fitness · injury · Zwift

Regaining speed and trying not to care

Let’s recap last week’s ups and downs while recovering from knee replacement surgery (12 weeks ago).

I began last week declaring that I was back to training again and not just doing physio. Life could be about more than range of movement and balance. What this means is that I started riding in Zwift again, watching my avatar and the related metrics, not just watching My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Never Have I Ever. But then I managed to hurt another muscle. See Sam discovers another weird and painful muscle .

So I spent part of the week back on crutches and back to all the physio. Bah.

But that setback didn’t last long and now I’m riding again in Zwift actually watching the screen, which means that I can see I’m gradually getting faster.

Here’s my time on the Fuego Flats spring three times since surgery:

But just as it’s nice to see I’m getting faster, I’m nowhere near as fast as I was. That’s to be expected but I am trying not to care! I’ve ridden that particular sprint segment 171 times and my fastest time was 41 seconds.

The fastest time ever for a woman is 27 seconds. My fastest time puts me in the 16,479th spot of the 127,073 women who’ve ridden it.

I’m trying to take pleasure in getting faster in my recovery from surgery while not caring too much about not being as fast as I used to be and not being as fast as some of the women out there Zwifting,

Wish me luck in the return to bike training and wish me luck finding comparison useful and motivational in some contexts and ignoring comparisons when they’re neither of those things.

injury · training


So my patience is running low 12 weeks after knee replacement surgery.

I was doing okay until I did something to my Tibialis Posterior–see Sam discovers another weird and painful muscle–and now have ankle exercises along with all the knee exercises. More physio! Argh.

I’m searching “ways to make physio less boring” and found this.

“1. Link the rehab exercises to something that you love. If you’re in the habit of watching TV in the evening, do your exercises while your favourite shows are on and never allow yourself to watch them unless you are doing your exercises while watching. In my case, I pick some of my favourite albums and only listen to them if I’m doing a workout at the same time.

2. The “brussels sprouts” method. In other words, get them over with as quickly as possible before moving on to something that you love. Don’t think about it, just do it. No dessert until all the sprouts are gone.

3. If you are in the habit of exercising regularly, create pairs of exercises where the second one is an exercise that has been assigned to you by your therapist. For example, if you are doing sets of pushups, follow each set with a gait exercise rather than just resting between sets. This is called the “bi-plex” hybrid method and is my personal favourite.”

I’m already doing 1 and 2, so I think I’ll give 3 a try, work some of the physio into a routine of regular exercises that I’ve been missing.

Any other tips out there? All advice welcome!

fitness · Zwift

Eight weeks after total knee replacement Sam’s life is returning to something closer to normal

It’s been eight weeks now since I had total knee replacement surgery on my left knee. The incision has healed nicely. The swelling is down and my knee sort of looks normal.

What’s up on the movement front?

💟 I’m doing aquafit twice a week

💟 I’m riding my bike on the trainer most days

💟 I’m also doing physio most days, seeing the physiotherapist, Estee at Defy, twice a week.

💟 There are also short dog walks.

But beyond that, things are seeming more like normal. What do I mean by that?

💟 I mean, I’m sleeping through the night without a constant waking and rearranging of pillows.

💟 I’m back at work, walking around campus, enjoying seeing people and finding the work challenging and satisfying in the usual ways.

💟 Some days I forget to take painkillers.

💟 I’m using the cane but I keep leaving it places!

💟 I can easily put on socks and shoes, but perhaps even more importantly I can sit with one knee crossed over the other.

💟 And maybe most strikingly sometimes hours go by in which I don’t think about my knee.

Goals for the next 4 weeks?

💟 No big distances and very much weather permitting, I’d like to ride outside on an actual bike just once before winter hits. Likely it will be my Brompton with the step through frame.

💟 I’d like to start regular spin classes. Don’t worry I’ll tell the teacher I’m recovering from knee surgery and I’ll take it at my pace.

💟 My gym has hot yoga and I want to get back on the yoga studio. Again, I’ll be reasonable about going at my own pace.

💟 I’m starting personal training at the university again (hi Meg!) this month and I’m looking forward to doing more physical activity that’s not all about rehab.

Wish me luck!

Here’s me checking in after Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week Four, Week Five and Week 6 and Week 7.

fitness · habits · motivation

Thinking about what makes physio easy

Early in the recovery from knee replacement surgery process I blogged about what makes physio so hard. And it’s true. It’s hard, it can be painful, and it goes against our instincts–when in pain–to curl up on the sofa/bed, under a bunch of blankets, and not move.

But there are also some respects in which physio is easy for me. People note that I’m ‘good at physio’ by which they mean that I actually do it. Various physiotherapists through the years have noted it too. I’m a compliant patient. If they say to do exercise x, y times a day, then that’s what I do. They’re the experts, offering expert advice, and I follow it.


Well, everyone assumes I’m highly motivated to get back on the bike and start riding again. And that is true. But I don’t think it’s motivation that does the work on a daily basis. I am motivated. It’s true. But I don’t think that on it’s own it would be enough.

