One Case Study: Two Lessons Learned

NOT ALL PERSONAL RECORDS(PR) ARE MADE IN THE GYM

Revel in the achievements that everyday life afford you.

     So client starts the session with, "Oh man I was at the airport, and we were late so I had to grab my kid(25 lb), both our bags, and a car seat, then run a half mile through the airport." I looked at her with sheer glee. My giddiness was due to the fact that this particular client came to me in a very different condition. She had been in back pain for over a year that started before a pregnancy, and then was exasperated with said pregnancy. Due to the pain she couldn't pick up, or play with her child, or engage in a multitude of activities without the presence of pain. For a young, active ex-athlete this was no way to live.  

     Over the first few months we worked on getting her out of pain, while slowly exposing her to more, and more load to increase her overall strength. As we were working on her squats, and deadlifts trying to surpass PR's that she had achieved in college, she came in with the story above. In my opinion her airport obstacle race was 100 times more relevant and important to her life than a PR of a number on a bar. She is now strong enough to interact with her child in a richer and more meaningful way. She is able to withstand the forces that are thrown at her from an unpredictable life, and come out the other side without pain rearing its ferocious head. In making her way to a gym PR she achieved a lifestyle PR. Revel in the achievements that every day life afford you. 

PROGRESS AMNESIA

     So here's another important lesson learned from the story above. In her recounting of the story she was truly surprised at my amazement. She had not been able to take in the true breadth of the achievement because she had blocked out the initial stages of her recovery trajectory. If you lop off half of the increases in your mind you've only made half the gains. Because of this, what I call, "progress amnesia", you get gypped of half of your accomplishment. We can't blame our brains, all they are trying to do is protect ourselves. If we held on to every horrible memory of pain, that's not much of a way to live. This is sometimes what can happen in when you have a pathology, but that's a topic for another day. Most of the time we pleasantly put those memories of pain in a little shoebox in the corner of our brain. Much like moms who completely block out the pain of birth many years later, or a person who forgets which limb gave them such debilitating pain that they were out of work for years. Again its not a bad thing, but for our clients we want them to internalize their gains and empower them. So we want them to recognize ALL the gains they have made. This again is a argument for properly documenting so you can show them written or photo proof of how far they have come. Remember to be aware of "progress amnesia" (pardon the pun) when you are dealing with your pain clientele. Positive and empowering reinforcement are important in getting these people on a pain free path. Always remind them of how far they really have come.

Catherine Coweypain