fitness · shoes

Recovery shoes? Really?

So as regular blog readers know, I’m on a year of not buying clothes, shoes and jewelry that began July 1.

All is going well so far except for the exceptions. They were bras, a dress to wear to a friend’s wedding, and running shoes.

The bras were bought in July. I now have non under wire options for work. The dress I bought in August. (I bought one with a slit up the left side so I could ice my knee during the event, cute and practical.)

Now I’m looking for running shoes. My exception was new shoes after knee replacement because when I started the year of no shopping I had no idea when that would be.

I say running shoes but there’s no actual running in my life these days. Lots of walking with crutches and likely I’ll still have crutches when I’m back at work.

I laughed because a few manufacturers of running shoes have a new name for shoes that aren’t actually for running. They’re “recovery shoes.” On your non running days, you’re recovering.

Here’s what’s being replaced:

Sam’s orange shoes

And to be clear I bought the orange running shoes back when I was actually running. That’s seven years ago. Yikes.

What am I looking for?

They need to be comfortable and sturdy and good for walking with crutches. No flip flopping around, reasonable foot support.

They need to be suitable for work, but that does not preclude sporty-looking. Paired with crutches I think people will understand.

Some of the time I can wear my short leather boots that also fit my orthotics so they won’t be the only shoes that I wear.

Reasonably easy on and off. While I was thinking slip-ons, they could have laces if they don’t make a whole production getting them on and off.

I’m Googling “best shoes to wear after total knee replacement” and they’re pretty much all running/athletic shoes.

Here’s one person’s explanation, “Now that my knee requires more support, I find that using a walking or running shoe gives me a little extra padding to take the pressure off my joint. Think of your shoe as the shock absorbers on your car. Remember, you can also add shoe inserts that help even more with cushion.  Also read my article about the best shoe inserts after TKR. It’s not fun riding in a car with bad shock absorbers because it makes for a rough ride. Our bodies are the same way. However, because it’s so subtle we may not realize the extra “shock absorbing” we get from our shoes. Even if I’m not a runner, I usually gravitate toward running shoes for comfort and daily use. Why, you ask? Because running shoes are made to reduce the repetitive impact caused by running and they are made with more cushion technology in the heel (air, gel etc.). They also have good arch support to enhance the position on the foot.”

Also remember I have two knees, both of which were in need of replacement so my right knee will still require lots of extra attention until its also been replaced.

So far people have suggested All Birds

All Bird slip ons

Also Hokas

Hoka
No Bulls

My son thinks Ons might be good shoes for me.

On, Cloud go

Sarah suggests these New Balance shoes.

Black new balance shoes with rainbow sole

I also like the sound of the Canadian brand Vessi

Vessi slip on

And finally, there’s Danskos. I wear their clogs a lot but haven’t tried their walking shoes.

Danskos

Probably I need to go out shoe shopping and try things on. But the whole idea is off putting. I’m still very tired. If I only have so much energy during the day I don’t want to use it shopping.

I’m tempted to order my favorite 3 and return 2.

All of the above are available in bright colours as well as black. I haven’t decided which way to go yet. They are also all in the $100-200 price range as are the pair they’re replacing.

Welcome your suggestions!

fitness · injury

Sam is checking in three weeks after knee replacement, CW: contains photo of operated on knee after staples removed

Knee replacement isn’t easy. It’s been 21 days now. I checked in after one week and again after two weeks and I’m checking in again now.

Even though I’m making progress, it’s still a slog. The big issues are physio–so much physio!–and also pain management. It feels like alternating between physio and icing and elevation is still pretty much a full-time job.

The hardest and most important exercises are focused on range of motion, making sure my knee can bend and straighten. But I’m also doing some balance work, standing one legged with the operated leg doing the work. The other focus is strength, lots of sit to stands, and leg raises.

I’m excited to say that I’m making progress. This isn’t a particularly flattering photo but it does demonstrate that I’m getting better at bending my knee. A lot of physio went into getting there!

Sam with crutches getting into the car

Also othe bright side I’m off the serious pain medication.

I feel more like myself

I can read again. Phew.

After four weeks, I can drive again. It’ll feel better not needing Sarah or my mum to take me to physio.

I’m getting around pretty well on crutches and in the house, within a room, I don’t really need them. I’m still struggling with carrying stuff. I need a coffee and book carrying robot to follow me around the house. I can do basic household chores like dealing with the dishwasher and cooking and sorting clothes but I can’t do things that require carrying stuff, like setting the table.

