accessibility · fitness · habits · injury · stretching

Recovery and why physio is so hard!

So I am the sort of person who is good at following the advice of physiotherapists. I’ve successfully rehabbed some serious injuries and I trust the professional advice of physiotherapists. I do what I’m told.

It’s also worth noting that I have exceptionally good benefits and they cover almost all of my physio costs. And yet, even for me, physio after knee replacement is tough and I thought I’d explore why.

First, advice about recovering from knee surgery can sound contradictory. The take home sheets from the hospital say to use your new knee as much as possible each day. It will help you heal faster from surgery and improve your chances of long-term success. But also it says to avoid pushing yourself too far too soon. So as much as possible but not too much. Yep.

And practically it feels like that too.

The knee feels good and so I go for a short walk. After that it swells up and is painful so it’s time for ice and elevation. I’m constantly moving between making the knee work and then helping it recover.

After I posted about going for a very short walk this morning, friends commented, great, now rest!

What’s as much as possible but not too much? There’s not really good intuitive measure at this stage since everything hurts a lot of the time.

Second, unlike other physio I’ve done this is really painful. It’s the kind of painful where you ice before and after and take pain medication around your pt sessions. Since you’ve just undergone surgery and things still hurt from that, you feel a bit like hiding on the sofa, covering yourself in blankets, and waiting until the pain goes away.

Third, it’s pretty time consuming.

Here’s a rough schedule of my days this week. Next week I’m hoping to be able to get on the bike trainer to help with my range of motion.

6 am breakfast, drugs, ice and elevation in bed

630 physio round one, basic stretching and mobility

700 more elevation and icing and getting ready for the day

Tiny walk

800 Breakfast round two, more pain meds, more elevation and icing

900 Physio round 2 mobility and stretching plus regaining strength

930 ice and elevation

10-12 free time for reading possibly napping

12-1 lunch

100 ice and elevation, more pain meds

130 Physio round 3, mobility and stretching and regaining strength

200 ice and elevation

230-4 free time for reading and napping etc

4-6 dinner etc

7 last round, 4, of basic mobility physio

Tiny walk #2

Bed with all the ice and more pain meds


That’s me on the deck post tiny walk, resting and icing, as friends and physio advised.

Patience my friends is going to be key.

accessibility · equipment · fitness

Knee replacement surgery and recovery: Some reflections after week 1

Day 1 Surgery

Surgery was Monday, August 29th. It was supposed to be day surgery but my blood pressure wasn’t fond of the spinal so I kept flunking the physio exam to leave hospital. Each time I stood up my blood pressure sank drastically and I had to sit back down. That was frustrating, especially since the surgery itself went well, but I was happy to see they were obviously okay keeping you if you’re not well enough to leave. Yes, here in Ontario our hospitals are stressed but I felt very well cared for. The nurses and physios and the whole surgical team were lovely.

Day 2 Home!

Tuesday’s big adventure was making it from London to Guelph. Getting in and out of the car was the biggest challenge. I was happy to be home and settled into our ground floor back room with the fold out sofa. Usually it’s our Zwifting studio but no one is Zwifting right now. We have a main floor washroom and so I was saved the need to handle the stairs with crutches until I was a little bit more stable. For the first few days I relied upon a walker.

Day 3 My walker

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Also on day 6 I made it upstairs and slept in my own bed. Bonus!

Day 7

OMG Sarah installed a new handheld shower attachment and I successfully showered. The world is a better place today.


Surgical staples get removed and I have a follow up visit with the surgeon on the 15th. That’s the point at which I can ask about getting back on the bike on the trainer and maybe getting back to the gym for some gentle workouts.

Here are some of my thoughts so far about the recovery process:

It helps to have a team. Between keeping track of all the medication–pain drugs yes but also antibiotics and blood thinners and anti inflammatory drugs–and running out for ice for the ice machine, it’s a lot. Thanks Sarah, thanks mum, thanks Jeff. I can’t imagine going through this alone.

