Thank you Henry David Thoreau for that reminder, I found that quote to be so perfect for the past 5 weeks.
Being an athlete can be very isolating if you let it, and believe me...I let it. I train 90% of the time alone, I miss out on outings with friends because..well...I don't have that many friends in Bellingham, and when we get together, we're being active in the day time, riding bikes, going on hikes, walking, running, etc. Literally, my life revolves around activity, my social life is activity, everything is activity. When you think being an athlete is isolating, now be an injured athlete, and then lets talk about isolation. I've seen some pretty good mental lows, and I've had to truly dig myself out of them every time. I've stared at walls for extended periods of time asking "why", I've had pity parties alone on my couch, in bed, at the pool. Every time, I've had to work so hard to force a smile on my face, to laugh it off, to find the light that is getting me through this. I was living in darkness, my life felt like Bill Murray in "Ground Hogs Day", only I wasn't smiling. You know the best thing about darkness? It doesn't last forever, there's ALWAYS light somewhere, and I found my bright stars.
At this point in my recovery, progress feels like it's moving at a snails pace, seriously, I wake up and every day feels the same. My typical day includes 1-3 hours of at home PT (exercises, stretching, foam rolling), 1 hour spin on my bike, 1-2 hours of using my Compex (Muscle Stim), plus 40 minutes 1 or 2 times/day of ice/heat contract, AND some incision work at the end of the day. I go to the pool 2x/week to work on range of motion, I go to the gym 2x/week to do my PT and a little upper body work, and most importantly, to get out of the house and see other faces outside of my television screen. I go to PT 2x/week, acupuncture 1x/week (started with 2x), massage every other week, and started seeing my chiropractor for some soft tissue work the other week, and will add him to my rehab program from here on out.
I have found the largest struggle as of recent (aside from some pain with some motions) is muscle tightness in the Quads, TFL to IT band, Adductors, Hamstrings, everything really! I struggle with external rotation, still causes a little pain, I'm still restricted on flexion, no more than 90, and no active hip flexion. Occasionally when I ride my bike on the trainer (1x/ride) if I move too much because I'm antsy, my hip will catch. That's a new one for me. But my guess is there is still some inflammation in the joint and lots and lots of healing is still going on. While I'm not having constant nagging pain in my hip, my back on the other hand has been taking a beating. I have a history of back pain, so this isn't abnormal for me, but it certainly sucks! My PT exercises feel awesome, I'm doing squats and lunges on the BOSU, lots and lots of banded glute work, balance work, bridges, planks, the whole thing! I've been riding my bike for an hour for the past 2 weeks, adding gears very slowly, and it's been feeling awesome. Riding the bike feels fantastic, tightens the hip a bit, but nothing stretching can't work out.
I had my 8 week post-op appointment, and it literally shook me to my core, I was so damn nervous. I couldn't speak, my surgeon asked how everything was going, and I literally sat there speechless I was so nervous and anxious, this seems to be a common trend for me when I see him. :-/ Once I was able to relax everything started flowing. He said my hip feels great, it's moving awesome, and upon chatting a bit more he told me "I CAN RIDE OUTSIDE". Looking back at my appointment, I have to chuckle a little bit, I pushed my surgeon's limits, as my Dad said, always negotiating, yes sir...I am. He told me I could ride outside, on flat roads, no standing, no sprints, no low cadence, no high torque, and no harder than 5 out of 10. Seems like a lot of negative doesn't it? He told me to start out with 30 minutes, my response was literally..WTF. It gets even better, start at 30 minutes, and add 10 minutes per ride up to an hour for the next 4 weeks. Another WTF. I knew he was going to cap my time for rides, but I was thinking I'd be able to get to 2 hours at least!! I didn't say this to him of course, so in my head I decided to meet him in the middle, and asked for 1.5 hour. He told me no. I asked again, he said no. We went back and forth, and it was settled...I lost, he won. He told me riding outside would be different than the trainer, and a lot harder. I chuckled and said no way! Lets just say, this surgery has taught me that I will not be right about everything. He also told me no riding in the rain. Another big WTF, first off this is the PNW, its going to rain, and I WANT TO RIDE OUTSIDE, secondly, I know how to ride my bike, I'm not your average Jane, I can ride outside in the rain and be okay. So you know what I did, I sent him a link of the Worlds Championship CX race in Luxembourg and told him if I survived this race without crashing, I can survive riding flat pavement in the rain. I won that battle.
