fitness · injury · monthly check in

Sam is Checking in for September 2021: Goodbye Snipe, Hello Zwift, and More Knee Sadness

September is the month where some activities end and others begin.

One that’s ending is sailboat racing. Bye Snipe! Water levels depending there may be a Turkey Regatta but I don’t think our schedules will fit it in. But we did race in the Snipe Nationals and ended the race feeling inspired to get better and be more competitive. That felt significant.

Here’s the official report here. And my blog post about our race is here.

Here’s photos from the Snipe Nationals:

September was also our last canoe camping trip of the season. It felt like we were sneaking in one last weekend in Algonquin. It was cold. It was wet. But it was also glorious. The fall colours were beautiful. We also saw a moose! But now we are drying out and putting away the canoe, paddles, etc until next spring.

September feels like a transitional month because while we are scrambling to sneak in some last outdoor bike rides, sail boat races, and canoe trips, it’s also the month that we are back to Zwift.

I’m just over halfway through Zwift Academy Road 2021. It feels good to making decent progress this time through. Last year was a little dicey!

I’m back to racing Thursday night team time trials with TFC on Team Phantom and I’m also captaining another TFC team, Team Dynamite, in the Tuesday night Zwift Racing League (ZRL) series.

We still have four spots available if you’re a category D rider looking for some company and competition and lots of laughs. Drop me a line! I’m racing in the mixed category and we’re a North American team, participating in the 730 pm EST time slot. I’ll blog about trying to organize a Zwift team/herd cats later, I’m sure.

Our first race was last night on Watopia’s Waistband. It’s a good distance, for me, just under 30 km, and relatively flat. It was a TTT and we needed four riders to compete. We started out with 6 but two people had technical difficulties and didn’t make it either into, or out of, the start pen. Our team of four was me, two other Phantom regulars, and a new person. It all went relatively smoothly with one team member keeping us in line (thanks Keith!) and another rider taking the majority of the turns at the front (thanks Jack!). Results won’t be posted until tomorrow but I’m not much fussed. Really it’s about improving over the season and coming together as a team. We’ll get there.

I’ve also rejoined the gym! More on that later too but the short version is “thanks vaccine mandates!”

I started these monthly updates because of impending knee replacement surgery. Turns out it’s not so ‘impending’ thanks to covid in addition to the usual wait times in my part of the world. I met with the surgeon and did the pre-op check up in August of 2019. Two years have passed since then. On the one hand, it’s not such a big deal. I can ride my bike and walk Cheddar in the neighbourhood. On the other, I’m in pain everyday, and waking during the night with knee pain. It doesn’t let up even though I am working around it. I plan my trips up and downstairs carefully. I miss long dog hikes and even walks around the city. I was thinking that stay-at-home pandemic time wouldn’t be a bad time to be recovering from knee replacement but it looks like the world will be wide open for travel and I’ll still be waiting. Grrr.

fitness · injury · stretching

Heel Pain Update: Clock Watching

Remember when I mentioned that I was having trouble with my calves that was causing pain in my heels?

Or, to put it another way, remember when I was learning the same lesson all over again?

Well, I have (mostly) learned my lesson (for now) about changing anything hat make me dread exercising and I have been working on a variety of stretches to help my calves and, hence, my heels.

But, it turns out that the best (i.e. most helpful) thing is to hold a calf stretch for two minutes on each side a couple of times a day.

GIF description: two polar bears are in a small dip in the snow. One starts to climb out and pauses to stretch its back legs.
This is not exactly the stretch I do. Mine is a sort of lunge as this is an upward bear. Also, I just have two legs and I am not quite as furry. GIF description: two polar bears are in a small dip in the snow. One starts to climb out and pauses to stretch its back legs.

I can feel the difference it makes AND it is way better than trying to remember to do multiple exercises multiple times every day.

BUT

(You knew this was coming, didn’t you?)

I hate it.

And it hurts.

A lot.

But, I don’t hate it so much that I won’t do it and it doesn’t hurt so much that I can’t do it but it is so unpleasant that I can’t even distract myself with reading or watching videos.

I just end up watching the timer click along and wishing I could time travel to a not-too-distant future where my stretches were already done.