I also had the surgical staples removed and check in with the surgeon in London

No more staples

I think it looks pretty good. I’m impressed with their needlework/stapler skills. What I can’t do, until that heals completely, is immerse myself in water. I can shower, yes, but no swimming pools, hot tubs, or baths just yet.

I can now look forward to short outings.

This past weekend we had breakfast with a friend.

Sarah and I made also it to the farm. For me there’s no swimming, no hot tubbing, no bike riding. There’s still lots of physio and icing but with different scenery. It’s lovely.

Hoping to go out to the movies next week.

I’m also looking forward to getting back to work. Medical leave for knee replacement is 6-12 weeks and I’m hoping for the short end of that range.

Have you had a surgery with a long recovery period like this? Any advice you have to offer?

fitness

Sam is checking in two weeks after knee replacement surgery

After a rocky start and an additional night in the hospital, things have been progressing pretty well with the total replacement of my left knee.

Here’s a few milestones on my road to recovery:

I’m sleeping in my own bed and the stairs, with crutches, seem pretty manageable. I’m still only doing them once a day though.

I’m also going on tiny walks down the street each day.

For better or worse, lol, I can now manage basic household tasks such as unloading the dishwasher, sorting laundry, and making lunch.

Physio tells me I’m going well at both ends of the range of motion, getting the knee to lay flat and bend. Physio is so hard!

I got back on the bike on the trainer just to work on range of motion. That felt both inspirational and humbling. I know it will take time.

Friends warned me about out of character things they’ve said and done, wild emails sent, while on pain medication for knee replacement.. So far so good for me. Except I might have gone on a middle of the night pillow shopping spree after googling “best pillows for sleeping after knee replacement.” They keep arriving.

Yay for tonight body pillow

And speaking of pain medication, I’m just taking the heavy duty stuff now for night time and after physio.

We also went to the wedding of dear friends on the weekend. So much joy! I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it and I wasn’t sure how I’d feel just being there for the ceremony, but thanks to pain medication, ice, and Sarah’s help it went perfectly. It was lovely to see friends and to be there to celebrate with Jenn and Annada and their friends and families. I promised them we’ll dance next year for their anniversary.

What’s not going as well as I’d hoped? I’m still struggling with attention span and reading. I was hoping to enjoy having time to read but it turns out physio and recovery is pretty much a full-time job. So far I’m sticking mostly to tv and audiobooks.

Enjoying She-Hulk, for example, but the Booker prize winning novels will have to wait.

She Hulk

What’s up this week? Staples removal and follow up appointment with the surgeon. Stay tuned.

cycling · fitness

First time back on the bike

It’s baby steps but I’ve been given the okay to get back on my bike on the trainer.

The goal isn’t some number of kilometres, a given amount of time, or to reach a certain power level

Instead, it’s something much more basic and fundamental. It’s all about regaining enough mobility so that I can make a full rotation of the pedals. It’s range of motion time, baby!

Various guides to knee replacement say to expect a 5 degree improvement in the angle possible for your new knee each week. You need 90 degrees to ride a bike. A goal is 120 if your leg size permits that. Not sure mine does. I was at 52 degrees last week, a few days after surgery, and 67 today eight days after replacement.

But all of these guides to knee replacement say don’t compare your progress to the progress of others. Different people take a different amount of time to get there.

It’s unlikely I’ll be able to that the first few times I try I’ve been told. So no expectations.

Also, even once I can I’m to use the trainer in a very spinny gear, no pressure at all on the pedals.

Whether or not you’re a cyclist the bike trainer is a basic rehab tool after knee replacement surgery. Surgeons and physiotherapists have to talk people who aren’t cyclists to give it a go. It’s easy when the patient’s first question is how soon can I get back on the bike (on the trainer to start.)

It’s all about passive range of motion. Here we go!

Sam on her trainer
accessibility · fitness · habits · injury · stretching

Recovery and why physio is so hard!

So I am the sort of person who is good at following the advice of physiotherapists. I’ve successfully rehabbed some serious injuries and I trust the professional advice of physiotherapists. I do what I’m told.

It’s also worth noting that I have exceptionally good benefits and they cover almost all of my physio costs. And yet, even for me, physio after knee replacement is tough and I thought I’d explore why.

First, advice about recovering from knee surgery can sound contradictory. The take home sheets from the hospital say to use your new knee as much as possible each day. It will help you heal faster from surgery and improve your chances of long-term success. But also it says to avoid pushing yourself too far too soon. So as much as possible but not too much. Yep.

