The second thing Sam is going to stop saying…

A reminder: The first thing I am going to stop saying is “if you don’t love it, don’t do it.”

It’s mostly true but when it’s not, it feels coercive. Like not only do I have to do painful physio to make sure I can continue with basic everyday activities like getting out of chairs, I have to like it too? No. It’s work.

But now there’s another thing I’m going to stop saying: It’s never too late. That’s another one. False! I mean it sounds good. But it’s just not true.

Our bodies are aging and there are deadlines. I’ll never have another baby. It’s too late. I’ll never be a teenager in love. Too late. And more relevantly to the blog, I’ll never play soccer or run again. See On not having the bee’s knees and saying goodbye to soccer.

I remember when Susan brought her mother along on on of our canoe camping trips that this argument played a role. Susan’s mom had been saying for years that she wanted to do this and Susan said, come with us while you can. It’s now or maybe never. Some options run out. They don’t last forever.

Think about me and running.

Knee surgeons tell me, in a serious voice, to not even say the word “running.” I miss running, even though it’s not my main thing, and sometimes I miss it so much that I cry.

I think the reason that this slogan has appeal is that it corrects the common misperception that for some activities, you can’t do them if you’re too old. It all depends, not just on age, but on how your body is holding up. No knee issues? It’s okay to start running in your 70s but bad knees take some people out of the game in the 30s.

What’s true?

It’s never too late to start on a fitness routine. That’s true. But what that consists in changes with age, with injury, and with the inevitable ways in which our bodies change as we get older.

So while over on our Facebook page I share many stories about the remarkable accomplishments of centenarians (see this one on the remarkable Ida Keeling), it’s just not true that it’s never too late. For some of us, when it comes to running, it’s too late at 53. That’s me.

But on a cheerier note, here’s Ida Keeling:

aging · injury · Uncategorized

Sam’s left knee: An update

Note: At some point soon I hope to have things to blog about besides my left knee! Promise.

The surgeon looked at my x-rays and my MRI and said, “Ouch. That must hurt.”

There’s pretty much no cartilage and no meniscus left apparently. I’ve run out and there’s no growing more. I’ve got bone rubbing and grinding on bone and that hurts.

On the treatment side, things have gotten better with physio but there’s still too much pain and I can’t do lots of the things I used to love.

Hence my visit to the knee expert.

I told the doctor I’d given up soccer. I’ve also given up running and Aikido. But I don’t want to give up long hikes, bike rides, skating, skiing etc.

He tells me that I’m an easy candidate for total knee replacement given the amount of damage to my knee but he worries that I’m too young and too active.

Instead, we’re going to try to fend off knee replacement for another ten years, maybe even fifteen.

Here’s the plan:

Step 1: Try Monovisc injections

Basically it’s injecting lube into the joint. They’re $400 and it’s not covered by our provincial health plan but it is covered by my benefits. Again, I’m feeling lucky. No risk. Some people find huge relief this way. Others not so much. We’ll see. I had the first one today. Weirdly not painful but strange feeling.

Step 2: Unloading knee brace

For long walks and other activities that strain the knee, I’m getting a custom knee brace. They are supposed to work well, if you use them. Lots of people don’t. They’re clunky and not that that easy to get used to. On the upside, I don’t need to wear one at work, just walking to and from. Also, I’ll wear it on long dog hikes. Might be a great argument for commuting by bike. Again, thank you benefits.

Image result for unloading knee brace
Photo of an unloading knee brace. This is the Precision Pro brand but they all look like this. There are no “dress” versions.

Step 3: Physio, physio, physio

I’m so lucky to have good benefits.

Step 4: High Tibial Osteotomy

If all this doesn’t work, I’m also a good candidate for another surgery that falls short of knee replacement and buys me some years. It’s recommended for younger, active patients. (I like that description.)

“Osteotomy literally means “cutting of the bone.” In a knee osteotomy, either the tibia (shinbone) or femur (thighbone) is cut and then reshaped to relieve pressure on the knee joint. Knee osteotomy is used when a patient has early-stage osteoarthritis that has damaged just one side of the knee joint.”

See here.

“A high tibial osteotomy is generally considered a method of prolonging the time before a knee replacement is necessary because the benefits typically fade after eight to ten years. This procedure is typically reserved for younger patients with pain resulting from instability and malalignment. An osteotomy may also be performed in conjunction with other joint preservation procedures in order to allow for cartilage repair tissue to grow without being subjected to excessive pressure.”

And here, complete with an animation of the procedure.

In the meantime, I’m thinking strategically about saving my knees, what’s left of them, for the things that I love. No more knee damage for the sake of training. More on that thought later!

Image result for knees
WebMD’s diagram of knee anatomy



Water running. Really?