At this point, I've ridden outside 3 times! I've worked my way up to 50 minutes, staying on what is mostly flat for Bellingham, which means I have to drive to ride my bike because I live on a giant hill. That's okay, because...I get to ride outside. My surgeon was also correct, riding outside is different than riding the trainer, and it is harder, and it feels different on the hip. In my 3 rides outside I've realized this:
- I need to treat them as recovery rides
- Sometimes I end up using my left leg more than my right, it's a good indicator for me to take a gear off and pedal with both legs, because I must be hesitant to push that gear with my right leg.
- Riding outside does cause my hip to tighten up a bit more than on the trainer. I believe it's due to the fact that I'm not sitting up as much as I am on the trainer. Repetitive flexion, it's going to be like that for awhile. To help, I've raised my stem.
- I was never afraid of cars until now, when they pass me too closely, I freak out and want to yell "MY HIP"!
- Undulating roads, I have to think about shifting a lot more than I did prior to surgery. Before surgery upon seeing a small hill, I would just push the same gear or stand up. Post surgery, I have to shift down to small gears and keep those legs spinning!
You know what else he said I could do? He gave me the green light to go to Yoga! So of course, I was nervous at first and wanted to do a couple of private sessions before going to a class, but ended up getting anxious and wanted to go, so I went to my first Yoga class! I modified the entire class by using Yoga Blocks for everything so I didn't brake my 90 degree flexion restriction, I avoided any 1 legged plank things, I didn't do any active hip flexion (because I cannot do any active hip flexion for 3 months post-op), I sat out a couple of poses that I knew were just out of the question for me, and I survived! I learned a lot about Yoga and my body, more than I realized! Turns out, there are some SNEAKY things your hips are doing in Yoga, that you wont realize until you have hip surgery. I wasn't sure how the hip would respond to Yoga, so naturally I was really nervous and a little guarded for the beginning of class, it was a bit touch and go, but by 1/2 way through everything started to feel really good, and by the end, my hip felt amazing! Today? I'm SO SORE (not my hip), my upper body is so sore, all that rotation and twisting you do in Yoga and you don't do in life, makes me sore! It feels amazing to feel my muscles again.
Looking back at my last post, it's amazing to me how far I've come in the past 4 weeks. Last time I blogged, I just added in squats, NOW I've been squatting on a BOSU doing woodchoppers with a 4lb medicine ball. That's pretty cool! I've also been walking crutch free for quite some time now, my hip doesn't get achy anymore, AND moving in the kitchen to cook and clean is so much easier. I'm still mindful of my walking, where I'm walking (surfaces) and how I'm walking, plus my walking speed, but I don't think about it nearly as often as I did. I've found it's significantly easier to get in and out of bed, the car, and on and off the couch. I don't have any pain with those movements! I still get sharp shocking pain with random movements, but those are few and far beyond. I don't even think twice about driving anymore, my couch and I are slowly drifting away throughout the day, but we're still buddies in the evenings. I still ice, because well..why not? It feels good, but I always follow up my ice with some heat, to get a little blood rush into the joint. I've also started training my client (in my house) to get back to some normalcy, and this Friday I'll be back to teaching my Spin class (every other Friday to start)! Slowly I'm getting my life back to "normal".
I've been able to slowly start incorporating more household chores into my daily life (because they didn't get done for the past 2 months), like wash the dishes, help with dinner, vacuum, sweep, dust, do laundry, fold laundry. My house is (kind of) getting put back together, I've been slowly cleaning up the guest room that I camped in for 7 weeks, washing the sheets (haven't made the bed yet though), picking up and putting away my thousands of pill bottles, throwing away garbage that was laying around, and putting everything back into it's neat OCD order. My living room is...not quite back together, since the couch and I still have a personal connection, I leave all my pillows, my ice machine, my heating pack, and anything else I might need within an arms reach out in the living room, but I've dusted up the cat fur!
I feel extremely lucky to have the ability to make rehab my job and not be stressed about having to work and get my rehab in. I'm able to fully put all my attention and energy into healing, and I think it's paying off big time. My pain is VERY minimal, sitting is becoming WAY more tolerable, I even ate dinner at the dinner table last night for the FIRST time since surgery! I can do a kneeling lunge now without discomfort in the hip (something I couldn't do prior to surgery), and that to me, is very very encouraging. I still haven't woken up and thought "I'm so happy I did that", but I think that day will come, when I'm not thinking about it. While I know I'm far from healed, I know for a fact I'm out of the darkest of dark days and nights and getting closer to seeing a positive and encouraging light.