In this episode, we dive into reframing your mindset about the ACL rehab process. How do we combat the overwhelming feeling that can some times take over? Listen to this episode and see why “brick by brick” can help answer that question and keep that overwhelming feeling from kicking in.
What is up team, welcome back to another episode on the ACL Athlete Podcast. Today, we are talking about this phrase, “brick by brick.” And we are diving into a little bit more of a mindset piece with you guys for this ACL rehab process. And when I talk about this phrase as we get into the episode.
Before we get there, just wanted to say thank you to all of you for last week for the submissions for the merch. Today is the last day. If you want to get that in, go for it. Just send me a message on Instagram or email about how this podcast has helped you or maybe someone that you know. And the other thing is just all the messages that I have received and even just people who have reached out in the past week. I really appreciate all the things that you guys have to say and the way that this has helped you. I’m just excited to continue to keep this going and see where it goes. And how many people we can actually impact and help through this ACL process. Let’s dive into this topic today which is brick by brick.
And this is something that I’m always just trying to think of analogies and relatable ways to help my athletes and you guys out there through this ACL process. Because it’s really difficult to describe to anyone who honestly has not gone through it. There’s just something different about it. It’s not just knee pain or shoulder pain. I know I’ve talked about this before in the past. It is just a very unique injury. And it’s very difficult to describe because at some point, whenever you could start walking and things look a little bit normal, people are like, oh, you’re probably back to everything that you’re doing. This is no fault to them. But you might be two to three months out.
And you’re like, yo, I’m just getting walking and trying to do some things. And they’re still a long journey ahead. And it can get tough because of the relatability piece. It’s one of those where it’s like if you haven’t gone through it, it is really, really difficult to know what it feels like to sit in the position of someone who has torn their ACL, especially given a certain circumstance of maybe it is potentially something career-related, or maybe it’s having to skip your senior year or maybe it’s just losing what makes you feel like you. It is a lot. And I remember the things that I dealt with after my two ACL injuries myself. I feel you guys here.
Today, I want to talk about a little bit of the mindset in this area and focus on this phrase of brick by brick. And I’ve had some conversations recently with some athletes where they might be thinking too far ahead, feeling overwhelmed. I mean, who doesn’t feel it in this process, or do they want to get to more of the fun stuff too quickly. They’re trying to speed ahead without meeting some of the requisite things that they need because the early stuff can be a bit boring. And when we look at the entire ACL journey, it can get really overwhelming. That’s probably the best word to think of. It’s talking about 9 to 12 months. And it’s a dramatic shift in your lifestyle. You want to get back to your normal life and do the things that you love to do. Even if it’s just simply being able to go outside and go on a hike, being able to walk your dog with confidence, being able to hang out with your kids. Just things that you would almost take for granted–even going into the bathroom or using the shower. There are certain things where you’re just like, man, it is a huge shift. And some of that is just the unknown of it. And also do we trust our knees and our body? What happens is in this process, because it is so long, we start thinking ahead and wanting to force things. We want to get back to those things in that normal life and the things that you’d love to do.
I remember I did that a lot. I was like, all right, I’m ready for this. And then something would happen where I’m like, okay, I’m not ready for it. Maybe it’s just like, almost like a close fall or maybe that was risky. I had to learn the hard way. Luckily, nothing tore or had an issue. But I did have to learn the hard way because I would try to force things as an athlete. And one of the things that inevitably is a huge factor in this and that plays a big role, whether we believe it or not, is time. We think because a protocol or a friend said that they started running at two or three months, that that’s where you should be. And that’s where the comparison piece comes in. And you’re starting to be: Well, if they can do it, why can’t I? I’m a better athlete than them, or we had the same procedure, or maybe because you’re four weeks out. You don’t need to work on your range of motion work anymore because you were told it’s good enough, maybe. Or, maybe it’s just far along enough out of surgery where you’re like, all right, I’m done with this; it’s time to move on to the next thing. And as you guys know, time is arbitrary in this process, it really is. If there’s anything that I can give you as a word of advice is to let go of the timelines, that these protocols say. And potentially what a physical therapist or a surgeon will tell you, especially if they’re speaking in absolutes.
Now, if you’re not getting your extension and you’re six months out, we need to work on that, and that is a problem. But if you’re early in this process and all of a sudden you’re told at six months, you’re good to go and you’ll be cleared. I’m just not buying it because of the research–-we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next three to four months. We don’t know that. And it’s going to depend on multiple factors like your body healing. Are there going to be any setbacks? Is your body going to respond? Are you going to put in the work to be able to make sure you get to that point? There are a lot of things in place. What I’m trying to say here is that time, if you let it go, it will help. But I do want to give it its credit for criteria and also to just give us a general framework of where people can be. But just know it’s a sliding scale. That’s what’s the most important thing.
And no one fits into these perfect boxes. It’s something that you can almost think of, similar to people going through school at different grades. Not everyone goes through at the same rate due to a bunch of different factors specific to each person. So whether that’s the school they go to, the teachers that they have, the age, the family that they’re around, their own genetics and intelligence, the resources that they have access to, their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as maybe geographically where are they located. Because that might influence what they have access to and just regionally. Just know it is going to vary. And usually, the thing that allows people to pass through grades isn’t just time alone, but it’s criteria that they meet in order to move forward.
Now, let’s go back to the original thought of this podcast episode, which is brick by brick. What I want you to do is view your ACL journey as building a strong, beautiful, resilient, heck wall, just a brick wall. You’re building it, it’s a long journey, and it’s not going to be built in a day. Just remember this. It is not. You’re not going to get this entire brick wall done, nor does any, if you think about in realistic nature of any home or any type of cathedral or anything like that. They don’t build that in a day. It takes time. When you’re thinking about your journey as a brick wall, now I want you to just forget about the brick wall.
