Extreme Knitting: What to Do When Recovering From a Sports Injury

Injury is a kind of life-altering, identity-questioning state to live in. It’s like being in a parallel universe where you’re a less bad-ass version of your normal self.

I typically begin with a cycle akin to those of mourning: denial, bargaining, anger, and theoretically acceptance should show up sometime, too. I hang out in denial until an MRI or a protruding bone prove me wrong. The phase that I like most is bargaining.

This is where, when my right leg is laid up, I make fantastic goals for other parts of my body.

I’m going to be the best bar arm wrestling broad on this side of the Snake River. Sometimes I am going to break world records in pull-ups (or just my own record of 1). Whatever I do, it sure as hell is not going to be something lame like rest and recover.

Last year, I managed to separate most of my hamstring tendon attachment from the bone. This is why we don’t see a lot of Norwegian sprinters. It is not our forte. I responded to suggestions for rehab by acquiring a rowing machine. Not even a Norwegian could trip on one of those. I set myself some lofty rowing goals until the excruciating, sleepless nights became unbearable.

Trying to keep up with the old version of myself—the version that didn’t hobble or chew on ibuprofen, the version that hadn’t turned 40 yet—I beat up all my other limbs to maintain some connection to my former self. Then those parts of my body started hurting, too.

The frustration grew. I drink bone broth daily. I don’t drink alcohol or eat sugar. I get eight hours of sleep most nights. How could my body fail me like this!? You’ve all been there. What else could I do?


I could do nothing for a change. I could take a moment to recognize that the capacity to heal relies on rest, not arguably masochistic endeavors of a different kind.

So I read Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book about being in the moment and not being defined by our pain or limitations. And then I made a list of all the rad things I never have time to do because the Great Outdoors or some new Personal Best is calling me.

I bought myself a banjo and started taking lessons. My family is less excited about this than I am. I signed up for another one of those advanced educational courses I’m always thinking I should do. I started working on a book. And I may be knitting an entire set of ranch house draperies. My house is oddly clean and organized. The laundry isn’t full of sweaty socks. I wonder if this is what retirement is for some people.

I’m a little disgusted with my new affection for crafting books, recipe blogs, and Appalachian music history. Despite my embarrassment at having a Pinterest account, I’m beginning to see that taking a break from trying to improve my outsides is giving me an opportunity to improve my insides.

In my experience, personal growth is most comfortable when the user is unaware that it is happening. With all that new knowledge of self, when my body does recover, I’ll finally be able to play banjo around the alpine summit campfire for all my friends. Who will all be wearing handmade beanies. //

Ammi Midstokke can put chains on any vehicle from any position in any weather. When it becomes an Olympic sport, she will compete internationally if it fits her nap schedule. Last month, she wrote about eating cake for dinner.

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