Image description: A thin, white woman (NOT SAM!!) with blonde hair wearing platform heels and a grey suit with a pink blouse runs across the street. The image is from How to Run In High Heels.
My knee is slowly getting better. It won’t ever be healed. But it hurts less. My physiotherapist says I might never be pain free but I’m okay with that. Generally speaking, I’m getting stronger, I can do more, and it hurts less.
Did I mention that sometimes it hurts less? Sometimes, some days I even forget that it usually hurts. And on those days, I have to remind myself not to run.
Now I don’t mean fitness running. That requires shoes and a plan. It’s deliberate and intentional. That kind of running I don’t have to think about not doing.
But other kinds of running are harder.
Part of the problem is that I’ve always run as part of my day. If I was late for a meeting, I’d run. If I was cold outside, I’d run. Regularly at Western I ran in from remote parking. Walking has always felt slow and boring. And I’m speedy over short distances.
So no more running if I’m late.
No running for the person holding the door open.
No running to make the light.
A few months ago I re-injured myself because I was crossing the street and it looked like a car might hit me and I ran. The penalty was limping the rest of the weekend. Someone suggested I might have done less damage throwing myself across the hood of the oncoming car.
I went running yesterday morning for the first time in what seemed like ages. True, I went for about three runs in March, but each was forced and uncomfortable. I spent most of the month with a relentless cough that sometimes felt as if it was edging into something worse. I could hardly make it to work many days, never mind go for a run.
That all followed on the heels of my trip to India, where running was pretty much out of the question for logistical reasons. And then at the very end of March I went to China, where I think running would have been possible (great sidewalks) but our schedule was super tight (six day whirlwind).
So it’s basically been two months since I did any sort of endurance training. I stuck with my personal training throughout the cough, so I haven’t completely let all of my workouts go. That’s a relief because it was not easy to get myself out the door this morning.
This is a group post that includes paragraphs from me, Christine, Martha, and Sam about getting back into routine after injury or illness.
Tracy — Travel and Illness and More Travel…
As I said, I went for a run yesterday. It was hard — not that I ran hard, but that it was hard to get out the door, hard to run while I was out there, and hard to feel good about having gone because I realized how I’d lost my endurance. But I do have some tips for getting back out there after a hiatus for whatever reason, and here they are (for myself as much as for anyone else).
Call in support. One reason I got out there was that I messaged Anita when I woke up and said I want to go running but I don’t feel like it (if that makes sense). She said, why don’t you go for 20 minutes? Then I posted to our blog author Facebook page group that I was going to go running and a few people said basically “go you!” That was all I needed to get out the door.
Ease into it. Anita suggested 20 minutes, not 45 minutes. 20 minutes is so totally do-able. I know that lots of people think that if you’ve missed a lot you need to make up for lost time. That has never been my approach. I’m always for easing into it in a way that makes it more attractive and less of a chore. I know that eventually I will look forward to long runs again because when I’ve got the conditioning I actually enjoy getting out there for an hour or more. But that’s not now. And this morning showed me that. I had to take some walk breaks. But I did the 20 minutes.
Make yourself accountable to kind people. I told Anita I would check back in after the run. And I did. I also checked back in with the blog group–more pats on the back. And finally I checked in with Linda, my running coach whose training plans I’ve not stuck with over the winter. She has asked me to send her a message whenever I go for a run, just to let her know what I did and how it went. She always comes back with encouragement, even if I send her a message like today’s: “I had to force myself out the door but I did manage the slowest 20 minutes of my life this morning. It was hard. I’ll need to build my endurance back up over the next couple of weeks.”
Have a goal. I can go both ways on goals — sometimes they’re motivating and sometimes they’re oppressive. You need to know yourself on this one. I do have a goal this summer, which is to do what’s left of the local MEC race series, sticking to the 10K distance. That means races on April 21, May 26, September 8, and October 29. April 21 seems a bit close but my goal can be modest (like a continuous run) and then I can ramp it up to improve my times in subsequent events.
Those are the four suggestions I’m offering — to you and to me — to anyone who may have had to take a break and now wants to get back into it. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun. So if it feels like a dreaded chore, something’s not right.
