My jaw was wired shut for 15 days and 17 hours. Honestly, it was pretty miserable. I slurped all my food through an oversized boba tea straw. I had to sleep somewhat upright, so thank goodness for my son’s Craftmatic adjustable bed. I was on pain medication – which actually served more as an anti-anxiety medication than a pain med – for 9 of the 16 days. The prescription pain medications left me with terrible migraine headaches after day 4. Finally, TMI here I know, the pain medication made it difficult for me to urinate and have normal bowel movements.
All this being said, if it’s one thing I’ve always been known for it’s my optimism and ability to find the silver lining. I was committed to making sure that this episode wouldn’t derail the one thing that I love and have control over: my iron life! As a result, there were some aspects of my training and nutrition that actually improved during this period of time.
Only being able to consume liquid calories, protein powder and PB Fit made up the majority of my protein intake, and I consumed a lot of protein. I added protein powder and fairlife chocolate milk to my coffee in the morning, I blended up protein powder in melted ice cream, and I mixed PB fit in with blended Greek yogurt or Ricotta Cheese. Lastly, my wife cooked pinto beans and pork loin for hours in the crock pot until it was uniquely soft and pureed in Vitamix (it’s not as bad as it sounds). The result was a very boring daily menu, but I actually managed to increase my protein intake. For months I averaged ~175g of protein, but in August it was ~10g higher. Perhaps this was something I could learn from? More on that in a minute.
The bodybuilding training I outlined in Part 1 of this blog has been very enjoyable, and I love how fast each session goes. For nearly a year I have been powerlifting, working up to a heavy singles to start each session. Not doing so now saves me 30-45 minutes per session. I still like working up to a heavy single to kick things off, but I don’t have a specific RPE or go super heavy. Now, I just work up to something heavyish in about 5 submaximal sets, but I don’t search for the right load. This warm up usually takes me about 10 to 15 minutes, and then I back the loads down, get the volume I want with that lift, then finish the rest of the session. I adjust loads if the reps are too easy or hard or if the weight isn’t right for the target rep range, but I don’t have to adjust very often with this training style. This also speeds up my workouts because I can just hit straight sets and RPE without adjusting load. I train with a flexible frequency, hitting the weights when my schedule allows and when I feel ready and recovered. Thus, even though the programmed number of sets per session is the same, volume has increased as my frequency has gone up. Most of the time I get anywhere between 15 and 20 sessions per month. Since I’ve made the move to this style of training, I am getting five sessions a week every single week. As a result, I trained 23 times in August (a PR). If you know me, you know I get married to programs I like, so I’m excited to see what happens to my physique after 30 to 40 weeks of training with this style.
Training with your jaw wired shut presents its own unique challenges. My hope was with this program I could take the last set of each exercise close to failure. But, when you can’t open your mouth to breathe and your nose is torn up from a breathing tube you had in it from surgery, catching your breath after a set to failure is difficult, and anxiety inducing. On more than one occasion a certain amount of panic has set in and I’ve had to close my eyes and calm my mind. I literally had to tell myself “you are not going to die, air in and air out”. That fear gave me enough trepidation that I’ve left more reps in reserve on my final sets than I wanted. However, as I mentioned before, this only lasted ~2 weeks. . Now my jaw is no longer wired shut. Much of the hardware is still in place, but rubber bands have taken the place of the wires. Talking and breathing is much easier now, so I can really push those final sets.
Breathing heavy is its own challenge when you can’t open your mouth.
Thank goodness the wires are gone and rubber bands have taken their place.
Those hooks that they hook to are no fun though.
Eating, however, is quite painful. My braces have a total of 30 hooks which the rubber bands and wires hook to. Even chewing soft food is painful. The hooks tear up the inside of my bottom lip, so oral anesthetic is my best friend. Even with its frequent use though, I give up on eating by the end of the day. My strategy has been to only track protein. If a food that I’m eating does not have protein in it, I don’t track it. I know with how difficult eating is, I’ll be in a slight deficit, so I’m just focusing on protein. If I have met my protein target, it does not matter what time of day or night, I’m done eating. At the end of the day if I haven’t hit my protein target, I simply dry scoop as much whey protein as I need. This has resulted in a little weight loss, but not as much as expected. I would guess that I lost ~2.5 lbs. My running average body weight prior to breaking my jaw was just under 194 lb. The running average now is about 191. My goal as I navigate this entire month of September, with much of this hardware staying in place, is to keep my protein 180g per day or above. I am okay with drifting into the 180 to 189 lb range for bodyweight as long as I keep up the training that I mentioned before and keep my protein up.
All this hardware will be removed from my face on Monday September 26th. Not soon enough as far as I’m concerned. As I mentioned, there has been a few silver linings to this whole saga so I can’t complain too much. However, I will not be dropping another 135lb barbell on my face again anytime soon and I would not recommend it!