“Will this affect your exercising?”
My cousin Jonathan was hosting his annual summer barbeque for the Washington Belkins. While most of my family members are still in New York, there’s a respectable number in Washington as well as in Florida.
It was a little more than 24 hours after Dr. David Moss, a hand surgeon, removed one of the joints from my right ring finger and fused the bones together with 3 wires.
“Yes,” I started to say, “more than I anticipated.”
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Jonathan’s mother, Leslee, was visiting for a few days. Stanley, Jonathan’s father, died not too long ago. He was a celebrated master chef, and Jon himself does an awesome spread year after year.
“It’s ok. Thanks for asking."
The truth is I’ve needed to have the surgery for some months and had purposefully scheduled it after the Cape Henlopen Triathlon. I was looking forward to it. I had agreed with Dr. Moss: it was way overdue.
Yet somehow I did not contemplate the recovery. My fingers on my right hand are wrapped together in a gauze bandage that I cannot get wet. Next Friday, Dr. Moss will remove the gauze and splint the ring finger for about 6-8 weeks (I can’t remember which). At that point he’ll remove the 3 wires sticking out above the skin on the top of my fingers.
In two months.
I was still knocked out but Dr. Moss told Bob if he had used screws I would have needed a second surgery to remove them.
So that's good.
But here I am, unable to do meaningful exercise of any kind for at least 7 days. For the next 8 weeks I'm just not sure about swimming or biking (unlikely). I should be able to run, right?
So here’s what’s so interesting about this situation.
Just Wednesday, 2 days before the surgery, I scheduled out my training on my Google calendar through October. I’m registered for the Parks Half Marathon in September and the Brooklyn Half in October.
I spent so much energy developing goals for these races and connecting these race related goals with my overall fitness and professional goals that I completely overlooked the T or even the R in SMART.
Sometime this week but probably more fully after I see Dr. Moss on Friday, I’ll need to set some SMARTer goals and adapt my training. In the meantime, I did some walking yesterday and today and plan to use the recumbent bike tomorrow morning before work.
So where did I drop the ball here and why?
Habits are great because they reduce the number of decisions we need to make in the course of a day. Just imagine if you had to make a decision every morning and evening about whether you were going to brush your teeth? It’s well understood that all decision making creates stress so the more decisions we can turn into habits the better we'll feel throughout the day.
I was talking with Bob about this and he mentioned that often the appeal of cults and some organized religion is that you are released from having to make decisions,
But what happens when we don’t brush our teeth?
It’s the same thing with any habit – even an exercise habit. If you don’t get in that run or walk or swim or attend your Tuesday night yoga class, you don't feel like yourself.
Since establishing my fitness regimen in the spring of 2014, my exercise habit is just another activity I do every day as a matter of routine. But maybe because my habit is still relatively young, I did not adequately plan for or think through how I was going to adapt my routine to accommodate my 8 week recovery. People who've been exercising all their lives and have experienced numerous injuries can be more resilient than novices like myself.
Early this morning Neile left a gorgeous and delicious blueberry galette she baked on my front porch before going on a bike ride on the Capital Crescent Trail. Like my cousin, Neile knew I'd be making some adjustments to my routine and might need a little support.
It's just my finger and not a huge deal and I'm grateful for Dr. Moss's expertise. But I need to get SMART and stick to my exercise routine so I can continue to exercise and feel good. It's not about simply recovering from our injuries it's about living with them and incorporating them into who we are.
See you next time!