As some of you guys might know, I’ve been slowly but surely recovering after two back-to-back, well…back injuries. As someone who’s typically really active in their regular life, it’s definitely affected me both at a physical level and psychologically too – very fortunately though, I’ve learned to reassess how I go about wellness so that I can get stronger and better without triggering another injury again. While I wasn’t happy about dealing with this injury (then reinjuring myself) when it all first happened, I’ve actually learned so much about myself, my body and about how I need to approach my fitness as I get older (which is very front of mind with my birthday right around the corner).
Photos by Lindsay
First of all, it wasn’t until I got really good and injured that I realized just how much of my sense of confidence, self-esteem and identity were wrapped up in being someone who could kill it in an intense workout, “intense” being the operative word. In other words, being able to run a half marathon, do boot camp, power through a brutal spin class or lift really heavily were things that made me feel really alive and empowered – while I loved to squeeze in the odd yoga class here and there to help with stretching and alignment, it wasn’t what felt like “me.”
Naturally, not being able to do the things I love really got to me – I felt like I was weak, helpless and just really, really down on myself. But then, I really worked hard on moving past these personal associations I have with the high-intensity stuff and focused on what I really needed for my body right now, which was to get better, to really listen to it and to make sure I don’t let my strength/fitness slack.
The first two were easy enough – I’m super lucky to have people in my court who really watch me like a hawk and don’t let me jeopardize my recovery as it is (i.e. they don’t let me carry anything heavy, pick things up for me, etc), and one thing I’m really happy I’ve worked so hard on in recent years is mindfulness so that I can really tune in with my body. I meditate every day (see my how-to here if you haven’t yet) and make a concerted effort to check in and observe and record how my body is every day. Any sore spots? Any tightness? Did yesterday’s workout trigger anything in my injury spots (i.e. either my spine or lower back muscles)?
The thing I struggled with was finding a new workout. I went from being able to do anything to being extremely limited with what I could do, and every week that went by without me finding a routine meant I was losing muscle and weakening (which from an athlete’s standpoint always sucks, but especially with back injuries, you really need to keep the strength up).
Then I discovered (or rediscovered) two amazing things. The first one was The Dailey Method, which has honestly helped me so much with my recovery I can’t even adequately express it. It’s not just that they’ve somehow fused all the best of Pilates, yoga, strength training, barre and more, but there is such a focus in spine health. Did you know that most people in their lives experience some level of back pain or a disc/spinal injury of some sort? Take it from me, ensuring your spine is in tip top shape and making sure those small supporting muscles (and the all-important pelvis) are strong is so crucial. I’ve been going to The Dailey Method about 3-4 times a week now for a month and it has changed everything for me. What’s more, I feel like I’m toning up in places that were hard for me to get strong in even before my injury when I was working out and doing anything and everything. My triceps in particular and the hard-to-tone areas of my glutes and thighs have been feeling so much stronger. Just a little disclaimer by the way that this post is not being sponsored by The Dailey Method in any way! I just honestly love what the method has done for my body, love the welcome and warm vibe of everyone there (every instructor makes a point of getting to know you and remembering your name) and love that this is something I can continue to do for years without fear of injuring my back again or running my body down. If you haven’t tried it yet, please give it a try!!! You will be super sore the next day but I can guarantee you’ll want to go back for more.
The second thing that I’ve actually rediscovered is swimming. I swam competitively for years but for whatever reason, other than doing laps in the summer when the outdoor pools like Kits open up, I just kind of stopped doing it. I love supplementing my Dailey routine with about 2-3 swims a week – I’m definitely going to pull together an intro to swimming soon with an easy-to-do workout for any beginners out there, and who knows, I might touch base with one of my old coaches and see if we can get some more intermediate level workouts pulled together too! Doing about 2K though at a time has seriously impacted my cardio so much and I’m starting to really feel like the athlete I was again every time I dive into the water – I forgot what a great feeling it was to see that measurable improvement every time you run/swim/bike. Cardio is such a great way of really being able to track your progress because you’re usually always doing about the same distance/route when you’re starting out. Every time I hit my routine in the pool, I’m finding it easier and easier and can already see the improvements in my strength everywhere.
Finally, I’ve been heading out for a hike about once a week, taking an hour to get into nature and get some exercise all while I keep the impact low to protect my back and my joints (my poor hips in particular have taken a lot of heat since they’re overcompensating for my back). I also only bike/walk to commute, so every day in small ways I’m racking up my fitness.
So all in all, once I got over the fact that I wouldn’t be able to work out the same way I used to, I actually discovered some really amazing ways to regain my fitness without risking injury again (which is what I did last time, hitting the gym, spin class etc without easing in).
I have to give my little sister Isabelle major credit for all her support and help with this. As anyone who’s been seriously injured knows, if exercise is a way of life for you being out with an injury can honestly affect your life so intensely and so negatively. Isabelle has had back injuries for years (it’s a family thing if you can’t tell!) and last year, was out for literally months upon months with two bulging discs – it was so severe that she had to really discuss surgery options and had to take time out of her life in so many different ways to deal with a devastating injury. Fast forward to today and she’s now hitting the pool, doing Pilates, pumping weights and all in all, moving like a boss just about every day. She’s looking incredible, feeling super strong and really managing what was an extremely serious injury so well. She’s given me so much hope for being able to fully recover myself because her injury was far worse than mine and she’s literally killing it right now. I feel really lucky not only to have her as my sista (cause I always feel lucky about that), but to have such a present example of recovery right in front of me – it can feel so hopeless when you’re stuck in an injury cycle so having someone so near and dear crush it is amazing.
Finally, I’m just so excited to be able to finally get back to sharing one of the things I’m most passionate about in life with you guys: fitness! I’ll be working with The Dailey Method to share some workouts with you guys (they will burn and you will shake but you will love them, trust me), and as mentioned, can not wait to share ways for you to hit the pool because there are very few workouts that are as good for you while also doing the least wear and tear as swimming.
Ever experienced an injury or recovering from one now (or, just want anything specific fitness-wise)? Tell me in the comments below or email me!