Meanwhile, though, I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. After all, it has all the hallmarks of something that my brain would shuffle out of my daily schedule – it’s dull, it’s uncomfortable, and the results are definitely not instant.

Yet, I have been pretty consistent. I haven’t missed any days and most days I have done the stretch twice. (Yes, I have also done other stretches too but I haven’t been quite as consistent with those.)

Image description: a GIF of a gold star being drawn in neon. White text reads ‘You get a gold star!’​
I’m giving myself a gold star for my efforts on this. 😉 You can share this one – your efforts count, too, of course. Image description: a GIF of the outline of a gold star being drawn in neon. White text reads ‘And you get a gold star!’

I’m not sure what has made me able to stick with this particular hated exercises but I guess the fact that I can feel a difference – even if it is not instant – keeps me returning to the stretch.

Now, if I could only get to the point where things have improved enough to reduce the pain while I stretch.

At least that way I could concentrate to read or watch a favourite show while doing the exercise.

I’m really bored with watching the timer show – I already know the ending and the plot just drags along.

fitness · Guest Post · injury · running

On Being Ground to a Halt (Guest Post)

By Alison Conway

In this month’s lead up to the Olympic Games, various American track athletes have been posting about the injuries that prevented them appearing at the trials (June 18-27) where they might have qualified for a spot on the US Team. The heartbreak is palpable: “I live in an optimistic world,” writes Emily Lipari, “but I have truly struggled to find the good that comes from this one.” Keira D’Amato observes the fickle nature of her ill-timed injury: “The fall of 2020, I was able to push [my] limits and accomplish some incredible personal feats. Unfortunately, this spring season was on the other side of that equation.” These women, and many others, are watching their long-dreamed of chance at Olympic competition recede over the horizon.

“We have tried everything,” Lipari remarks of her knee injury, and I can relate. Last March, I was ready to run the Boston marathon, with 10 km and half-marathon PBs freshly minted in January and February races. We all know what came next. I slogged out a quiet summer of running and looked ahead, along with the rest of the planet, to 2021. But a niggling knee pain in October developed into a full-blown injury by December, and suddenly I was no longer running, at all. I did my rehab exercises and resigned myself to a couple of months off. An MRI showed a complex meniscus tear, probably the work of many years, aggravated by who knows what on a long run. I got on a bike and I jumped in the pool and I waited for recovery to arrive with the spring cherry blossoms.

I have been here before. After several years of running in my teens and early twenties, I developed knee trouble and my physiotherapist suggested that, since I liked swimming well enough, I should just stick to the pool. I don’t remember this moment very clearly, so I couldn’t have minded giving up my runs. Thirty years later, I mind very much. When I started running again at fifty, I thought, “We’ll see.” As the years passed and the knees showed up, week after week, my fears of injury subsided. “Besides,” I thought, “the science is better now. My physio will fix me if I break.” But my physio has tried his very best, and I’m still broken. A few short runs in April resulted in another flare up and pain all over the place. The specialist has advised me that I should start planning an “alternative activity” future—my knees are telling me it’s time to quit, he says.

The fact that my heart, as well as my knee, is broken this time round tells me that running has been doing some heavy lifting for me over the past few years. It found me a new community after a midlife move across the country; it helped me recover from the loss of a parent and a family home; it gave me goals to reach for, a way of moving through my fifties with confidence and strength. Now, I walk the dogs. I swim my laps. I pedal miles along a country road. Sometimes dark clouds block the sun.

It is a small loss in a year of catastrophic losses, but it is a loss just the same. No one likes to see me sad and friends have weighed in with advice and opinions. Everyone, it seems, has a meniscus surgery success story to share. It’s time for a second opinion, they say. Hyaluronic acid, plasma injections! The options seem endless, until they aren’t.

Covid has taught us all that we don’t know a lot of things. Like many others, I struggle with uncertainty and would rather find a story to tell, one that puts me back in charge. Blaming myself for the injury is one way to know something. Tracking down a specialist who will give me the right referral or a different diagnosis is another. For now, though, I’m swimming into an uncertain future, about which, today, I know nothing. And I’m thinking about all the runners who have gone before me and wondering how they felt when they put their trainers away for the last time.

