Go live your best life!

Thursday was my six month check in with the knee surgeon. I passed the flexion tests with flying colours. I can bend my right knee well over 90 degrees. And he was impressed with how well I’m walking without the cane. All good.

I’m cleared for return to work. I can drive again.

At the end of the visit I was asked if I had any questions. I see the surgeon again at twelve weeks.

I asked whether I could ride my bike outside and if there was anything I shouldn’t do with my new knee.

I laughed at his reply, Lead your best life!

He said most people are more self limiting than they need to be.

I know the list of things not recommended after knee replacement surgery–contact sports, downhill skiing, running.

But I also know lots of people stop doing other things after knee replacement.

It’s got me thinking about training and where I want to set my sights. Knee replacement or not, so many of us slow down as we age and the reasons why are complicated.

I’ve worked so hard at physio in the past year that I’m wondering about keeping it up. What might some stretch goals be? Obviously I want to get back to long distance riding. But what have I stopped doing that I want to add back on?

I’d like to do more hiking and some more back country camping.

I definitely want to keep lifting weights and get stronger, both because strength feels good but also because it matters for healthy aging.

I’m wondering about Aikido, basic movements at least if not full on training.

This week I head back to the gym and do some workouts that aren’t physio. It’s time and I’m excited about it.

Reach for the moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

In bed:

1. Quad sets

Quad sets with towel under knee

2. Short arc bend with tube under knee

3. Leg flexion with assistance and hold

On floor:

4. Leg lift over block

5. Side leg lift

With resistance band:

6. Clam shell

7. Sit to stand

8. Glute bridge

9. Leg extension

On steps:

10. Calf raises


11. Knee flexion

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

Not these kind of monster walks


Sam’s Matching Knee Scars

They match

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boat knees

Things I’m looking forward to this week

Tuesday marks one month since my second knee replacement surgery.

Celebrate every tiny victory

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

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

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

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

Escapade and the Toronto skyline at night

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

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

A garden centre

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

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


Sam is easing back into the real world

It’s been almost two weeks since knee replacement surgery and I’m starting to feel like myself again. The first two weeks of recovery are intense. It’s a mix of pain, pain management, not enough sleep, physio, icing, elevation, and a lot of medication. The pain meds are obvious but after surgery you also take anti-clotting medication, antibiotics, and iron pills.

But now, the worst of it is over. I get my staples out tomorrow. I’m no longer taking serious pain medication. I’m sleeping 3-4 hours at a stretch which feels heavenly compared to 1-2 hours. I can sleep on my side now. Some of the sleeping does involve dogs. They’re great nap companions.

Sam napping with dogs

I can read. Also, I don’t need crutches about the house. I’m climbing up and down stairs pretty regularly. The mobility aspect of this recovery is much speedier with the second knee, now that I have one good leg. There’s a month now before back to work.

The recommended medical leave for knee replacement is 6-12 weeks. Last time I just took 6 weeks and I think I’ll do the same this time. I don’t have a physically demanding job. Mostly I sit at a desk or attend meetings. I can do physio in my office and I’ve got a freezer for ice storage.

My doctor made it clear it was up to me about length of leave and by six weeks I felt ready to get back at it. I was sleeping properly and I wanted to get back to some of my academic writing. It felt wrong, since I’m paid to be a Dean, not a publishing scholar, to be home from the Dean’s office and working on my own research. I also missed the people in my office and the projects on which we were working.

I was amused both times by the people who were shocked I took leave at all. Surely, they said, I could just work from home? I’m not sure I’d do my best administrative work while on morphine, frankly. But even after those first two weeks I wasn’t quite ready to go back. I was still struggling with sleep and physio took up an awful lot of time.

Mostly the ‘no leave’ crowd were either American or had business jobs, or both. I felt pretty comfortable with the low end of the recommended leave last time and I think it’s likely I will this time too.

I’m already starting to get a little bit bored. I’m binge watching The Expanse (I’ve stopped and started before but never made it all the way through) and doing a lot of physio.

Sam’s physio companions

I’m hoping that weather picks up this week and I can sit outside and see if I get any birds at my new bird feeder.

Sam’s new bird feeder

Once the staples are out and everything is healed, I’ll head back to the gym and the recumbent bike, some weight lifting, and maybe more aquafit.

I’m really looking forward to riding my bike to work this summer too.

Sam’s pink Brompton

fitness · injury · sleep

Sleep is elusive, says Sam and time is meaningless

So it’s been exactly one week since knee replacement surgery and things are going well on most fronts. Except for sleep. Which is miserable. And I feel sorry for everyone I know with sleeping difficulties. (Hey Jeff.)

Sleeping cat
Photo by
Akshay Bhosle

Normally I’m an obnoxiously healthy sleeper. Certainly I usually get enough sleep and I feel good about it. I go to bed early. I get up early. It’s all pretty textbook, as recommended, stuff. If I struggle at all it’s with consistency and the hours I sleep. But I’ve even been making progress on that front.

Until knee surgery.


I’ve been in too much pain to sleep through the night. It’s hard to even get to sleep. I have to sleep on my back right now. And the prescription narcotic drug that works best for pain (I’m only taking it at night) has as a side effect, sleeplessness. Great.

