My sister is a dancer in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway in New York City. Due to a variety of factors, many associated with a life long career in ballet, she has a slow healing factor. An injury that would take me one month to heal from takes her three. And just such an injury brought her to CrossFit.
She had a badly sprained ankle with severely torn ligaments. It just wasn’t healing and she decided to come home to Santa Cruz for an extended visit, the longest in almost 15 years. She arranged for some physical therapy that could be done at home, packed her bags, and hobbled off the plane for a 3 month stay in Santa Cruz.
I’m not sure how it happened, but one day not long into her visit, she was in CrossFit West, dressed in sweats and an old AC/DC t-shirt, a heavy brace on her ankle, her crutch leaning against the wall, ready for a workout. Due to her ankle she could not jump at all, or squat past a certain degree. Due to her dancer’s lack of upper body strength, she could barely do a pushup and a pullup might as well have been the moon, but she had a mental toughness like iron.
I started her slow, and Sweet Elvis she was sore. But she kept coming and pretty soon she was charging it. We worked around her ankle injury, doing hang power variations with no explosion from the feet. Weighted step ups and lunges and kettlebell swings. Anything that didn’t flex or extend the ankle. And a lot of presses and band pullups, GHD work and rack deadlifts.
She got stronger, a lot stronger. And then a curious thing happened. That horribly sprained ankle began to get better and better. No ultrasound or muscle stim or lasers or manual manipulation or massage or any of the beeswax that they have at PT, just CrossFit and gentle stretching and ice.
Now, I know you are all reading this and rolling your eyes and going “duh, of course, a systemic strengthening is vastly better than a localized one”, but it’s one thing to know it and another thing to see it happen. Happen with your training right in front of your eyes. As her shoulders and back got stronger, as her hang power clean and partial OH squat got heavier, as her 500m row (1 legged in the beginning) got faster and faster, her ankle steadily improved. Her healing factor had shifted into high gear as her body began to really build muscle.
As her body began to build muscle, her appetite changed. She was hungry a lot and she craved protein. Her body wanted 9 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, and 1.5 grams fat, and a bunch of them a day. As she ate truly fit for the first time, she got stronger and stronger. As she got stronger and stronger, her ankle got better and better. As her ankle got better, the depth on her squat improved and the pull on her clean improved and her loads got heavier and heavier. As her loads got heavier and her ROM improved, she got stronger and as….well I am sure you get the picture. Everything snowballed.
Most of the time people try to heal injuries by working on the injured area. And that makes a lot of sense. Of course you need to spend some time there. But, it makes a lot of CrossFit sense to hit the uninjured area hard. Make some big gains there and that will really help the injured area fall into line.
And my sister? She is charging it at CrossFit NYC regularly. She does just about all the main site WODs and is kipping with the lightest band. She has been back at work for 4 months after killing the re-entry test, which consisted of doing her performance 10 times in a row. Then again, she had done Fight Gone Bad a few days before and her test was nothing compared to that.
Chalk a win into the CrossFit column for my sister, and, Jessie, we miss you.
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12 Jerks (go heavy, 70% 1RM)
21 Box Jumps
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