Returning to the gym was something I was incredibly excited about. I tried to continue my workouts as much as I could after my injury, but it was particularly difficult after coming out of surgery. With a severely weakened left leg, basing for many upper body exercises was tough. Mentally, I believe I made it harder for myself, because I was terrified of reinjury and missing more ring time. But I was also concerned about overworking my right knee, and causing problems for it later down the track.
While I cannot wrestle, gym has been my focus. I’ve not been able to work, drive or go out to do much. But thanks to some good friends that live locally, my local gym has been accessible to me throughout my recovery. I was dedicated to my weight training and conditioning before, but now it is very much a complete focus – it is the one thing I can still do in a physical sense. I feel I have improved at upper body training, and it is in ways better conditioned now than it was when I was part of the active EPW roster.
My lower body is clearly the opposite though. While the knee injury is a given, reduced use of my left leg has had it completely shrivel up. There is practically nothing left of the muscles and I have lost a lot of strength. It grated me that I couldn’t do anything about it, unless I was willing to risk ruining my newly repaired knee. Building back my leg muscles was going to be a long way away, and I was completely unaware at this point how long it was going to take me to get to that stage.
One of the first things I quickly learned in this time was that everybody recovers differently from ACL surgery. No recovery is ever the same.
At the beginning, I based a lot of my return to normal activities on a typical recovery schedule. But I was always going to take longer due to the severity of my injury. I was keenly looking forward to building my leg back up, returning to work and driving, but this was still so far out of reach for me. And I had no idea how much of a grind I was looking at just to get back and to regular, everyday activities.
But I did have the gym. And that did stop me from going completely mad.
I was glad to have my knee brace removed, and this was quite the moment for me. I was now allowed full range of motion of my knee. The unfortunate thing was that I was still very limited in my movement; bending my knee to a certain point was a struggle for me, and the leg never straightened in a rest position. Always staying slightly bent, my leg was stopping me from walking. I worked hard to get it straight, but it was incredibly stiff. I tried numerous exercises for it, but progress wasn’t visible to me in my first seven weeks of recovery.