One of my fellow RTP shredders, Christy, has asked me to comment on how my back surgery has affected my workouts. I am often asked about the workouts I do and am I concerned that I might hurt myself doing the workouts I do after a back surgery. The answer isn't as easy as one might think.
Five years ago I was playing roller hockey. I played in a coed league. I really enjoyed my time on the rink. Hockey is my favorite sport, so it gave me a thrill to be able to participate. In the middle of my first season, I was in front of the goalie trying to screen him as the shot came in. A defender came in and put his body on mine and I ended up rolling backwards towards the goalie. As the goalie came down to make the save, his stick came forward and my skates rolled up on it and I fell hard on my tailbone. I could feel an electric shock up my spine, but really didn't think much of it.
For two years after that incident, I would constantly end up with back pain after doing the silliest things. The pain would start in the middle of my left buttock and travel down my left leg. This got more and more frequent and more and more painful. I eventually got to the point where I could only sleep a few hours a night (2-3 hours). After much diagnosis that included an MRI, a Mylo CT-Scan and many, many X-rays, the doctor's thought that I had a growth in my spinal canal. Finally, after having an EMG, I was unable to sleep for more than 1 hour a night. The doctor told me that surgery was an option, but only if I could not get through the pain any other way. We tried physical therapy first and when that made it worse, I begged for the surgery. Two weeks later I went under the knife.
The results of the surgery were sort of shocking. It turned out that I had a ruptured disk. The rupture went inward and was pressing on the nerves, causing the pain I was experiencing. The official name of the procedure I underwent is lamenectomy.
After having the lamenectomy, I left the hospital three days later with a walker. It took me about two weeks to completely ditch the walker, but I walked slowly and with alot of pain. I was out of work for 12 weeks.
When I returned to a normal life, I knew that I needed to workout in some form or another. I found a book called The Miracle Seven that used muscle tension to help build and sculpt your physique. I worked diligently at the exercises and found that I made some good progress. I did that for about 18 months. At that point, I decided I needed more and joined 24 Hour Fitness. I began working out with weights on a regular basis.
The back surgery issue made me very cautious during my workouts. I believe that because of the back surgery, I made an extra effort to do my exercises with proper form. I knew that if I wasn't careful, I could hurt myself. I was especially careful because I hadn't experienced any back pain since my surgery, which at that point was a year and a half in the past.
The more that time went by, the more I sought out challenging workouts. I found a series of great workouts from http://www.global-fitness.com. In one of these workouts, I was asked to do squats and in another I was asked to do deadlifts. I fell in love with both exercises. At the same time, I realized that I would have to do the squats and deadlifts with perfect form to avoid injury and to be able to lift big.
It is my belief that my back surgery has made my back even stronger. At the same time, I realized how stupid it is to be macho. I suffered for 2 years with pain in my back because I was being macho. That lesson was an important one. While at the gym, I looked around and saw so many guys trying to lift heavy and using terrible form. I realized the dangers in doing things that way and decided to focus on doing things the right way. I don't rush my weight increases. I study the exercises I use before I attemp it. I use good form on every repetition. At the same time, I push myself to the brink every time I workout. As Adam has said, I don't stop at a pre-defined set of reps, instead, I push myself to complete each set to failure. I have seen what it is like to be unhealthy and in bad physical shape and I've vowed to push myself as hard as I physically can to avoid ever being like that again.
To anyone suffering back pain, surgery isn't the only answer, but sometimes it is the answer. Regardless of the path you take, it doesn't mean you can't workout again. Whatever path you take, the goal is to get your body “back to normal” and normal should include a good workout several times a week. Just be careful. Make it a point to do the exercises correctly. Don't rush the weight increases–they will come in due time. If you workout your muscles correctly you can't help but gain in strength. With strength gains come bigger lifts. There is no such thing as a dangerous lift, only a dangerous lifter. I've learned that by doing the deadlift correctly, I can make continual strength gains. If I do my squats with correct form, I don't risk injury.
Do not let your current physical situation get you down. You can do anything you put your mind to. That's why I'm involved with this RTP Group Shred. I'm inspired by Adam's progress and his attitude. I need to be held accountable as that's the only way I'm going to reach my goals. That's the purpose of this blog–to keep me accountable. I've tried the daily pictures routine in the past and failed, but I'm not going to fail this time. I can honestly see the importance of the daily pictures and this time it is going to happen without fail.
I didn't plan to write a novel, but this topic is important to me and one of my RTP friends wanted to hear it, so I didn't want to give a half-hearted answer. So, Christy, I hope that answers your question. Bottomline: my workouts are better because of my back surgery. You have to take it all one day at a time and the forward progress you make will bring you to the point you need to be at.
My workout log for today:
|Front Squat||175 x 10
175 x 10 (last rep form not good)
155 x 10
155 x 10
|Chin-ups (assisted)|| (155) 10
|Step ups||30 x 11
30 x 11
30 x 11
30 x 115
|Dumbbell push press||45 x 10
45 x 10
45 x 10
45 x 10
|Back Squat||70 x 20
70 x 20
|Lat pulldown||75 x 20
75 x 20
|Step ups||15 x 16
15 x 16
|Dumbbell overhead press||30 x 20
30 x 20
I'm noticing something that I need to find some advice on. My current schedule for lifting is Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. My low carb days are Sunday and Wednesday. For the past two weeks, my strength on Sunday is bad. This is proven by the fact that my Thursday workout (which is the same as my Sunday one each week) always has me feeling much stronger. It dawned on me last night that it could be because of the lack of carbs during the previous three days (Wednesday to Sunday is my longest low carb stretch of the week). I wonder if this means I need to move my low carb days to different days? Perhaps it means I shouldn't have more than 2 days in a row of low carb days? Perhaps it means I should just tough it out? I will find the answer and post here when I do.
Until next time…