My physiotherapist is advising it.

Have you tried it? What did you think?

I need inspiration. Tell me your happy stories of water running. Please.

According to this story it could even make me a faster runner if I do it the right way.

This looks like a nice pool to run in but I’ll be starting out at least in the university pool.


Knee physio, everyday and all the time

I’ve written a few times about just how much time I’m spending doing knee physio exercises. It always makes me wonder how people without a history of daily exercise fit physio in. Largely for me it’s just taking the place of workouts I would be doing were my knee not injured. But if you didn’t have a habit of exercising physio rehab would be tricky, both from a habit and a time point of view.

Here’s just what I’m up to right now:

At home

Sit to stand (like a body weight squat but not to full depth). I’m using my kitchen chairs.

Sit to stand, one legged. I can do this easily on my right leg but it’s super tough on the left.


Clam shell



Monster walk

Calf raises, you know how these go

In gym

  • Bosu ball marches and squats, see here
  • Leg press, both legs and then one legged


SamanthaWalsh · Uncategorized

World record stability ball class (Guest post)

by Samantha Walsh

Today I tried a stability ball exercise class, at the YMCA. The reason for the class was an attempt to break the world record for most folks to ever participate in a stability ball class at once!

My friend Sarah invited me! She works at the Y and teaches a dance fitness class called arriba. I am so grateful for her friendship and the invitation. The class itself had a surprising amount of standing. I think that if I got more comfortable with the class, I could probably adapt it.

As it is I thought it was a good core and quad workout. I was pleased to see the YMCA operates from an inclusive design perspective. It was assumed people of all abilities would be participating. This was apparent in the attitude of the staff and how accessible everything was. It was so nice to show up in a space and know that you were expected. No looking for elevator key, no bizarre interactions. Nicely done YMCA.

P.S. I was on time for a 6am class.

#ymca #sweatforgood #stabilityball #friends #adaptivesport #adaptedfitness #accessible

Samantha Walsh is a disability scholar, activist and has experience within the professional service sector. She is currently a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Toronto-OISE In the department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Social Justice Education (HSSSJE), formerly Sociology and Equity Studies. Samantha completed her undergraduate degree in Sociology at the University of Guelph. She also holds a Master’s degree in Critical Disability Studies from York University.


Our community comments on turning kids off physical education

Recently Aimee Morrison posted about growing up as an unathletic kid, scarred by the Canada Fitness Test. That prompted me to share my memories of failing it every year. And I loved tests. Just not that one.

Later I discovered to my great surprise that I loved physical activity, just not the team sports on offer at my high school. (Later I even came to change my mind about team sports.)

I do wish though that I could have had a chance to play rugby. That wasn’t even a thing for girls when I was growing up.

There was also a culture of dividing us up, the jocks versus the book worms, and I was clearly in the latter so I couldn’t also be the former.

Apparently many of you have had childhoods like Aimee and me. We hit a nerve.

Lots of readers commented on our Facebook page about their experiences growing up, hating gym, and thinking they weren’t made for physical activity.

I love the community that’s gathered around our Facebook page, even though I can’t always live up to their high standards, and I asked permission to share their comments with you on the blog.

Karen Keely

Thanks for this. I always refuse to push myself athletically (I’ll exercise, but always keeping a significant reserve of energy unused) and had never quite articulated why, and you’ve given me food for thought.

Jodi Quinn

I was an unathletic weedy kid too who became an artist freak. As were all my friends. As we got into our late 30s & 40s we got active and have universally discovered that although we are not natural athletes, none of us are as hopeless or clumsy as we were told as children.

Conclusion: our society has a *massive* problem with how activity is taught to children, and the experts wonder why the western world is dying of inactivity.

When you’re a kid & suck at sports or dance or running, adults & kids alike abuse you. When you’re a middle aged sucky runner, everyone’s like “go you!” What is wrong with this picture?

Alyssa Edwards

I love this and I found it so inspiring and reassuring. I’m 28 and JUST starting to come into my own in terms of exploring my own athleticism and fitness goals. Hated gym class, had/have social anxiety, could never do team sports or anything with balls. But I’ve been seeing a personal trainer, doing yoga, and just bought a pair of snowshoes. Discovering “sports” or “fitness” or whatever you want to call it as a new way of finding adventures in the world has been key for me.
I LOVE this blog and it has been huge in helping me on this journey. Thanks so much for this piece and for all your writing!

Sarah VS

Love this! So much of it rang true for me. Those fitness challenges in school were the worst! It has only been in the last few years that I’ve started to enjoy movement and not see it as humiliating or punishing or just to lose weight.