An important part of it is habit, plain and simple. I have the time available. If you normally exercise an hour or more a day, and you can’t because of injury or recovery, then physio just takes the place of the thing you would be doing if not injured. It’s why athletes are very good at physio. I’m not struggling to find time to do physio. I have the time and I’m just doing physio instead of other physically active things. In my case I was doing physio pre-surgery to get ready for surgery. And before that to help manage my condition.

What I didn’t do while recovering? Well, I’d hoped to read a lot. I thought I might even do some writing (ha!). But I did neither of those things. Twice daily physio (with ice and elevation after, plus, in the early weeks, naps) took up most of my day. I did watch a fair amount of TV while icing and elevating!

The other bit that helps is my identity as a person who can do hard things. Cate has blogged about grit and it’s a quality we share. Like Cate, it’s part of my self conception that I’m a person who can take on physical challenges. I ride in uncomfortable conditions, too hot, too cold, too hilly and so on. Knee physio isn’t as much fun as riding my bike in tough conditions but I do feel proud of being able to do it in the same way.

Today is my first day back at work and my challenge will be keeping it up with a job that can be very busy into the evenings and weekends. I need to remind myself that medical leave for knee replacement is 6-12 weeks and I’m just taking 6. I’m going to try to count the next six weeks as part of my recovery, keeping up with physio and getting help with the parts of the job that spill over into evenings and weekends. I’ve cancelled two conferences this month and while I will feel sad missing them it was the right decision.

I did round one of physio in bed this morning with icing and elevating after. Instead of TV I caught up on some much neglected email. Tonight at 7 pm I’ve got a meeting with the physiotherapist to assess progress and learn some new moves. After that, it will be an early night. Zzzzzzz!

Motivational penguin
accessibility · fitness · motivation · standing · walking

Making progress!: Six weeks post knee replacement surgery

All of my focus on progress after knee replacement surgery has been getting back on my bike on the trainer. That’s not as speedy as I hoped it would be. So I thought I’d remind myself and share with you some of the other ways this have gotten better in recent weeks.

Here’s some recent progress points six weeks out from knee replacement surgery.

♥️ I get up and down off the floor pretty easily now. I was avoiding it for awhile. This means there are a variety of exercises I can do that I couldn’t do before. Welcome back glute bridges!

♥️ I can stand for longer making standing exercises a larger part of my rehab program. Welcome back monster walks and standing clams. I’m also cooking more complicated meals.

Some of Sam’s physio program

♥️ At the gym I’m lifting weights again, mostly seated upper body weights but it feels good. Welcome back lat pull down and bench press!

♥️ While I still I can’t pedal forwards on my own bike on the trainer at home, so no Zwifting yet, my range of motion does allow me to pedal a recumbent spin bike at the gym. Yay. I’ve been gradually increasing the amount of time I ride the recumbent.

♥️ Now that my incision has fully healed I can immerse myself in water again. That means I can go in the bath and the hot tub but it also means I can do Aquafit classes at the gym. Time for those disco classics–It’s Raining Men!–and underwater skiing.

♥️ Also in preparation for returning to work next week, I’ve given up daytime naps. No napping means I’m pretty tired by the end of the day but that’s okay.

♥️ And maybe most importantly I’ve been thinking about things beyond my knee and recovery. I’m reading again but also I’m getting bored at home. I think that’s a good thing and a sign I’m ready to get back out there.


Sam is checking in for September 2022: Five weeks after knee replacement surgery

It’s October. What?!

It’s been five weeks now since knee replacement surgery and mostly things are looking up. I’m sleeping reasonably well, reading books again (let me recommend, in particular, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin) and walking more and more each day. I’m also getting bored and I’m ready to get back to work which I think is a Very Good Sign.

I even snuck onto campus for a few hours for a bridal shower lunch for a colleague. Shhh!

Sam’s on campus selfies

I started out the month with Tiny Walks–just down the street and back–progressed to around the block, and this morning for the first time, walked more than around the block. Cheddar in particular was pleased.

Here is an interesting snapshot of increased activity. It’s my weekly step count. It seems shockingly low but it doesn’t include any walking about the house. It’s incomplete because it’s from Google Fit which requires me to have my phone with me. I haven’t been wearing my Garmin watch since knee surgery. The first week is right after surgery.

Here is Cheddar napping after our Saturday walk in my ‘ice and elevate’ living room location. Don’t worry. I will move him. If you read about my middle of the night pillow purchasing rampage, here’s one of them.

Cheddar napping on the sofa

Pain management is going well. Sometimes now I notice my right knee hurting though. Sigh. I’m not sure if that’s because I am relying more on that knee or if it’s because comparatively the left knee is hurting less. It’s likely a mix of column A and column B.

I’m still icing and elevating the left knee a lot. I might continue to do that at work in my office. Still, overall, some days and in some ways, it now hurts less than pre-surgery. Stairs might even be getting easier. I’m no longer dependent on the ‘good leg goes to heaven, bad leg goes to hell’ technique.

