30 days post injury. The pain is mostly gone, my fingers and right arm have regained their sensation, my gross and fine motor skills seem to be fully intact. My strength is up to at least 85% and my fitness believe it or not has improved (…could I have been over training before?)
For the first week after the injury, I did not exercise – at all! I sat idle. I complained. I cried. I watched TV. I got frustrated trying to make small movements. Rinse and repeat.
During week 2 I focused on circulation, light range of motion and introduced therapeutic modalities (some passive and active stretching, very light shoulder, neck and back rehab movements – the focus was on restoring normal range of motion). I also spent quite a bit of time in a hot tub immediately followed by ice. Anything that elicited pain (especially referred pain down my arm and into my chest) was a no no. During the latter part of this week I added faster walking, stationery biking, light core work and air squats. I did a lot of transverse abdominal work and isometric contractions of all muscle groups that did not hurt. In short, I trained by feel. There were some good days and some bad days. By the end of this week I was starting to be able to lie down on my own without severe pain. My right hand and forearm were still numb, and I had tons of pain around my scapula and upper back.
Week 3 I made tremendous progress. I was able to introduce slow lifts, many bodyweight exercises, and running. I avoided all movements that compromised my cervical position. Dumbells provided a safer movement path for me than barbells and allowed me to train both sides independently. During this week, I introduced my first met-con – a modified Cindy. As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of 5 body rows, 10 push-ups, 15 air squats. I completed 23 rounds (paying very close attention to form) and was ecstatic. This workout was the first time that I felt capable in nearly 3 weeks. I didn’t do pull-ups and it was 5 rounds short of my Cindy PR but it felt like the greatest athletic accomplishment I ever had. During this week I made careful assessments of how I felt during the workout, immediately after and over the course of the next 24 hours. Once again, I used pain as my indicator. If I exhibited any symptoms that were distal (such as numbness in my forearm or hand) then I knew I had made a poor choice. I programmed for one day at a time based on how I felt.
Week 4 I experienced more physical improvements, but more importantly I was finally out of my “funk” and stopped feeling sorry for myself. My mood was better and my confidence was creeping back. I was starting to think of my injury as a positive and necessary experience that would make me a better trainer and a stronger person. I was able to reintroduce pull-ups, back squats, and nearly all movements with the exception of heavy deadlifts and olympic lifts. There was no exact science or manual that I read for this. Any movement that was causing me pain prior to the injury I was especially cautious with, and I introduced them one at a time so that I could gauge my body’s reaction. This week resembled a typical week of crossfit, some strength workouts, some met-cons, and even a 5k row (yucky!). At the very end of the 4 week period , 25 days post injury, I resumed the program I had designed for myself (see the New Program post from 12/07/09).
Yesterday, I did Diane (3 rounds of 21-15-9 of Deadlifts and Handstand Push-ups). I put my ego aside and used the women’s Rx weight of 155lbs for the deadlifts. I finished with a time of 5:11 which is nearly 3 minutes slower than my PR. I was cautious and exacting with my deads and I broke the handstand push-ups into several sets on the last 2 rounds. Oddly, I was not upset, I felt great about it. I’m back – new and improved!