Image description:  Two dogs on an Okanagan trail, with the shadow of someone who would rather be running than walking in the foreground.
 

Alison Conway lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx (Okanagan) Peoples.

advice · fitness · flexibility · injury · stretching

Christine Learns The Same Lesson…Again.

I was at my chiropractor last week about a problem I’m having with my heels.

I already had a working theory that my sore heels were a result of overly tight calves (I was half right) so I had been doing all kinds of different calf stretches to try and find some relief.

One of the most useful sets of stretches I found was in this short yoga video.

Her exercises helped my calves…and my heels, at least temporarily, but there was one problem.

I really hate that ‘front fold with your fingers tucked under your toes’ stretch.

I mean, I HATE IT.

I know, I know! Why don’t I tell you how I really feel.

Let’s see if this helps clarify things:

Image description: A GIF of Sophia Petrillo, an elderly character from the show Golden Girls, raises ​and lowers her hand as she vehemently says ‘I hate that!’
Image description: A GIF of Sophia Petrillo, an elderly character from the show Golden Girls, raises and lowers her hand as she vehemently says ‘I hate that!’

I forced myself to do it though because the rest of the video was so helpful (I was wary of the bouncing but I didn’t hate it) but I found myself dreading it and putting it off, and even the promised relief for my heels didn’t help.

So, anyway, I’m mentioning all of this to Ken, my chiropractor (and my cousin!) and he, clever soul that he is, sensibly said ‘You won’t stick with a stretch you hate, do something else instead.’

Glerg.

Of course!

How many times do I have to learn this lesson?

How often will I have to be reminded that the best exercise is the one I’ll do?

Why can’t I remember that hating an exercise can be a good reason not to do it?

Now, I get that sometimes there are exercises that must be done in order to heal specific things and how much you hate it may not be a factor in that case.

But, for me, it keeps happening for exercises that can easily be switched out for something else.

I need to start letting ‘I hate it!’ be a signal to find an equivalent exercises that I like instead of a signal to dig in my heels and (try to) force myself to keep doing something that feels awful.

(Besides, digging in my heels is definitely not going to help right now. 😉 )

Do you have exercise lessons that you have to learn again and again?

Please tell me that I’m not the only one!

aging · fitness · injury · training

Sam is checking in for May 2021

Sam as seen from the back deck, wearing a headband, black tights and a burgundy tank top and boxing gloves, looking up and smiling. There’s a heavy punching bag hanging from a frame in front of her.

May has been my month of aspirational outdoor exercise. I joined the university’s outdoor exercise challenge and got to work. Luckily that coincided with nice weather here in Ontario and my son’s purchase of some backyard exercise equipment including a frame for his heavy punching bag and a collapsible rowing machine suitable for outdoor storage. Between that stuff, a yoga mat, a kettlebell, and a medicine ball we’re good to go for 3 minutes off, one minute rests rounds of all the things times 10.

I’m also dog walking and bike riding outside too. Currently I’m 11th in the #GryphFitness challenge. Go Team Middle Aged Dean!

I blogged about the challenge Get outside and play! It’s May!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is challenge-logos.png

The outdoor exercise kick is also accompanied by a snack size exercise kick. I’m not sure what it is but my ability to focus is somewhat challenged right now. I have the attention span of a gerbil. I’m still working lots of movement into my day but it’s a lot of mini bursts of different things. A ten minute stretching video here, some rowing and lifting there, throw in some kettlebell swings and some TRX moves…

My bike rides are still long and focused but nothing else is really. There have been 20 minute yoga videos I’ve found it too hard to finish at one go!

Luckily this month the many exercise snacks approach was also vindicated by science.

Cheddar is my back deck exercise buddy!


Cheddar, the blond dog, laying crosswise on a blue yoga mat surrounded by random weights on Sam’s back deck.

Not much knee news. I started these monthly check-ins to mark the countdown to my knee replacement surgery. And at the end of May this was in my Facebook memories,

May 29, 2020:

“I keep waiting for the letter telling me that my knee replacement surgery is delayed. On the bright side, it’s not any worse and I’m still walking Cheddar. On the downside when all the travel restrictions are lifted I want to go hiking in England and New Zealand again.

