Two Arms for a Leg










Well, I’ve gone and done it now.

After the onset of minor foot pain one morning (which may have been followed by a heavy squat session), I find myself condemned to crutches, waiting not-so-patiently for the results of my radiograph. (Radiographs are x-ray images; I just wanted to sound smart.) As luck will have it, the onset of this injury was well-timed with the closure of the South Park YMCA, thus affording me time to put my feet up and heal. (At this time, I will choose not to delve into the series of foolish episodes that contributed to my currently crippled state.)

I’ll admit, I underestimated the crutches. (How hard can it be to do the work of a single leg, anyway?) “Awesome,” I thought, “Now I’ll be able to easily strut around like one of those Landstriders from The Dark Crystal!”

How wrong I was.

It turns out that crutches are pretty hard to use (especially when you’re bottom-heavy). Mobility WOD has put out several videos on surviving the crutches on a physical level, which have been incredibly helpful over the past week. The movement tips that Kelly Starrett describes in the video will no doubt spare me from a host of other issues that my lack of crutch technique would have won me after a few weeks. It was also critical to learn how to recover from a hard day limping around because using those damn things is, indeed, more physically demanding than I had previously believed. (My triceps are totally shot after a few minutes.)

The physical challenge goes beyond weight-bearing, however. When you are handed a pair of crutches, you’re suddenly facing a world littered with obstacles. Stray shoes, lacrosse balls, bath towels, affectionate cats; EVERYTHING CAN TRIP YOU. It’s going to try, too. (Especially the cats.) Your solution should be two-fold: keep a tidy apartment (said the pot to the kettle), and learn to be nimble on those sticks. (You can even give your techniques cool names, like the Cat-Vault!) Learning how to make some basic maneuvers like sidestepping and going up stairs might save you a lot of hassle in the field.

There is also a bit of a practical issue that arises when you trade both of your arms for a temporary leg, and that is one of occupied hands. As I write this, I’m enjoying a cup of coffee that I (drum roll) managed to carry FROM THE KITCHEN to my desk. Myself. This is by virtue of having reached a point in my recovery where I can use a single crutch (on the opposite side of the injury, people) and thus free up one of my valuable, valuable graspers. The majority of the week leading up to now has seen a very useless Mitch having his coffee carried for him by his sympathetic and loving girlfriend. (Honorable mention goes out to our roommate, who has been a big help and actually fetched these crutches for me on his bicycle earlier in the week.)

The silver lining to being somewhat sluglike in both my physical capacity, behaviour, and ability to contribute to the completion of household chores is that it has afforded me ample time to devote to learning and meditation. Thus far I have spent very little time doing those things (compared to the amount of time I’ve spent playing Dark Souls), but I fully intend to get my shit together soon.

It’s just that being injured, for an athlete, is pretty much the worst thing ever. The psychological challenge has been much greater than the physical. It’s that squirming, gnawing hunger of an active body craving movement combined with the anxiety that comes packaged with weeks of missed training time and the slow deterioration of strength and skills. It’s bad enough being injured when you’re not an athlete (it’s still REALLY inconvenient), but when movement is your thing you suffer enormously.

With previous injuries, the psychological strain has been crippling. (What a wimp, right?) The only thing that has kept my head above the surface of despair this time around is a slowly forming understanding that training is a lifelong pursuit, not a race to the finish. Yes, I’m going to lose a little strength and yes, my skills are going to get a little rusty. But the training weeks I miss on crutches will be a drop in the bucket of training years to come. (Also, I feel like strutting on these crutches is going to transfer well to ring support).

Yeah, injuries suck. You didn’t need to read my whining to know that. The important thing is to not let the injury win! (I was going to say crutches, but they are my allies, not my enemies…) Don’t let it have any more impact on your life than absolutely necessary. Do everything you need to heal, yes, and don’t be a meathead, but don’t let your entire lifestyle unravel just because you can’t train. (Whoa, it’s like he’s talking to himself here!) Besides, continuing to eat well, sleep well, mobilize, and move as much as possible will only help you heal up faster. (This isn’t the first time I’ve wanted a Marc Pro more than anything.)

Got a whiney injury story of your own? Learn anything useful? (If not, that’s an opportunity missed for sure!) Post to the comments below!

[Yeesh, getting an idea from my head to paper has been a trial! And after a bold statement of future consistency too. In my defense, there are three other half-finished blog posts rotting away in this folder.]

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One thought on “Two Arms for a Leg

  1. Mitch! This is my first time visiting your site, but after reading this article you are guaranteed a regular reader.
    After breaking my 5th metatarsal a week ago I have been struggling with the huge hit to my lifestyle and levels of general happiness. Reading this really clarified a lot to me, and hugely backs up the conversation I had with myself in the mirror last night.
    “8 weeks of this… then you have 75 years to recover and improve… You can do it”
    So far I’ve improvised and altered my movements so that I can at least maintain some of my well-earned mobility. Believe me though, even shoulder swings get harder when you’re balancing on your knees.
    I found your post while searching for Kelly Starrett’s word on the topic of surviving this, and you’re right too recommend his videos. It’s much more effective to be mindful about how I’m moving on the crutches.
    Finally my own piece of advice – I’ve found that by hanging from a pullup bar or some such, I am able to continue to mobilise my hips, knees, and ankles on both my affected leg and my unaffected leg. The left leg (which now is doing all of my standing) is already a beast with balance, but moving the joints through a (nearly) full range of motion is doing wonders.
    Thanks again mate

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