My life, according to my parents, revolves around sports. Whenever I call my dad, I wax poetic about running and taekwondo until he says “Do you even go to class?” It’s the same phrase every time, and I hurriedly talk about my latest lecture in Latin or the essay I’m working on for my Extreme Environments class. Honestly, he’s not far from the truth. Taekwondo is my passion and running is my way of relaxing. So what happens when that’s taken away?
Just about ten weeks ago, I sprained my ankle when I was leading a workout for one of our Wednesday sparring classes and I tripped over a yoga block and went down. I tried to stand, but quickly collapsed again. My teammates helped me up and outside the gym, where I stuck my foot in a snowbank. I spent the next few days with my foot in a bucket. I had a pretty bad sprain last year, so I was sure this was just another sprain. With a competition a month away, I began the process of aggressive icing that so many injured athletes know.
However, along with ice, compression, and elevation, treatment for a sprain requires rest. For a person like me, rest is just not something I do. I’m an active person, whether that means taekwondo, biking, running, swimming, or simply going for a walk. To be laid out completely was devastating. With competition looming, I wanted to return to practice but when it was still hurting six weeks later, I went in for a second diagnosis, since I knew it wasn’t a normal sprain. And it wasn’t: it was a high ankle sprain, an injury that will take 3-6 months to heal, and the only “cure” is rest and physical therapy.
So what now? Well, I can’t do much. Dad doesn’t bother asking about sports any more. I did ten minutes on the treadmill at my last physical therapy appointment, and I’m really excited about that. It wasn’t fast, but I did it and that’s what matters. To ease my frustration, I’ve been trying to get into other things. I’ve been going to museums, drawing, watching White Collar (less than productive, I know), and focusing on doing forms at taekwondo practice. I’ve also been coaching the lower belts in sparring, which helps me improve my coaching and helps them in their sparring. If I can’t personally train to get better, I can still help them train.
Still, there are days when the sun is out and the birds are chirping when I ache to be running on the river. Watching my teammates spar as I do my physical therapy on the side isn’t easy. It frustrates me when I’m giving a tour and my ankle twinges, or when I wake up and it’s aching for no reason at all. It’s tough for me to look long term, to give up today’s run for the summer’s warrior dash, or to sit out Saturday practice for next year’s competition season, but it has to be done. I do my PT diligently. I spend five minutes twice a day balancing on one leg with my eyes closed (it’s harder than you think!) to try to work the small muscles in my ankle. I go to the gym, where a physical therapist has me run ladders, use wobble boards, slide across the floor, and hop up onto a step before setting me up with an ice machine and sending me on my way. The road to recovery won’t be easy, but it doesn’t look like I’ll need surgery. At this point, the best thing I can do is take it one small hop at a time.