I woke up today with one mission: complete a workout. It’s been too long. I’ve barely done anything since my ankle injury, more than two months ago. I did nothing more strenuous than walk down the street, and that’s a big blow for me. I teach martial arts; I’m addicted to fitness. I love moving and pushing my body to new limits. Getting super sweaty after an intense workout is almost a badge of honour, something to say that I did good work just then. I haven’t felt that in more than two months. That changed today.
My whole week, in fact, had been planned for this exact moment. Today was the best day to do it, as I have the lightest schedule and no other obligations. Nonetheless, I needed to get it done early. If I didn’t do it first thing, I might not do it at all. I might lose my nerve, or something might come up. Something always comes up if you wait long enough. The night before I went to bed early so I could get up early this morning. Let’s do it.
I went through my normal morning routine, the same thing I did for workout day. I wake up and have my usual breakfast, oatmeal with nuts and fruit. I skipped my tea, as it sometimes makes me bloated if I move too fast after drinking a hot cup. I ate quickly but not too quickly, not so much to get a cramp. I need my belly full but not overfull. I didn’t have much of an appetite, but I knew I needed it, so I ate anyway.
I then did perhaps the most important part, my morning meditation. This might seem counterintuitive, as I’m gearing up to do an active workout … by sitting around and doing nothing. I’ll admit, it does sound strange, but it works. I discovered it by accident during the summer. Back then, I had my day planned to do something in the morning and then my workout in the early afternoon, as I worked in the late afternoon. Someone called in sick, though, and I needed to go in early. I found this out just after completing my morning meditation.
I decided to get my workout in right then, as I might not have the energy to do a good workout after a double shift. I didn’t dally, and I ended up having one of my best workouts of the entire summer. My mind was incredibly focused. My mind didn’t wander between sets or reps, and I had no trouble holding my long static positions like the plank. It was as if my mind focused on nothing but the task at hand. I finished that session both faster and with better form.
After a bit of experimentation, I found that meditating, even briefly, right before my workout gave me much better results. It’s almost like a warm-up for my mind, getting me focused on what needs to be done. Crucially, it blocks out the distractions, things like your worries about the rest of your day. When you don’t have that weighing you down, things become a lot easier. If you haven’t tried it, it’s worth a shot. I now notice a big difference when I don’t have a chance to meditate before a workout.
Anyway, I did my meditation and then immediately went to work. I do all my training at home, as I do not like going to the gym. I feel slightly intimidated going to the gym, to be honest, and having to share equipment makes me feel very conscientious. I always worry I might be getting in someone’s way or interfering with someone else’s workout. I spend so much time concerned with this that I get very little done. Best to just stay home, really.
Besides, my training has increasingly become bodyweight only. I do various push-ups, rows, pull-ups, dips, that sort of thing. I’ve written about this before: I follow a series of progressions based on gymnastics strength principles. I do simple bodyweight moves that progress and progress into harder and more rewarding exercises. I goal I’ve had for years is to get the full front lever, and I am slowly getting closer to that goal.
Right now, though, I’m nowhere close to that, mostly because I haven’t worked out in two months. The results, of course, were predictable: I sucked. I struggled to do basic push-ups. I only managed 50 total push-ups, five sets of 10. Keep in mind, these are perfect push-ups: chest to ground, elbows by the side, moderate tempo, very slight hold at the bottom. At the end of the summer I could easily do three sets of 30 as a warm-up before my main training, but alas, two months off will do that to.
My numbers across the board fell, as I expected them to. I only got 20 bodyweight rows in, and I had nothing left in the tank for pull-ups. I limped across the finish line, less than 50% in every exercise compared to my pre-injury state, with the exception of my legwork, oddly enough. I performed my normal shrimp-squat reps and sets with maybe a little extra burning, but not much. Considering I had an ankle injury and couldn’t even walk for a week, the surprised me.
Indeed, some might object here and wonder why I didn’t do any upper body maintenance work while I was injured. Indeed, you would think an injured ankle shouldn’t matter for doing push-ups. It does. I could not put any weight on my foot, and the basic push-up position still puts significant stress on the ankle.
What about pull-ups, you might say. Surely being suspended in air means your ankle would be perfectly fine. Again, you would be wrong. When doing a pull up, your lower body does not simply flop around. It is tense, engaged, to avoid energy leaks. Amazingly, just that tension was enough to aggravate my ankle. Again, I had strained the inner ligaments, so they were very susceptible to pressure, even simply maintaining lower body tension. This also explains why I could not simply do a push-up with only one leg on the ground; the act of holding my injured leg up put enough tension to irritate the ankle, and in the early stages that irritation was quite extreme.
In short, though I likely could perform such exercises, they would simply delay my recovery. As it is, I did complete rest and it still took two months to heal. I can only imagine how long it would have taken if I kept doing irritable exercises. Indeed, I paid extra attention to make sure I didn’t feel anything untoward within my ankle, and it was fine. Good as new.
By the end, I had collapsed in a sweaty pile. It lasted less than an hour, as most of my workouts do. I would rather work out hard and short then drag it out for several hours. As I sank into my post workout stretch, feeling my various muscles all a can complain about the abuse they had not had to endure for several months now, as I drank a gallon the water to replace my last sweat, as I struggled to catch my breath, I realized something.
I was happy. No, I was ecstatic.
It felt so good to move again it may only have been months, but it felt like years. The human body was designed to be moved, and I’ve spent most of my life moving it, whether through martial arts or just fitness in general. Moving feels good. Workouts feel good. They don’t always feel good during the workout, but afterwards you have such a glow.
And I had had a terrible workout. I struggled to complete my sets and reps, and I did nowhere near what I could do, but that didn’t matter. Even a poor workout filled me with supreme satisfaction. I can barely wait from month from now, when I’m back to speed, to see how it feels to pump out the old sets and reps. I can barely wait, though I’ll have to. There’s no rushing back after an injury, and that’s fine by me