Over the past two months I have started this post at least 10 times, but never knew where to go with it until recently. And, to be completely frank, I’m still not 100 percent sure what to do.
I needed this time to allow some clarification in my own mind and I sincerely apologize for not posting anything in the interim, it’s just that I wasn’t sure what to say and the words didn’t want to come out in a cogent manner.
So much has happened over that time period, yet in some ways so little has changed. My back has been improving steadily and there was one week where I was able to play three rounds of golf with minimal pain. Then there are days where I swing a club once and it feels like I have reverted 3 or 4 weeks in my recovery. It’s not a half full – half empty situation, it’s more as if the cup has sprung a small leak and water is flowing in haphazardly.
Most recently I was examined by Dave Oliver as he taught a seminar for the McKenzie Institute to a group of PTs here in Portland. After talking about where I felt the discomfort and going through a series of movements, he suggested I do sets of back extension stretches. Basically, I lie down on my stomach with my palms on the ground parallel with my shoulders and then push up until my elbows lock. Once in that position I exhale and relax the back. What this does is get my spine back into a neutral position. He suggested that because the golf swing is done while bent over, and a lot of things we do in life are in that same position, the spine gradually gets out of line in the hips. Then when repetitive high speed movements are added on top of the miss-aligned spine that is where the pain and tightness is created. I am supposed to do these hourly on days where I don’t play golf as well as before and after any rounds or practice sessions.
Here is a small graphic of the move:
On days where I play a round or swing a club he has me doing a standing version of the same stretch throughout the round. I put my hands on my lower back just above the glutes and lean back as far as I can pushing the spine back into position.
I did a set of 20 of these every hour the first day and then the standing ones after every swing on the golf course and it seemed to make a difference. I could make fairly comfortable swings and felt pretty good through the round. The next day I felt decent and continued the stretches. I had another round scheduled for that day so did the same thing building up to the round and during the round. I made it through about 13 holes and then hit a fat 3-wood that seemed to jar the back again. After that I had to gingerly swing in order to not stoke the fire and kind of limped in for the remaining holes. But as I continue to do the stretches I can feel my back getting itself situated which makes further strength building more realistic. I think that with all of the advice I have received to date that a full recovery is not just realistic but inevitable as long as I stay the right path.
However, this whole thing has been very frustrating for a number of reasons. Through these months the more I try to do the worse it seems to get, but then if I take 10 days completely off I feel like I have lost my touch with my wedges and irons and am, in a way, reverting. I have been debating whether it is worse to try and continue as I currently have been or if I should take a chunk of time off completely.
Another reason it has been frustrating is financially. Since I have only been able to play, on average, once a week I have been paying a lot per round to be a member of Riverside. I made the decision to take a leave of absence from the club because I was out-of-pocket roughly $550 a month to get out there about 2 times (I tend to play other tracks almost as often as Riverside). That’s some pricey rounds and until I know I am fully capable of returning to practice it just doesn’t make sense to be a member somewhere. It was a very tough decision to make as I love the members out there, but if I am limited to a couple of times a month it makes more sense to just pay the guest fee. I finalized this decision and parted from the club starting October 1.
The idea is that I can join a club again once things are completely solid. I am hoping that this will be in the Spring and have basically decided to take a hiatus from the game until some time around April.
There is no happiness about this state and I have been in a bit of an existential crisis as of late; although once a concrete decision and plan formulated in my head the fog of stagnation has been slowly lifting. My back is like the Arab that Meursault so curiously shot in The Stranger and for a few months I didn’t understand why it had to happen. I kept assuming that one day it would just go away and life would return to normal and I would have my work to do as I have done for the previous years. But, living in a world of anticipation takes a toll on us and it’s better to set a goal even if that means stepping back for a bit.
I can work on healing the back while also trying to continue swinging the golf club, but so far that has been like playing tug-of-war with myself. On the contrary, I can step back for a few months, strengthen and improve the core through doing all of the exercises that PT Shawn Dailey gave me and the stretches that Dave Oliver prescribed and allow myself to fully recover. During this time, I have realized, I can also save up more funds in order to continue the project correctly: with more expert coaching, tournament entry funds, travel expenses to see specialists, etc. Not only is my back injured, but after 5 years of not working the bank account is holding on by a thread and some duct tape, so having these months to work and replenish the funds will be a good thing to do in order to realistically be able to complete the entire 10,000 hours. I suppose that is the break in the clouds of all this.
Speaking of that, there are a ton of silver linings here. Having to take some time off of something I have come to love is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a short break in a lifetime of enjoyable moments. This injury is a setback, for sure, but it’s impossible to not sit here and appreciate everything that golf and The Dan Plan has brought me. I have changed as a human immensely since starting this project and golf has grown with me and become part of my persona. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had not set off on this journey and I am 100 percent positive that it has made me a better and happier person. In a lot of ways perhaps that is why it is so hard to realize that I need to take some time away, so I tell myself that this is just a pause, not a death.
Again, I am sorry for the long delay, but it has been an incredibly tough decision and one that was impossible for me to take lightly. I have been thinking about this all day every day and the conclusion was the last one that I wanted to reach; but after 5 months of snail’s pace improvement it is the only rational one that I could arrive at. Since deciding what needs to be done I know that it will be easier to post more frequently about life on hiatus from one’s goals. I have no clue what that will be like but I am sure there will be plenty to cover concerning what recovery and a sidelined life is like.