Christine – Recovery from a broken wrist
I broke my wrist on February 27 but since I wasn’t in a lot of pain, I wanted to keep up some form of training in Taekwondo. I’ve been going to my classes and doing my own modified workouts at the back of the room. That includes learning my newest patterns with my right arm in a sling to keep it immobile. I figure that practicing which way to turn, and noting any movement that I can’t do right now will help me get up to speed quickly once my brace comes off on April 16 (fingers crossed).
I’m at the point where I am doing a few rehab exercises and it’s a bit scary how stiff my wrist is but I’m hoping to have a steady improvement with that. I am a bit worried about when the brace comes off – I don’t want to be timid or overly concerned about falling but I’m not sure how to avoid that. Perhaps I am just going to have to accept that worry as part of the healing process.
Martha–Cautious optimism after a popped joint
Back in 2014, my left hip decided to misbehave. The joint popped out several times after that, but in 2016 and again in 2017, I almost went a full year without an issue. I’m heading into my 15th month post-relapse, and I am feeling cautiously optimistic. I’ve blogged about coping with setbacks before. I’ve thought about what’s different this year. I’m stronger for one. I have done a lot of work on my core and whenever I think I might slip, I haul out my sheet of exercises and giv’er.
I’m also very fortunate to work with a trainer who understands my fear of popping the joint when I start lifting heavier weights. Her eagle eye and focus on my form means we have been pushing upwards more slowly than might be considered usual. No matter; it works for me. I also found another form of movement — swimming — to complement the lifting, and it has helped enormously in keeping me loose and relaxed. The one consistent thing is keeping myself open to new movement and practice while ratcheting back the fear. It’s not easy, but it’s working.
Sam’s left knee and what will it stop her doing?
So as readers of the blog know very well I’ve had very serious knee issues for years which came to a head last November. I’ve basically got severe cartilage degradation and a lot of knee pain. The joint isn’t that mobile. Often it’s stiff and sore. I meet the criteria for knee replacement but, in the surgeon’s words, I’m too young and way too active for that to be the best choice. I’m also fierce and determined and I’m doing a ton of physio.
I’ll never run again. I’m done. But there’s an expectation that I’ll be okay riding my bike. But thinking about it makes me tearfully nervous. Baby steps. I’m riding to work and running errands on my bike. I’m taking spin classes. I’ve gone from not being able to stand on the spin bikes to finding that easy and natural. I can put big gears on again. No pain.
So I’m going to be thoughtful and deliberate this year about spring bike training. I’m going to gradually increase my mileage. I’m not going to panic about being out of cardio shape. My first long ride is more likely to be 40 km than 80. No hammering and sprinting right away. Instead, I’m going to enjoy the spring days and week by week put more miles in on the bike. I’m going to keep doing physio.
My physiotherapist reminded me last night that my knee might never be pain free again. Some pain is going to be my new normal. What we’re hoping for is that I can take on an expanded range of activity. For me, the things I care about are long bike rides and dog hikes. It’s a long road ahead but I’m getting there. I’m looking forward to warm summer days outside on my bike.
Exhibit A: Since I hurt my knee in November my walking has been pretty limited. But I’m getting better. This weekend I attended the university’s Campus Day with my son. Look how much we walked! More importantly, no knee pain after.
Exhibit B: I haven’t ridden my bike outdoors since November either. I did ride in French Polynesia with Susan but that was on cruiser bikes with coaster brakes in the sunshine. Today, I rode to work. I’m still smiling.
Still doing a lot of physio. There’s still the reality that I’m managing symptoms and that I can’t grow new knee cartilage. I’ll never run again. But I’m so happy that I can walk and ride my bike that right now none of that matters. Whee!
This video came across my newsfeed recently. It’s a little girl kid (I’m not sure if they’re a boy or a girl–see the reader’s comment below) attempting and failing a box jump. The ponytail made me think girl. Watch til the end!
What’s striking about it is that their dad doesn’t stop them. Instead, he encourages the child to keep trying? How about you? What would you have done? I confess I fretted a bit. “Don’t hurt yourself!” Does it make a difference to you if it’s a boy or a girl jumping?
And then I got thinking about it in terms of my work on the “play gap” between boys and girls and between men and women.
