fitness · Seasonal sadness · self care · training

Checking in one month after knee replacement: Sam is gearing up for a winter of rehab

They tell you that recovery from total knee replacement is a long haul of recovery, physio, and rehab.

I’m here to say it’s just dawning on me how true that is. It’s not that I didn’t believe it before. I did. But now I’m feeling it too. That knowledge is real in a way that it wasn’t before.

There were big gains in weeks one, two, and three. Not so much this week. This week I might have overdone it. Too many tiny walks? Too much mobility work? Possibly going to a Tafelmusik concert in Toronto might have been too much. But the music was beautiful and I had a lovely visit with my daughter so that was all good.

I had hoped to report that I could turn the pedals over on my bike my now, but I can’t, yet. And yes, I know there are no fixed timelines for these things and that people regain mobility as different rates. Still, in my head it seemed reasonable to be back on the trainer in a month and I’m not there yet. I mean, I’m there, but I’m not making full rotations of the pedals just yet.

Weirdly, I am so close when I do it backwards. Weirdly backwards everything is easier. I’ve been doing walking backwards without crutches drills for physio and I don’t limp walking backwards.

Why is pedaling backwards easier? Here is one explanation:

“Pedaling backwards after knee surgery is often easier because of the hamstring activation. When you pedal an exercise bike forward the quadriceps is likely more active and the hamstring is likely less active. By pedaling backward after knee replacement surgery your hamstring is pulling the lower leg back which often improves knee flexion.”

YouTube video about starting on a recumbent bike after knee replacement

The other hard thing is simply pain. I’m surprised that a month out things still hurt this much. I take pain relief medication regularly, not the narcotic stuff–the narcotic pain meds ended more than a week ago. But I’m still waking at night with pain some of the time and by end of the day things hurt a lot.

It’s also fall of course, not my favorite season, and I’ve been brainstorming ways of coping given that my options are somewhat limited this year. My friend Todd is similarly scheming and I’m enjoying reading about his plans even if I’m jealous that they include running.

What am I up to that’s positive?

🍁Well, I’m seeing more of friends and family. I’m out and about more than I was.

🍁Today I get to start driving again. Cars aren’t my favorite things but it will be nice to be independently mobile.

🍁I’ve joined a new gym that has aquafit classes and I’m looking forward to that over the winter. Aquafit isn’t my favorite thing but it’s a thing my healing knee can do once the incision heals fully . And I do love being in the water.

🍁This week the blog’s Catherine Womack comes to visit. She’s giving a talk at Guelph’s Philosophy department called “Epidemiology Food Fight: a fat feminist takes on values in nutrition science.” That’s October 6th, 430 pm.

🍁I’ve dug out my light alarm clock.

🍁I’m very happy to be planning my return to work. I miss the university. I love fall semester even though I’m not a fan of fall overall.

🍁I’m thinking I might start my November gratitude practise early this year and make it a fall thing, beginning October 1. Gratitude is good in its own right and it makes me feel better. Right now I’m thankful that I got to have knee replacement surgery and that I have lots of support through the healing process.

Bright red and orange leaves

kayak

Catherine learns to support swimmers in Sharkfest (reblog)

Hi everyone– Sharkfest Swim is a series of open-water swims hosted mostly by US big cities. Participants get to swim in places they usually can’t, like busy working harbors. Local officials close areas to boat traffic and the event organizers provide a lot of support, both in and out of the water. In 2015, My friends Janet and Steph and I provided kayak support for hundreds of swimmers doing a 1500-meter open-water course. I had signed up to do it this September, now that I have my own kayak. But, along with many other events since COVID hit, it’s been postponed to Sept 2023. Well, I can wait.

While we’re all waiting, here’s my blog post from the 2015 Sharkfest event. Take a look. Readers, are you doing any open-water events this year? I’d love to hear about them.