Functional fitness matters. I only needed the walker for the first couple of days and I’m pretty stable on my feet now even without the crutches. I’m using them for walking to help the joint but I feel pretty strong. The new knee is “weight bearing as tolerated” as they say. It helps too that I’ve got some upper body strength and reasonable mobility. All of a sudden when you’re trying to lower yourself into the toilet seat with one leg doing all the work and the other sticking out because it doesn’t yet bend, pistol squats start to make sense. We bought one of the raised toilet seats with handles but I really only needed it for the first couple of days. It’s packed away now.

Pain management is a thing. Part of me worries about pain meds and addiction. I also like feeling like myself. But knee surgery isn’t a time to try to soldier through. You need to keep moving and do the physio and to do that you need to keep the pain under control. There’s always some pain but I’ve been told to try not to let it get too far above 5/10. I’ve been using the heavy duty pain meds at night for sleep and before and after physio.

Physio, physio, physio. Recovery from knee surgery is a full-time job. I’m off work for at least six weeks and part of me wondered why. I could work from home and make my meetings virtual meetings. One reason is of course pain medication and judgement. There’s also time constraints. If you’re doing physio two to three times a day and you need to prepare for physio and recover after, there isn’t a lot of time to do other things.

This is also going to take a lot of patience. It’s tough work and I know it can feel like slow going. Wish me luck!

Good leg good to heaven, bad leg goes to hell. Crutches advice for the stairs.

Happy to answer any questions anyone has about my surgery experience. Ask away!

accessibility · equality · fitness · swimming

A Tale of Two Water Parks

For decades, families in southwestern Ontario have cooled off in the summertime heat at the St. Marys Quarry, formerly a limestone quarry that was converted to a public swimming area in the 1940s.

Thank to a recent addition to the quarry—the Super Splash Waterpark—there are two different swimming experiences for quarry goers. I share about my one experience, which was shaped in part by the other that I did not have.

Basic and Super

Before the coming of the Super Splash Waterpark (SSW), with an admission ticket guests could swim around freely to about the middle of the quarry. The basic park now includes play features like a few rafts, a slide, and a trampoline.

The Super Splash Waterpark website explains that for this added option guests pay general admission and then 3x more to access to a giant inflatable on-the-water playground. Only a limited number of tickets are available for 2-hour time slots. Reservations are made through an online portal.

With one of the hundred spots reserved for SSW, at the quarry get a wristband, a fitted yellow life jacket, and a safety primer. SSW guests must access the inflatable playground by swimming through the “basic” swim area, now limited to the front quarter of the quarry.

The SSW park has a large set of access and safety rules. Few if any of the quarry’s water features are fully accessible, but the SSW definitely isn’t. Here’s a view of the quarry from land.

The St Mary’s Quarry, featuring the roped off Super Splash WaterPark behind the general admission section. Pic by me.

A Super Time at the Basic End

You might predict where my story of goes next. Some friends and I decide to go to the quarry, but due to the limited number of SSW tickets only half of us get access to the inflatable park. The rest of us—basic access only.

Let me tell you—there is nothing that makes an inflatable water park look like more fun than when your friends can go but you can’t (even if you are an otherwise mature, mid-life, child-free cis-woman). I sat on the grass in my suit, grumpily contemplating whether I would go in the water at all. Take that, quarry!

I asked a friend (who had walked away from her computer mid-reservation so was similarly relegated to the basic quarry area) how a 10 year-old kid might feel seeing but not being able to access the SSW. She recited some parenting wisdom about how making one’s own fun on the basic quarry side is better because it builds character. But I already had character, my 10 year-old self whined—what I wanted was the fun-looking waterpark!

My gaze could not even escape the inflatable obstacles that filled the quarry horizon, a constant reminder of where I could not go, the fun I could not have. Even my once-greater swimming freedom was reduced to a quarter of the quarry by that blow up monstrosity!

My friends eventually came back from the inflatable side—removing their special wrist bands and yellow life jackets—to spend time with the rest of us. And, as the oldest ladies on the trampoline on the “basic” side of the quarry, we did indeed make our own fun.