Canadian kids don’t move a lot. Very few get enough daily movement.
The grim facts are that Canada’s children just got a D- in physical fitness for the third year in a row. Just 9% of Canada’s children between the ages of 9 and 15 meet the recommended guideline of one hour of activity per day. Experts are blaming the dismal showing on the so-called “protection paradox.” Parents try to keep children safe by not allowing them to move freely between home and school, or engage in active, outdoor play, but as a result our children are leading increasingly sedentary lives. See here.
But of course it’s not just that kids don’t get enough movement. It’s also the case that girls move less than boys. More on that in another post. I promise!
If the protection paradox is indeed part of the story about kids’ increasingly sedentary lives, we might wonder if the protection offered is gendered.
Do we stop girls but not boys from risky physical behavior? I bet we do. I’m still thinking about this and welcome your thoughts and ideas.
My new physiotherapist tells me that I’m tough. She also says I’m determined.
That’s the kind of praise I need these days.
Because contrary to our usual message, I’m not exercising these days because it’s fun or joyful or at all social. I’m doing a lot of boring, repetitive, sometimes painful exercises, mostly by myself, in order to regain basic knee function so I can do things like climb stairs and get out of chairs without grimacing. I’m also making time for it when I am super busy and when the exercising part doesn’t feel like a reward at the end of a long day. It’s more like punishment.
So when Tracy wrote yesterday that “our number one piece of advice for anyone is to find activities that you enjoy” I admit that I kind of flinched. Because my life isn’t like that right now. Right now I am doing a lot of physio. My knee hurts. I’m resolute and determined to get back on my bike even though I’ll never run or play soccer again. Aikido? Maybe. I’ve got hope for cycling. We’ll see. I’m in mourning a bit for my former self!
In my Facebook memories newsfeed a happy photo came through of the Run for Retina 9 years ago. It’s me and cousin Tara doing the 5 km. Look at our smiles! Look how happy we are!
I’m not sure why I am telling you all this, except to find company and to reassure those of you, who like me, who are in pain, that you are also not alone.
I do exercises to support my knee function to my pain tolerance and then it’s all ice and ibuprofen after. I’ve missing the Fowler Kennedy game ready ice and compression thingie. I want one for home!
Yesterday, I was balancing and marching and doing squats on a bosu ball. See here for how that helps.
So contrary to our usual message of “if you don’t love it, don’t do it,” this is me saying, it’s not always fun or joyful or social and sometimes you need grit and determination and you do it anyway. That’s part of my character, a big part of who I am.
But today, nothing. It felt fine. I kept stopping, expecting it to hurt but nothing. I did sprints. I did hills. I did max wattage drills. All felt good. Well, except for the getting sweaty and out of breath part.
It was only a 45 minute class, not the 90 I’ve usually been doing over the winter but I walked home after feeling happy and strong.
And actually I felt so good I stuck around for the 30 minute core workout after.
In the middling category, I was fitted for a custom unloading knee brace. See here for a knee update. I considered flashy red but in the end went with matt charcoal. I’ll actually start wearing it in April and I’ll report back then.
An X-ray showing osteoarthritis of the knee. Getty Images
In the bad news dept I’m still driving back and forth to London each week getting the house ready to sell and then looking at houses in Guelph. It’s not really bad news, just hard to get time in for exercise these days. But it’ll be short lived. House goes on the market here in just three weeks. I’m really looking forward to riding my bike in Guelph.
In the meantime I’m still doing lots of knee physio and personal training.
That little taste of riding in French Polynesia has me anxious to get my bike out and start riding.
My next planned thing after that is the one day version of the bike rally.
On July 29, 2018 I will be cycling 108km in the very first PWA’s Friends For Life Bike Rally from Toronto to Port Hope to raise money and awareness for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (PWA).
PWA provides practical support programs and services to people in Toronto living with HIV/AIDS. The Bike Rally is their annual sustaining fundraiser and critical to the agency. Find out more about PWA by visiting their website at www.pwatoronto.org. I’m going to need all the support I can get to reach my fundraising goal and I hope I can count on you. Make a secure online donation using your credit card by clicking on the link to my personal fundraising page below:https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=3883724&langPref=en-CA