-catherine

fitness

On Gender, Stairs and Finding the Progress Where I Can

Well, after a summer whizzing across the continent, I have settled back into home. I came home to a new job that was waiting for me and for the last three weeks, I have been the Program Assistant in the Department of French Studies at Western University. This has me speaking French daily, after not having spoken it for more than 20 years, and also has me tied to a rigid work schedule. Add to that my youngest son starting highschool and my husband being away for a week at a conference, and it’s been an intense time. When it comes to my relationship with fitness, I have some mixed feelings. I have a gripe and a satisfying observation.

The Gripe: Of course, all this new-ness and intensity has left me precious little time for exercise. I’m innately intimidated by exercise at the best of times, but what is it that makes it so easy for women to put our needs last? Ok. So I have a degree in Gender Studies – honestly I have a good idea of gender dynamics, especially in families. I just wish that understanding could help me influence my own actions a little more. Truthfully, I have had to focus on settling into my new routine. I have the aquafit schedule on my desk now. The time to swim is coming. But for now, it’s aggravating me.

The Positive: So despite this complaint, I DO have something positive to say about my fitness. It’s not exactly an exercise routine, but I can tell that going up the 110 stairs (I counted!) from the parking lot to my office every morning is helping my fitness levels. When I started on Sept. 1st, I went up the stairs slowly and pretty huff-y and puff-y. The past week, I’ve noticed that I just walk up them now, one foot after the other. It might sound small, but to me it’s actually BIG. Something I’ve never experienced before. Cheers to me!

A few months back, Sam posted a link to a long-ago post she wrote, explaining that if you hate exercise, you might simply be really out of shape. The upshot of that was you just need to do small things. Well my friends, I used to hate exercise, and I think this is a bit part of my story. So I really need to celebrate these small victories.

image of a woman wearing a grey knitted hat and drinking from a purple mug. Both the hat and mug say "Western Arts & Humanities"
Here is me drinking from my new Arts and Humanities mug, modeling my welcome touque!

I’m also, on principle, trying to notice my blessings even (especially) when I feel intimidated, disappointed or otherwise down. Schlepping up these stairs every morning, I have often thought of Sam and her recent knee surgery. I have also thought of myself, prior to my own hip surgeries (2021, 2019), and how the stairs would have been so painful. So, the stairs may be long in the AM, they may be no fun, but dang, I’m sure glad I can walk them.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you climbed your own staircase? Struggled with family and your own exercise needs? Where did it lead you? In this time of transition in my life, I’m looking for inspiration and I guess advice.

Thanks for reading!

Amanda Lynn

aging · health · injury · menopause

Menopause, depleted estrogen and increased rolling of ankles

By Martha

A few weeks ago, I ran into my house to retrieve a beach rug and I ended up rolling my ankle severely. While it wasn’t bad enough to warrant a visit to urgent care, I wasn’t my swiftest either.

Having dealt with the sprained ankles of others over the years, I knew I had to rest, ice, apply compression and elevate my injured ankle.

I was curious though: over the last few years, I have rolled my ankle just slightly enough to pause but never enough to feel pain.

As someone with ovaries and estrogen, it occurred to me maybe this might be connected to menopause. Our bodies change in response to depleted estrogen (cessation of periods being one symptom and hot flashes being another.

Turns out our ligaments are affected by menopausal hormone changes including increases in swollen tissues in our feet. Good foot care is important at this stage of life as recovery from sports related injuries such as sprains in feet and knees can take time.

I was lucky. I bought new shoes, acquired some fancy compression socks and regularly applied a topical pain reliever. I’m back to walking lengthy distances without post walk aches. However I’ll keep practicing my ankle exercises (flexing, pumping, and writing the alphabet with my toes) while also stretching my upper leg muscles which compensated for my injury.

So if you are a pre, post or experiencing menopause person, maintain your weight bearing exercises for strong bones and remember to pay attention to your ligaments and soft tissues in your feet.

MarthaFitAt55 likes learning new things about how our bodies work.

fitness

Fancy Women (and others) Ride Bikes

According to Wikipedia, The Fancy Women Bike Ride is an event started in 2013 by history teacher Sema Gür in Izmir, Turkey. The event draws attention to the themes of freedom and women.

