11 Weeks Post-op, or Halfway to Running

Things have been busy in life lately, mostly thanks to school, so I’m a little sidetracked. Never fear, rehab is going well, and I called my surgeon’s office after the 10 week mark to let them know. Sometimes there is joint stiffness when it’s cold (welcome to old age), and for a few days after introducing new activities (like weighted calf presses) it’ll be sore. But nearly three months out and halfway to running, I can confidently declare that this has been a huge success and feels great.

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It’s been so long since my last post we entered a whole new season during October. 

I learned that I am cleared to elliptical, and probably could’ve been doing it already, but what’s the rush? I figured I would need like 12 weeks, but they claim it’s as low-impact as biking. I actually did 8 minutes of it today at PT with the BFR cuffs, and if I can make it through that, I can definitely add it into my routine. I did not make it through pushing a sled. I almost threw up and had to take an emergency apple juice home with me.

My PT told me today he doesn’t think much further work is needed currently, but I’ve got three more sessions scheduled so I’ll keep going to those. I know, my balancing skills are just too impressive. What can I say. But actually this is the strongest I’ve ever felt as far as core stability is concerned. Three more months to really max that out! On nice days when I pass my favorite alleys in town I get an overwhelming urge to take off and run to my heart’s desire. Soon. Soon.

So my workout routines have basically been the same for two or three weeks since I last wrote, but here’s a general idea:

  • MON: 30-60 min bike, steady or w/ intervals, core, easy lift
  • TUE: 45 min aqua jog
  • WEDS: 30 min bike, option to add 30 min aqua jog, core
  • THUR: 45 min aqua jog, PT
  • FRI: 45-60 min bike, steady or w/ intervals, core, easy lift
  • SAT: 30-50 lap swim
  • SUN: off

I’ve been slowly phasing out the daily aqua jogging sessions in favor of doing prolonged pool days on Tuesdays and Thursdays when my buddies are there. Some days my anxiety is so bad that getting in a decent water run just isn’t possible. So I know I can make it 45 minutes when my friends are there, but otherwise I’d rather spend more time on the bike. I actually biked around town for the first time in months the other day, just because it was nice out and my pool day hadn’t gone well. You gotta do what you gotta do, ya know?

I’d like to get back to yoga. I think my stability and ROM can handle it at this point, so now I could really use it for the added benefits of flexibility and strength. I notice I tend to be less injured when I go to yoga regularly, but it’s hard to be consistent. I either wanna go four times a week or not at all. I did procure a Pilates pass from my absolute favorite instructor this week, so I’ll be adding private reformer classes for the next few weeks after I phase out PT, and I am PUMPED! This is gonna be a hell of a comeback. A baby comeback, but it’ll be strong as fuck.

That’s about all for now, but I will leave a decent dump of photos from a display case I installed recently for a design class. I ambitiously chose the topic “Women in Sports History,” and this is very near and dear to my heart so I really bit off more than I could chew, but I think it was worth it. Initially, the idea came from wanting to celebrate the iconic moments in running that have been happening lately, from Shalane and Desi winning major marathon titles to Courtney and Emma dominating the steeplechase. But then I kept thinking of more and more special moments, in other sports, and I realized this project was becoming bigger than I anticipated.

Part way through planning, I knew that it was important to me to recognize as many sports as possible, performed by as many women as possible from around the world. So I made sure to give attention to the women of color who dominate sport, as well as to women from non-Western areas who are making huge impacts in their native countries, often because it goes against their customs to participate. Obviously, there’s so much to unpack just at that level. But I’m really proud of how the installation came together, even though I panicked for three days straight, forgot to sleep and eat, and missed a workout or two.

Please enjoy the photos and let me know if you want more information or have additional insights to share.

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2 Months Post-op

Not much to discuss anymore, which is probably a good thing. Last week I was able to liberate myself from the boot, likely forever, and I started taking the stairs again (!), so things are feeling much better. At PT I learned that the swelling looked minimal, and that having my incisions massaged is a special kind of torture. By the way, last week marked two months since surgery!

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Two months later and it’s 35-degrees out. Definitely not August anymore.