Next Time at the Quarry

Aside from my poutiness, it all seemed some sort of microcosm of the inequalities besetting some exercise activities in a capitalist society: only a percentage of people get access to what looks like a bigger and better time if they plan in advance, have the added money to spend, and are physically able to participate. Those with less info/tech savvy, disposable cash, and/or differences in ability are more likely to be excluded but must also watch from the sidelines.

My friends reported that the SSW part of the quarry was harder and more tiring than they had expected, and they probably wouldn’t pay for it again.

If I went back, would I choose to plan further ahead to reserve a limited SSW ticket, even if the park is less accessible, I have to pay 3 times as much, and I may not even have that much more fun?

Sadly, my answer is probably yes—because I know that the real privilege of privilege (in a capitalist society or a two-tiered Waterpark) is having the freedom to choose.

accessibility · cycling · disability

Sam’s sad post bike rally day saved by Bixi!

So the bike rally is over and all we’re left with is a giant pile of dirty laundry… so much laundry.

We’re still waking at 6 am hungry but there’s no breakfast waiting for us.

Also, our bikes are on trucks heading home to Toronto.

Yes, we have lots of wonderful memories. See here’s me bike dancing waiting for the final stretch into Montreal.

Sam bike dancing

But the day after the rally isn’t easy. But it’s especially not easy if like me you can’t walk very far at all. Yes, I can ride my bike from Toronto to Montreal but my knee is in such tough shape that I struggle to walk.

I had a miserable walk to breakfast with Sarah when Sarah spotted the Bixi bike stand. Yes, our bikes might be on trucks but we could still ride!

Breakfast was delicious and after we biked over to Bota Bota, the spa on a boat and soaked in tubs of various temperatures.

I love riding the Bixis. Mina is the Bixi Queen of Montreal but I feel like honorary visiting royalty. No helmet, regular clothes, no clip in shoes, a bike that weighs at least twice as much as my road bike, and it’s a totally different cycling experience than the rally. Not zoom, zoom more cruise, cruise.

They’re fun. But for me they’re also very much necessary. Another reminder that safe cycling is a disability rights issue. I really struggle with walking any distance these days but I love cruising around the city on the Bixis.

accessibility · fitness · inclusiveness

Moving back into the world but who are we leaving behind?

Today I posted on Twitter.

And then Pandemic Dark Dance posted to Facebook, “Tomorrow Night… Hopefully the last online Pandemidarkdance for a long while. I fully expect all 600-some members to login for it. We can’t take 600 requests, but we can take a few. You got any? Next Thursday (17th) we’ll be back in the Owls club, like olden times… Like nothing had ever happened… save for the vax check, tea-light squares, and the entry and exit wearing of masks…”

So we’re moving our fitness lives back into the world and the online options are closing down. Mostly (see above) I’m thrilled about that. I’m back at the gym I’m doing in person yoga again.

But who is being left behind?

I’m struggling with this in the university context too, trying to balance accessibility concerns, with wanting to be back on campus for in person learning.

It’s not just about being high risk for covid, or having perfectly reasonable concerns about social gathering when the pandemic isn’t over. There are also disability access needs that have been met during the pandemic. In addition, there’s the rural/small town/big city divide. I remember, in the early days of social media, when online friends in big cities would talk about getting off LiveJournal or Friendster or Facebook in favour of in person friends in the real world. I’d point out that their real world looked different than mine. I didn’t have the same access to in person events that they did.

So too with Dark Dancing.

What is Dark Dancing anyway?

Elan blogged about it here.

From the No Lights, No Lycra page:

“WE DANCE IN THE DARK IN MORE THAN 75 LOCATIONS AROUND THE WORLD AND WE’VE BEEN DOING IT SINCE 2009! We turn off the lights and crank up the tunes to release our inhibitions, move our moods and work up a wild sweat – all completely sober. We are mums, dads, students, lawyers and baristas, from 12 to 100 years old. We all have one thing in common; in the dark we come alive, shake the blues away and get lost in the music….We grew from a small gathering in Melbourne into a global community, simply because joy is contagious, and people love to dance. Lights Out, Let’s Dance – there’s room for you on our dance floor. 

