Articles  >  Mobility, Prep, Recovery & Injury
Getting Through a Five-Year Setback
Matt Foreman
January 26 2015

You’ve all heard the old expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So I’m gonna write approximately 1,000 words about a picture.
These articles on the Catalyst Athletics website are always accompanied by a photo. When Greg posts my articles, he often includes a picture of me cleaning 150 kg in the old Catalyst gym. You can see it right above here. It’s the same picture that’s on the cover of my book Bones of Iron.
I’ve always felt a little strange about that picture, because I actually suffered a major injury on that 150 kg lift. You probably didn’t know that, did you? Here’s the story. Greg snapped this picture when I was working out at Catalyst in March 2010. At the time, I had a pretty severe pre-existing knee injury. My ACL was almost completely torn from a Highland Games throwing accident a few years earlier. Now, doing OLifting with a torn ACL is obviously very risky, but I had been getting away with it for a long time simply because my muscles and other connective tissue were so strong. It wasn’t a smart way to train, but you know…
So during this workout at Catalyst, I cleaned this 150 kg and attempted the jerk. When I punched the bar overhead, my knee partially dislocated, finally tearing my ACL completely and also tearing off a chunk of my meniscus. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I fell to the floor and the weights on the bar landed on my left foot (150 kg/330 lbs), which resulted in a crush laceration under my big toe that went all the way to the bone. My foot swelled up like a volleyball and the cut was bleeding like a stuck hog. Aimee drove me to the hospital, where they injected a big needle right into the cut and then stitched it up.
It took three weeks before I could walk normally. And that was just the recovery from the foot laceration. We haven’t even talked about my knee yet.
Once I could walk again, I got an MRI on my knee and confirmed the damage…100% ACL tear with torn meniscus.
To make a long story short, I got the ACL reconstruction/meniscus repair surgery and then started the 9-12 month recovery. At some point during that time, my doctor tested my other knee to compare it with the repaired one. It felt wobbly, so he ordered another MRI. Guess what? My other ACL was completely torn too, probably had been for years (from an old injury). In other words, I had been lifting on two torn ACLs for a long time. One of them blew out that day at Catalyst, and the other one was just hanging on by a thread.
My doctor asked me if I wanted to continue as a competitive Olympic lifter. I told him yes, so he advised me to get the other knee fixed too. About a year later, I bit the bullet and did it. So that brings the grand total to two ACL reconstructions in four years.
Before that March 2010 injury, I was still totaling over 300 kg and qualifying for the National Championship and American Open. I was 37 years old at the time, but still good enough to compete at the top. Right now, I’m 42 and I’ve lost five years because of the long, painful series of surgeries and recovery that started with that 150 kg C&J you see above. My lifts have dropped significantly during this time. In other words, that C&J basically ended my career at the national level.
Every time I see the picture, I think about of all of this. For a long time, I considered asking Greg to get rid of it. When he suggested we use it for the cover of Bones of Iron, I had a hard time agreeing to the idea. Think about it, seriously. That picture is a constant reminder of one of the worst moments of my weightlifting career, which pretty much makes it a constant reminder of one of the worst moments of my life.
Eventually, I decided to go in the other direction. I wanted that picture on the cover of my book. I wanted Greg to keep attaching it to some of my articles. I wanted that picture to stay in my life because I made a resolution that vengeance would be mine. No matter how long it took and no matter what I had to do, I would survive, recover, and eventually claw my way out of the black hole that C&J buried me in. Looking at that picture became a source of fire and hunger. I simply wouldn’t allow it to keep me down. I wouldn’t be John Foreman’s son if I let it whip me.  
Last week (January 10th, 2015), I lifted in a meet and made a 150 kg C&J on my second attempt. It was the first time I’ve put my hands on that weight since that fateful day at Catalyst in March 2010. I put it together with a 125 kg snatch, which puts me at a 275 total. I had close attempts with a 130 SN and 155 C&J, which would have put me at 285. Getting back in the 300 kg total range is within reach, and that might allow me to sneak back into the Nationals or American Open. If I can pull that off at 43-44 years old, after two ACL reconstructions, I’ll consider it the best lifting of my life. My knees feel fantastic, by the way.  
Listen, this entire article has been about me…and I feel weird about it because I don’t want to seem self-indulgent. I’ll openly admit I’m writing this mostly for myself, but I’ve been around long enough to know many of you are dealing with your own stuff in life. You’re trying to claw your way out of a black hole of your own. Every week, I read Facebook posts about people who are injured, depressed, getting divorced, or going insane from a lack of progress. I get it, brothers and sisters. I know how hopeless it can feel sometimes, especially when you know you’ve got a very long road ahead of you and the pain isn’t going to stop with a snap of your fingers.
Quitting is always an option. Plenty of people do it. But if you give up, you’ll never know how good it feels when you finally overcome, and your old obstacles lay at your feet like the skulls of enemies you’ve defeated in battle.
Anyway, that’s what I think about when I look at the picture you see above. Sorry, 150 kg. You tried to break me, but you couldn’t do it. I kicked your ass, and I’m gonna do the same thing to all your little friends. Choke on it.
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Mark Butler
January 27 2015
Inspirational to say the least.... Thanks Mr. Foreman. Turning that magic number into a foe to be defeated is the way it always will be and we can never forget it.
January 30 2015
It's embarrasing how often your articles bring a bit of a tear to my eye
February 5 2015
I always enjoy your articles...we are the same age and I get inspiration from reading about you fighting some of the same fights I do.
Adam Trainor
February 13 2015
The undiscussed reality of exercise is that injury happens. We shy away from talking about it because the last thing anyone needs is another excuse, and we don't want to be the one giving it to them. I say "bravo" to you. Let's talk about injury. Let's talk about the fact that injury is going to happen whether you exercise or not, whether clean 150 kg, or perform 150 downward dogs. The difference for active exercisers is they usually have the fight in them to come back. Great read.
December 2 2015
Dang. Almost cried at the end of that. Very inspirational.
July 18 2017
I lifted for over a year with a severed gleno-humeral ligament in my left shoulder. I had it operated on two years ago and set a LWC record in my second post-surgery meet. On Thursday, I am headed in for an eval of my right shoulder. I may be looking at a second trip down the comeback trial. But it beats the hell out of living life on the sidelines. Lift on.