Does it need to be slow and steady wins the race?

“It’s a bit unorthodox, but it will speed up your rehab.”

This was nearly sixty years ago, so consider this a reconstructed version of a conversation in the Emergency Room with my first orthopedic surgeon.

It was late January and I had spent most of the last twelve weeks in casts. I had broken my femur in a football collision. During a practice no less, so no sympathy from the sidelines. The first cast was a body cast that started at my ribs and went down my right leg to my toes. That was then replaced with a leg cast from hip to toes. That cast had been removed ten days earlier and I was learning how to walk again.

If you immobilize a joint for twelve weeks it’s going to freeze up. You’re also going to lose muscle mass. You go to physical therapy to rebuild the muscle mass and restore full range of motion to your knee and ankle.

You also start hobbling around to get back into the rhythms of regular life. A few hours earlier, I had gone to watch my classmates playing basketball. As I was leaving the gym, I limped onto a patch of ice in the parking lot and fell.

Two things happened. I broke my fall (and my wrist) by reaching back as I fell. I also twisted my leg underneath me. Now, I was back in the Emergency Room to discover whether I had done any new damage to my leg.

What I had done was to break loose the adhesions in my knee, restore full range of motion, and compress weeks of rehab into a few seconds. Scarcely the recommended plan of action. But effective in its own warped way.

The danger here is to confuse good fortune with strategy and discipline. My internal sprinter was happy to cross this finish line ahead of schedule. That slowly maturing part of me that hates they very thought of a marathon wonders whether this was a missed lesson. The more often you get away with powering through, the longer it takes to develop sustainable habits. The longer it can take to recognize that you might want to invest in developing sustainable habits.

That’s where I now find myself. Working through the implications of adding more “slow and steady wins the race” to my well-grooved habit of taking the shortest path.

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