When the pandemic hit, dark dancing took off in peoples’ homes. If you use Spotify there are more than 300 No Lights No Lyrca playlists. I can’t dance due to my knees but these playlists have saved my life on the bike these past two years.

So as Dancing in the Dark returns to clubs, that’s great I guess. But what about those of us who don’t live in Toronto, New York, or London or who are choosing to stay out night clubs until the pandemic is gone for good? Or what about those people who dance in bed, or in their wheelchairs, for whom the night club, even sober, might never have been a real option?

I was happy to see that some dark dancing groups are running hybrid dance parties, in the club in whatever city they are in and on Zoom and or YouTube as well.

And I’ll be curious to see where we land in terms of hybrid forms of participation.

Dancing gif

How is this working out in your online fitness world? Are you losing online fitness options? What do you think we ought to do to keep online and in person fitness communities going? How is hybrid working out, if your communities are going that route?

accessibility · challenge · fitness · walking

We’ve made it to Saskatchewan!

We’ve got some fit feminist groups doing the PaarticipACTION challenge this year. You can read about our kick off here. There are at least two teams that I know of. Teams are limited to 8 so we had to break into groups.

My team has made it to Saskatchewan so far.

We’re in Saskatchewan in the ParticipACTION challenge.

So far I’m enjoying the challenge and the hope of winning the team trip to the Yukon. It’s been a good reminder for me to get out and walk everyday. I’m still biking lots too.

With my horrible end stage osteoarthritic knees, I’m never sure how much is too much. Yes, walking hurts but it’s not making things worse and I like being outside and walking with family members and our dogs.

Mallory, Sarah and I are considering a hiking back country camping trip this spring and I’m really curious to see if I can do it. Knee replacement seems to be on hold forever and I’ve got to get on with my life. I’m not sure if I’m just getting used to being in pain or if walking is actually less painful some days.

Here’s galleries from three of my walks since the challenge began!

Walk with London kids after emergency dental visit!
Beautiful fall colours on my morning walk with Cheddar
Mum and me and the dogs walking on one of the Guelph trails
accessibility · camping · cycling · fitness · Guest Post

Bike Tour Voting Challenges

Over the course of about ten days, I spent several hours on the phone with Elections Canada being transferred to one person after another as I tried to get correct information about my voting options, figured out how to vote by mail, and how to resolve complications with the process. I could have voted at any Returning Office before the 14th, but by the time I learned that I was in Espanola and was under the impression that I still had plenty of time to vote by mail since September 14th was listed as the deadline to apply.

Unfortunately, this is misleading since in reality it wouldn’t allow for enough time to receive the special ballot via Canada Post and then get it back to Ottawa by 6pm on September 20th. That’s right, post mark dates aren’t what count here; it has to physically arrive in Ottawa by the 20th. That sort of turn around *might* be possible, but only for those who can afford $85+ to courier it there.

Why is the government not footing this expense for all mail in ballots given the impossibility of the deadline they have listed? Disabled folx and those in remote communities (like Northern Ontario) will be disproportionately excluded by this process. How many ballots will arrive late and thereby be excluded? During the last election “11.1 percent of national ballots and 11.8 percent of international ballots were returned late” (Elections Canada Vote by Mail FAQ). Clearly this is a significant issue even outside of a pandemic.

I applied on September 9th, but even this wasn’t enough time by regular post and maybe not even by express post. My ballot finally arrived to Iron Bridge on September 15th. At that point I was in Thessalon and had been told by Canada Post that the mail left at 5pm. Express post should get it there in three days – just enough time. I packed up as quickly as possible and rode hard and fast to get there in time. 

