In the first Boot Camp blog (before I even knew the full extent of my injury), I shared Petr Cech’s idea of ‘don’t worry about what you can’t do, find out what you can’.
He inspired my Rule #1: ‘What CAN I do”. It’s genius in it’s simplicity.
If you follow Rule #1 you’ll be amazed at the progress you make. In my early days I could hardly do leg raises or single leg squats without shaking a like a sapling in a gale. Cleaning my teeth one-legged was agony on my hip. I won’t even try to explain what it was like trying to self-catheterise whilst balancing on one leg. After only a week my balance stabilised. After two weeks the discomfort went away. By week four my good leg was noticeably stronger than it had been before. And I was feeling great because I was constantly seeking out new ways to push myself. It was (and is) exciting.
Similarly following Rule #2 ‘Find Fresh Purpose’ delivers amazing results.
Here’s the third and possibly hardest rule to observe but it’s the one that makes the hard yards the best yards and, in the process, enables you to get to know yourself a whole lot better.
Rule #3: Just Be.
What the hell does that mean?
It means be still. Be quiet. Breathe. Listen to your body. Listen to yourself. Use your eyes and ears differently.
Before you think I’m drifting off into a codeine infused dream let me get more practical. It requires a new rule, Rule #2.1: ‘Get a Routine’. Rule 2.1 helps with Rules #1 & #2 but it’s particularly useful for Rule #3.
Let me explain. A routine, particularly in the first few weeks helps you monitor your progress. It also provides structure for your life at a time when most of your usual routines have probably been blow apart. That provides comfort. Find a routine. Where you can, stick to it. And focus each day on each aspect of your routine. That’s where Rule #3 comes in.
In the early days of being laid up there are so many experiences that are unfamiliar and daunting. My first attempts at removing my boot and gingerly cleaning my feet (with significant help from my long suffering wife) felt like a major military operation. Now I can do it on my own, blindfold. Stairs, although still tricky were a complete no-go (after a fall!) for a while so I’ve slept on the couch for 36 nights straight. I clean my teeth I the sink downstairs and I ‘strip-washed’ in the same sink for over a fortnight before I got the courage to stand in the shower. Walking on crutches was an education. At first only a few steps was exhausting and then I went for 5, 10, 15 minutes. I chose all these times to really ‘be’. Tasks I would normally complete whilst planning my day, filling my head with tasks to do and running on autopilot became my sole focus. At first because they were unfamiliar and later because I came to see the benefit of giving my undivided attention to what I was doing.
I could almost go as far to say I enjoyed it. Not necessarily the task I was doing so much as the act of paying attention to it. That and the acquisition of new skills, however tiny, alongside the gradual improvements I was making.
This level of focus has also enabled me to simply sit, breathe and ‘be’. Something I would rarely, if ever, have done before. The effect? I feel happier. Simple as that.
At this point you may be thinking ‘meditation’. For me, although I’ve used mediation to great effect over the last couple of years, the stillness and space that my injury brought with it replaced my need to meditate.
My enforced slowing down has enabled me to savour what I have rather than chasing down what I haven’t. I’m no wine connoisseur but I imagine it’s akin to rolling a fine vintage around your palate (if that’s what wine drinkers do).
You can call it gratitude or mindfulness. I call it Rule #3.
If this last point feels alien to you I get it. It would have sounded alien to me too before my injury. The way I think I achieved it was because of my purpose: my overall rehab routine and goals that gave me the structure and positivity to make me feel, if not in control, at least heavily influencing my recovery. On top of it all, the most unexpected side-effect of all: my work productivity has gone up. And I’ve enjoyed that more too (I have a job that mainly involves talking and writing which, I appreciate, makes it easier for me than most).
A word of caution. I’m no Per, Petr or Tony Robbins. I suspect neither are you. If you’re anything like me, there will be days where it all feels like it’s slipping away. The black dog days. The days, that if you’re not careful, can crush you. I’ll talk through what I’ve learned about slipping without falling in Boot Camp Blog #4: ‘I Can’t Be Arsed’.
I hope that some or all of the above helps you through the days, weeks and months ahead.
I’d love to hear about your experiences . Please send your stories, and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.