Eleven knee supporting exercises I do pretty much everyday, you know, in case you were curious

I’ve written a few times about things we can do for our knees and about just how much physio I’m up to these days.

In case you’re curious, here’s what I typically do when I’m not going into the clinic for physiotherapy.

On most days I divide this into a morning set and an afternoon set with another round just of flexion and extension in the evening. When I’m going into the clinic, I let that count as my afternoon set.

After a round of physio exercises, there’s then elevation and icing but that’s getting less urgent now which is good since I’m returning to work next week. Luckily there’s a freezer at my workplace for ice and a ton of room for physio in my office.

In preparation for returning to work, I’m moving all of my physio appointments to the evening. I’m very excited about biking there. It’s about 5 km from my office and then another 7 km home, so a perfectly reasonable summer evening bike ride.

In bed:

1. Quad sets

Quad sets with towel under knee

2. Short arc bend with tube under knee

3. Leg flexion with assistance and hold

On floor:

4. Leg lift over block

5. Side leg lift

With resistance band:

6. Clam shell

7. Sit to stand

8. Glute bridge

9. Leg extension

On steps:

10. Calf raises


11. Knee flexion

I do other stuff too–TRX squats and some kettlebell swings. At the clinic, I also do some weighted sled pushes and pulls, I use the leg press machine, and then there’s my least favorite, monster walks. My favorite is riding my bike on the trainer which also helps a lot. But the eleven above are the everyday, mainstay of my daily rehab workout.

Not these kind of monster walks


Knee strengthening, or how can I prevent this happening to me?

Woman in blue jacket and white shirt. Photo by  Maksim Chernyshev  on  Scopio.

More than a few friends have watched me go through knee replacement surgery and recovery with the thought that they want to avoid this in their life.

I get that.

If you’re at the stage I was at that I couldn’t walk around a grocery store, and you’ve tried years and years of shots and physio and braces, then knee surgery is necessary. Once you’re at that point, I don’t think avoiding knee surgery is possible.

I also don’t think it’s worth putting off until 70 when at 70 you’ll be doing it with years and years of inactivity behind you.

But how to avoid getting there in the first place?

Now, to be clear, I’m a PhD but I’m not a medical doctor. Everything you’re reading here is just based on my own reading and experience. YMMV and it’s always good to do your own research.

The causes of knee osteoarthritis are many. And they’re mostly things you can’t control. The list includes age, sex (more common in women than men), weight, prior injury, and genetics.

I sometimes wonder if there was a sport I shouldn’t have done because of knee injuries. Mostly I worry about soccer. But it’s unclear that I could have avoided this.

The single biggest thing you can do to help is strengthening the muscles that support the knee. I’ve been advising friends with minor knee aches and pains to take those pains seriously. You can read through by post blog posts to see that’s how things began with me. See a physiotherapist now and start a preventative routine. Physiotherapists are wonderful people and I think they’d love seeing patients interested in preventing future damage to their joints.

I’ve posted before about strengthening knees.

The good thing is that if you do end up losing the knee lottery and needing surgery, all of the knee strengthening is excellent prehab. There’s no downside to strong legs!

Here’s some of my favorite knee exercises:

fitness · yoga

Christianity, double standards, yoga pants, and leggings

The recent internet frenzy about women and yoga pants began with this heterosexist, patriarchal tweet,

And as the official feminist academic voice on leggings and yoga pants (only half joking), see Ban leggings on campus? Ludicrous – wearing leggings allows women to move like superheroes, I felt I needed to chime in if only to say that I thought it was well, heterosexist and patriarchal.

I shared it with the blog team to see if anyone had anything more profound to add. Someone suggested that you might also choose to wear yoga pants on your way to divorce court after leaving this guy and any other guys who hold this opinion.

Probably the best internet response came from Twitter user @shesbonky. She honed in on the double standard angle of it all.

“In honor of stupid Christians pretending that women’s leggings are too revealing, each day I will be posting a photo of a man, exercising in almost nothing, in public spaces,” @shesbonky tweeted and shared a photo of a man jogging topless.

You read more here:

What’s the best response you’ve seen on social media to the tweet that started it all?

Black and white leggings

Sam’s Matching Knee Scars

They match

My right knee is healing well. I can do a lot with it now.

For example, I can walk upstairs now the normal way. I don’t need to lead with the good knee. Both knees are good enough for that task.

Also, and this is more exciting, five weeks past total knee replacement, I can pedal forwards on the bike. Yay! I’m doing about five minutes of forward pedaling at a time. I haven’t turned Zwift on yet as I’m not keen to see my speed, power, or cadence but being able to pedal forwards is exciting enough.

I’m also impressed that my knees match. Check out those surgical scars. A friend reminded me to use sunscreen on them.

I spent some time looking at tattoos for knees but then decided I don’t want to cover these up. Also, if I need revision surgery in there future I’d hate to mess them up.

My much more functional knees make me smile. And I’m not bothered by the scars. I’ve been wearing shorts and not feeling at all self conscious about them. I do notice now that lots of other people have them and I don’t think I noticed at all before.

Do you have visible surgical scars? How do you feel about them?