I made some other advancements at PT, too, like re-introducing standing leg exercises. I did some leg presses on the reclining slide board, as well as theraband walks, single leg step downs, and balances on one leg. These are all welcome additions to my now-very-stale mat routine. During single leg balances, I impressed my PT (as well as myself) by making a spectacular save for a ball that rebounded poorly, and I chalked it all up to many years of stability training in the bank. Let’s hope my aerobic memory proves just as good as my muscle memory.

I also spent some time with the blood flow resistance cuffs, so I can explain that a little more now. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a blood pressure cuff from hell. They slide all the way up the thigh, and then my PT pumps up the cuffs while monitoring a pulse in my leg, and sets the pressure near 70% restriction. It’s not exactly a comfortable experience. I imagine it’s what being killed by a boa constrictor feels like. And it makes it super hard to use your legs.

The science is that by cutting off venous return (and some arterial flow), essentially depriving the tissues of oxygen, the cuffs simulate the work of an anaerobic or a lactic session without literally doing the work. So when the cuffs are on, we do leg presses or hip bridges basically to exhaustion, which doesn’t take as long as you’d think. It’s fucking hard. Plus, you stimulate production of anaerobic enzymes and it supposedly offers a great aerobic benefit by just walking around.

On Friday I suffered for 8 minutes on the treadmill at 1.7 MPH and felt like I’d run a tempo. Not like I was physically stressed or breathing hard, but my legs were like lead after that. It’s definitely weird. You can feel every muscle contracting. PT said he had someone get light headed with them recently, and yeah I could see that, especially if you’re not well-trained or accustomed to the feeling of exertion. The first time they made me anxious, but I’m more relaxed about them now.

Last week I worked on extending time spent in the pool and on the bike, and finally added a couple turns of resistance to the spin bike by the end of the week. I have started making pool friends too! A pair of students comes several times a week accompanying a very old man named Pablo while he swims laps, so we occasionally spend a lap or two chatting as we tread past each other.

Here’s the workouts from last week:

  • MON: 20 min cycle w/ zero resistance, 20 min aqua jog, core + lift
  • TUES: PT, 30 min aqua jog
  • WEDS: 20 min bike w/ zero resistance, 20 min aqua jog, core
  • THUR: 30 min aqua jog
  • FRI: 30 min cycle w/ some added resistance, core, PT w/ BFR cuffs
  • SAT: Swam 40 laps at the Rec center, about 20 mins of work (it’s a short pool, don’t be too impressed)
  • SUN: Off

A new week is already kicking along, so I’ll have another update in a couple days.

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On our last (maybe so) warm and sunny day, I harvested all my remaining tomatoes and pulled up the stalks. It made me sad, and then it snowed two days later.

 

Look, ma, no crutches!

Now that I’ve rejoined the land of the living for over a whole week, it’s hard to remember ever stumbling around on crutches. I’ve been wearing the boot a lot. I don’t wear it 24/7, but for lengthy bouts on campus or running errands, it has been helpful. Throughout the week there’s been some swelling along with pain near the talus, which I’m sure isn’t unusual after surgery. So staying strapped into the boot during the week alleviates that, and it was starting to feel better this weekend. It’s helpful to ice and elevate (I should follow my own advice and do those things more often), and to get out of the boot for periodically to avoid stiffness.

Here’s a list of the “workouts” I was able to accomplish last week:

  • Mon: 10 min bike w/ zero resistance, lift + core, pool for drills and walking
  • Tues: PT session with BFR cuffs, 15 min aqua jog, core
  • Weds: 20 min bike w/ zero resistance, 15 min aqua jog, core
  • Thurs: 20 min aqua jog, core
  • Fri: 30 min bike w/ zero resistance, lift + core
  • Sat: 30 lap swim + walking and drills in pool
  • Sun: Off

I did a fair amount of gardening this weekend because I think it’s about to start frosting for good, and my weeds were out of control. So I cleaned up beds and dug up the mint that was starting to run across the yard. My tenant’s boyfriend called me a 70-year-old. Okay, well, I’d rather tend to housekeeping priorities that bring joy instead of hiding in bed with a hangover on a Sunday morning, if that’s what you’re implying. Because yeah… I’m definitely too old for that.