I always tell the story about my Grade 6 fitness test-I was a strong student who always got her work done, but I was in the minority in my class that year. My teacher was frustrated by the general lack of productivity, and threatened that if we did not complete a writing assignment by the following day, we would be kept from the doing the fitness test. I pitched my long ago completed assignment and started over, just to avoid my most hated day of school!

Angela Wilson

I HATED the Participaction humiliation. Never once received more than a participation badge. Now skiing, climbing, running and yoga’ing at 42. Never too late to figure out what your body is capable of.


These Four Healthy Habits Matter More Than Your BMI

I love a good, simple message.

Here’s my favourite in recent months. See Can you disease proof yourself? Why appearances can be misleading

Short version: Regardless of weight the people with these four healthy habits had the lowest risk of early death.

Take away: If it’s health that’s your goal work on these habits not your weight.

The four? Eat your vegetables. Don’t smoke. Drink in moderation only.  And exercise.

It’s not rocket science.  And pretty much everyone lots of people can manage these habits. (Corrected: See RK’s comment below. I tend to think that since I quit smoking and can’t lose weight, it’s true that one is easier than the other. Not necessarily true. Context and social circumstances matter.)

So while your friends and my friends are busy debating (for health reasons) high fat low carb diets versus vegan diets or high intensity interval training versus strength training, just relax. Breath and smile and eat your veggies. That’s the thing that matters. Don’t stress the details.

Vegetables chopped and displayed in white bowls
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

“It’s January, which means health-improvement thoughts often turn to weight-loss diets. That’s unfortunate, not just because 95 percent of diets fail, but because research shows that what we do is more important than what we weigh for improving our odds of living longer and better. The good news is that what you need to improve your health odds is less than what you might think.

The four crucial habits are eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, exercising at least three times per week, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking. People who have all four habits have the lowest risk of dying before their time, and that risk is the same regardless of body weight. Similar research in the United Kingdom has found that having all four healthy habits may equal an extra 14 years of life.”


Compassion for aging, ailing bodies

Recently someone close to me (hi Sarah!) asked me a really hard question. Do you think that if your knee can’t be fixed you could make peace with your current level of ability? How would you feel about a new normal where your level of activity is set by the limitations of your knee?

It’s pretty clear I’d get back to riding so long distance cycling stays on the agenda. Everything else is short. With pain.

I didn’t know how to answer that question. I’d find other things to do. I’m a relentless optimist. Life would still be rich and rewarding.

I’d read more books.

Maybe I could learn to swim? I don’t know. I’m still thinking about this.

Today I met a new physio person at the University of Guelph clinic. She was lovely. She protested though when I called my left knee “the bad knee.”

We don’t say that here. We talk about the affected knee and the unaffected knee. They’re both good knees. It’s your body, she said. You should appreciate and take care of your knee. No name calling.

Our job here is to help you support the left knee.

Here’s the sign outside the physio clinic. Recovery, success, those are words I like.

Acceptance and compassion are not exactly my strong suit when it comes to me. But I’m thinking about it.


Walking again!

I’ve taken walking for granted over the years, assumed that whenever I want to I can walk as far and as long as I need to. No fuss, no muss.

Not anymore.

Today I went on my first walk that was long enough to register as a walk on my Garmin since my knee injury. But I’m not sure if it’s getting better or if my pain tolerance is going up. Still, the sun was shining and I need to get outside. There are emotional well-being issues here too.

The whole walk was actually closer to 4 km but I stopped and started a few times running errands on campus.

Tonight though I’m back to my ice and riding on the trainer routine. Tomorrow I meet a new Guelph physio person.

Slow, steady, walking not running….


Running for fun, running by feel (Guest post)

by Aimée Morrison

Here’s a story from yesterday. I went to the fun run with no idea what the route was, and then I forgot the adaptor that lets me plug my headphones into my iPhone. So I had no idea where I was going, how fast I was running, how far I had gone, nothing. So I ran by feel, reasoning that I could sense my own effort level, and having put in multiple 7.5 and 10k training runs, I was unlikely to poop out on a 5k. I just decided to follow the people in front of me, run a pace that felt sustainable, and trust my training.

It turns out I ran it faster than I planned but I had enough in me to do a big kick right at the end, just because. It turns out that when you know you are really well prepared for a given effort, even when things go hinky (no idea how fast, how far, the route, no music) it’s still pretty easy to get it done and have a good time.

Probably writing and sabbaticals are like that. Steady and regular low-stress training effort leads to race day strength, and a better capacity to absorb some unexpected changes. I surprised myself with that. I’m going to try to remember.

Aimée Morrison has been practicing yoga for 11 years, training in a 200 hour YTT in 2014, and Yoga for Round Bodies 2016. Erstwhile yoga teacher introductory to advanced at Queen Street Yoga in Kitchener. In her spare time, associate prof at UWaterloo, specializing in social media.