And yes, actual physical letters. Hospitals are one of the few sources of snail mail that’s serious.”

Still waiting. Sigh. And now it’s both knees. But I’m also still walking and things aren’t worse. Hanging in there.

fitness · injury

Appreciating All the Moments (guest post)

Guest post by Michele A.

I use the kitchen counter to balance myself for 15 reps of mini-squats as I stare forlornly out the window at a cyclist pedaling by on my street on a gorgeous sunny day and wonder “when will I get to do that again”? I fell while riding recently, breaking and dislocating my femur. I’ve been told 6-12 months until full recovery. I’m fully weight bearing because of the long Cephalomedullary nail that is now a permanent part of my anatomy, so at least I can balance myself here long enough to do my PT exercises, but six or more months feels like an awfully long time.

As I was approaching my 50th birthday a couple of years ago, I became very conscious of time and how much of it I had left to do the things I enjoy. I made a focused effort to not wish away any of it. No longer would I say things like, “I can’t wait until this is over” to a crazed period of work, or “I can’t wait until -fill in the blank- event/ day/ activity is finally here.” As if anything between now and that time didn’t matter.  Be in the moment, even when those moments are difficult and try to figure out how to make the best of it. Appreciate the mundane as well as the more exciting days.  So when the pandemic hit, this approach was challenged. How do I make the best of things in this isolated new world?

I pondered how I could reflect back on this time and not think of it as a horrible year. Perhaps I could even consider it with some fondness. If I do say so myself, I think I did a pretty good job of adjusting. I grew to not hate working from home by finding pleasure in the little activities I could do during the day that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. I befriended a herd of goats, which I blogged about. I cooked up a storm and returned to my recipe blog with renewed vigor. I took virtual group guitar lessons that turned out to be much less intimidating than in-person ones. And, of course I rode my bike and ran on trails because moving outside is typically a cure for all that ails me.

I settled into a new groove and was fairly content even though I missed a lot of activities from the Beforetimes. There was light at the end of the tunnel:  more people I knew getting vaccinated, warmer weather was descending upon us, and I was making actual plans to partake in weekends away with friends this summer.

Bam! There I was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Me and my "fall risk" bracelet.
Me and my “fall risk” bracelet.

In the last many weeks I’ve been trying to come up with yet another new groove and a way to get through this period of time without wishing it to be over as fast as possible. I depend on movement and specifically movement amongst the trees to socialize, keep fit and stay in good spirits. With that gone, this mindset of not wishing away time has become much more difficult, but I am trying hard to stay the course.

As anyone who has been injured knows, the recovery process is just as much about tending to the emotional challenges as it is to the physical ones. I’ve been given a lot of advice during my recovery, all of it well intended, yet not all of it helpful. However, I’ve found on several occasions, someone has come along and said just the thing I needed to hear in that moment. At a particularly low point, a friend said to me in a texting conversation, “think of all the firsts you have to look forward to!” I stared at that text for a few moments and realized this was the thinking I needed to adopt. (Thank you, Rachel!)

Rather than expending my mental energy focusing on all the things I can’t do right now, I will recognize and celebrate each of the firsts I encounter. The first time walking with a crutch instead of a walker. The first time changing my bed sheets. The first time going into my basement to do my own laundry. The first time making something in my kitchen that was more complex than boiling water or heating prepared food in the microwave. The first time visiting my goat friends. The first pedal strokes on my indoor bike. (I’m hoping this last one will be soon.) This provides me with many milestones to reach and allows me to feel a sense of accomplishment regularly.

I’m curious to hear from the readers out there about how they made a recovery period not only tolerable, but perhaps even, dare I say, enjoyable.

fitness · injury

On the therapeutic value of doing the twist(s)

Last week, I tweaked my lower back. Or hip. Or something. The main thing I know is that I felt extremely ouchy when trying to walk or sit down or get up from sitting down. How did this happen? Who knows? I was busy living life while being 58, and it happened. Or course this can happen at 22 or 72 or never, so we’re really back to who knows…

I responded in the usual ways: rest, heat (I prefer heat to cold in these case, but YMMV), and anti-inflammatories (again, YMMV). In addition, I spent time on the internet looking up stretches and other exercises for sciatica or piriformis or lower back pain. I know, I know– this wasn’t an advanced search based on expert advice. But I’ve done enough tweaking and wrenching with accompanying physical therapy to feel like I can at least get started on some gentle movements and see if I need more qualified adult supervision in order to feel better.

