I haven't reported on my knee injury for quite a while and this is due to many reasons:

  1. I can't stand talking about it. I can only discuss something so many times before the negativity becomes exhausting. I deal with it all day, every day, and the last thing I want to do is talk about it in a coach log--AGAIN.
  2. I have been progressing, and it is consistently getting better. However, it has improved at such a slow rate that I felt it best to wait until there was something of substance to report.
  3. Reading about someone's injury, whether you adore me or not, is pretty fucking boring. "Oh gee, here's Skip's knee problem for the 100th time. Yay!"
  4. Though my knee has consistently improved over the last half of this year, I was anxious that it might take a turn at some point and up getting injured again. The last thing I wanted to do was discuss for weeks and months how my knee was getting better, only to then have to report that I had injured it again.

There are more reasons, but I will stop there.

The cool thing is I can now report that it appears that I will come into 2022 being able to train my legs hard enough for growth, finally. In fact, I have already been doing this, but I am being very cautious and taking it very slowly. I feel it is ready to go now, but if I give it another 4 weeks over the holidays, I will feel that much more confident to step on the gas after the 1st of the year. I don't know how your year was, but I can't wait to put 2021 behind me and move on.

5 Things I Learned

I want to review some of the things that I found helpful in dealing with the biggest and worst injury that I have ever had:

  1. Rest only worked in the very early stages of the injury. There was so much inflammation (and pain) early, that I had no choice but to rest it. As the inflammation decreased -- and it took a long time because it was bone and cartilage -- activity then became the better option. Sometimes, it was just moving the joint through it's full range of motion against no resistance. As time progressed, I could then benefit from increasing blood flow to the area. This was hard to do because I couldn't apply much resistance, but I was able to come up with a couple things that worked well:

a) low-resistance stationary bike

b) reverse sled or prowler pulls (walking backward)

2. Increasing resistance was not as important as blood flow and simply using the joint and keeping it moving.

3. I had to change the angle at the knee when I was able to finally add resistance. Oddly--and many doctors have been perplexed by this--I was forced to push my knees out over my toes more than I ever have in the almost 40 years that I have trained legs. If I put weight on my heel, it would hurt. If I kept the heel elevated and drove through the ball of my foot, there was no pain. I am to the point now, where I can keep the heel down and drive through the heel. That has only been for the last 4-6 weeks, though.

4. When I was finally able to add a decent amount of resistance to get a pump in my quads, I had to be make sure that my strong quad was not doing more work than my weak quad. As I started to build strength back, I needed to be sure that my weak quad was catching up to my strong quad. It would have made no sense to increase the strength of my strong quad at the same pace that I increased strength in my weak quad. Keep in mind that there was an injury component for my lower back, as well. After years of lower back injuries, I certainly didn't want to start training heavy and cause a lower-back injury due to having an imbalance of strength in my quads. The bottom line is that I needed to first get my weak quad to strengthen to the point that it matched my strong quad. From there, I could then start to push the resistance higher after the strength was balanced in both quads.

5. I did not rely on any pain medication. In fact, the only thing I used was Meloxicam to help keep inflammation down. I felt that if I was going to work through the knee injury, I needed to know if it was getting worse or getting better, and if the pain was masked by pain medication, I would not have been able to read the stress I was putting on the bad knee.

The Most Important Thing I Learned

The most important thing I learned with this knee injury over the last 9 months was patience. I realized early on that if I was going to try to rush this recovery, it was likely going to end badly for me. Remember, in the beginning, I was told by my orthopedic specialist that I would never train legs again. I knew at that point that if I was going to rehab this knee, I was going to have to be very smart about it and take my time. If I didn't, I felt like the doctor was going to be proven right. There is nothing I like more than proving someone wrong--especially a doctor.

I may have been able to rehab the knee a month or two quicker. However, I could have also injured the knee again to the point that I could have wiped out all of my progress, and then ended up proving the doctor right. Look at it this way: after being told that I would never train legs again, losing almost a year to rehab is a fair trade vs trying to push even harder to gain maybe an extra month or two. Losing a year is crappy, but not being able to train legs again would have been far worse.

I find it sickly ironic that the trait that I lack the most, is the trait that I had to rely on this entire year to recover; just a little patience.

I am now able to train my legs at about 97%. I am able to do leg extensions (I couldn't even lift the carriage with no plates, the first few months).  I am able to use the pendulum squat, high-angled hack squats (and regular hack squats), angled-leg press, and I did lunges for the first time for my last leg session. It is important to note that my strength is even from left to right, now. The only exercises I am still avoiding are regular squats and belt squats. They don't hurt the knee as much as the knee doesn't feel "stable." I can't really explain it any better than that. It makes sense that they don't feel great on my knee because my knees need to still be out over my toes instead of sitting back like I would have to do in a regular squat.

There is nothing better than a huge pump in your quads, and soreness in your quads that is even from the left to the right quad. I catch myself poking at my quads all of the time to enjoy the feeling of the soreness. I am very much looking forward to 2022--not just because my legs will grow again, but because I am going to send a video of me performing a balls-out set of legs to my orthopedic specialist. I just have to come up with something witty to title the video. I'm thinking "fuck you; you were wrong," but I think I can come up with something a little more original.



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