The one absolute truth in life is that nothing is ever perfect. Perfection is a unicorn—it simply does not exist. Even if you can get close, there is always a flaw. That leaves us on a spectrum, a sliding scale which measures how close to or far from perfect a “thing” may be. On one end, you have “this is goddamn wonderful” and at the other end you have “can things get any more fucked up?” Somewhere in the middle is “this is okay.” It’s important to note that whether you’re at your best or your worst, there is always room for improvement. That levels the field a little bit, doesn’t it?
After tearing my quad tendon clean off of my knee cap in a freak accident, I became acutely aware of how other people interpreted my circumstances. Generally speaking, people seemed worried and felt sorry for me. Don’t get me wrong… it’s nice to know that they care enough about you to worry. However, people expressed concern over everything from my mental state to my potential to ever compete again. They wondered if I would be all right in the long run.
No matter what I said, I rarely felt anyone actually believed me. Yet I knew that I could get a little bit better each day, each week, each month, and that left no other possibility than to be all right. Although I considered this to be my own personal truth long before having the opportunity to prove it to myself or anyone else, I knew that the gym would be my proving ground. Hasn’t it always been that way though?
Going to the gym for the first time after surgery was the same thing it always was—an opportunity to improve myself and my situation. Many people expected me to feel frustrated, angry, or discouraged. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find certain things annoying, like my inability to do some of my favorite exercises. However, I still felt a sense of accomplishment after having done a workout that was just a shadow of my former training sessions. Why? Because I knew that even such a limited workout would help me improve my condition. My road to recovery, after all, involved taking one step at a time. And time is something I had.
After only a few sessions in the gym, I began to notice improvement in my knee. Was I working my knee or doing anything specific for it? No, of course not. But working out was helping my body as a whole, and last time I checked my knee was still a part of my body. Within my first week back in the gym, swelling and pain in my injured knee began to decrease noticeably and my energy and appetite increased. This is important because wanting to eat more meant taking in more nutrients for repair. It also motivated me to do more in the gym, which led to overall improvement in my body and expedite healing.
The pattern became clear to me and reaffirmed several principles I already knew. Firstly, the body is capable of incredible things so long as you have the desire to realize them. A healthy mind will result in healthy actions, and healthy actions support a healthy physical state. Secondly, proper nutrition is incredibly powerful. If you support the body with quality building materials, both will be strong. Lastly, both the body and the mind require exercise. Even if you are in a situation that is less than perfect, you can usually do SOMETHING. Adjust your thinking and realize that doing something is always better than doing nothing.
Surprisingly, in all of this, I have found that progress is easiest to make when you are at your worst. After my injury, I stayed out of the gym for about 4 weeks. I lost size, strength, and endurance. As soon as I went back to the gym and did SOMETHING, I saw improvement. That is easy progress and it’s encouraging. By contrast, when I’m at my best, everything is in order and on point. When you’re 295 pounds, eating all you can, training your ass off week in and week out, progress makes itself scarce. It comes around less and less. So it was nice to see progress for a change. We have the ability to see things any way we choose. This is the way I see it.
In the end, it’s amazing how much satisfaction I’ve been able to find in a less-than-perfect, “fucked up" situation. To be honest, I certainly didn’t expect that. Today, with every passing day I feel better. With every single workout, I am stronger. Little by little, I see the number on the scale creeping back up. I’m filling my clothes back out and I can feel the difference. This is okay. Maybe things are even better than okay.