On the way I made a quick stop at Little Rapids General Store for food. I’d heard they had lots of delicious smoked meat and cheese and I needed food anyway to get through the next stretch without grocery stores. Little Rapids did not disappoint. The smoked rainbow trout and taco flavoured cheese curds were delicious. Beyond that though, the town is a beautiful hole in the wall spot that most drivers would likely miss. I was disappointed that there wasn’t time to hike out to see the salmon spawning or take in the heritage museum. It also had lots of spots that looked great for stealth camping.

Standing outside Little Rapids General Store with dinner and on the go protein (taco flavoured cheese curds, smoked rainbow trout, dried turkey, and dried elk!)

About half way to Iron Bridge I realized that without taking the highway I’d never make it. Pro tip: avoid this stretch of highway 17 at all costs. There’s no paved shoulder and drivers will risk your life here. If I hadn’t been so emotional about the messed up system I likely would have bailed and hoped it would get there anyway. As it was, I plowed on.

My cousin didn’t have time to drop my ballot off and I knew there was no way I’d get to the their place and then the post office in time. A random kind gentleman in his driveway picked up the ballot from my cousin’s (only a few blocks away) and dropped it off at the post office across the road. I made it to the Iron Bridge post office just before 5pm! 

But I got misinformation for the bajillionth time: mail left at 3pm, not 5pm. Couldn’t have gotten there earlier anyway. I cried… not for the first time about the likelihood of my ballot not being counted. I jumped through so many hoops trying to get this ballot in – including changing my route multiple times. Right now it’s not looking hopeful – as of now it’s showing a Tuesday arrival and has no updates since it left Iron Bridge on Thursday. 

Giselle (Canada Post staff) and I crossing our fingers in hopes that the ballot arrives in time to count.

As someone who has lived in poverty since my teens, the right to vote is a huge deal. It’s how we raise our voice, call for change, and hold our government accountable. If you weren’t planning to vote today, please get moving and go vote. My vote probably won’t be counted, but yours still can (if you have the privilege of accessibility). If transportation is a barrier phone the office of anyone who is running and a volunteer will help you get there!

accessibility · camping · cycling · fitness · inclusiveness

Rest and Spoons


By the time I reached Whitefish Falls on September 7th, I was tired. More tired than I realized at the time. 

An incredible view of the escarpment as I left Whitefish Falls en route to Espanola.

I called my cousins who recently moved to Iron Bridge to let them know that I was heading their way. They asked if it would be cheating for them to pick me up. I was *relieved* at the offer. My body needed a break. I told them I wanted to bike one direction, but didn’t need to bike both ways. Miles are fun to celebrate, but for me it’s about the adventure far more than kilometres ridden.

The next day I biked to Espanola, had a delightful visit with Ben & Hector (en route to Victoria), bought a few necessities for the cooler weather, and then loaded my bike into my cousin’s car. In the next couple days, I was surprised at how frequently I conked out on the couch in the middle of an admin task, too tired to even bother moving to my hammock. 

Inside my cousin’s car trunk with my bike and bags loaded for a lift to their farm.

People who have chronic health conditions marked by fatigue often call ourselves “spoonies” or make comments like “I’m low on spoons today.” I’m a spoonie, so in contrast to the average person with a full set of spoons it’s easier to overdo it (even when I’m *not* on a bike tour!) and more challenging to return to my baseline after overdoing it. On the Patients Rising blog, John provides a great overview of what Christine Miserandino‘s Spoon Theory means to so many of us with invisible chronic health conditions.

I’d always planned to prioritize pacing and sufficient rest, but this is easier said than done. Sometimes it feels like I’m playing tug of war with myself… trying to find the ever elusive line between challenging myself *just enough*, but not so much that I push into a crash. 

Ableism makes this more challenging as well. People who have never done bike camping generally think that 30-60km in a day (my original goal) is an astonishing amount to aim for, while many (most?) people who have done bike camping think it’s a really slow pace. These opposing perspectives on what constitutes a great accomplishment mean I must pay close attention to my own goals and not allow my sense of success to be swayed by how others view me or my abilities. As far as spoonie life goes, paying attention to my physical and mental health needs are key, which subsequently means that flexibility is key… so focusing on numeric based goals feels like asking for disappointment. 