This year, it was held in some 200 cities in at least 25 countries. In 2022, Sema Gür and co-organizer Pınar Pinzuti were awarded with UN World Bicycle Day Award. World Bicycle Day recognizes “the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle as…a simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transport”.

I joined the ride in Ottawa on Sunday September 18, along with about 20 women, men, and girls.

The FIFI bloggers had debated a bit about who was being left out by calling it the Fancy Women’s Bike Ride, but I found that it was inclusive and focused specifically on safe infrastructure for all riders.

Some of us had dressed up, while others preferred sensible GoreTex. we all decorated our bikes with flowers before starting, which was rather fun.

A group of cyclists lined up in the rain, with the Ottawa River in the background.
Cyclists of all ages in brightly coloured gear.

Cycling infrastructure matters a lot to me. I have ridden my bike to work for many years, most of them on streets that were rather terrifying. Modest changes over the last few years have made my commutes feel much safer, but I am still learning where I can avoid most of the worst traffic. I have been known to rant that “paint is not infrastructure!”

Will I go again? Almost certainly. I had fun connecting with other cyclists, and exchanging notes on best gear for different weathers. I am very happy to support better cycling infrastructure too – it makes the streets and sidewalks safer and more accessible for everyone, not just cyclists.

Diane Harper lives in Ottawa. She commutes to work by bicycle, mostly for environmental reasons.

fall · fitness · fun · paddling · running

Wacky Wednesday: Pumpkin kayakers, T. Rex racers, and beer can marathoners

Fall is here- well, almost. According to the online Farmer’s Almanac, the astronomical start of fall is Thursday Sept 22, 9:04pm, EDT. But it’s never too early to start planning your fall novelty races. Costume races can be fun– I did a short for-fun cyclocross race in 2016, dressed as a banana.

But that’s child’s play compared to the level of commitment and willingness to exhibit publicly that these folks have. Consider the annual pumpkin regatta, held in Windsor N.S., moved to Shelbourne N.S. this year (because of low water levels in Windsor). Here are some details:

Kean said the race will take place [on Oct. 8] in Shelburne’s harbour, between the waterfront and Islands Provincial Park. “We’re pretty confident we can make it work. I mean, Shelburne has a world-class harbour so we want to make use of that,” she said.

Danny Dill, the owner of the Dill Family Farm in Windsor, will supply five oversized pumpkins for the race. His family has been providing the giant gourds since the regatta’s inception in 1999. Dill said he feels good about Shelburne taking on the regatta. “It’s like we’ve passed the torch, so to speak,” he said.

Maura Macumber, paddling her craft at the 2019 Windsor Pumpkin Regatta.

Racing in costume might seem much easier than racing in an enormous pumpkin. Well, consider this recent T. Rex event at a horse racing track.

T. Rex competitors cross the finish line by any means necessary.

If you’re feeling down about having missed your chance to channel your inner theropod in sneakers, there’s still time. If you’re in the Richmond, VA area, you can register for this T. Rex race.

Then there’s running a marathon in a human-sized beer can. Ultramarathoner Glen Sutton decided to make a beer can suit to wear while running a marathon. The rest is youtube history:


Two marathon runners flanking a human-sized beer can, also running. Don’t blame me, I just work here.

Speaking from experience, it’s so much fun to let go of everything but a commitment to fun and a modicum of large/small motor skills, and just get out there, laughing and moving in equal measure. Readers, do you have plans for any costume races or active events this fall? We’d love to hear all about them.

Dancing · fitness

Sam dreams of dancing

I love this dancing video, have watched it a few times, and it provided moments of cheer. I won’t belabor the point but physio is boring and painful. That’s not exactly news. But wow, I’m doing a lot of it and I’m needing to remind myself why.

Why did I have knee replacement surgery anyway? Okay, there’s the mundane everyday stuff. Like, it’s nice to be able to come in the grocery store to get groceries rather than waiting in the car.