Boat knees
aging · fitness · strength training

A real life lesson in muscle loss and aging

So normally here on the blog the vibe is all about discovering your own fitness groove. Find something you enjoy and do that, we say, because if fitness finds its way into your life as one more thing you have to do, another tedious, unpleasant, time consuming task, it’s very hard to stick with it.

Add pleasure to your life by finding a form of movement you enjoy.

Along with “start small” it’s probably the most common piece of fitness we give.

Three years ago I remember pushing myself to branch out and give advice to a reader who hated exercise and who just wanted the health benefits. I said they should figure out what is necessary–strength training for bone health, cardio for heart health, something for flexibility and mobility– and then regular, everyday exercise, and make a plan to fit it in.

Now in this case, the reader did ask so we were on solid ground I think offering up our advice.

But there’s another theme lurking just below the surface at the blog. Lately I’ve been wanting to stand up and yell from a soapbox about women and the need for strength training. It might not be the thing that brings you joy but it might be necessary for functional fitness and independent living as you age.

The numbers are striking. Here’s this from a recent New York Times piece,

“Aging causes muscles to lose mass, bone density to thin and joints to stiffen — affecting our balance, coordination and strength. At the same time, hormonal shifts and persistent low-level inflammation can set the stage for chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

And the changes start earlier than you might think. Muscles begin to shrink in our 30s and continue their downward spiral in midlife, with up to 25 percent of their peak mass gone by the time we’re 60.

But there’s hope: Exercise can stall muscle loss, cognitive decline and fatigue. “It’s never too late to start exercising, and it’s never too early,” Chhanda Dutta, a gerontologist at the National Institute on Aging, said.”

Women have been sold a bill of goods about fitness. There’s the focus on thinness, on appearance, and the over emphasis on cardio fitness over strength training. These things are also planks in my soapbox.

I was in hospital recently, after my knee replacement surgery, I was struck by how many of my elderly hospital roommates lacked the upper body strength to perform basic functional movements. Yes, they’d just had joint surgery but some of them struggled to be able to move themselves around in bed.

I think I said after the last surgery that using the toilet after knee surgery all of a sudden one legged pistol squats made a lot more sense. After this visit, core and tricep strength seemed pretty essential to a hospital stay where you’ve got some control over how you position yourself in bed. It felt like a lesson about muscle loss, strength training, and aging.

Now it maybe that we are over valuing independence. Maybe we should care less about it. I think this is a genuinely hard question. But to the extent that we do care about it, we should be in the gym lifting weights.

Training for my summer body? Fuck no! I’m training for my old lady body.. Dense bones. String muscles. A healthy heart. Good balance. Functional independence.

Here’s another example of the kind of rants I’m drawn to,

And you don’t necessarily need any fancy equipment.

Woman wearing hijab doing push-ups on wooden bench in park. Photo by  Ola Alghazzouli  on  Scopio
fitness · race report · racing · running

On the Beauty of the Pace Rabbit

By Alison Conway

For Jamie

Last Sunday, I ran my first Half Marathon in thirty-nine months. I was very, very nervous: it had been a long time since I tried to hold any kind of race pace for more than 10 km. I decided I would put my trust in the Pace Rabbits holding the 1:50 sign. Usually I’m not a fan—I don’t like the crowd around the Rabbits and want my watch to set the pace, not theirs. But this time out, I wanted to avoid looking at my watch, to run by feel and just hold steady.

Immediately, I liked my Rabbits. They made the pace feel effortless and the woman’s strong legs had an easy cadence. They were great on the hills—“We’re going to run this together”—and good at negotiating water stations. They didn’t talk too much. I kept my eye on the dark pony tail in front of me and remembered to breath. I thought about how the race might feel for the Rabbits. Presumably, the pace was not demanding for them, but they had to hold those signs and check the times written on their arms and compare their watches while making encouraging noises to the small pack behind them. They had given up a race day of their own to make someone else’s day better.

After the race, I thanked them. And then I suddenly realized that I knew the woman from Before Times. Before Covid cancelled Boston, before an injury robbed me of hope, for a while, and eighteen months of running, there had been a woman at races in Kelowna who ran ahead of me. I had tried to catch her but never could. She was training as a massage therapist and spent two years in my valley before returning to her home town. We had talked. And now, here she was: Jamie Komadina.

To say that it felt miraculous to have the past meet the present on the streets of Vancouver is to understate how comforted I was to see Jamie’s face again. She told me about her recent Boston marathon odyssey l (travel horrors, a sudden flu, and the miracle of making it to the start line) and how she hoped to run it again. “Boston 2025!” And there it was: the future. With strong legs and an easy cadence.

We all should have a Pace Rabbit in our lives. Someone who makes the hard things easier, who gives up time in the limelight so that others can have theirs. Someone who opens the door to the future and says, “Look!”

We all should have a Pace Rabbit in our lives, so that we can learn to be one in turn.

Photo description: Alison and her Pace Rabbit, Jamie Komadina, at the finish line of the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon.

Alison Conway works and runs in Kelowna, BC.


Things I’m looking forward to this week

Tuesday marks one month since my second knee replacement surgery.