And guess what?

It’s working!

In particular, the exercises that involve twisting are helping a lot. Most of the ones I’ve been doing are related to yin yoga poses. And they feel soooo gooood. Here are a few I’ve been loving this week.

The twist comes in so many luscious variations. Here are some more:

In addition to going side-to-side, I’ve been bending back and forward some, too (when it feels good).

Gently stretching the back muscles with sphinx pose, or more deeply with seal.
Gently stretching the back muscles with sphinx pose, or more deeply with seal.

This isn’t technically a twist, but it does involve bending and stretching, so I put it in here. On the same principle, I also mention the following two stretches, one of which is a bit twisty:

Two seated forward bends: the side body one feels great and can be turned into a twist by, well, twisting. The forward one is non-twisty.

I would be remiss if I didn’t add these two classic twisting poses that I do very often: seated spinal twist and figure four (which can be done on the back or seated or standing).

Doing these twists in gentle ways this week is making my back/hips/glutes/self feel very good. So I thought I’d share the yumminess of good feeling with all you good people out there.

Do you like twisting exercises or stretches? Do they give you joy? Do they give you a pain in the neck or back or shoulders? What do you do when you’ve gotten really ouchy? I’d welcome any tips.

cycling · injury · running

BIXI Queen of Mont Royal

A month ago, my partner and I decamped from New York City to Montreal for the rest of the year (and maybe longer). I’m a McGill alum (and Canadian). Ever since I left Montreal, I’ve had a hankering to come back. Pre-pandemic, we’d started talking about coming for a month to see how we liked being here. Then the turbulent spring paused our plans. When we poked our heads above the parapet again to think about the future, Montreal sent up smoke signals.

Despite the fact that we were quarantined for the first two weeks, and now we’re subject to red zone restrictions, I love being here.

I didn’t arrive in my best-self mental state. Four days before we came, I sprained my ankle. I’d been so looking forward to running on Mont Royal. Keeping up my spirits was hard. I felt like I was holding myself together with string and duct tape. Yes, I’m too dependent on running. Especially when I’m going somewhere new (or old-and-new, as Montreal is). Running is such a great way to explore and get grounded.

So, the first thing I did was sign up for BIXI—Montreal’s shared bike system. The day after we arrived, I headed out on a BIXI to ride up Mont Royal. I quickly found where the real cyclists were (as if I was a fake, because I wasn’t in lycra or on a proper bike and I was wearing an air cast). I joined them up the nice long hill on Camillien-Houde, continued up the wide gravel path for the loop around the cross, returning the way I came. A sweet, challenging, mood-altering ride that took me just under an hour on the BIXI. While it wasn’t the run I’d been hoping for, the ride was grand. What a profound relief, to find a way I could be outside, on Mont Royal, get my heart rate up and protect my ankle.

And here’s the bonus—cyclists cheer for you when they see you toiling up the hill on a 40lb BIXI. I’m sure I’m far from the only person who has ridden Camillien-Houde on a BIXI. When my partner tried to make that claim on my behalf, one of my brothers immediately recounted tales of guys he knew in Europe who took Velibs—Paris BIXIs—up Mont Ventoux, one of the legendary climbs in the Tour de France. Still, I haven’t seen anyone else doing the workout on a BIXI, so I feel like the BIXI Queen of Mont Royal when I get to the top. This past Sunday, I pushed myself by staying in second gear (of seven). When I crested, I was high-fiving the low hanging tree branches on the side of the road. A couple of guys swooshed up behind me, offering bravos as they passed, too. I allowed myself to feel special for a couple of minutes.

Mina on Mont Royal with a BIXI. Unlike so many others on this blog, lifting heavy things is not my forte. I couldn’t quite manage the awkward 40lbs above my head., as I’d planned for this photo.

Even better, my ankle is healing faster than expected. I’m also able to run again—cautiously and not for too long. I started with a stair climbing workout and a super short run, but twice now I’ve done full on runs. I have to remind myself to pay attention to my footing, because the fall colours are eye-popping, starbursts of energy and solace.