Yes, it had come to that.

I also want to take Cheddar for longer walks and walk between meetings on campus. I look forward to sleeping through the night without knee pain.

All true but there’s also fun stuff I’m looking forward to. Everyone asks about running but the thing is I’m never going to run again. Yes, some people do run after knee replacement. Some people even race. But me, I’ll be sticking to low impact activities like walking, hiking, and biking.

I may return to martial arts though my inability to kneel might ruin that.

One fun thing I’m definitely looking forward to is dancing. I’ve written before about dancing. See here. I promise I won’t worry about bad dancing. I’m going to embrace my inner Muppet. See you on the dance floor!

Dancing Kermit
fitness · stretching · yoga

Rhomboids, Rhomboids, Rhomboids: Releasing Upper Back Tension

I don’t know if the recent tension in my upper back is from inadequate stretching after my TKD classes, from lifting heavy things as I declutter my basement, or from not paying enough attention to my posture but I do know that I am not enjoying it.

I have done some extra stretching. I have spent a fair bit of time lying on a lacrosse ball. I have draped myself over my foam roller.

Nothing has really helped so far.

A person on their back moving over a foam roller while eating a piece of pizza
Apparently, I needed a slice of pizza to do this correctly. I’ll keep that in mind for next time. Image description: a GIF of a person lying on their back on a bumpy orange foam roller. They are holding a piece of pizza to their mouth and the point of the slice is between their teeth. They are leaning back over the roller so their head gets closer to the floor and then they are lifting their head and shoulders further away from the floor, holding the pizza in their mouth the whole time. White letters in the bottom right show a url – rollga.com and at the top of the image is a hashtag in white letters reading #pizzaroll

Then, this morning, I received a newsletter from Yoga with Joelle announcing her latest video – Yoga for Rhomboid and Upper Back and I realized two things:

1) I’ve stretched but I haven’t done any yoga specifically for my upper back.

2) I had forgotten that those muscles were called the rhomboids.

(Rhomboid is a very fun word, go on and say it a few times in a row.)

My storytelling self knows that knowing something’s true name gives you power over it.

I’m going to do this video a few days in a row and see if name magic holds true for muscles. 😉

A YouTube video from Yoga with Joelle. In the still image she is wearing a grey tank top and burgundy leggings and is doing a seated twisting pose with her right hand behind her, her right leg folded over her extended left leg, and her left elbow resting against her upraised right knee.

PS – After writing this, I remembered that I was working on a similar issue last year. I started out with a plan to give my shoulders some attention and then realized that part of the problem was my chair and my monitor. I guess I need to make upper back attention part of my regular routine.

fitness · shoes

Recovery shoes? Really?

So as regular blog readers know, I’m on a year of not buying clothes, shoes and jewelry that began July 1.

All is going well so far except for the exceptions. They were bras, a dress to wear to a friend’s wedding, and running shoes.

The bras were bought in July. I now have non under wire options for work. The dress I bought in August. (I bought one with a slit up the left side so I could ice my knee during the event, cute and practical.)

Now I’m looking for running shoes. My exception was new shoes after knee replacement because when I started the year of no shopping I had no idea when that would be.

I say running shoes but there’s no actual running in my life these days. Lots of walking with crutches and likely I’ll still have crutches when I’m back at work.

I laughed because a few manufacturers of running shoes have a new name for shoes that aren’t actually for running. They’re “recovery shoes.” On your non running days, you’re recovering.

Here’s what’s being replaced:

Sam’s orange shoes

And to be clear I bought the orange running shoes back when I was actually running. That’s seven years ago. Yikes.

What am I looking for?

They need to be comfortable and sturdy and good for walking with crutches. No flip flopping around, reasonable foot support.

They need to be suitable for work, but that does not preclude sporty-looking. Paired with crutches I think people will understand.

Some of the time I can wear my short leather boots that also fit my orthotics so they won’t be the only shoes that I wear.

