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I couldn't stand up


I couldn't stand up

Michael Buckley

I couldn’t stand up. I was in excruciating pain. My body was broken.

I’d been having shoulder issues for a few weeks— nothing too bad, some days better than others. Figured it was just what I once heard an orthopedist refer to as “just one of those things.” No need to see a doctor. I’d tape up my shoulders and carry on.

Until, I couldn’t get out of bed one morning. I couldn’t stand up—at least not all the way. I couldn’t stand up straight. Rather, I could stand up but not without excruciating pain. I tried and tried to lift my head off my sternum, every strained attempt became increasingly more taxing, eliciting involuntary yelps like a dog that just had its tail stepped on… By a horse.

I crawled to the edge of my bed and caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the window. I felt like death. But I looked worse.

I thought, “This is it. I have Elephant Man’s Disease. I’ll never be able to sleep on my back again.” (Seriously, watch David Lynch’s film THE ELEPHANT MAN—it’s smart and weird and beautiful.) Somehow, I eventually freed myself from my mattress and called a doctor immediately.

Just kidding. I popped a handful of Alleve and trudged off to work. I thought I’d be fine once I started moving. Maybe I could even get my workout in. I’ll do legs.

I spent the morning slumped against an incline bench, slurring instructions to my clients through a haze of agony.

I waved off the concerns of my clients, “You okay, buddy?” (Nope.)

“You look kind of pale.” (A check in the bathroom mirror confirmed: not just pale but also turning green.)

“You look like you’re about to throw up.” (I was.)

I cancelled my evening sessions and spent the afternoon sprawled out on my couch with a heating pad binge watching WWE Network for 5 ½ hours. I though it would help. It didn’t.

I needed to see a doctor. So, I ventured out to the nearest City MD. Maybe a Nurse Practitioner can write me a script for some muscle relaxers. At least I’d be able to sleep through the night before seeing an orthopedist.

Got to City MD. Filled out the forms, waited, waited some more. Moved into the examining room, The nurse did the blood pressure, temp and the “What brings you here?” “Elephant Man’s Disease.” She writes something on her clipboard, she leaves, I wait some more but in a different room.

It was my lucky day. The doctor on duty just happened to be an orthopedist. I had something called scapulocostal syndrome; basically, my shoulder blades were moving up and away from my spinal column. 

“Doctor, I need to know. What caused this? Going too heavy on my bench press? Too many pull ups? Bad form on deadlifts? All of the above? Did I do this in the gym? Is there a such thing as being TOO #FitAsBuck?”

It wasn’t anything I did in the gym. It was my shitty posture outside of the gym; hours spent slouching in front of the computer, my body contorted into the shape of a lower-case S.

Exercise wasn’t the cause of my injury. But it was the fix.

The doctor showed me three exercises to help me get better. They are all exercises that force you to stand up straight even though it hurts. To stand tall through the pain, to do the hard thing in the present to create a better future.

It’s a perfect analogy for fitness (or life, really): the long-term fix requires short-term discomfort. The cause of not being able to stand up straight? Not standing up straight. It hurts to stand up straight? The solution: Stand up straight. 

If you have been avoiding exercise because you’re overweight or get winded easily or not strong or have muscular or joint pain, your symptoms aren’t going to improve in the long-term without exercise. I can create a program for you specifically designed to address whatever it is that ails you. 


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