cardio · fitness · injury

Cardio without knees that work

Last week I wrote about the wonders of walking lots, even if it won’t help you lose weight. At the end of the post I promised to talk about cardio exercises for those of us who can’t walk very much at all. I can manage a dog walk with my knee brace but I’m pretty slow moving and nervous with my seriously arthritic knees. Stairs are okay going up but impossible coming down.

I walk sometimes just for the joy of being outside but it’s not my go-to fitness activity.

A wooded walking trail packed with snow, sunbeams coming through, trees casting shadows. Also, the front end of my dog Cheddar.

But also it’s winter, in Canada, and some of my fitness time these days is in the gym.

My go fitness activities at the gym used to include running on a treadmill and that’s completely out of the question now. So with the help of a personal trainer (hi Meg!) I’ve been exploring some new cardio machines at the gym. Rowing was already on my hit list and I’ve left out cycling altogether. You’ve heard me talk lots about that. Yawn. Sometimes I go to the gym and just do 5 min of each of the following things and then repeat. It’s not a bad routine. Also, these machines are usually free even at the busiest of times. That’s one advantage of not using treadmills, elliptical machines, and the like.

These won’t work for everyone as some of them involve standing.

My gym, the campus fitness center, has all of the following machines:

Hand cycle: You can do both steady state and sprints with these. It’s more work than you might think.

Ski-erg: This was completely new to me and it feels like a pretty good full body workout.

Jacob’s Ladder: I’ve blogged about that before here.

Rope machine

Rowing machine: I’ve spent a lot of time erging, as rowers say. It’s a terrific workout. It’s the thing to me that feels most like the treadmill in that I can do it for awhile and listen to music. I often start my workouts with a 2k warm up and then try to do a speedier 2 k at the end.

There are also non-machine options, like aquafit and swimming, but I’ll leave those for another day.

How about you? What do you recommend for cardio that doesn’t involve knees very much?

inclusiveness · injury · yoga

Sam’s most hated yoga pose

Catherine blogged about her most uncomfortable yoga poses and what she does instead. I’ve also become “that free spirit yoga lady” who just appears to be doing her own thing in yoga class. It’s winter and I’m back at hot yoga in a studio and despite all the talk of ‘only you know your body’ and ‘this is your practice’ I feel some pressure to go along with the sequence of poses.

I thought I’d share my recent yoga frustrations with you. Or when I’m in a mood, let’s just call it “my most hated yoga pose.” It’s Hero or Virasana. Here it’s described as balm for tired legs at the end of a long day but for me it’s just excruciating pain. Also, several physios and a knee surgeon or two have just out and out told me not to do it. So I don’t.

Searching for “hero pose” on Unsplash–a royalty free photo site–the best I got was this image. Not exactly what I had in mind!

Spiderman! Photo by Stem List on Unsplash

Here’s Yoga with Adriene explaining how to set it up:

Knees are precious she tells us. Learn how to set up hero pose mindfully.

But the video also has the following text description:

” Yoga workshop! Learn the foundations of Hero Pose – or Virasana with Yoga With Adriene! Learn this delicate but powerful seated pose with at-home supports. No fancy yoga props needed. Learn to self adjust and use props intuitively and mindfully. Hero is a great stretch for the legs and feet. It can ground and calm the body with regular practice and help with digestion and bloating. Learn to explore a posture in a way that feels good. Avoid this posture if you have injury in the knee or ankle.

The bold bit is mine.

And that’s the thing. No amount of modification will help. There is no right number of blocks, no proper arrangement of towels that will fix things.

Other poses are challenging–pigeon, child’s pose, bow–but I can find modifications that work. Not in this case and that’s okay. There is no way to make all the yoga poses work for every body despite what some yoga teachers seem to think.

Instead, you can find me off doing my own thing. And I’ll join you again for the next posture.

Is there a yoga pose that your body simply can’t do? No matter how many modifications? Make feel less alone here. Tell me your story. 🙂

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