And practically it feels like that too.

The knee feels good and so I go for a short walk. After that it swells up and is painful so it’s time for ice and elevation. I’m constantly moving between making the knee work and then helping it recover.

After I posted about going for a very short walk this morning, friends commented, great, now rest!

What’s as much as possible but not too much? There’s not really good intuitive measure at this stage since everything hurts a lot of the time.

Second, unlike other physio I’ve done this is really painful. It’s the kind of painful where you ice before and after and take pain medication around your pt sessions. Since you’ve just undergone surgery and things still hurt from that, you feel a bit like hiding on the sofa, covering yourself in blankets, and waiting until the pain goes away.

Third, it’s pretty time consuming.

Here’s a rough schedule of my days this week. Next week I’m hoping to be able to get on the bike trainer to help with my range of motion.

6 am breakfast, drugs, ice and elevation in bed

630 physio round one, basic stretching and mobility

700 more elevation and icing and getting ready for the day

Tiny walk

800 Breakfast round two, more pain meds, more elevation and icing

900 Physio round 2 mobility and stretching plus regaining strength

930 ice and elevation

10-12 free time for reading possibly napping

12-1 lunch

100 ice and elevation, more pain meds

130 Physio round 3, mobility and stretching and regaining strength

200 ice and elevation

230-4 free time for reading and napping etc

4-6 dinner etc

7 last round, 4, of basic mobility physio

Tiny walk #2

Bed with all the ice and more pain meds


That’s me on the deck post tiny walk, resting and icing, as friends and physio advised.

Patience my friends is going to be key.

accessibility · equipment · fitness

Knee replacement surgery and recovery: Some reflections after week 1

Day 1 Surgery

Surgery was Monday, August 29th. It was supposed to be day surgery but my blood pressure wasn’t fond of the spinal so I kept flunking the physio exam to leave hospital. Each time I stood up my blood pressure sank drastically and I had to sit back down. That was frustrating, especially since the surgery itself went well, but I was happy to see they were obviously okay keeping you if you’re not well enough to leave. Yes, here in Ontario our hospitals are stressed but I felt very well cared for. The nurses and physios and the whole surgical team were lovely.

Day 2 Home!

Tuesday’s big adventure was making it from London to Guelph. Getting in and out of the car was the biggest challenge. I was happy to be home and settled into our ground floor back room with the fold out sofa. Usually it’s our Zwifting studio but no one is Zwifting right now. We have a main floor washroom and so I was saved the need to handle the stairs with crutches until I was a little bit more stable. For the first few days I relied upon a walker.

Day 3 My walker

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Also on day 6 I made it upstairs and slept in my own bed. Bonus!

Day 7

OMG Sarah installed a new handheld shower attachment and I successfully showered. The world is a better place today.


Surgical staples get removed and I have a follow up visit with the surgeon on the 15th. That’s the point at which I can ask about getting back on the bike on the trainer and maybe getting back to the gym for some gentle workouts.

Here are some of my thoughts so far about the recovery process:

It helps to have a team. Between keeping track of all the medication–pain drugs yes but also antibiotics and blood thinners and anti inflammatory drugs–and running out for ice for the ice machine, it’s a lot. Thanks Sarah, thanks mum, thanks Jeff. I can’t imagine going through this alone.

Functional fitness matters. I only needed the walker for the first couple of days and I’m pretty stable on my feet now even without the crutches. I’m using them for walking to help the joint but I feel pretty strong. The new knee is “weight bearing as tolerated” as they say. It helps too that I’ve got some upper body strength and reasonable mobility. All of a sudden when you’re trying to lower yourself into the toilet seat with one leg doing all the work and the other sticking out because it doesn’t yet bend, pistol squats start to make sense. We bought one of the raised toilet seats with handles but I really only needed it for the first couple of days. It’s packed away now.

Pain management is a thing. Part of me worries about pain meds and addiction. I also like feeling like myself. But knee surgery isn’t a time to try to soldier through. You need to keep moving and do the physio and to do that you need to keep the pain under control. There’s always some pain but I’ve been told to try not to let it get too far above 5/10. I’ve been using the heavy duty pain meds at night for sleep and before and after physio.

Physio, physio, physio. Recovery from knee surgery is a full-time job. I’m off work for at least six weeks and part of me wondered why. I could work from home and make my meetings virtual meetings. One reason is of course pain medication and judgement. There’s also time constraints. If you’re doing physio two to three times a day and you need to prepare for physio and recover after, there isn’t a lot of time to do other things.

