Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dealing With Injuries: Part I

I wanted to write this post for awhile but I thought now was a fitting time given my current problems with my IT band.

As I have mentioned many times before, I was a competitive swimmer at the national level for 12 years. Swimming was what I was passionate about and was what kept me sane. It was essentially the most important aspect of my life.

I had always had some knee trouble and very flexible shoulders but I managed to stay relatively uninjured. I had some flare ups here or there but nothing that kept me out of the water.

Then, during my junior year of high school I broke my finger. The girl swimming in front of me kicked my finger and shattered everything in it. The bones were crushed, the ligaments and tendons destroyed. I went to the doctor and was told that I would need surgery immediately but I still probably wouldn't be able to make a fist again.

Due to the surgery I was out of the water for a month, which is a long time in the swimming world. I went to practice everyday and busted my ass cross training to keep some of my fitness. I pushed myself everyday and soon enough I was back in the water. With a lot of motivation and hard work I regained full use of my finger and hand. I actually ended up having a really great season, surprisingly.

Fast forward to the summer before my senior year of high school. I had been having a lot of shoulder pain that just wouldn't go away. I went to see my doctor and was informed that I had torn my rotator cuff and that I would need surgery in order to fix it.

I was devastated when I heard this news, but was even more crushed when I learned I would be out of the water for another four months. I could absolutely not believe I needed surgery twice in less than one year.

But I was serious about my swimming and wanted to do whatever was necessary to get me back in the water. At this point, swimming in college was something that I was very serious about and I knew that in order to be taken seriously by college coaches I needed to get back in the water.

I went through four intense months of physical therapy before I was able to start kicking again. It wasn't swimming but it was better than nothing. I was able to start swimming again in November, which was the same time of year I started after my first surgery. I had hope that my senior season wasn't going to be a complete bust.

But my coach was not the most supportive person. When I asked him about competing again he told me I would make a fool of myself and that "no coach or spectator would want to see me swim" because I wasn't in my best shape.

I quit on the spot. I had been swimming long enough to know some really great workouts and to know that I wanted nothing to do with this coach ever again. I was absolutely terrified about training without a coach for the first time but I knew it was the right thing for me to do.

Even without a coach though, I trained my ass off and had a really great season. I have never been more proud of myself. Everything that I had achieved that season was because of only me, I had done absolutely everything by myself. I even managed to get a spot on the University of Pittsburgh swimming roster.

Over the summer I joined a swim team that was about 45 minutes away from my house with one of my former swim coaches. I knew that if I was going to swim in college I would need to train with a coach again. But I loved training with him and I was so happy about where my swimming career was going.

When I went to school I was not in the best shape of my life but I was pretty darn close. I trained hard everyday because I had earned this spot. But as early as October of my freshman season I was having some trouble.

My left arm kept going numb and my hand was turning blue. I went to the ER a few times, where they initially thought I was having a stroke. It was then discovered that I had an extra rib near my neck which, you guessed it, required surgery.

I was more than devastated. I knew that I could no longer swim competitively. I didn't know what to do with myself. I had always been a swimmer and suddenly I wasn't anymore. I gained weight and completely stopped working out. I became depressed and was in a really bad place.

I had my surgery in January of my freshman year of college and stayed at home for my spring semester to let my body properly heal. The recovery was long and painful, but I began to develop hope.

I had been inspired by the New York City Marathon earlier in the year and so I began to run as soon as I was cleared to do any form of physical activity. I have absolutely fallen in love with running ever since but I have learned a lot about myself and about sports during this time.

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