Reasonably easy on and off. While I was thinking slip-ons, they could have laces if they don’t make a whole production getting them on and off.

I’m Googling “best shoes to wear after total knee replacement” and they’re pretty much all running/athletic shoes.

Here’s one person’s explanation, “Now that my knee requires more support, I find that using a walking or running shoe gives me a little extra padding to take the pressure off my joint. Think of your shoe as the shock absorbers on your car. Remember, you can also add shoe inserts that help even more with cushion.  Also read my article about the best shoe inserts after TKR. It’s not fun riding in a car with bad shock absorbers because it makes for a rough ride. Our bodies are the same way. However, because it’s so subtle we may not realize the extra “shock absorbing” we get from our shoes. Even if I’m not a runner, I usually gravitate toward running shoes for comfort and daily use. Why, you ask? Because running shoes are made to reduce the repetitive impact caused by running and they are made with more cushion technology in the heel (air, gel etc.). They also have good arch support to enhance the position on the foot.”

Also remember I have two knees, both of which were in need of replacement so my right knee will still require lots of extra attention until its also been replaced.

So far people have suggested All Birds

All Bird slip ons

Also Hokas

Hoka
No Bulls

My son thinks Ons might be good shoes for me.

On, Cloud go

Sarah suggests these New Balance shoes.

Black new balance shoes with rainbow sole

I also like the sound of the Canadian brand Vessi

Vessi slip on

And finally, there’s Danskos. I wear their clogs a lot but haven’t tried their walking shoes.

Danskos

Probably I need to go out shoe shopping and try things on. But the whole idea is off putting. I’m still very tired. If I only have so much energy during the day I don’t want to use it shopping.

I’m tempted to order my favorite 3 and return 2.

All of the above are available in bright colours as well as black. I haven’t decided which way to go yet. They are also all in the $100-200 price range as are the pair they’re replacing.

Welcome your suggestions!

fitness · injury

Sam is checking in three weeks after knee replacement, CW: contains photo of operated on knee after staples removed

Knee replacement isn’t easy. It’s been 21 days now. I checked in after one week and again after two weeks and I’m checking in again now.

Even though I’m making progress, it’s still a slog. The big issues are physio–so much physio!–and also pain management. It feels like alternating between physio and icing and elevation is still pretty much a full-time job.

The hardest and most important exercises are focused on range of motion, making sure my knee can bend and straighten. But I’m also doing some balance work, standing one legged with the operated leg doing the work. The other focus is strength, lots of sit to stands, and leg raises.

I’m excited to say that I’m making progress. This isn’t a particularly flattering photo but it does demonstrate that I’m getting better at bending my knee. A lot of physio went into getting there!

Sam with crutches getting into the car

Also othe bright side I’m off the serious pain medication.

I feel more like myself

I can read again. Phew.

After four weeks, I can drive again. It’ll feel better not needing Sarah or my mum to take me to physio.

I’m getting around pretty well on crutches and in the house, within a room, I don’t really need them. I’m still struggling with carrying stuff. I need a coffee and book carrying robot to follow me around the house. I can do basic household chores like dealing with the dishwasher and cooking and sorting clothes but I can’t do things that require carrying stuff, like setting the table.

I also had the surgical staples removed and check in with the surgeon in London

No more staples

I think it looks pretty good. I’m impressed with their needlework/stapler skills. What I can’t do, until that heals completely, is immerse myself in water. I can shower, yes, but no swimming pools, hot tubs, or baths just yet.

I can now look forward to short outings.

This past weekend we had breakfast with a friend.

Sarah and I made also it to the farm. For me there’s no swimming, no hot tubbing, no bike riding. There’s still lots of physio and icing but with different scenery. It’s lovely.

Hoping to go out to the movies next week.

I’m also looking forward to getting back to work. Medical leave for knee replacement is 6-12 weeks and I’m hoping for the short end of that range.

Have you had a surgery with a long recovery period like this? Any advice you have to offer?