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Injury During Training

It finally happened: dealing with an injury while training.

It was almost inevitable. One week after the completion of the Tri-State Super Spartan Race, I injured my shoulder. I train seven days a week with various activities. The weekends usually consist of a trail run or two, basketball, and football. During Sunday football, of course, I took a light fall to the ground and landed on my right shoulder. I heard a little crunch and then the pain arrived.

I was more in disbelief that I just got hurt. All I kept thinking was, “I just conquered an 11 mile race and THIS is how I got hurt!” One of the guys who plays football is a trainer and seemed to do some tests to see what the injury was. He told me to see a doctor the next day. I knew it wasn’t that bad, but I couldn’t lift my arm without there being tremendous pain. I just stayed positive and went home to ice it. I really wanted to continue playing, but felt I would be a tad bit ineffective without being able to lift one arm.

I became really depressed throughout the day. I have hurt my ankle many times before and had to rest it a few weeks. I would usually gain 10 pounds, slowly return to exercise, and make excuses about my ankle whenever I didn’t feel like working out. But I couldn’t let my old mindset come back. Currently, in my opinion, I am in the best shape of my life and only want to improve. This injury is a major setback physically and mentally, especially because I am poised to complete my season with the Tri-State Tough Mudder, a very difficult 12 mile 30+ obstacle race, on October 20th. I decided that I would do everything possible to stay in shape and be ready for that race. I would not lose my motivation!

It’s amazing how useful and yet unhelpful the internet can be. Before visiting a doctor, I researched everything imaginable about a shoulder injury. Apparently, whatever you want to be true can. Ice or heat? Some say ice, some say heat. Recovery time? One week, one year. The list goes on. I was not about to let the internet diagnose and rehabilitate me. I scheduled an appointment with a very good sports medicine doctor for that Tuesday. I was on the right track.

Monday I decided to go to the walk-in clinic. They have X-ray machines and maybe could steer me on the right path to recovery sooner. I arrive at the clinic, fill out hundreds of pages of information, wait 30 minutes, wait in another room for 20 minutes, and a “doctor” walks in, tells me to remove my shirt, stares at me like I am an alien, makes me move my arm in a few directions while they stand as far away from me as the walls would allow, writes something down in “my file,” gives me a prescription for prescription strength Advil, and leaves the room without a good bye. I was so positive it was a hidden camera show that I actually waited for the host to walk in. After 5 minutes, I left—no host, no cameras (I hope). I went home for more ice; the swelling was ridiculous. I was becoming more and more discouraged.

Tuesday, still painful. I went to the sports medicine doctor. This place is pretty well-known in New Jersey and has a great reputation. I was hoping they would give me a more definitive diagnosis than the “reality show clinic.” They have a training doctor come in first to evaluate you and then the real doctor comes in and they compare evaluations. It sounds better than it is. The doctor in training immediately wanted to give me a cortisone shot. I wasn’t too keen on the idea. A few minutes later the real doctor came in, after consulting with the training doctor, and goes into more detail: arm movements, feeling around, etc. He then asks me if I want a cortisone shot. I say, “I want to get better.” He says, “It is up to you.”

I really don’t understand what this world is coming to. Maybe it’s just me, but what on earth makes me qualified enough to determine if I need a cortisone shot. I don’t even know if I’m spelling cortisone right. I told him I’d rather not and then I got the “look.” I should have told him that the chapter on cortisone shots was omitted from my Harvard medical textbook. This guy was some joker. Then he finally gave me some comfort. I lay on my back and he snapped my neck in both directions, telling me that my alignment was out of place. I immediately felt better, well not a lot, but better. I was diagnosed with a sprained shoulder. He told me to take it easy this week, gave me a sheet with some shoulder workouts for my own physical therapy, and gave me assurance that I’d be ready for my race. That’s all I wanted. My discouragement was gone and my motivation was back.

I have dropped my strength training until I feel better. Instead, I’ve been running—I’ve been running a lot. I turned this injury into something positive. I switched my routine, for the time being, to incorporate working on my endurance and speed rather than strength. I know, in the end, that this can only help me more during a race. I feel that even though I didn’t want to be injured, this was a good change of pace. It’s nice to switch things up a little from time to time.

Again, I was never a runner until a few months ago. With this new running routine I am catching the bug six days a week. The only problem is the shorter days—I’m running at 6 am, in the woods of the Watchung Reservation, with a flashlight and a cell phone. It is incredibly dark, and usually foggy like a horror film. I run in total panic mode like I’m being chased by zombies. I’ve become addicted to the fear; I love it.

Currently, I have 12 days until my race. I feel like my shoulder is around 70% and getting stronger every day. I do not want to hurt it further, but I am determined to be prepared for this race. However, if I feel unsure, I won’t do it. I will be happy with my season and know that I need to continue training throughout the winter in order to be in competitive shape for the twelve races I have scheduled for next year. The first is a zombie race called Run for Your Lives. I feel like I have an edge with the training I am doing now. I am again very grateful for Obstacle Course Racing and the way it has changed my life. Whether it be my eating habits, workout routine, or rehab of an injury, I now do things with one goal in mind: to be the best I can be. I’m sure you’ll be reading my review of the Tough Mudder in the next few weeks. Gotta Run!

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