I stared at the machine; it looked back, disinterested. A few minutes before a young man had been on it, his arms swinging up and down, the weights, at his side, moving with him.

“Hmm,” I thought, watching carefully, “that should be a good test. I’ll try it after this guy’s finished.”

I was at the gym. My workouts had changed in the last four months due to a serious shoulder injury. Instead of the usual workout on weights I was bringing resistance cords with me to tie around the machines or put under my feet to work my arms and shoulders. A trainer caught sight of this yesterday. “Why are you bringing those here when you have all these machines?” he asked, pointing to my accessories. This guy is built like an ox, bald with enormous muscles bulging out of his arms, back and shoulders. I’ve seen him working his clients, men and women, and he works them hard. I was always thankful to have Andrew as my trainer since his workouts were so much easier.

“I injured my shoulder four months ago,” I answered, rubbing my left shoulder to make my point. The trainer nodded; he understood. He gave me a few hints of what I could do with the free weights and the machines and returned to his client.

Actually, it was more like two and half years ago that I really injured the shoulder, probably with a poorly delivered tennis serve. My wife, too, coincidentally hurt her shoulder and so we stopped playing tennis. But four months ago, while mowing the lawn – and it’s a very large lawn on our country property – I severely reinjured it, unable to move in certain directions at all without excruciating pain, throughout my shoulder and down my arm.


I went to a physiotherapist. She worked in tandem with a younger woman. Their philosophy was to not move the arm into the pain at all, only to it, and then stop.

Unhappy with them and the slow progress I made with them after three or four visits (I actually thought at the time, in early September, that this injury would last only a couple of weeks at worst) I switched to a therapist at the gym. His philosophy was the opposite. Whether seated or on a table, he pulled my arm every which way, sometimes into extreme pain. It was exhausting.

After five or six visits, I also ran out of money. I was on my own.

With some more suggestions from a very sympathetic trainer at another gym in Sutton, Quebec, I started doing exercises at home. I was soberly realizing that this injury was going to take a very long time to heal.

Although I never had it x-rayed, I believed it to be a rotator cuff injury along with some bicep tendons (though, really, what do I know?) It’s just a guess. But what was evident, from September to mid-December when I am writing, was that progress would be definite but very, very slow.

In bed, on my back or my side, certain motions still caused incredible pain. Week by week, these discomforts decreased in intensity. I became encouraged. I practiced an exercise prescribed by the therapist in Sutton, whereby I stood flush against a wall with both arms spread out also tight against the wall, thumbs up, and swung them as high as I could against the wall. My right arm would go straight up, the left only to below the 90° level. Over time, this swing got higher and higher. Putting on a shirt still caused jolts of severe discomfort but during the day I would feel pain less and less.

And then came the machine.

This was just yesterday. I eyed this shoulder strengthener. One leans forward at an angle against an angled vertical pad and places one’s arms under two pads to the side in order to push them up. I went for it.

Seated, I decided to not put any weight resistance at all on the machine. I tried my right arm. I pushed against the pad and up it swung, no problem.

ImageI tried my left arm. Wha…! Was it stuck? I pushed a little harder. I could feel a steely tendon in my arm resist. C’mon, Ron, push! I pushed a little harder and was hit by a bolt of cold, absolute pain that had me letting go and panting. No!

Although I tried again and again the pain wouldn’t let me push the pad one tiny millimeter. I had met my match!

In other aspects of the workout that I had made for myself at the gym I had made good, solid progress. I could take heavier and heavier free weights (still relatively light) and lift them sideways, either standing or leaning forward. I experimented with all kinds of machines that would challenge my shoulder somewhat. I was progressing!

Or was I? Yesterday’s experience was naturally quite sobering but it has laid out a definite challenge for me. I mean to conquer that shoulder lift. If I can get it, then I know that the shoulder and arm are back to normal.

As I continue to go to the gym, I will return to that baby. I mean to sit down again and place my arms under the pads. I’m going to push and push and push!


One day, that pad will move. I might feel agony or I might not, I don’t know, but I am determined to get my shoulder back to the point where I can move it any old way and not feel pain.



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