Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Rehabilitation, Potential and Mindset


One week after getting the bad news that my latest surgery wasn't as successful as we originally thought, I'm settling into my new rehabilitation schedule nicely and getting my mind around what lies ahead. My new rehab regimen includes physical therapy sessions three times each week and home exercises five times a day. All of this is limited to "passive range" work designed to increase the shoulder's mobility without any weight-bearing or strengthening that could jeopardize the healing and attachment of sensitive muscles. After only a week, I feel a difference from my pre-surgery self. My arm really does feel better this time around. This upper body work is in addition to the ongoing work I'm doing to increase the strength and flexibility of my hips and legs which includes walking, riding, strengthening and stretching.

I was at an conference this week in which several of the sessions addressed the intersection of cognitive science and learning. One speaker, in particular, discussed how new developments in brain science influence our thoughts on potential. Unfortunately, most of us still see the world through what social psychologist Carol Dweck has termed a "fixed" rather than a "growth" mindset. As such, we perceive human potential as fixed from birth. Some people are smart, others are dumb. Some are fast, others slow. While individuals all have certain temperaments and physical characteristics that influence success, each of us also has tremendous potential to expand these boundaries through commitment and hard work. Scientists now believe this is true in both the cognitive and physical worlds.

So while my eventual mobility is now a mystery, it's a mystery I intend to solve.There are certain limitations I'll face. No amount of physical therapy and hard work can strengthen muscles that are no longer connected, but exactly what power connected muscles will have and what adaptations and compensatory strategies I may be able to develop are unknown at this time. I'm in it for for the long haul, though and hope to surpass whatever obstacles come my way. Several things I know for sure. I will race again. I will complete pain-free 1200K grand randonees. It's simply a matter of how long it takes and what work is needed. Enough writing, already,  I'm off to do a few exercises.

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