When I run, I’m ready to buy real estate and move. On days I BIXI, I’m happy and satisfied by my workout, but I don’t feel quite so impulsive about leaving my home of the last 27 years. Considering the possibility of a move challenges my self-image. I like to think of myself as adventurous and adaptable. Yet, I’m discovering that my roots run deep in New York and to contemplate moving keeps me awake at night. I love my friends and community. I love the apartment we live in. A couple of weeks ago we celebrated 25 years since we moved into our apartment. When we bought the place, our relationship was only 18 months old. The decision seemed precipitous and premature, a leap of faith. Now it’s been our home for the last quarter century. We got married in the apartment. What a comfort. On the other hand, on our move-in anniversary, I suddenly started to worry that I was getting staid; that metaphorical yellowing newspapers are piling up in the corners of my life.

I don’t know what we will end up doing. I’m trying to take life 24 hours at a time. My partner and I check in with each other multiple times a day to see how we are feeling about the possibility of making a change. We know for sure what we will do if Trump wins. But even if he doesn’t, it just might be time for a new leap of faith. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my BIXI crown and the runs my ankle allows.    

fitness · gadgets · injury

Pretty in Peach: Gendered Workouts and the Way the World Is

In my house the pandemic began with a flurry of online shopping to create a home gym. Or rather, to round out our existing supplies.

We have a TRX and yoga mats, bikes and a trainer for Zwift, and even resistance bands with handles and a lone kettle bell. We’ve hung our punching bag. I’m feeling pretty lucky.

My son also bought a giant tire for flipping, and some sandbags and water jugs for lifting.

The most recent fitness tool we acquired are peach bands. They’re resistance band loops and they come attached to whole marketing campaign that’s got my feminist attention.

The Bands
Peach Bands

They’re marketed as booty bands. Peach is both the colour of some of the bands and the desired booty shape that’s the aim of the workout. There’s lots of peach booty imagery out there and discussion of “peachy glutes.” Google it! Or not. Your choice.

See 5 Booty Band Moves (Other Than Squats) That’ll Give You A Peachy Butt.

The bands are incredibly useful for me because my mobility warm up is one I do with bands. My knee physio exercises use the bands too. And now I have some strength training that uses bands.

What’s interesting (and not surprising really) is that the knee physio exercises and the “develop a peachy booty” exercises are the same. See How glute strength supports your knees  and Strengthen Glute Medius to Avoid Common Knee Pain.

So my knee pre-hab workout is also some Instagram fitness model’s booty beautiful workout.

See 6 Resistance Band Exercises to Relieve Knee Pain.

As a feminist I always have mixed emotions about workouts aimed at making some body part beautiful. What’s in the mix? Well, a healthy dose of “you do you” and “go girl” along with some sadness that the great feel good of moving your body and sports performance is reduced to mere means to aesthetic bodily improvement. Also, I fret that it won’t work anyway and then you’ll hate yourself and stop exercising losing out on all the good that movement brings.

Still, still, these exercises do help knees. And more women than men have knee issues. We tend to move in a quad dominant way and have issues activating glutes and hamstrings. These bands certainly help activate those muscles. So if younger women are motivated by booty-beautiful and end up with fewer knee injuries as a result, then why worry about the motivation?

Also, they are really nice bands with (for me) the right range of resistance. And they come in a handy (peach coloured) carrying pouch. The marketing campaign has a lot of empowerment messaging. See the pie chart above.

covid19 · fitness · injury

Injury-free, at last!

Image description: running shoes, yoga mat, metal water bottle, and resistance bands.

Like most people, I have experienced some benefits I hadn’t predicted from the pandemic isolation (e.g. more time with my parents; the transition from asking “what’s sourdough starter?” to churning out perfect loaves on a regular basis; regular family gatherings on Zoom). But the benefit that has snuck up on me the most is that after over a year of struggling with injuries, I am now, suddenly and happily and unexpectedly injury-free.

