Episode 129 | Showing Up On the Bad Days – ACL Rehab Edition

Show Notes:

In this episode, we dive into a mindset-focused episode for our ACLers. For a process that’s so long, it’s inevitable to have a setback or a bad day.  Instead of focusing on those bad days, it’s about becoming a better average. How does that look? Check out the episode for some practical applications on how you can put that to use and have a better long game.

What is up team, and welcome back to another episode on the ACL Athlete podcast. Today’s title: Showing Up on the Bad Days ACL Rehab Edition. This one’s a mindset episode for my ACLers. And I’m going to start by sharing this quote from my main man, James Clear. “Success requires a day-to-day grind. For every 10 times, we do hard stuff, seven will be okay, two will feel great and one will feel horrible. A social media following doesn’t grow from one great post. Books don’t get written in a single great writing session. Fat loss doesn’t happen with one stellar smoothie. Good stuff happens when you show up on the good days and the bad days. And the oh, so many not-so-good days, but not-so-bad days.” 

To add the ACL rehab addition to this, ACL rehab doesn’t happen with one amazing session or exercise. This is ACL rehab in a nutshell. You guys know this. It’s a long game. That’s all we play in this. There’s no short game. Sure, there are short-term things we work towards, but it is truly a long game. You guys know that it’s at least a 9- to 12-month process. We just got to step up to it, know that this is what we’re presented with and we can yeah, have our moment where this sucks. But then we get past that quickly. 

And even in moments when that does come up, we get through that as fast as possible. That’s the goal. It has a lot of ups and downs. One day it could be incredible. And then all of a sudden, another day it could be really sucky. And that might not have to be super separated between a ton of days. It could happen from one day to the next. And that’s just the nature of this process and the freaking knee. It’s just something that is not always responsive, the way that we can always predict it. Sure, we know patterns and the way that things will behave. But sometimes people flare up, things happen, and there are setbacks. And we know that this is a part of this process. So that’s part of setting the expectations and understanding as you walk this journey that it will happen.

Life will also continue to happen and so you have to co-exist alongside doing this whole. What I say, it feels like a part-time job as an ACL rehab. And it truly is. You talk about the initial phases where you have to really do a lot of the daily stuff. We call the daily bricks, where we’re laying down the foundation and the foundational pieces of this process. And you’re doing extension stuff multiple times a day, gait stuff, flexion stuff, trying to get your quads active. And then it slowly turns into a strength and conditioning program. And you still might be working on some of those pieces like getting your flexion. And then still trying to get stronger. And the knee is grumpy at times and you’re dealing with pain and all these pieces. 

But as you guys know, it does feel like a lot of work. And then you also have to balance your life. So whether that’s school, kids, job, being active without having to really overload the knee, all of these different pieces that play into it, not to mention all the other stressors that we have to deal with, you just have to co-exist with it. It is truly a long game and depending on what season of life you’re in, depending on what your goals are, all of these different pieces will play a role. We can’t just do this ACL rehab in a vacuum, unfortunately, we have to coexist with it. So that’s why there can be other variables that get thrown into this.

As a very quick example, we have people who have to go back to school, go back as a teacher, or go back to work as a nurse because their time off has run up. And there can be a lot of limitations to this. And guess what? When you’re on your feet a lot after your surgery, it can cause the knee to slow down a little bit, have some swelling, and get grumpy a little bit. Therefore, that’s life existing as you’re trying to do your ACL rehab. And these are just a few examples of what we have to deal with in this process. It’s fair to say that we are not always going to have good days. And if we expect this to just be a linear process, that’s just going to be something that is going to let you down at some point whenever something doesn’t go as planned or expected.

