Unlike a lot of people in the bodybuilding industry, I have a lot of respect for Doctors. I can admit when someone is more intelligent, better educated, and has spent more time in college than I have. Doctors who specialize in a specific area of medicine are on an even higher level. That's why when I have something wrong with me, I trust that they can provide answers and solutions to problems that I can only google and pretend to know how to fix. That being said, I think my orthopedic specialist is completely full of shit. He's not full of shit because he's stupid; he's full of shit because he's wrong.
I haven't been in Florida very long -- a little over 3 years. In that time, I haven't secured a GP, only recently a dentist and ortho (I decided at 51 that I wanted straight teeth because apparently at 51 I now have a need to be sexy), and I really need a doctor to put his fingers in my butt because, you know, that's a cool thing to do after you are 50. What I am trying to say is I had to find an orthopedic specialist as quickly as possible to help me with my knee injury. In doing so, I wasn't terribly selective and took a referral from a friend. This guy would have been a great selection if my main goal was to be able to get in and out of my vehicle and go up and down stairs without pain in my 70s. Instead, I spent a lot of time trying to explain to this Doctor that at 51 I need to be able to get back to squatting and training legs with weights that I am sure he thinks no one over 50 should be lifting. So, when I did my follow up MRI to see how much my knee has progressed, he decided it was time to "give it to me straight."
Let me be very clear about something that some of you may not understand:
Being told that you can't train legs any more because the consequences will likely be that you have to walk with a cane in as little as five years, is not something that goes easy on the brain. I think it would have been easier to hear at 30 because anything that I am told I can no longer do since turning 50 feeds the idea that I'm just too damn old. If you aren't "old," you won't understand -- likely because you believe the same damn thing. I mean, why would someone over 50 "need" to still train legs heavy, anyway? We should just get out of everyone's way who isn't old and wants the squat rack, right? Yeah, not so fast whippersnapper (that's what old people call young people). My reaction when told that I won't be able to train legs any more was predictable: That shit just isn't going to happen. I then laughed -- not awkwardly like I didn't believe what I was saying or that I was in denial, but I laughed because I know better. I have been training for almost 40 years and I know damn well that even though I may be limited in how heavy I can continue to train, there is no fucking way that I have to stop training legs. In fact, I have already proved it, so I felt compelled -- due to a combination of arrogance, ego, and a little bit of "fuck you" -- to tell him what I have been doing in the last 6 months. You would have thought he would have asked at some point prior, but it almost seems as if, when speaking with a doctor, you have to force information on them because they don't ask much. At least this has been my experience since dealing with injuries over the last year. I honestly believe they think that I should just sit down, drink some Geritol, and pet my cats (though I do the latter quite a bit, already, but didn't want to tell him that).
When I explained to him what I was able to do in the gym, his words were supportive (though not convincing) but his face was very clearly saying, "you dumb son-of-a-bitch." I ended the appointment abruptly and told him that I wouldn't be back.
My doctor isn't stupid. He just doesn't deal with people like me. He doesn't understand that I have worked hard over the last 6 months not just to try to rehab my knee, but to find ways to train around this injury. For those of you reading this who don't know, the knee problem is primarily two lesions -- one lateral and one medial, and I am missing some articular cartilage. You cannot "grow" new cartilage and there is no surgery to repair it. People dealing with this will have differing levels of pain -- some with minor pain while others will have excruciating pain. I had excruciating pain 6 months ago. I was literally dragging my leg behind me while training clients and trying to train my upper body. It was horrible. I have progressed to the point of having zero pain while walking or climbing stairs, and I can now train legs with light to moderate weights. The catch or caveat is that I have to do select exercises with incredible precision. While my training is limiting, it is much better than it was only 3 or 4 months ago when I first attempted to train legs again.
I am now to the point where I can train hamstrings and calves at 100% -- absolutely no limitations. For quads, I can do roughly 4 different exercises that don't bother the knee if I do them in a specific way. There are 2 main things that I do that allow me to continue to improve and rehab the knee while still getting a good pump and building strength in my right quad so that I can get back to equal strength on both sides.
- I have to do all compound movements for quads with my heels elevated the entire time. This allows for zero pain as long as I also do number 2 which is
- I can only drive from full extension (deep squat, leg press, hack, etc.) to roughly 2/3 of the way up. I then have to do non-stop reps without being able to rest at the top of the movement
These two things are what have allowed me to continue to balance the strength between my left and right quads. If I go too heavy, my knee will get irritated, reminding me to back off. My injury isn't one that will all of a sudden go shit with one rep. Because I have cartilage issues, it is more of a wear-and-tear game. So, if it starts to feel irritated, I simply stop and know that this is my line and I can't go over it.
Will it ever be 100% again? I don't know but I think it is still possible due to what I know about training and what I know about my body. I could be wrong, yes. If I am, I will accept that on my own terms and I will know when that time comes. Until then, I'm going to do every single thing I can to train around this issue and still be able to train quads. I won't stop until I exhaust all options. You might not believe that I can do it and that's fine. What is important is I think I can do it. Whether I'm right or wrong, will be determined at some point in the future -- by ME, not a doctor.
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