I expected this. Not this exact injury, but I expected some amount of injury when I decided on this journey. On Monday, December 20, I injured my shoulder. The shoulder is a very complex joint, and there are many ways you can injury it. Thankfully, my injury didn’t turn out to be severe, but it is still cause for concern. Between the injury and the holidays, I missed a post. As such, this update will be a bit longer to fully encompass what I’ve been dealing with the last few weeks.
I was off to a great start. I was at Qi on Monday night, and I was excited. I had already done my standard cardio workout on the bike and elliptical machine. When you’re feeling great while working out, you just want to keep it going. So I headed downstairs and got to my strength training regiment. As noted in previous posts, I was still developing my sweet spot on some of the machines. The pectoral machine, however, was not one of these. I had struggled finishing my workout on the pectoral machine the previous week. I felt like I was at a decent maximum on that machine, and was ready to start “feeling the burn”.
Here’s the culprit:
Halfway through my second set, right as I was pushing forward, I heard a POP! in my left shoulder and instantly, pain set in. I was able to lower the weight without it coming crashing down using my right arm and the foot assist, but my left arm was essentially useless. It hurt, but it wasn’t the worst pain I had ever been in. I had zero strength in my left arm though, so I knew that it was more than just a little pain. I walked around for a bit, tried to use my arm, but I couldn’t summon the strength, and I knew that it wasn’t just going to go away. I packed up, and headed home. Once home I popped (pun soooo intended) a couple of ibuprofen and threw a bag of ice on my shoulder.
The following morning, it really hurt! I got sick to my stomach in the shower from the pain of trying to use it (note: it is awkward to do everything in the shower one-handed, and it is hard to remember that you are one-handed, so you end up trying to use the injured arm, and that is not good). I went into work, and called the doctor. I knew from a previous snowboarding injury that it is better to just go to the doctor and find out everything is ok than to wait forever, trying to tough it out, and go to the doctor later. Unfortunately, they were not able to get me in that day, so they scheduled me for the following morning. No problem – more ibuprofen and ice all day, and I was optimistic. The pain wasn’t so intense that I couldn’t focus, so I just had to deal with it. I playfully posted the information about the injury on reddit, asking for their unprofessional diagnosis. The general consensus was a rotator cuff tear – possible surgery, hopefully not. I was suddenly less optimistic.
A funny thing happened the following morning. Again, I wasn’t able to remember that I couldn’t use half of my body, so I kept trying to. As I was toweling off post-shower, I used my left arm to reach across my body, and I heard a POP! in my left shoulder. Pretty much instantly, most of the pain was gone; most of my range of motion was back. I couldn’t really understand what had just happened. Was it possible that my shoulder had been dislocated this entire time, and it had just popped back in? Did I make something worse? Am I a one man band?
I went to the doctor. I was able to do all of his tests, with a little bit of pain at the extremes. His diagnosis: I dislocated a tendon, and the second POP! while toweling was the tendon putting itself back into place. The tendon sits in a groove and connects muscles in the front and back of your shoulder (I couldn’t tell you what the names are, maybe you can pick it up from title picture). I just dislodged that tendon from the groove, and that made it both weak and painful. Thankfully, if all goes according to plan, no surgery will be needed. Essentially all I need for a benchmark is pain – if the pain goes away, I can strengthen my shoulder muscles and tendons slowly, and end up better off in the end. If, on the other hand, the pain increases or doesn’t ever go away, I’ll need to return to the doctor and I will likely have to undergo my first MRI. Here’s to hoping that doesn’t need to happen.
Today, it’s been about 2 weeks since the injury. There is still some pain, but it has diminished quite a bit. In fact, last night I was able to sleep with my left arm outstretched for the first time since the injury. The pain seems to be a rarer and rarer event, such as if I reach up over my head to grab a heavy object. Thankfully, I can towel off without pain now. 😉
My results over the last two weeks – down 1.2 pounds and .2% body fat overall (194.6 and 22%) – are encouraging. What is really encouraging is that I did it over two of the worst diet-buster holidays (Christmas and New Years) AND without exercising. I knew that with the injury I’d need to take some amount of time away from exercise. Maybe, I’ve taken too much. At the same time though, I knew that if I ate smart as often as possible over this time period, I should be able to weather the storm. I wanted to make sure to not worsen my injury or reinjure myself, and the holidays already make it hard to find time to exercise, so I took the time off.
Both Christmas Eve and Christmas itself were indulgent, to be sure. With many lunches consisting of salads, and dinner of snacking like a Frenchman, I still managed to end up ok. Unfortunately, too much time has passed for my poor memory to recall exactly what I ate each day. This will be different in January, as you’ll see below.
This will be short: I didn’t exercise! It was nice to take a break, but I’m excited to get back on it.
My doctor recommended that I take time off lifting any real weight with my shoulders, but only until the pain is gone. At that point, he says I should take the weight I was at when I injured myself, cut it in half, and go slow. I do want to continue strength training, I just need to make sure that I’m not stressing my atrophied body too much.
After taking two weeks off of exercise, I’m not quite sure what to expect from my body. For cardio work, I plan on trying to pick up right where I left off. I will probably check my shoulder pain and determine whether or not using the arm grips are worth it, or if it is better to keep them steady during the elliptical trainer. I’m not quite ready to start lifting again yet, so I’ll put that off for another week.
For my diet, I am doing an experiment in the month of January that has already begun. As previously alluded to, I was trying out different calorie tracker apps for my phone, and have settled upon My Fitness Pal. For the entire month, I’ll be tracking my entire calorie intake/output. I like My Fitness Pal so far, and it is nice that I can include my exercise with my calculations. Many people advocate not counting the calories you spend exercising, because it will give you the false feeling that you can eat much more. I feel like if I track it, I can be exact about it enough to include it and not become delusional about how much I can eat. The greater danger lies in thinking you burnt 1000 calories so you eat an additional 1000 calories, and it turns out that you really only burnt 500 calories. Accuracy matters here, and I think My Fitness Pal does a good job. I’m trying to figure out if I want to weigh in every day, which is supported by My Fitness Pal. It would be nice to put a little badge on the site showing how much I have lost, but it’s really not essential. For now, I’m going to lay off of it, but no promises that you won’t see some badge in that sidebar. 🙂