About a week ago, I had my last physical therapy (PT) session for the sciatica that had been troubling me since late July. They started me out with deep tissue massage, two sets of 10 bridges, two sets of 10 clamshells, and a number of gentle hamstring and other stretches to do on my yoga mat at home.
We progressed to several sets of 10 bridges, some with my thighs strapped and some with a ball between my legs. I began doing three sets of four weight training exercises with a machine, increasing the weight as my strength improved. Also core exercises, from lateral pulls with cable weights to heel touches from an on-my-back chair position (those were in pretty gut busting). And knee bends from steps, touching my heels to the next level down.
After seven weeks of working with trainers twice a week and at home (just about) every day, I’m better. By “better”, I mean no longer having hip, glute or lower back pain, able to drive without pain, not being woken up during the night by pain—generally not in pain anymore. Yay!
On Wednesday October 4, I decided it was time to end PT. My excellent physical therapist Julien and I talked over why I was making my decision, and he concurred. We talked about how I could and should continue exercises at home to maintain the strength and flexibility I had gotten back, what to do when, how often, and so on. He praised me for the work I’d done and the progress I’d made (aww, shucks—thanks, Julien!). And he ended by saying, “We’re here when and if you need us again.”
Honestly, I can’t imagine a nicer and warmer handoff from PT to at-home maintenance. And yet. Endings are difficult for me. They’re difficult in as much as I fear and loathe them.
What’s that about, you might ask? For me:
- Endings can mean an immediate change, and change is often hard
- Endings often feel like loss—loss of familiar patterns, activities, people
- Ending of PT feels like a particular kind of loss—having to go it alone after regular support and company in my recovery, fitness building and maintenance
Making the transition from physical therapy or working with a trainer or coach to self-initiated maintenance and exercise regimens is very familiar to just about everyone who reads this blog. There’s nothing like being accountable to a professional one is paying, or a coach for one’s team to kick one’s keister into gear to do prescribed exercises and training activities. I’ve had experience with both, and also benefited from the company of teammates and also other PT patients doing their own workouts, wherever they were in their healing trajectory.
But afterwards, I often feel alone and on my own, without that support and company in maintaining my fitness and strength.
Yes, I am lucky to have friends who do all the physical activity things like yoga, cycling, going to the gym, walking, etc. And they’re really happy when I join them, which I do from time to time. I can do that more often.
But still there’s this feeling– a mixture of vulnerability, uncertainty and doubt. It’s the “what’s next? How can I get to the next thing?” worry. Another bridge to cross. But maybe there’s a way to reframe this.
Can I choose to think about change in the friendly way rather than the scary way? Maybe. With some help from friends, scheduling and of course not forgetting to breathe, maybe I can shift from adult-supervised strength and fitness training to self-instigated strength and fitness training.
I’ll report back in a month or so with an update. So readers, what has it been like for you when you’ve moved from very structured training or recovery to regular-life maintenance or training? I’d so love to hear your stories.