About a year before I started working at lululemon athletica, I injured my back at my previous job. I saw a chiropractor, three orthopedic specialists, a couple of massage therapists, and at least seven different physical therapists over the course of a year. I'm an athlete, but living with my injury left me feeling sorry for myself and totally resigned. Prior to injuring my back, my favorite activities were running, riding my bicycle, and lifting weights, and I was no longer able to do these things without increasing pain.
Recovering from my injury has given me a completely different definition to the word "fit". I used to think that fitness meant looking hot in a bikini and being able to complete a 5K in the top 30% of my age group. I now know that for me fitness means feeling good in my body, without comparison and without judgment.
It took me a long time to learn the importance of staying active without increasing pain. I decided to slowly build up to a level of fitness that I was comfortable with. I had several physical therapy programs that I was responsible for, so instead of completing them at home, I took them to the gym with me, along with my limitations so that I didn't re-injure myself. Some days I would hop on an elliptical machine, even if only for three minutes, simply because I wanted to get the feeling of running without all of the consequences. At the end of my workout, I would tell myself how proud I was for completing those three minutes on the elliptical. After all, it was three minutes longer than I'd done the previous day!
The main elements that helped me recover:
1) Yoga. Not only will yoga increase your strength and flexibility, but it will also boost your level of confidence and it feels really good. Maybe you won't be able to do all of the poses as well as others in your class, but the beauty of yoga is that it isn’t a competition. Everyone in the class is at a different level and nobody is comparing. Introduce yourself to the instructor and ask for modifications to poses that might be difficult with your particular situation. Soon you will start to recognize ways to modify certain poses on your own.
2) Meeting other people who'd been injured. If I saw somebody on mat at the gym doing the same physical therapy exercises in my program, I would approach them and get into a conversation. At the end of the day, it is simply encouraging to know that you’re not the only one.
3) Volunteering. I couldn't participate in the races and events that I used to do, so I signed up to be a volunteer. This is a very rewarding way to stay involved in the athletic community while you’re recovering, and you still get a free t-shirt.
4) Icing it. This was the most tedious thing to make myself do for my injury, but it's the easiest and most natural way to decrease inflammation. 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off, followed by 10 more minutes on. Do it. Often.
5) Reformer Pilates. My core wasn't quite strong enough to be able to do a group Pilates mat class, but the reformer supports your body throughout the workout to provide resistance, core strengthening, and flexibility.
6) Swimming. I learned how to swim to make up for the cardio I could no longer get from running or spinning. My boyfriend appreciated this because I burn off my bitchiness through cardiovascular exercise.
7) Living powerfully. Be proud of yourself for every step you take toward recovery. Motivational speaker, Brian Tracy, says "You become what you think about most of the time." What will your future will be like if you are constantly complaining and feeling sorry for yourself for this injury? Take back the power!
This is your body, the way it is and the way that it's not. You can spend your energy complaining, or you can choose to like yourself. Which of these choices leaves you feeling resigned and which leaves you feeling empowered? Ultimately, it is up to you.