Anyway, this first week has been productive without over-doing anything. There is literally no rush, so I’m like hey even if I need to use the boot for the next two weeks, that’s okay. I changed my expectations more than once, but was also surprised a couple times by how easily things were going. For instance, I’m realizing I won’t be ready to attempt yoga for a few more weeks still, but aqua jogging 20 minutes was way more manageable than anticipated, aside from super tired hamstrings.

Happy Monday! Get after it.

The Procrastinator’s Guide to Navigating Injury

Here I am at 6 in the morning trying to explain that I’m not a morning person. I’m not. This is a fluke. I’m actually an insomniac and I have been awake since about 2:30 am. Normally, shorter bouts of sleeplessness eventually lead to falling back to sleep and rendering myself incapable of being awake before 8 or 9 am. Now, if you have any scary Type A runners in your life (and if you can’t name one, it’s probably you) then you know that sleeping past 5 am is seen as a sign of weakness. Like do you even try to be a runner??

I’m also a huge procrastinator. Why get up at 5 when I can get up later? Why go to the gym to ride the elliptical for 30 monotonous minutes of staring at the clock when I can go laatterrrrr.

Let me first make a confession… I actually hate the gym. Going to the gym feels like a chore, mechanical and sterile. Don’t get me wrong, I always feel the way you’re supposed to after the gym, all high on endorphins and shit. But the gym just isn’t fun. You know it. Admit it. The gym sucks. I like to be outside, where the scenery changes and the air is fresh and I don’t count the minutes. Plus, there’s the added thrill of discovering a new route, or running super fast down a hill, or finding some sprinklers, maybe losing a contact lens or being chased by a dog! Running is less of a chore and more of a compulsion, an opportunity. I can roll out of bed in the morning or collapse in a heap on the floor after work and still mumble, “ok, gimme five minutes and I’ll put my shoes on.”

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This is what outside looks like

 

Not so much with going to the gym. Like, if I’m even the tiniest bit too hungry, I’m like ya know, I probably shouldn’t risk it. It’s called flexibility, right?

I follow a lot of runners on the social media. Pro runners, elite runners, friend runners. My favorites are delightfully transparent about the times when they’re just not feeling it. Usually, it’s because they’re pregnant, but still. The takeaway is that often our bodies need and deserve breaks that we aren’t allowing them unless pregnancy or a giant injury gets in the way, and maybe the best way to deal with it is to embrace the option to be “flexible” or downright lazy. If I bargained for cross-training after work only to wind up not feeling like it when I get home, it’s nice to be able to throw away my neurotic tendencies and just say no. Trust me, I’d prefer to get up and go before work, I’d get a lot more done that way, but if you didn’t see this whole story arc coming from a mile away, please refer back to the part where I mentioned a fondness for sleep and procrastination.

Call it what you want — flexibility, procrastination, laziness — but not being held to my own batshit standards of running x miles per week no matter what is kind of a relief. I mean, I gave up on that months ago and I’m still alive. For now, I neurotically wrote a pool plan that I will sort of follow up until surgery that looks something like this:

Day 1: 30 minute aqua jog + PT

Day 2: swim 20 lengths, 10 min aqua jog, swim 20 lengths + lift

Day 3: 30 minute aqua jog + PT

Day 4: swim 30 lengths + PT

Day 5: swim 20 lengths, 20 min aqua jog, pool intervals, 10 min aqua jog + lift

Days 6-7: PT, yoga, or rest

It’s the procrastinator’s method. You can shuffle it, swap out, save one for tomorrow, whatever. Slice it how you want. I also haven’t been to yoga once. And the BEST part is, I can accomplish all my PT work without even being at the gym. I have a spot carved out in my garage where I can do my core and glute work. No fighting college kids for space or equipment, it’s free, the music is better, and the cat likes to join in.

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Did you know you can tack your workout to the kegerator if you’re at home?

If reading about not following a plan is making your eye twitch, you might find some relief in these resources. Pro trail runner Megan Roche recently suffered a talus injury as well, although not the same as mine, and she did a feature for Trail Runner magazine about her comeback cross-training routine. Runner’s World also has a six week cross-training plan that I meticulously copy/pasted, and then saved for later (like a true procrastinator).

Enjoy your downtime. Rest. Use all this free time to make new hobbies. Stick to the things that serve you. And never forget that Des Linden won the Boston Marathon after taking several months off. Running will always be there when you’re ready to come back, when “later” eventually becomes “now.”