Around the house I’m no longer needing to use crutches or a cane most of the time which means I can carry things around, like coffee and books! But also, laundry and dishes. It’s nice not to be planning my day around minimizing trips up and down stairs.

I wish, I wish I could pedal forwards on my bike on the trainer but there’s progress all the time. I can pedal forwards on the recumbent bikes at the gym and I can pedal backwards on my bike on the trainer at home. It’s so weird that backwards is easier. Joint mobility is the thing I am working on the most and it’s the part of physio that’s painful and the thing I stress about. I so miss riding my bike.

Sam on the recumbent bike at the gym with her cane dangling off the bike bars

By way of distraction, this week I’m excited that the blog’s Catherine Womack is visiting and giving a talk at the University of Guelph.

October 6, Catherine Womack, gives a talk at the University of Guelph

On the occasion of Catherine’s visit to Guelph, Sarah and I hosted a BBQ for those fit feminist bloggers who were able to make it. Ellen was at the BBQ but left before we took the photo but here’s Brett, Meghan, Nicole, me, Mallory, Catherine, and Sarah. My mother Kathleen was also in attendance but she was taking the photo. Thanks mum!

Backyard bloggers’ BBQ

I’ve also joined a fancy local gym since I recognize that much of my physical activity over the winter will need to be indoors. I’ll keep doing personal training with the world’s best personal trainer (hi Meg!) at the university gym but will be going to aquafit and lifting weights and maybe even going to hot yoga at the fancier place. Gyms with wood paneling and juice bars aren’t usually where I feel I belong but it’s going to be a long winter and they have a lovely pool with lots of fitness classes. I’m looking forward to it.

I’m going to indulge in hot tubs and massage therapy as I make my way through knee surgery recovery. I’m steeling myself as we plan for knee number two.

Here’s me checking in after Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4.

fitness · Seasonal sadness · self care · training

Checking in one month after knee replacement: Sam is gearing up for a winter of rehab

They tell you that recovery from total knee replacement is a long haul of physio and rehab.

I’m here to say it’s just dawning on me how true that is. It’s not that I didn’t believe it before. I did. But now I’m feeling it too. That knowledge is real in a way that it wasn’t before.

There were big gains in weeks one, two, and three. Not so much this week. This week I might have overdone it. Too many tiny walks? Too much mobility work? Possibly going to a Tafelmusik concert in Toronto might have been too much. But the music was beautiful and I had a lovely visit with my daughter so that was all good.

Handel’s London, Experience the energy of baroque London, a lively metropolis where musical influences intersect.

I had hoped to report that I could turn the pedals over on my bike my now, but I can’t, yet. And yes, I know there are no fixed timelines for these things and that people regain mobility as different rates. Still, in my head it seemed reasonable to be back on the trainer in a month and I’m not there yet. I mean, I’m there, but I’m not making full rotations of the pedals just yet.

Weirdly, I am so close when I do it backwards. Weirdly backwards everything is easier. I’ve been doing walking backwards without crutches drills for physio and I don’t limp walking backwards.

Why is pedaling backwards easier? Here is one explanation:

“Pedaling backwards after knee surgery is often easier because of the hamstring activation. When you pedal an exercise bike forward the quadriceps is likely more active and the hamstring is likely less active. By pedaling backward after knee replacement surgery your hamstring is pulling the lower leg back which often improves knee flexion.”

YouTube video about starting on a recumbent bike after knee replacement

The other hard thing is simply pain. I’m surprised that a month out things still hurt this much. I take pain relief medication regularly, not the narcotic stuff–the narcotic pain meds ended more than a week ago. But I’m still waking at night with pain some of the time and by end of the day things hurt a lot.

It’s also fall of course, not my favorite season, and I’ve been brainstorming ways of coping given that my options are somewhat limited this year. My friend Todd is similarly scheming and I’m enjoying reading about his plans even if I’m jealous that they include running.

What am I up to that’s positive?

🍁Well, I’m seeing more of friends and family. I’m out and about more than I was.

🍁Today I get to start driving again. Cars aren’t my favorite things but it will be nice to be independently mobile.

🍁I’ve joined a new gym that has aquafit classes and I’m looking forward to that over the winter. Aquafit isn’t my favorite thing but it’s a thing my healing knee can do once the incision heals fully . And I do love being in the water.

🍁This week the blog’s Catherine Womack comes to visit. She’s giving a talk at Guelph’s Philosophy department called “Epidemiology Food Fight: a fat feminist takes on values in nutrition science.” That’s October 6th, 430 pm.

🍁I’ve dug out my light alarm clock.

🍁I’m very happy to be planning my return to work. I miss the university. I love fall semester even though I’m not a fan of fall overall.

🍁I’m thinking I might start my November gratitude practise early this year and make it a fall thing, beginning October 1. Gratitude is good in its own right and it makes me feel better. Right now I’m thankful that I got to have knee replacement surgery and that I have lots of support through the healing process.

Bright red and orange leaves