I’ve had many comebacks, like losing 50 pounds after my twins and getting my strength and stamina back after a three-week illness that left me quite debilitated. But my greatest comeback story is conquering my knee pain.
Even as a physical therapist, I accepted that injuries in my youth meant running, squats, and stairs would always be painful. I could do everything I needed to take care of my family and participate in other sports, like swimming and cycling, so I was supposed to be grateful. It wasn’t until I approached the problem from a point of view beyond simple function that I began to experience less knee pain.
My most remarkable comeback was when I went from being able to barely jog a mile (and crawling the rest of the day due to the pain) to crossing the finish line of my first half-marathon. After running six half-marathons, I knew I could do something even more remarkable for someone with a history of knee pain – backpack the Grand Canyon and hike rim to rim.
After this achievement, I knew I had to share my knowledge with other hikers – especially women whose ‘bad’ knees were making them feel old and limiting their adventure. Your story isn’t over - you can make a remarkable comeback! Here are some guidelines to help you get there:
Set your overarching goal. – This seems obvious, but a clear and measurable goal instead of “I want to do or feel like I used to” gives you direction and a way to make decisions. For instance, your choices will be different if you’re training to walk 3 miles pushing a stroller after a new baby or 3 miles on the trail after a knee replacement. Give yourself a defined outcome you want to shoot for, then post it somewhere you see it regularly.
Establish micro-goals – If you want to hike 3 miles, your smaller goals should be in .5 to 1 mile increments. Set benchmarks along the way toward your destination, so you have ways to measure your progress.
Evaluate each week how close you are to your goal. – While the destination is important, the journey moves you toward where you want to go. It’s important to note and celebrate your progress instead of thinking you’re wasting time because you’re not already at your goal. There is power in progress, so celebrate each little win and mark it down as you move the needle closer to your desired outcome.
Define your variables. – Based on your goal, do you want to increase your endurance, strength, hiking ability, speed, functionality, or decrease pain or recovery time? Maybe you want to do several of these things. Once you understand your variables, you can start to develop a plan to address each one.
Work on one variable at a time. – When you’re working on a variable, say stamina, keep all the other variables the same. Don’t try to go faster, and add steeper incline while trying to hike farther. Focus on going a little farther each time until you reach a distance you can consistently reach before changing speed or terrain.
Follow the 10% rule. – This one is a little controversial but is intended to help you avoid making a training error that results in injury. The typical rule is to increase your variable by only 10%. However, at the low end of training, 10% can be too little increase, and at the high end, too much. Therefore, another rule is to listen to your body. Notice how it handles each new challenge and how it recovers. If you’ve feelt sore and tired for more than two days, you may need to back off and develop more resiliency. Keep a log of your workouts and note how much recovery time you need. Make decisions based on the feedback your body gives you.
Don’t give up. – Setbacks are common even during comebacks, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get where you want to go. Keep at it, and if you need more guidance on how to craft and execute your comeback, schedule a consultation with me. During our call, we’ll figure out what’s holding you back and what you need to do to unblock what’s limiting you so you can enjoy returning to being your healthiest and best self!