Unable to walk pain-free
What if you were unable to walk one hundred metres without feeling pain? What if climbing up one flight of stairs filled you with trepidation and angst?
I have the unbelievable opportunity to work with folks of different strokes (all general population i.e. not athletes.) And the scenario described above is, unfortunately, getting a bit common. I've seen a steady increase in the number of people who have painful joints that impair the most basic of activities.
I've had people aim for varied goals, from jumping off a helicopter and surviving in the wilds for two weeks to hiking in the Himalayas to being able to squat. But the person in this story started off with the situation described above - unable to walk without pain.
The goal we set was to be pain-free and walk 100 metres. And they set a loftier goal, one connected to their heart, which was to visit a temple and do the traditional walk up the hill.
Not taking care of the knee pain
This seems incredible but a lot of you deal with a little bit of pain. While some of these need you to see a specialist, there is a lot of low hanging fruit.
- Tightness from poor posture
- from sitting too much
- from inactivity
- from a lack of stretching
- from old injuries
These are all too common and this results in a symptom of pain. In many instances, the pain is not a serious issue but it will take a bit of work to undo. For example, many people are still unaware that knee pain in the front of your knee could be due to very tight hips. And that stretching your glutes and foam rolling them can make you feel better. The pain starts off by being something mild that a little bit of twisting this way and that way seems to help with. Seeing a physio seems too much work and rehab drills are way too boring. And it accumulates.
This person, let's call them DS, was no different. Even with crazy knee pain, they were taking care of everyone around her - the spouse, the kids, the in-laws. And was only in their late 30s.
Strength training did not seem like an option because one assumes that strong people go do strength training to get stronger and bigger.
But no, strength training is for EVERYONE!
Wake up call
A health scare in the family shook them up and to show support to their spouse (who was advised immediate physical activity) they came along and joined our community.
Hitting the bottom is a good thing. If I hadn't hit my bottom, I would not have stuck with running. I knew that if I gave up this time, the odds of getting fit were slim. Likewise, a health scare is a useful kick up the butt. One wishes to not go there but if it works, it works.
The first goal was to teach mobility and strength. But since pain existed, helping them move pain-free took precedence. With sensible strength training and fundamentals like the plank and goblet squat, you can achieve both strength and mobility goals. Adequate stretching and release work pointed the right direction for knee pain, as it was not a deeper issue but from tight hips.
But the biggest win was when they learned to prioritise themselves, rather than everyone around them. Over the next 6 months, from hobbling with pain to being pain-free, to learning to sleep more and sleep better, they slowly worked on a healthier lifestyle. They
- turned showing up to class into a habit.
- prioritised sleep and healthy eating.
- prioritised themselves, rather than being a martyr.
Be the change
Patience was one of their strong points. From the outset, they were not in a rush. They understood there was a bit of work to undo, and they took the time. Even a full-depth squat took a few months, but sumo deadlifts and step-ups (over different elevations) helped build the same patterns.
But they were clear - show up!
And they kept showing up. Over the course of the year, they built up to a strong deadlift, moved on to learning kettlebell swings. And as the knee pain receded, the goblet squat became deeper and deeper.
Walking became pain-free and their day-to-day experience improved leaps and bounds.
By taking control of their health, they became a change-maker for their entire family. They prioritised sleep and nutrition for the entire family. They focused on themselves and made sure "me time" happened.
But they achieved their personal peak when they did their walk, to their holy place. Forget knee pain, here was someone who was unable to walk 100 metres a bit over a year ago. That personal victory, achieved over many months of toil and ups and downs and patience, helped send a signal to themselves. They were in control!
At The Quad (and gyms all over), there are tremendous stories of inspiration. From an absolute measure, none of them will make headlines. But who cares?! From an individual's point of view though, the results and stories and transformations are incredible. And they can serve to inspire more.
Strength is for everyone
Strength does not mean lifting stupid weights and being huge.
It means being able to pick things up from the floor and carry them. Most of us tend to get distracted by how much.
Strength means both inner and outer strength.
Be strong enough, and a lot of good things follow.