Front squats have been feeling easy for me. Really easy. Early last week I tested doubles, going to 98% of my previous best 180kg with ease. I followed with 182kg, no problem, and then 185kg where I missed the second rep. I was tired so I stopped there.
Three days later I tested power snatch doubles (one from the high box plus one from below the knees). Beat my best singles for either lift with 97kg, then 101kg, only 3kg below my best double from the floor. All was good, so I moved on to testing back squat doubles.
With back squats, for the first time I didn't feel like it was easy. I took fairly big jumps, but by the time I had 196kg on the bar (only 6% over Monday's front squat) I knew I was probably on my last set. I stood up with the first rep well enough, but as I was finishing that rep I felt/heard a crunching noise on the spine where it was resting and a bit of pain. I waited a moment to see how my body handled it, and it was okay, so I went ahead and did my second rep. I decided that was it for squats.
Like I knew it would, my neck still hurt after that. I was somehow able to do heavy jerk supports without any pain, but after it was over the area just got more and more painful throughout the day. I worked from home the next day so I could lay in bed with it supported. I knew I wouldn't be lifting again for a little while...
It's really hard to deal with injuries. All sorts of things passed through my head with this one: that it wasn't so bad, that it's fractured and I won't be able to prepare for the American Open in five weeks, that maybe I just ended my career. The worst were the flashbacks to the moments when I officially had to declare my collegiate wrestling career was over. I dreaded the same fate, and I know this will be the last sport I ever train for at this level.
I also think I handled this remarkably well so far. Even with the worries, overall I have kept an even keel and not freaked out or gotten despondent. I have taken it one day at a time, and already good news has come back. After seeing the doctor, getting an MRI, and seeing an orthopedist, there seems to be no question that the injury was relatively minor - no damaged vertebrae. I actually have a theory that my bone density is very high compared to most people, considering I have never broken a bone (unless you count the lacrosse stick to the face that broke my tooth in half), and I don't believe my parents have, either.
As for the American Open, I admit that before I couldn't wait for it to come so I could show off how much better my lifts have become. Now I keep wishing I had more time, since I missed my week of very heavy pulls, and my peaking cycle is thrown off by what was essentially a week completely off and probably more before I'm back to normal. Every workout, every exercise, even every rep is precious, and I want to get the most out of them that I can!
On a side note, I was very happy with the way the general diagnostic process went. Mike Walters suggested I get an X-ray, and my doctor instead set me up to do an MRI, just in case (this is a good thing!). The MRI practice was helpful, courteous, and quick. I had all appointments the same or the next day after I called. The only part I was NOT happy with was the orthopedist. The man was interested solely in treating current symptoms and didn't really care about long-term health. He dismissed all the findings in the MRI - minor issues with the discs - as not worth dealing with. When I mentioned one activity where I have pain that might be related, he suggested taking an Advil and heating the area in advance. Sure, that would make it less painful each time, but it would never fix the underlying problem. He didn't care, and probably didn't know, how to do anything about it. When I asked when I would be able to lift normally again, he barely even examined me, and said that the vertebrae were protruding normally (there is obvious swelling). He told me to use pain as a guide, which is correct, but I already knew that. He didn't try very hard to work with me; the most he went out of his way was to offer hooking me up with a physical therapist and to give me a two-page packet describing neck stretches. The most information I got from him that I didn't already know was that the discs bulge inward, which is consistent with the type of positions my neck has been in wrestling, at work, and in my general posture. Worst of all, he was clearly talking down to me, and gave little credence to my concerns, not to mention he explained recovering from basic muscular sprains as if I were a child.
Whew. Glad I got that out of my system. I'll have to call my doctor tomorrow to let her know what I thought of the orthopedist. And don't count on me missing the AO next month! I will be a strong contender this year!