Celebrate every tiny victory

While recovery from knee replacement surgery is a long slog, here are some of the things I’m looking forward to this week.

♥️ I put my gym membership on hold for a month and that ends Tuesday. Tuesday I’m back to the gym for some upper body weight training and some time on the recumbent bike.

♥️ I pedaled backwards six times today on my bike that’s on the trainer at my house. Pretty soon, I’m guessing this week, I’ll be able to manage a full pedal rotation forwards. You can read here about how I discovered that backwards is easier than forwards.

♥️ End of the week Sarah and I are going to go visit Jeff on the boat. You can read about his summer boating plans here.

Escapade and the Toronto skyline at night

♥️ Cheddar and I are looking forward to some longer dog walks together. We might go visit the Arboretum with my mother and Charlie and Chase. I can’t drive yet so that would be a team effort.

♥️ Speaking of team efforts, my mother and I have some garden centre visiting to do before I get back to work.

A garden centre

♥️ And speaking of work, my plan is to gradually start looking at my email and tackle some small tasks as I start to get my energy back. I’m booking some meetings and looking forward to my return to campus.

Anyway, wish me luck. It’s a long haul and a lot of work but I’m excited about the summer ahead.


To listen, read, watch on a Friday, #ListenReadWatch


To women from all over the world, on Equal, a Spotify playlist.

Globe, photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash


Everything You Need to Know about the Canada WNBA Game

“The WNBA is heading to Toronto for the first-ever WNBA Canada Game, featuring a preseason matchup between the Minnesota Lynx and the Chicago Sky on May 13th at Scotiabank Arena at 4 p.m. ET. Hoop, there it is, baby!”


“Join the 2022 the womens field as they take on the highland trail 550, a 550 mile, self supported bikepacking race in the scottish highlands. The route is rugged and technical, with lots of river crossing and steep climbing. The scenery is stunning though and makes the journey so worthwhile. The scottish weather is always fickle and it didnt give the riders an easy time. I wanted this film to show a different side of ultra racing, reflecting the variety or riders and not just focussing on those chasing podiums or records. Every rider who starts has a valid story regardless of result or finishing time, and there are many different ways to complete an ultra. Success might be getting to the startline, having juggled kids and a full time time job to get there. The film was made with permission and guidance from Alan Goldsmith, the route creator and race director.”


fitness · sleep

Sleep and self-compassion

Occasionally you come across a thing on the internet that is exactly the thing you need to read.

For me, this week, it was How to sleep better—when nothing helps you sleep better.

I’m struggling with sleep because of knee surgery. For the first week after knee surgery you can only sleep on your back (ugh!). After that, it’s a struggle to arrange pillows to make side sleeping possible. I awake with knee pain frequently. It was pretty much on the hour right after surgery and then 3-4 hours sleep at a stretch after that.

For the first while, I was staying awake until I was absolutely completely exhausted and falling hard and fast asleep at about 6 am.

To be clear, it’s not excruciating pain. There are very strong drugs for that. But it’s enough pain to make sleeping through the night a thing that just isn’t happening. It’s enough pain to wake me up and enough pain to make getting back to sleep challenging.

I’m napping most days, sometimes twice a day, and then I fret about napping because maybe it’s making it more challenging to sleep at night.

There are various life stages in which this has been an issue for me. Normally sleep is my super power. The two most obvious are new knees and new babies.

And in both cases, I think self-compassion is important. You’re not ruining your sleep habits for life. It’s not a disaster to have a patch of time when you’re not sleeping 8 hours in a row.

I’ve blogged before about placebo sleep and the idea that what we think about the sleep we’ve gotten matters more than the amount of sleep itself.

So I’m focusing less on sleep and more on relaxing about sleep. I’m not back at work until the third week of May. If it’s still an issue I’ll worry about it then.

Yellow bear with red shirt and some zzzz’s

fitness · top ten

Top Ten April 2023 Posts, #ICYMI


Catherine wrote about the Dalai Lama sticking his tongue out. She was writing about mediation but I guess people searching key terms related to the recent controversy found her post. This was our most read post in April.


Cate’s still menstruating post was the second most read post. It’s usually in the top ten.

Three is the magic number

Catherine’s 2017 post on the Sit rise test and what it does and doesn’t show is having a bit of a moment as the sit rise test is in the fitness news again. It’s our third most read post this month.


In 2019 Catherine wrote about yoga poses she can’t do and what she does instead. Yoga poses was the fourth most read post on the blog in April.


The first of the most read posts that was written this year, Mina’s Sweating like a whore was our 5th most read post.


In 2017 Michelle blogged bout her changing relationship with her FitBit. Walking 20k steps a day was our 6th most read post in April.


Tracy’s 2013 post The shape of an athlete was the 7th most read post in April. I still love that post too!


And in other Tracy news, she also blogged about her new project. Tracy’s new blog was our 8th most read post.


Pain and the human playground was a short review I wrote about a show about endurance athletes and their limits. It was the 9th most read post in April.


And last but not least, the 10th most read post was one of the latest installments in my ongoing saga of knee surgery and recovery, Knee surgery recovery second time around.

And tomorrow it’s the start of May!