The idea here is that no single session or day will define this rehab process. It’s the compounding effect just like the stock market. There will be some really high days, some good days, some average days, some meh days, the bad days, and possibly there were some rock bottom days. And that’s going to potentially happen. How do you conquer the second half of these not-so-good-type days? And part of this is actually just showing up and knowing that it will improve. And as long as you’re putting in the work, you’re communicating, you’re providing feedback, have good guidance, a good game plan, just show up. And knowing that those days you might just have to be going through the motions and these days will happen. It’s honestly normal. And I think with this process, we just assume that, okay, it’s going to be this step-by-step ladder or linear process, or we just haven’t been educated by who we’re working with. And most PTs won’t tell you that because they’re just like, yeah, let’s keep rocking and keep moving forward, which is fair, but it’s also something that comes with the experience, I think.

And personally for me, as I’ve been through twice and have walked hundreds of people through this process, these days will happen and you’re going to potentially burn out at some point, ideally to avoid it. And so that’s where strategic planning/programming will play a role. But also knowing that you might just wake up one day and it just might feel meh, or the knee is not feeling awesome and you just might need to show up. You might need to just go through the motions and that’s okay, as long as the goal is for the down days to be a lot less than the good. That’s what we’re hoping for anyone in life, in ACL rehab, in anything that we’re doing, we’re hoping that there’s less down days than good days. 

As I mentioned, assuming that these won’t happen will set you up for failure, assuming that they will in this process is actually healthy and allows you to bounce back faster. Knowing it’s part of the process and getting right back on track. I’ll tell my athletes a lot of time what this looks like, especially if there’s a setback when we are on this journey, you’ve got the GPS going and we’re trying to get from point A to point B. And sure, sometimes there’s a detour and that might be your setback or something that comes up in life and it disrupts whatever your journey is, and you driving on that road to get that point B, the end destination. 

And what ends up happening is that we could either get off of this exit and we could take a really long detour, or we could just get off real quick, get some gas, take a small little detour, and then get right back on the highway, get back on the game plan. And that’s the choice that we have to make here, especially when something shows up and we have to work around it. We have the option to control that, instead of making it this very lost detour and being able to get right back on course. And making sure that that negative compounding effect of bad days doesn’t happen. And a lot of this comes back to just choosing to show up and continue. As James Clear mentioned is the day-to-day grind that gets you to that success. It’s not just this one specific day. And showing up on all the days, especially the bad ones will really get you to that point B that we’re talking about.

And I’m full of all the quotes today, so I’m going to send it home with this. Brad Stulberg brilliant man. He said, “Don’t get too caught up on the good days. Don’t get too caught up on the bad days. Prioritize consistency over intensity. There will be ups and downs. What matters is whether or not you’re becoming a better average.” A better average, man, that is awesome. As long as you’re ticking that up and being a better average, that’s really how this process works. In ACL rehab itself is consistency. It’s showing up on the good days, but most importantly, showing up even on the bad ones and knowing that you might be only doing that, showing up versus pushing on those really good days. It’s becoming a better average. It’s that line from point A to point B, not completely linear. It’s got a lot of ups and downs at each point in this process. But showing a positive trend with that undulation that we talked about up and down, that’s exactly what this looks like, and that’s ACL rehab in a nutshell.

But today, I just want to share with you, especially if you’re an ACLer listening to this, you might be in this rut. Or you’re just like, all right, do I feel I just need to give up? Or you’re just really feeling maybe burnout. This is one of those where just keep showing up on the bad days. And this was something for me that I had to learn the hard way because I thought I could just push really hard. It was linear, especially in my first ACL rehab being in high school. And you know what? I was shocked because there were days where I had setbacks and it really put me in a rot, and I chose to take that long detour.

This is where I’m sharing my own personal experiences, not only with myself but with ACLers that I’ve worked with where this can happen. And these principles of being consistent and showing up on these days and just doing the thing, knowing when you might have to need a break, and that’s okay, too. But that’s where you communicate with your guide, your physical therapist to make sure you’re adapting the plan and just making sure that that feels very in tune with the direction that you’re going. As you leave this episode today, show up on the bad days, even if you go through the motions and try to become a better average. 

All right, team, that’s going to do it for today. Thank you all so much for listening. This is your host, Ravi Patel, signing off.

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