The Sock and the Comeback

By Alex Ruckh, FASNY Health and Wellness Committee

There I was, several days before Christmas, loving life and all caught up in the season’s festivities. It was early morning and I was getting dressed for the day. I grabbed my socks and I flung my foot up to put my one of them on … boom, it happened.

My legs gave out and I was on all fours on my bedroom floor. I felt the most painful burning sensation in my lower back. I wanted to move, but I couldn’t. The pain was too much.

I started to sweat and have a slight panic attack because I’d never felt like this before. After five minutes (it felt like forever), I crawled up to my bed. Eventually, I got back to my feet. The pain was horrible and I could not stand up straight. Unfortunately, it was the weekend and I could not get in to see my chiropractor or doctor.

Eventually, I saw them and, for this article’s sake, I’ll call it a lower back injury. So, this is what I was dealt: a lower back injury. All physical exercise needed to stop so I could heal, and I could kiss riding to fires goodbye for now.

The weeks came and went, Christmas passed, and all I could do is sit on the couch and wait and wait. To add more grief, I got sick with the bug that was going around.

With my workouts/cardio sessions sidelined and the medication I was on, I gained 13 pounds. I fell into depression. I’ve never been down this road before!

Many thoughts went through my head … How am I going to do my job? … Do I have to go on disability? … Am I ever going to work out again? … Are my fire duties over with?

However, as time went on, the pain did subside and I gained movement. But, I was left a shell of my old self. All the gains I made working out were demolished and I was 13 pounds overweight. I could see it was going to be a long road ahead …

So, it was gut check time. What kind of man was I? What was on the line?

I had to look in the mirror and decide how bad I wanted this. The toughest opponent is the one in the mirror because transforming yourself is all mental. The military taught me the saying to choose “the hard right over the easy wrong” because life is about choices.

Unless you have a medical excuse, people choose to be fat. It’s easy to be lazy, it’s easy to eat junk, it’s easy to make excuses about not going to the gym. However, it’s hard to get up early to hit the gym, it’s hard to meal prep and eat right, it’s hard to say I’m not going to the bar because I have cardio I have to get in.

It’s a very lonely road for a lot of people because the majority of the country is ok with being average. The hard right is a life of improvement. So, looking in that mirror I knew what I had to do. The hard right had to be to get back to the fitness level that I was at before the injury.

The next weeks sucked. They were long and painful. I had to make simple, reachable goals. Then, as I reached them, I made more. Step-by-step improvement happened. I heard a quote once that “it’s the little steps that climb mountains.” Your body is no different!

My pain lessened and my mental positivity improved. After several hard weeks, I lost the weight and gained all my strength back. Thanks to eating right, weights and cardio, I met my set goal.

But, I was not going to end there. I set more goals to continue progress. It’s important, especially for first responders, to know there is no finish line in self-improvement!