I can only sleep once I’m absolutely exhausted and then I end up sleeping during the day which only makes for more sleepless nights.

I’ve been watching The Expanse in the middle of the night. I’ve never made it all the way through before. This time, I’ll try.

Maybe I should try counting sheep or one of those how to fall asleep like a Marine drills.

Here’s some sheep to start with.

Photo by
Nazanin Esfandyarpour

Last knee replacement it was at week two that I started googling and buying special pillows to help with sleep and recovery. This time around it’s at week one. But I already own all the fancy pillows.

I’m hoping this stage of recovery doesn’t last. I remember last time it got better once I could sleep on my side again. Wish me luck and all the zzzz’s.

Photo by
Sonya Peacocke

Sam’s knee surgery recovery, second time round

I’ve been home from the hospital for a few days now. Surgery was last Tuesday and I came home Thursday. That’s not exactly as planned. See here for details. But I’m very happy to be home.

How’s it going? How does this round of recovery compare to the last?

In some ways it’s easier. I’ve got one good knee now, more upper body strength, more core strength, and I feel pretty confident moving my recovering body around. Thanks Meg (personal trainer) and Estee (physiotherapist) for all of your help and recommendations. I ditched the walker for crutches after just a couple of days.

I’m doing lots of at home physio. This is the drill three times a day. It’s quad sets, heel slides, short arc leg extension (with rolled towel), calf stretches.

At home exercises after knee replacement

I’m also taking breaks to walk around the house. The helpful guide to recovery from knee replacement says that walking to the kitchen and the bathroom isn’t enough, but also that it’s easy to overdo yourself. I’m doing little laps of the house and the backyard.

Here’s a good description of the kinds of exercises one does when recovering from knee replacement surgery.

Later I’ll work my way up to fancier in bed knee exercises to start the day.

True confession: I fell off the no shopping wagon. There’s not a lot I can do right now–even reading is tricky– and I enjoy shopping. So I’ve ordered some new clothes and shoes and I’m trying not to judge myself too harshly for it. But I stuck to things I needed and I didn’t go overboard.

Here’s what I’m not buying this week.

Things Sam didn’t buy this week

The real challenge is sleep. OMG it’s tough. I can sleep a few hours at a time and then the pain wakes me up. I go through a little routine of taking more pain meds and getting fresh ice but there’s no guarantee it works. Then I’m sleepy during the day and nap and that makes it worse again at night. Middle of the night binge TV watching becomes part of the routine pretty quickly.

My week’s highlight was an actual shower. That felt so good. I laughed when I read about the climber who lived underground in a cave for more than 500 days and who said what she wanted most after was a hot shower. Me too. Me too.

Sam’s happy post shower face

I’m sitting in a comfy chair, hanging with the dogs and visiting with family. It’s not too bad really.

What I’m watching this first week home from surgery: The Expanse, Season Three of Picard, and Crazy Ex Girlfriend.

Here’s what I’m reading:

Eight Strings by Margaret DeRosia

And in clinic physio starts Tuesday. Wish me luck!

Defy sports performance and physiotherapy
fitness · season transitions

Sam’s big day (is tomorrow)

Tomorrow is the big day, my second knee replacement surgery. I’m nervous–of course, I’m nervous–but I’m also excited about having both surgeries behind me and getting on with my life.

The feeling of new beginnings is in the air. It’s Easter weekend as I’m writing this and it’s finally spring in my part of the world.

Spring temperatures

Normally these temperatures would mean spring bike rides but it’ll be awhile before I’m back on the road outdoors. I will be enjoying the sunshine and nice temperatures on my back deck while I’m home from work recovering from surgery and doing physio. I’ve even bought a new bird feeder for the deck so I’ll have some feathered company out there.

I know the next few weeks will be intense–all ice, physio, elevation, and pain meds. But I know from last time that after those first few difficult weeks, I’ll be back in aquafit and then riding my bike on the trainer. So yes, hard work but also good to get it done.

I was happy to have a relaxing Easter weekend at Sarah’s family farm. There were signs of spring everywhere. There was a lot of bird song and frog song but more surprising were all the snakes basking in the sun. One even curled up around the bottom of my cane.

Spring snake

We had a very nice afternoon walk in the sunshine. The snow is all gone but there was lots of spring mud.

Another spring snake
Walking in the muddy spring fields

I also finished three books this weekend. I think I’m trying to distract myself from worrying too much about surgery. If you’re a feminist and a rower, you’ll love Lessons in Chemistry. It’s fast reading. Enjoy!

I’ll check back in on the other side of surgery. Wish me luck!

fitness · rest

One week countdown to second knee replacement surgery: 10 things Sam is doing to get ready


Obviously it’s good to arrive at the hospital the day of surgery well rested. I’ll try to get a good night’s sleep the night before but more importantly I’ll try to get lots of regular sleep the week before. I’m doing pretty well these days. No 4 hour nights, followed by 10 hour nights.

Check it out!