Freeze dried chicken stir-fry while watching a spectacular sunset from the dock at Roe Park.

After four days of rest, on Sunday evening I rolled onward with strategies for a slower pace including: scheduling rest days, scouring Google Maps in advance for mid-ride rest spots (which could double as an early overnight spot), and ordering freeze dried meals so that running out of food doesn’t force me to ride further than I have energy for. Sunday evening I employed many of these tactics after leaving later than I’d planned. I rode 10km before enjoying a freeze dried chicken stir-fry while watching a beautiful sunset at Roe Park (aka Sunset Beach). It was perfect. 

For those of you who are wondering, I’m writing this from the cute city of Thessalon after a very eventful night… but that’s a story for another time!

I couldn’t resist adding one more photo from Sunset Beach (Roe Park)… this one looking out at the dock and lake was taken during sunrise.
accessibility · camping · cycling · fitness · Guest Post

Beyond Comfort Zones: What if you fly? (Guest Post)

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
“Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”

This quote by Erin Hanson has strengthened me in an enduring way that only a couple other quotes can lay claim to. The start of it is engraved on my iPad as a form of resistance to the impact of perfectionistic ideals that often hold me back. But since my collision in 2013, these words have encouraged me to push beyond my comfort zone in countless ways. 

As recently as last summer, I was super anxious about everything that might go wrong on a hypothesized weekend canoe trip with a friend. But interestingly, internalized ableism was a significant contributor to my camping trip fears. Because of this, solo camping (even bike touring) actually feels less daunting: I can go at my own pace without fear of slowing anyone down.

Even so, it’s plenty daunting! I’ve never biked on country roads, never ridden more than 40km in a day, and I pitched my first tent this July… I’m a newb in every possible way and I’m diving in anyway! 

I finally made it out of London on Saturday evening and was shocked that I made it to Lucan without needing more than brief water breaks on the side of the road. Not sure if that’s thanks to electrolytes or adrenaline, but I’ll take it!

Even before I made it out of London there were plenty of hiccups! I figure that’s par for the course given the steep learning curve! But I’m fumbling my way through, figuring it out, and pushing back against gender stereotypes and ableist views that say I shouldn’t do this… especially as a solo female. I’ve heard “you’re so brave” way too many times already in response to these plans. Do people also say that to men embarking on solo bike tours? I’m guessing not.

Adventure was not the initial driver of this trip, but despite the complicated backstory it appears to be shaping into a delightful adventure. I’m doing all the things that excite and also terrify me… but I’m more excited than anything… which is a major shift even in the past few weeks! I’ve no doubt this adventure will significantly change me and the decisions I make through life… I think it already has in many ways. Because how could showing myself all that I am capable of not change me?

After a second draft of packing, I called London Bicycle Cafe and declared, “This is not going to be a thing. Something has to change. It’s way too wobbly and I don’t know how to fix it.” So Ben and Andrew helped me rearrange things and taught me key principles for balancing my bike. It’s only a few days into my trip and I’m already starting to feel like a pro!
Bubbles (my dear bicycle) is fully loaded and ready to go after adjustments at London Bicycle Cafe!
accessibility · cycling · feminism · fitness

A low car city is a feminist city….

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On my to read list! Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in our Lives

Melissa Bruntlett and Chris Bruntlett’s new book Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in our Lives is coming out this summer. Curbing Traffic argues for an end to auto-dependency and supremacy, through the lenses of equity, well-being, resilience, and social cohesion.

Find out more about the book here.

It’s also part of their case for a low car city that a low car city is a feminist city. It‘s better for our mental health, it fosters social trust, and it enables people of all ages and abilities to travel in an independent, safe and comfortable way.

Those are themes close to my heart and I’ve shared them here on the blog: Safe cycling is a disability rights issue and Bikes as mobility aids: Another reason to prioritize cycling infrastructure and Thinking about cargo bikes and gender.

I love the images below–from Melissa Bruntlett and Chris Bruntlett’s twitter–@modacitylife.

Enjoy!

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