We have a shoulder break… through!


Yeah, so that cartoon pretty much describes me over the past year or so. As many of you know, I am currently rehabbing my left shoulder after I tore the labrum from being stupid while playing adult co-ed softball (It’s a Bankart tear for you fancy people). Diving for a base looks way easier and more graceful on TV when the pros do it. A few months prior to my shoulder injury I had just finished getting better from my Achilles injury, which I also sustained from playing softball. Hmm, perhaps I need to retire from the game…

I haven’t been able to visit a physical therapist due to a change with my health insurance, so I have been doing it on my own. Luckily many friends who are trainers and physical therapists have given me some great exercises to do in the meantime. Since I haven’t been able to visit a PT I have been a bit nervous if I’m doing enough or doing too much. I have learned a lot from my Achilles injury and have been listening to my body more, and as such, I have been seeing progress, albeit slowly. Hey, progress is progress, right?

I’ve noticed that my shoulder has been getting much much stronger over the past month and was getting concerned about my range of motion (ROM), or lack thereof. I could tell that the swelling has diminished and my shoulder didn’t feel as tight, but I could still barely raise my arm over my head or to the side. Well, this week I had a breakthrough and it felt AWESOME. I think it was because of my patience and Monday’s WOD.

Monday’s WOD was:

10 RFT
100m Row
5 Pull-ups (I did one-armed jumping pull-ups since I obviously can’t do real ones.)

I’ve been doing a lot of rowing recently and I feel it has definitely been the leading factor in my shoulder’s improvement. It’s helped loosen up the joint without straining my shoulder since all of the movement is within my “good and pain-free zone.” I was able to go all out with the rowing and it didn’t hurt at all. Well, I did row with one arm for about 50m because when I sat down for a set I pulled the handle funny and it gave me a sharp pain, but after I let it rest I was good to go.

I had Tall Guy take pictures of my ROM since I wanted to start tracking my progress. Looking in the mirror is way different than looking at a picture. I was a little bummed when I saw the pictures. I thought my ROM was better, but alas it was not. Stupid deceptive mirror, or perhaps my vision. I tried not to get upset as shoulder injuries take a long time to heal because it is such an intricate and delicate joint.

Come Tuesday, I felt something different. My shoulder felt normal. I was like, what is this?! I noticed during our mobility exercises that my arm was moving around with ease and that I was making bigger arm circles than usual. I immediately had Tall Guy take pictures to mark the occasion. So stoked at the results! Since I was feeling pretty awesome I did a mini-WOD and decided to take it easy.

My mini-WOD for Tuesday was:

3 rounds
4 medicine ball cleans with a 10lb ball (I had only used a 6 lb ball prior)
8 “bench” presses with 2 lb dumbbells
12 box jumps on a 20″ tire

The difference from Monday’s ROM to Tuesday’s is wonderful. Check out the differences below…

(Tl;dr – had a breakthrough with my shoulder ROM this week due to patience and lots of rowing.)

photo (7)


Monday – feeling awkward                         Tuesday – super stoked

photo (6)photo (1)
Slightly different arm position, but you are still able to see a slight difference. The ground is also slightly lower than inside. There was a class going on inside, so we had to take the pictures outside.

photo (5)photo (3)

photo (4)photo (2)

This is the most frustrating position for me. I used to be able to reach my left hand all the way up to the middle of my scapulas. Now, I can barely fasten my bra.


3 responses to “We have a shoulder break… through!

  1. I was just diagnosed with an ‘anterior labral tear’ which I have learned is the same as a bankart tear. I am surprised to see rowing is helping you, because I imagine rowing uses the front of the shoulder and isn’t that where the tear is (anterior)? How long did you wait from when you got the tear to when you started rowing? I have yet to see a specialist but sounds like I need surgery. Hoping to avoid it with PT if possible and if rowing helps I would be so happy (been missing cardio and bad knees prevent me from any other form)!

    Thanks for your help!

    • Sorry to hear you have a bankart tear, Brandon! How bad is it? Mine wasn’t too bad, but it was definitely painful and every once in a while it will feel funny. I didn’t start rowing until about 4 months after the initial injury. I think I tried it (really slowly) a few times prior, but my shoulder didn’t feel stable enough, so I waited. I would definitely go to a specialist, but don’t think that surgery is your only option. The orthopedic doctor I went to kept leaning towards surgery, but I told him that I wanted to avoid it and do it as a last resort. I was very strict with my PT and stretching, which definitely sped up the recovery process. Trust yourself, you are the only person that knows your body well. I have a background in gymnastics and am a personal trainer, so I know what my body is capable of and what is good and bad movement for an injury (but I am no means an expert!). My physical therapist wasn’t moving me through recovery as fast as I knew my body could handle despite me telling him how much training I do (I had been doing CrossFit for about 3 years at the time). So every time I went to a session I was already way ahead of him (e.g., he wanted me to try modified push-ups one day and I had already been doing them the regular way on my own.) The stretches he gave me definitely helped a lot, but when it came to strength, he was treating me like I was an inactive person rather than an athlete. Because of the awareness I had of my body and the patience and persistence that I took with my PT, I was able to snatch 75lbs multiple times about 6.5 months later. Anyway, everyone is different, but know your limits and don’t do anything that hurts! If it feels good, do it, but do it cautiously. You can still do rowing – just do it with one arm! That’s what I did for the first few months after my injury since running actually hurt my shoulder. Hope that helps!

      • Thanks so much for your in-depth response! I have yet to see a specialist to see how deep the tear is, I think it’s pretty bad because I have had it for 6 months and it isn’t getting any better, and I have been pretty good about resting it. I tried one arm rowing yesterday and it felt strange, the right side of my back (I was rowing with my right hand) had sort of a ‘cramped up’ feeling after 10 minutes, did you ever get that? Is there a resource online that talks about 1 arm rowing, whether its OK or not and maybe some videos of the proper technique? I want to do it, but also want to make sure it doesn’t cause muscle imbalances etc. I would try for 30-45 minutes a day if I could (trying to get in shape for summer)! But I want to be sure it’s healthy for me to do first. Again thanks so much for your help!!

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