And now focus on laying down your next single brick, just the next brick. That can be athletes who are going through prehab right now, who are like, all right, I need to get ready for surgery. Your next brick is, let’s get that extension back; your next brick is getting that extra five degrees that we need; that next brick is getting that quad active again, or maybe it’s getting the swelling and pain down. I want you to think about these bricks that you can lay down in this process and for prehab, those might be some of yours. With post-op rehab, some of those are pretty similar. Let’s get that full extension back. You get maybe from positive 10 to 5, you just put down a brick.
Now, we’re going to try and get to zero. Focus on that next brick. Maybe for someone who is in the early to mid stages, now you’re working in the strength building process. Now we’re trying to get that quad strength and that lower body single-leg strength back to the other side. I want you to think about each exercise, each repetition, each set, each day as laying down bricks. You’re not building the brick wall. Are you guys sick of hearing the word brick yet? Not yet. What I want you to think about in this process. And then even as you get more into the return to participation to practice, to sport, to performance and competing, those are all continuing to still lay down a brick, each single time you show up, each single time that you stress your body, each time that you get some practice reps in with the soccer ball or with the Frisbee, or with hitting an easy slope versus a harder slope. I want you to think about all of these as just bricks.
And what’s important here are a few things, is making sure that you lay down a good foundation. If the initial bricks that are being stacked suck and are potentially out of order or not lined up correctly, do you think you’re going to be proud of that wall and you think that that’s going to be a firm foundation for you to build the rest of your rehab and your knee and your strength on? So that’s where the initial phases are so-so important and can’t get skipped over. But I want you to think about laying that good foundation and that starts with making sure that those bricks are just as good as the ones at the top. And then you want to make sure you use good quality bricks. You don’t want just busted bricks. You want to make sure that you’re putting good quality bricks in good cement. You want to make sure that all that stuff is in line, and that’s going to come down to the things that you’re doing in this process.
And then the other piece to this is that you got to think about the speed. You want to make sure that you are not going too fast and not too slow. There’s a sweet spot to be efficient and effective. And you know what? Sometimes a brick can be laid down that you got to reorganize or you got to take it off and you got to put a different brick down and that’s okay. That might be taking one step back to take two steps forward. I want you to really think about, okay, what is the most efficient speed for me, comparing to me and not to anyone else, and making sure that I am pushing myself and stressing myself. But you don’t want to move too fast because that’s going to be also something where it could put you at risk. You want to make sure you find the sweet spot of, as you’re laying down these bricks, what is the best speed for you to make sure that you’re making the gains that you want and not moving too fast or not too slow.
It’s very, very similar to the 1% of getting better. Get 1% better each day, and the compound interest adds up. It’s a huge thing that I learned from James Clear. And it’s one of those things where that compound interest can really snowball and really turn into something. And it’s one of those things that is hard to watch every single day, or it’s hard to notice any type of growth or benefit. If you watch the stock market every single day, you’re not really going to notice as much of the increases as compared to over a timeframe of that compound interest continuing to grow. And then you’re like, oh, wow, I made some money here. And it’s the same thing here with a brick or the wall or you’re ACL rehab process. When you’re in the nitty-gritty of the day-to-day of maybe early post-op or even the middle phases, you’re like, are things getting better? Am I able to do more or is it just me just kind of spinning my wheels? But when you actually take a step back and you look at this, you’ll notice the compound interest of, man, all that daily extension stuff I did, or the flexion or maybe those quad sets or doing the knee extensions, all really added up. And you’re at where you are now because you did decide to lay down really good quality bricks day after day. And now you have somewhat of a wall built, maybe you’re close to having the wall complete now, and you just have a few more bricks to lay down.
When you start to get overwhelmed, frustrated, pissed, or having a setback in your ACL rehab process; one, it’s okay to feel this way. I felt like this multiple times and it’s going to be completely fine, and it’s fair to feel this way. Don’t let people tell you, “Oh get out of it, or this is dumb.” Because it’s fair to you and it’s what you feel so feel it. Be in it but then get out of it quickly. That is my suggestion and my advice. Get out of it as fast as you can. Because that mindset will impact the rest of the things that you do. And at the end of the day, our mindset will dictate every single action and every single belief that we have. And so what I want you to do is think about falling forward instead of backward. And so when you get out of it quick, you’re falling forward, and now you’re ready to refocus your mindset back to building your wall. Once you refocus on building your wall and getting out of that, then you can refocus on the next brick or your next step towards that wall you are building. If you don’t know what that is or if you’re lost in this process, then please reach out to me. My info is in the show notes. And I will be happy to push you in the right direction and be like, “Hey, here is your next brick, lay this next brick down, and then let’s get you to build this wall.”
I’m going to leave you guys with this quote from Will Smith that really brings this home. “You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say, I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built. You don’t start here.” You say, “I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.” You do that every single day and soon you have a wall. ACL athletes build your wall, lay your bricks, brick by brick.
That’s going to be it for today, guys. If you guys can do me a huge favor and if you’ve gotten something out of this podcast or any episode for that matter, please leave a review. Because that will be super helpful and feedback for me, as well as for other ACL athletes to be able to get access and just see how this can be helpful to them. Maybe there’s someone who’s getting ready for surgery or they are about to go into the surgeon’s office and want to be prepared. I want to get this out in front of as many ACL athletes as possible so that they’re equipped with the best knowledge to tackle their care. Just scroll down and go and do that real quick.
Love you guys. Thank you all so much for listening. This is your host, Ravi Patel, signing off.
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