Knee Pain: How to Stay Sane When You Can’t Do What You Love

I’d been lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling, for hours.

The knee pain wasn’t even that bad, but this one thought had kept me awake past 2 AM.

How would my life change, if I could never again run or jump as I used to?

In retrospect, it’s a stupid question to ask. Here’s why.

The mind will give you answers to every question you ask, so if you try to picture a bad future, your brain will come up with tons of depressing imagery within seconds.

Brain: “So you want to feel bad? Okay, here goes…”

Before you know it, you’ll be sucked into a negative spiral of self-pity and apathy. I’ve been there.

Today I want to talk about how to stay sane when you can’t do the sport you love.

The Biochemically Most Important Step

If you’re used to doing sports several times a week, your body biochemically depends on your activity to maintain a positive mood.

Without sports, you’ll start to feel bad. The longer you stay inactive, the shittier you’ll feel, but there’s an easy solution…

Keep active in any way you can!

Your body relies on muscular activity to feel good and any type of training will work. Here’s what worked best for me.

Two effective exercises you can do almost anywhere are chin-ups and push-ups. They’re super-safe for your knees and a great way to use a big part of your upper body musculature.

Rubber boot chin-ups are the best chin-ups.

Even if you don’t like these drills, you’ll find that you’ll feel great after doing 30 to 50 total repetitions spread out over as few sets as necessary. Three sessions per week will suffice. That’s less than 30 minutes of training to feel good for a whole week!

I dare you to do the push-ups right now. Safe the chin-ups for when you have access to a bar.

These two drills kept me sane and gave my training purpose when I couldn’t do anything else.

If they’re too tough for you, you can also do dumbbell presses and rows or push-ups with your hands on a table. JUST STAY ACTIVE (I can’t emphasize this enough).

Step 2: Distract Yourself

I used to play basketball in the afternoon on the weekends and Tuesday evening. When I couldn’t play, I filled those time-slots with other activities to keep my mind distracted from what I was missing.

My go-to activities to distract myself were photography, reading books, and watching TV shows. Check out this page to find great TV shows (my favorite: The Wire).

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Of course, you can also use this time to catch up on other hobbies that you wanted to spend more time on.

Maybe you have guitar that’s collecting dust in the corner or maybe you’re into painting or poetry. Whatever it is now is the time to get better at it.

We begin to love a sport because being good at it gives us satisfaction.

I sucked when I started playing basketball, but after 5 years, I wasn’t the worst guy on the court anymore and being good obviously made playing the game a lot more fun.

So the mood uplift from sports is not just because of the biochemical effects, but it’s also psychological. The better you are at something, the more you enjoy it. This happens to be why push-ups and chin-ups will suck when you first do them.

You need to keep this in mind when devising a strategy to feel better.

Step 3: Reframe the Sport You Love

Okay so here’s the thing.

For recreational athletes, sports are about having fun, as we just spoke about.

You will spend a lot of time enjoying the activity, the fun part, while only spending little time on prep-work such as warming up, stretching, mobility training, maintaining muscular balance, and so on.

Once you push past a certain level of competency and performance in your sport, just showing up at the court in your sneakers is no longer enough to keep you healthy.

The more serious you become about your performance, the more time you have to invest into preparing your body for your sport.

For every hour a professional athlete spends enjoying their sport, they spend several hours getting ready. That’s easy to forget when watching sports on TV or highlight reels on YouTube.

The best thing you can do now is to reframe rehab as an actual part of your sport. In your mind, doing gluteal exercises, stretching, and foam rolling will go from being something you “have to” do to something you actually want to do.

This shift in mindset has a huge effect on how quickly you recover from injuries and how happy you are with yourself.

Subtle, but Brutal

The changes we talked about in this email are very subtle at first, but combined they have a brutal effect on how you will feel during your rehab period. The better you feel, the less likely you are to do something stupid that causes a setback.

You will recover FASTER and feel BETTER during the process.

Eight months of feeling bad and being depressed could turn into five months you’ll later look back on with a smile.

Start today with 30 to 50 push-ups and see where it takes you. Take as many breaks as you need to finish, but start now.

Comments

  1. James P says

    Martin,
    I have purchase your book and the slanted board. Thank you for giving me hope and showing me what to do. I am 45 years old and I love to mountain bike and do martial arts. Unfortunately, both are on hold for now. The good news is that my pain level is not even a 1.
    Quick question for you. Can you do a video on how to do the Z stretch? Also do you recommend doing hamstring exercises? It seems like the front of my leg is strong and the hamstrings are tight and weak.

    Thanks again for all your help,
    James

    • Martin Koban says

      Hi James,

      I have videos on that in my video course. You’ll hear about it if you’re signed up to my newsletter.

      Regarding hamstring stretches: I’d do it only after the gluteals are working properly again.

  2. Marquis thomas says

    I really want to get better and want to walk again it really sucks feeling like this my knee on left foot still hurtsome I don’t like it have two kids to my daughter is 9yr my soon is 2yrs this sucks I can’t do anything for them really need to walk again

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