positive attitude, commit to making a change, and consistently engage in activities that can propel us toward our goals. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that I don’t like being told what I can’t do. The doctors told me I probably shouldn’t do the activities I enjoyed, and I decided to show them that I could.
We are shaped by our experiences. These trying times in my life are the reason why I am so interested in movement. My mobility was poor and it appeared it would be that way forever. When I see people in public who don’t move well, maybe they limp, or have an awkward gait, I always wonder if I can help them. I am not unrealistic. I know that some injuries are irreversible and have to be accepted, but I think everyone can get stronger, and move a little better (even if it’s only a little bit). It takes work, consistent work. I wrote a blog post about how consistent training pays off, and you can read that here. I might just be overly optimistic, but I believe everyone can make those positive changes, they just need to believe it. Okay, here’s the deal. I’ve been consistently typing these blog posts for every week of the year so far. I would like to hear from you. I am sure there are many of you who have overcome physical challenges when the odds were stacked against you. Share your story in the comments. Maybe we can help people realize that amazing things do happen, and will happen!