There were two shots. They were close together, and they rang through my arm into my throat, dissonant piano chords announcing change. When you lift, and you have been doing it for a little while, your mind does many things at once. You probably don’t know how much your mind does at once as the bar travels through space–I don’t, really, most of the time–until you are deadlifting 460 pounds and on your second rep your bicep tears. I felt two shots through my arm and, in the space of a single second, as the bar returned to the ground, recognition, cause and effect, timeframes, and consequences exploded through my mind. I know these things all registered within one second because when the plates and bar impacted the floor I stood up from the lift and was frozen by the magnitude of change.
It’s not uncommon to see saccharine pictures of flowers or a sunset emblazoned with sentiment along the lines of “be grateful for what you have because everything can change in an instant” as you scroll through your social media feed of choice. You probably don’t even really read it or see it anymore, it becomes background noise, just like most of the things running through your mind as you perform a squat set. We don’t see what we’re not looking for, and we don’t look for things we don’t know are coming.
The bruise started blooming towards the inside of my arm three or four days out from Day One. At first I took the bean-sized spot as encouraging–it had already been a few days, doesn’t the bleeding and pooling start sooner than that? Is this all the blood there would be? Can’t be that bad. Then it grew as Days Five, Six, and Seven moved on. It was ugly. It wasn’t huge, it wasn’t as black or as dense as some photos of pec and hamstring tears I had seen, but it was without doubt bleeding from some sort of tear or tears. The funny thing was, it was on the inside of my arm. If I lifted my arm to show someone the bruising, I was greeted with winces and usually expressions of “oh, shit” or similar. If I didn’t, aside from the fact that I couldn’t really hold my arm normally at my side when standing or walking, aside from the fact that if you looked at one bicep and then the other, it was clear there was something wrong with the shape of my right one, aside from the fact that if I shook my arm vigorously the mass of previously connected muscle shuddered and jostled its way along my humerus like the deadweight it was, aside from the fact that I had to juggle all grocery bags onto one arm and barely open doors with the other, aside from the fact that I winced when people expected me to hold those same doors open for them–aside from all those things, the arm wasn’t very obvious. I went for days in my own gym without people knowing what had happened, and in a gym where discussion of someone’s squat miss a few days ago or who is sleeping with how many other who’s is regular fodder for a training session whether you like it or not, I consider this a feat. People don’t see what they’re not looking for, and they don’t expect change until it happens. I didn’t.
But now it has. At least for a while. I thought about waiting to write this until I had a clearer idea of what was going to happen. But it was a fairly slow fight to get myself inside of an orthopedic office given the severity of the injury. What will be far slower or perhaps not happen at all is approval from insurance for coverage–not full coverage, of course, but maybe half? I don’t know–of an MRI. I do not know what my lifting future looks like without an MRI. I don’t know if only muscle is torn–maybe–or if tendon is ruptured enough to warrant surgery–very definitely maybe.
I don’t know of a single other woman in powerlifting who has experienced a bicep tear. I know of a lot of the more high-profile bicep tears in powerlifting and strongman–all men. I’m sure it has happened at some point, but for now, I take a strange pride in the fact that I get to stand alone as a total weirdo–not a status that is totally foreign to me.
I am already in the gym lifting. I squat three times a week. I do every single lower body exercise I can think of that does not require suspending weights from my hands. I also am now doing some upper body movements–some very strange, like rows with straps attached to my upper arms, or “reverse push-ups” off my elbows that are actual a lat/upper back movement. I do band work. I do anything my body can handle right now. To anyone who takes some sort of triumph in my obstacle, it is a sad person indeed who feels victory only when the opponent is handicapped. To anyone who feels pity: I don’t want it, it is useless to me, you can keep it. Save your pity for people who cannot rise when they are knocked down. Save your pity for people who quit when they are faced with walls instead of scaling them. When I say that I will stop my pursuit of this when a gun is leveled at my head and fired, I mean it. I’m not going to stop. Watch.
For the not faint-of-heart, here’s video: https://youtu.be/Thc4yprkQAc