This goal might conflict with sleep. Lol. I’m trying to get lots done at work so things are under control for the people I leave in the Acting Dean role. It’s hard because it’s not just that the Dean is away, it’s also that we’re down one person in the dean’s office. And we’re short on staff to start. In September when I went on medical leave for knee #1, things were pretty calm. Not so now. We’re still in the middle of budget conversations and there’s a lot up in the air.


Another goal that competes with work and sleep for my time…

I’m aiming to put as much movement as possible in the bank because post surgery there’ll be a few weeks when it will only be physio plus a lot of lying around. I’ve been working on core and upper body strength too for all of the getting in and out of bed activity, which is especially challenging after surgery when your legs don’t work. All the triceps exercises, right Meg? (Meg is the world’s best personal trainer and she works at the U of G athletics centre, where she’s also the throwing coach.)

Last week I did three hours of personal training plus two physio appointments plus a ton of walking. This weekend I was happy to get out on my bike, outdoors. Yay!

Outdoor bike riding first time since Arizona

I also have some exercise goals to wrap up this week, like the Build Me Up Lite training program in Zwift.

Here’s my progress so far:

Tidying and organizing stuff

Getting around on crutches isn’t easy and it especially isn’t easy if you’re navigating around stuff. I’m going to clear out my room and put things away, leaving out only the things I’ll need. I’m swapping over winter and summer clothing early because once I’m back at work, I won’t need my winter work clothes. It’s a task that’s physically easy now but won’t be so easy after surgery.

There’s also the stuff I’ll need post surgery– the ice machine, pain drugs, crutches, etc. I’m trying to find all the things and get organized.

Iron and good eating

Readers who follow me on social media will know that I struggled a bit to get my iron levels where they should be for surgery. In the end, diet alone wouldn’t do it (I’m a vegetarian) but ferrous glucanate did the trick. I also supplemented vitamin C since that is supposed to help with iron absorption. I’m now at the top end of normal for adult women. But I am still trying to eat lots of leafy green vegetables. Sarah made this soup for us to take to a potluck on Saturday to celebrate an anniversary.

Leek Soup with Herbed Gremolata

Movies and shows

The last time through I made a big stack of books I’d planned on reading but honestly for the first few weeks I just wasn’t up to reading. I moved from philosophy to challenging contemporary fiction to popular fiction and then genre fiction, but none of it stuck. I just kept losing track of the plot and the characters and getting frustrated. For the first few weeks even challenging TV was too much. SheHulk was about right. Also, Never Have I Ever. After that, I needed gripping content. I ended up binging Better Call Saul and then Breaking Bad. This time I might watch The Expanse and Babylon 5. I’ve also never watched The Wire.


I’ve been doing physio twice a week for a very long time. But these days the focus is on getting ready for the next knee surgery. The left knee–the new one–is in pretty good shape. So we’re rehabbing the left knee, and pre-habbing the right.


I’m struggling a bit here. At one level, I really don’t want to go through this again. I know what it feels like and I’m not anxious to experience that again.

I’ve been enjoying walking a bit and riding my bike. But I am still in a lot of knee pain, the right knee. One day this week I wasn’t sure even with my cane if I could make it to the gym. This has to be done and better sooner than later as right now it’s the right knee that’s slowing me down.

I keep telling myself that it will be good to have the summer (no ice, no snow!) to recover.

I’m trying very hard to focus on the positive–SWIMMING!–and not worry so much about missing another summer of physical activity.

Mostly it’s just a lot of reminding myself that yes, this will be very hard, but I can do hard things.

Bird feeder

Since I plan on spending a lot of time in the back room, which a good view of the deck, or out on the deck, I think I’ll get a feeder and see if I can attract some birds to our back deck.

Bird feeders

I’m also getting a haircut!

Haircut with Dante at Image Makeover, On Queen West, Toronto. Before.
Haircut, after. But not yet dry.
cycling · fitness

Please let Sam have some good (even passable) bike riding weather before surgery!

On the one hand, there’s this: The Beautiful and Terrifying Arrival of Early Spring.

On the other hand, there’s my second knee replacement surgery April 11th.

So I’m wishing for early spring so I can ride before surgery at the same time I’m worried about what that means for the pace of global warming and climate change. The week before the last surgery I rode Toronto to Montreal and while I won’t manage that, I could at least like to get some bike commuting in.

This fall I had hoped to recover quickly enough to get out on bike outdoors before winter hit. That didn’t happen. I did get to ride outside in Arizona in January. And I did remember how to ride a bike. Yes, I’ve been riding on the trainer but it was the getting on and off and stopping and starting that was rusty. I loved riding outside again and was happy to discover that I could still ride my road bike. I’m not switching to a recumbent or a trike just yet. (To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with that switch and when I get there I will happily do it.)

But the week in Arizona wasn’t long enough. Ever since getting back I’ve been waiting for the day when I can commute to work by bike again. I miss my cheery pink Brompton! To be clear, I’m not that worried about temperature. I am worried about clear pavement. I can’t afford to take a tumble on the ice on my bike.

So here’s to some warmer weather, maybe even some rainy weather to clear the roads, and then some 10 degrees C + days for riding to and from the university.

Kids on bikes, photo by Arseny Togulev on Unsplash