Sixteen weeks is a long time to be doing essentially nothing in terms of exercise, especially when you are normally active five or six days a week. However it’s the necessary ‘down time’ needed following an anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.
A few weeks ago I reached that milestone and it was time to start learning to run again. The use of the word ‘learning’ might sound like a bit of an exaggeration but you really do have to teach your body not to be over compensating on the good knee while also facing the mental challenge of being terrified that the operated knee might give way at any time. The chances of that happening are of course slim but you can’t help but fear it.
The running starts very gently with eight sets of 20 metres, with the amount of sets increasing on a weekly basis. Of course this is all just straight line stuff and it’ll be another eight weeks or so before any turns are incorporated. My routine now is to alternate between running and gym work every second day. In the gym my usual knee exercises have progressed to single leg squats, which pose a good challenge, as well as variations on hamstring sets with a fit ball. The exercise bike has become my new best friend and I aim for 10 kilometres at a good resistance every second day for now.
The relief to just be out there fairly active again is huge as you do go a little stir crazy. Manchester City midfielder Michael Johnson has been out for 18 months since doing his ACL in training back in December 2009. Since then he has come in for much criticism for his lifestyle and obvious weight gain. However having put on the best part of seven kilos myself over the space of four months I know first hand how easy it is to slip up.
Sure Johnson is a professional athlete and is meant to know better but not only has he lost a hobby, he also lost his livelihood. Where your Average Joe can still go to work and lead a normal life, football players are left with a lot of hours to fill in their day when their teammates are training and regular friends are at work. Comfort eating and bunge drinking are the two killers in terms of weight gain but it’s easy to understand how one could slip into that sort of routine. I know I did for a while.
Thankfully I’ve dropped almost all of the excess weight I put on now that cardio is part of my week again, and with all the leg exercises that I’ve been doing there’s no doubting my physios assessment that I’ll actually come back a lot stronger than I was before the injury happened.
I’m still a long way off the ultimate goal of playing football at a good level again but the plan is to be involved in some shape or form with my club by August. The main thing is there’s been no setbacks or complications so fingers crossed it stays that way.
You can read the rest of the ‘Battling Back’ articles here.