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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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!
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.
May! Finally warm weather. The best thing about May is riding my bike. It was 50 km the first week and 60 km the next . Weekdays I’ve been exploring my new home, Guelph, after work and running errands on bike. That’s what’s up. It feels great.
Not so much “up” is my left knee. It doesn’t feel great.
I’m wearing the brace for walking. I’m doing physio still. And I’m riding my bike. That’s all good.
The surgeon and his team are busy telling me that all the activity I’ve done isn’t responsible for my knee osteoarthritis. They do also tell me never to even say the word “running” again. Fine. See Sam struggles not to run, ever!
But they do say I’d be in less pain if I lost weight. More seriously they say that losing weight would help me put off total knee replacement. That’s big.
But if you think you must lose those extra pounds before a knee or hip replacement, think again, as researchers with UMass Medical School found long-term relief from joint replacement surgery was almost the same in obese and non-obese patients.
“The conventional wisdom is that the lower your body weight, the lower your body mass index, the better you will do in joint replacements, and there has been an increasing push to say that if you are obese you should not have joint replacement – either knee or hip replacement,” Dr. David C. Ayers, chairman of orthopedics and chairman and professor of orthopedics and physical rehabilitation at UMass Medical School, said Thursday.
Dr. Ayers is the co-author of a study reporting the findings published last month in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
“What this study shows is that people who are overweight and are obese get the same type of pain relief and improved function that non-obese patients do,” he said.
Surprise! Fat people are people. Fat bodies are bodies. And knee pain hurts a lot no matter what your size.
The old wisdom sounds just like, “You’re fat so must pay the price! Suffer! No knee replacement for you!” Doctors can be jerks.
But in my case we’re not talking about weight loss before surgery. The issue is weight loss to put off the necessity of joint replacement. Total knee replacement is worth avoiding. Right now knee replacements last 20 years max. So if all goes well, I might need a second one. It’s big painful surgery with a very lengthy recovery time. I don’t want to do it twice.
See here. Point 1: “For many, weight loss is a basic but crucial way to help avoid knee surgery. Shedding just 15 pounds can cut knee pain in half. And should you need arthritis knee surgery later, you’ll decrease your risk of complications and reduce strain on your knees, which will make your rehabilitation go more smoothly.”
So, what to do?
I’m reading a lot about knee pain and weight. No surprise there!
But I’m also researching weight loss for medical reasons. Maybe like me you thought that weight loss is hard but once you’re told you need to lose weight for medical reasons, you just do it.
I’m here to tell you the sad news that it’s not so simple. Your body doesn’t care what your motivation is. It’s not like it ignores the diets for beauty’s sake and pays attention to the diets for urgent health reasons.
I think when I was younger I even thought it would be good to have a medical reason to lose weight because then you’d be serious about it and just do it. I could be a feminist and be skinny because I was dieting for health reasons. Bah.
Now I have very good reasons, I’m being serious about it, and I’m still struggling.
Tracy and I were chatting today about whether it ever makes sense to talk about weight and weight loss on the blog. It’s not something we talk about much. It’s a blog about fitness not weight and shape and we’re very keen to distinguish these things. In this case though weight loss isn’t a goal that I want to result from my fitness efforts. Weight loss may be necessary to keep me active.
We’re all about staying fit and strong in midlife and beyond. That’s the overarching message of our book. But given my knee and the state it’s in, staying active may mean losing weight. I’m trying. I won’t post much about my successes and failures. I know that’s too much for those of you with histories of disordered eating. Even though I’m one of the larger bloggers here, that’s not me. I like food and my relationship with it. But I also feel the need to be honest on the blog about what’s up with me fitness wise.
Have you had or contemplated having knee replacement? Have you struggled with medical reasons to lose weight? Tell me your story
Also, hello May, I’m tentatively making plans. There are plans afoot for bike/boat holidays, for canoe/camping trips, for long bike rides. I love the summer and I’m going to enjoy it.