Black (Ice) Friday and the Power of Social Networking

Black (Ice) Friday and the Power of Social Networking

Jan 11, 2014

993795_10202802239520994_1187820811_nTwo months – yes, two months – of doing little to nothing related to strength or recovery with the damaged knee, per doctor’s orders, in an effort to avoid surgery and starting over with the patellar tendon, plus reworking wherever tendon would be harvested.  The recovery, which started strong, slowed down considerably when the medical group’s therapists had me doing things the doctor said not to do several months ahead of schedule.  Use pain as a guide was translated to ‘OK, Howard, do below parallel squats with 30 lb kettle bells while standing on this half ball,” and similar exercises that managed to stretch the tendon.

So, I was excited.  This was the six month point and the point where the doctor expected to tell me that I could do some real strength therapy on the knee, tendon and leg.  My appointment was for late afternoon and I was to go home, put the leg up for an hour and ice the knee prior to my appointment.  We also decided that a comparative measurement of the left and right tendons would be used to see where I was.

The week had been atrocious with deep cold (record setting with -40 to -50 wind chill – you can read this in either F or C, they are roughly the same at these temperatures) along with heavy snow just prior to the freeze.

I arrived ready to go.  The temperature was up to +36F and it was raining – it had just started.  There was a lot of water on the ground along with slush and the parking lot at the clinic is blacktop.  Here’s the secret – after a long cold period, the ground remains very cold so even though it is 36F, the ground is still going to freeze.

I slipped a little ways from the truck and started taking even smaller steps as I watched others entering and exiting the building landing hard on the backs or knees.  I kept to level ground and was about to walk up the ramp when the guy ahead of me went down hard and was unable to get up as the entire ramp on that side was a sheet of ice.  Not much that anyone around could do without ending up in the same predicament plus the stubborn old bastard would not allow anyone to attempt to help.

So, I started the other way, in the meantime, traffic coming in was being very aggressive with the pedestrians who were trying to maintain their feet and also ended up on their butts.  Taking a look at my truck, I decided that I was closer to the building so finished up the walk where there was salt and stepped forward with my left (injured side) and it went out.  I stiffened it, felt a sharp pressure in the tendon and stomped with my right foot, barely keeping my feet.  Somehow I managed to make it in.

Let the person at reception know what was going on out there and, for the first time in a while, had a limp.  The leg was not holding that great but was slowly strengthening back up.  They said that a salt truck was on the way.

Because of the fall they took me in right away and straight to x-ray.  They measured, and sure enough, the event strained and lengthened the tendon by about 3mm, which eliminates the 2mm improvement last time and added a millimeter to the already lengthened tendon.  This now makes the left (injured) patellar tendon just under 20mm (2cm) longer than the right side and puts me on the road for surgery if I want strength in the left leg.

To say the least, I am devastated by this news.

On the way out, the same guy that fell on the sidewalk/ramp decided to… you guess it… go the exact same way he did the first time.  Same fall.  I managed to slip only once dodging a car that decided that pedestrians were worth points, and jerked the knee a second time.

Travel from the clinic was frightening as cars were sliding into snow banks and straight through intersections.  The half mile trip home had me witness multiple accidents on both side and main roads – so, again, we were going to have to miss training with Team Stone as the trip is over a dozen miles from home in traffic.  My gut said – nope, if you go some idiot is going to hit your truck.

I get home and find that, in addition to a few other negative things, that my XSport (the gym where I do my accessory work) membership ran out that day (the notice arrived the same day they stated the membership ended).  This was a huge surprise as we had signed up on January 10, 2013, for an 18 month membership and I thought I had at least 6 months left, plus two months credited because of the injury.  I was planning on doing accessory work and make up for missing the team training on Saturday, so called to ask what was going on.  No response, other than one person stating that it was our fault because we didn’t turn in points (note: the salesperson had said that he would take care of the points part and the only time I looked up the reward program on the website was the first several weeks when no points were posted).  We, of course, couldn’t check anything because our account was suspended.

To say the least, I was livid.  I turned to my friends Facebook and Twitter.  Posted on my pages a series of not-to-nice statements about the situation and included copies on XSport’s Facebook page.

After hours of frustration before resorting to social media, received a response immediately from the FB page and a co-worker (Steve Ables – see, buddy, told you I would mention you in the article) who is related to the customer service manager at XSport, Arton Gashi.  In the meantime, also started receiving messages from frustrated former members of the health club stating complaints – mostly about getting out of their contracts.

Within the next several hours the XSport people who manage the FB page had been messaging with me concerning the issue and Arton called me on my cell to discuss the issue.  By the time it was done the three memberships that were involved were back on line, extended the proper amount of time, and I just have to send paperwork associated with the injury on Monday to get the two months credited.  I do have to say, above and beyond, Arton!

I arrived at XSport Saturday morning filled with trepidation about having to deal with all the post-holiday newbies that I had been running into in the evenings.  The weight area was near deserted, so was able to get in the program that I wanted to (the cardio area was pretty full, but we know that is just fine).  It also gave me a chance to release some of the pent-up frustration I was feeling about the whole knee thing.  While there were a few new faces, I suppose this means that the newbie season is ending earlier this year because it is too difficult to get out due to the weather.  Yay to New Years Resolutions (ref: for my opinion on NYR).

I have written about my XSport experience in the past.  It is a relatively low-cost, powerlifting and bodybuilding (and gym rat) friendly gym.  For what I need it for – lifting, etc. where I am just doing band work, light weights and accessory work – nothing that would involve spotters – it works out great.   I do run into a number of competitive bodybuilders and powerlifters when I am there.  It also appears that they have expanded their chain outside of the state (

There are, of course, plenty of the stereotypical gym rats there, which can be amusing to watch between sets, but that is OK, most of the time.  Except, of course, when they decide to give you unwanted advice or critiques (ref:

Other than that, and this experience, it serves for what I need the gym for.  While I would recommend that a serious powerlifter work with a team at a private gym for the major lifts and anything requiring spotters and gear, these locations (the main and smaller locations) are open 24 hours and have plenty of equipment and free weights for accessory work.

The Saturday Frustration Training Session at XSport:

  •  Reverse band bench preparing for using the Overkill next week: through a single at 605lb
  •  Shrugs: 135×16, 225×12, 315×12, 405×8, 495×8
  •  Reverse flies (bodyweight): 3×12
  •  Seated rows (row machine): 315×8, 405×5, 495×3
  •  Facepulls: 2x190x8
  • Tricep Pulldowns (cable/rope): 3x190x12

And now I’m less frustrated.

Working on a program to work on what the doctor did release me to do in order to strengthen the quads without bending the knee.


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One comment

  1. Oh, Howard… so sorry to read this. I hope your mood has improved since the entry. I just wanted you to know my powerlifter experience with knee surgery (doctors don’t have a clue what we are – we are not regular humans): it works. And you get as strong or even stronger than you were before. So, if you happen to decide to go for it, don’t be sad: it will be good. If you don’t, then go ahead with your rehab: I am sure you will recover soon!

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