This is also going to take a lot of patience. It’s tough work and I know it can feel like slow going. Wish me luck!

Good leg good to heaven, bad leg goes to hell. Crutches advice for the stairs.

Happy to answer any questions anyone has about my surgery experience. Ask away!

cycling · fitness · goals · injury · motivation

Letting go of yearly goals and focusing on smaller things

Like most cyclists, I have a yearly distance goal. It’s ranged over the years from 4000-7000 km. This year it’s 5500 km.

My goals and monthly activity on Strava

I’ve got 785.5 km to go. In normal times that would be perfectly reasonably even going into the fall months because of Zwift and weekend gravel rides.

But I’ve also just had total knee replacement surgery. Another friend who also had the same surgery got back on his bike at 8 weeks. It’s never reasonable though to look at someone else’s progress and make that your own standard. Isn’t there something about comparison being the thief of joy?

I started to do the math. There’s 18 weeks left in 2022.. Suppose I’m like him and riding on Zwift at 8 weeks. That gives me ten weeks to meet my annual mileage goal. That’s about 80 km a week. Say 4 easy 20 km rides a week. I could even do that slowly, just spinning, no pressure on the pedals.

Still, though it might have doable, it also might not be.. This isn’t a year for distance goals. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, fine. I have big picture goals about mobility and long term bike fitness. That matters in ways that arbitrary numbers on the bike computer just don’t.

I do have one immediate goal though–getting upstairs on crutches to the shower! I can shower if I can keep the incision covering dry with a plastic bag taped on and use a hand held shower. Sarah just bought one to install.

That’s our weekend mission.

Next week it’s my hope to be sleeping upstairs and have the bike back on the trainer downstairs. I’ll be using the bike purely for range of motion purposes. It’s likely going to be awhile before I can make a complete rotation on the trainer.

Anyway, I’m blathering. Thanks pain drugs. The point is just to say, I’m giving up distance goals and sticking to sensible short term functional fitness while my knee heals.

Sam with crutches outside Defy physiotherapy in Guelph

aging · cycling · fitness · injury

Bike rally reflections: More thoughts about knees!

Me: I’m in my prime, my knees: the fuck you are

So this month I both rode my bike in the Friends for Life Bike Rally and I’m having total knee replacement surgery.

I didn’t plan it this way at all–I signed up for the bike rally a long time ago and I just got the call about knee surgery a few weeks ago.

I’ve been amused at the variety of reaction I’ve gotten for this and I have some thoughts of my own.

My favorite reaction was from the massage therapist at the rally. She laughed when I told her my knee was sore but not from riding. It’s just always sore. We focused on my back and ignored the knee. “You don’t owe that knee anything, ” she said. “It’s nice that you don’t have to baby it through the bike rally. You’re just going to finish the rally and then say goodbye to it.”

My regular everyday ongoing knee physio people are impressed. They talk about the important of strengthening the muscles around the knee prior to surgery and that riding a bike is a good way to do that. We never waste time in physio sessions bike riding since I also ride my bike to get there. They’re keen to get me back at physio within days of surgery. Currently surgery is Monday and my first physio appointment is Friday. But I won’t be biking there that time. Or driving either. My mother likely will be taking me.

Lots of friends are confused about my ability to ride my bike so far. “But I thought you were having knee replacement surgery?” Yes. But it’s never been about riding my bike. It’s that once I get off the bike I can barely walk around the block and I can’t stand for very long. That’s true even if I don’t ride my bike at all. My knee actually feels better when I’ve ridden my bike.

For a few years now I’ve come to rely on cycling. Sometimes I ride around campus. I travel with my folding bike so I can get around a new place without walking. At first it was a matter of giving up on other athletic activities–soccer, running, Aikido etc. But lately it’s been a matter of giving up more everyday stuff. For example, I wait in the car while Sarah goes grocery shopping. Cheddar just gets short walks around the block. And I carefully plan my trips up and down the stairs.

The bike rally was a good example of how limited my life is outside of cycling. Yes, I could ride my bike 110 km each day. But once I got to camp I needed Sarah to put up the tent. The walking around the campsites wasn’t easy. I’m really looking forward to being able to do more, besides ride my bike, as much as I love it.

Mostly I’m looking forward to long walks, hiking, and canoe camping with long portages. But also everyday things like sleeping through the night without knee pain and being able to get groceries and put them away.

Wish me luck. Surgery on the left knee is one week! Surgery on the right is 6 months to a year after that.

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.

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.