On the blog, I’ve been fairly quiet about my injuries (one reason for that is that I had a long good-bye late last summer where I more or less left as a regular contributor, and since then have only written a handful of posts). But also, I’m not big on widespread sharing of my own pain (not that I never have), and I have a personal aversion to dwelling on what’s wrong (not that I never do). People who know me were aware of my Achilles’ injury because it interfered with my regular routines. Most seriously, it took me out of my regular running routine for more than a year. Since I ran the Around the Bay 30K last March, the furthest distance I’ve covered was 10K. I did that maybe 2-3 times. Despite feeling good immediately after the event, I experienced debilitating back pain a few days later. And then, within a short time of the back clearing up enough to take a gingerly approach to running again, my left side Achilles started to bother me in June, and by July I had backed way off. Mostly, I’ve been running between 3-5K or not at all.

The thing is, I’ve been continuing to try. Despite my physiotherapist’s advice and other people’s insistence on the risks of running on an injured Achilles, I spent many months backing off and then easing in again. Really, what I needed was to back right off and take a long break. When I was in Mexico for a few months from January 1 to March 18, I settled into some short running for a few weeks and then brazenly added mountain hiking. If you’ve ever had an Achilles issue, you know that uphills are the worst thing for it. So let’s just say hiking in the mountains was ill-advised. I inflamed my Achilles to the point where I had to stop running and hiking again by mid-February. I continued to walk a lot, covering 8-10K on flat ground most days, sometimes limping. My Achilles wasn’t exactly getting total rest and I was still aware of it all the time, but at least I’d stopped stressing it out.

The other part of my regular routine was yoga, modified so as to put no extra strain on my left Achilles.

When I got back to Canada on March 18, I had to go straight into quarantine for 14 days. I was in the country at my parents’ place (we had travelled together), so I could safely go for very short walks without running into anyone. When the 14 day quarantine ended, I added some very short runs, but I walked on the uphills (it’s hilly around here, but I was adamant that I would respect the Achilles). When the quarantine ended, I was able to extend my distance a bit, but mostly I’ve kept it to a walk or a run most days, plus yoga. A couple of weeks ago I added resistance training classes on Zoom.

I’m giving this little rundown of what’s happened since March 2019 because it’s really only since the pandemic (almost a year from the event where this all started) that, without planning it, I have done exactly what I needed to do to tend to my injury. And since I didn’t plan it, I didn’t “design” my approach with the Achilles in mind. Instead, I have stuck close to home and only gone out for shorter periods of activity because it seems (to me) like the right thing to do.

I’ve kept to my commitment to daily yoga because more than ever I’ve needed a way to feel grounded–morning meditation and daily yoga are two ways I manage to do that. Yes, they are grounding in themselves. But along with my daily walks or runs, they have helped me establish a sense of routine that I absolutely need during the pandemic. I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel as if each day just spills into the next and time has taken on a weird quality where it is on occasion almost meaningless.

Because of the weirdness of time lately, I can’t tell you when exactly it happened. But some time during the past two or three weeks it occurred to me that I hadn’t been aware of my Achilles at all of late. One marker of an injury is that it never completely escapes awareness. It’s hard to believe that just a couple of months ago, around the time when I had to stop the hiking, my Achilles was throbbing and aching all the time, even when I was just lying in bed.

Now, I finish a walk or a run and the Achilles just worked the way it was supposed to work. When I’m doing yoga, I don’t have to back off of pushing my heel all the way down when doing Warrior I. In a Zoom workout, I can keep my heels down during the squats and not worry about pain in lunges or chair climbing or anything I’d usually approach with caution.

Because of the pandemic and my inclination for the foreseeable future to stick fairly close to home, I feel pretty confident that I am not about to “overdo it” despite feeling as if I am good to go. Instead, I can enjoy my new injury-free-again state without putting it at risk (as I might normally be tempted to do). It’s amazing and wouldn’t have happened without Covid-19 forcing such major changes in our expectations on all of us. By the time this thing is resolved (I am not optimistic that it will be within a few months), the foot will be strong and be able to support me in a new training plan that can include distance and intensity. Pretty exciting!

So that’s my story of recovery from injury and of one of the good things that pandemic isolation has brought me. If you have an injury-recovery story and/or a good thing you want to share about pandemic isolation, please leave it in the comments.

Meanwhile, may you all be safe and be well.