Category Archives: Recovery

Week 15.5 Report: A Little Hiccup

First off, congrats to all of my friends who completed the Assault on Mount Mitchell this year. After having done it the last three years, it was bittersweet watching them from a distance, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be back next year.

I briefly alluded to this last week when I bailed on The Good Ride, a decision I did not make lightly, but I have been dealing with a slight setback lately. I didn’t want to get into it too much until I understood it, and frankly, I was hoping it would pass. It really materialized a few days before The Good Ride, got worse when I walked around Ikea, and then got even worse later. More on that in a second.

Things had been going swimmingly when all of a sudden I had a new guy helping me with my pool therapy. He had me ramp it up a little bit, which was fine with me. The treadmill started going faster and faster, and eventually I had to jog to keep up. I have to take some responsibility because I never told him to slow down. That’s not in my vocabulary, which may be how I got into this mess in the first place. He was a nice guy and we got to talking, so time passed with me jogging the entire time. After about 10 minutes, I was getting sore and told him I needed to stop, even though it felt great to get some exercise.

Pain will usually linger for a couple days after a heavy PT session, as it is supposed to. This time it continued well into the week without getting better. When I returned from Charlotte, it became worse. The injury felt like it did before surgery, which was not a good sign. I shut everything down until the pain subsided.

It took awhile to connect the dots, but running was most likely the culprit. I remembered that I’m not supposed to run until roughly a year after surgery. Based on when all the pain started coming back, I am convinced that the running caused the setback.

Things became a little more manageable later in the week, and I booked an appointment on Saturday for some more therapy, the first in nearly two weeks. This time it was the same guy. I explained everything that happened. He was protective, a little defensive even, and said that there was nothing in my chart that restricted running.

step thing

We decided to go easy that day. We did some stretches. At first my hip was tight, but it loosened up as I stretched it out. Afterward he had me spend a few minutes on the step machine, pictured above. This was tough, but I went through it. The therapist should know best, right? He said to do at most 7 minutes and call it a day. I left the office feeling pretty good.

The next day was excruciating pain — some of the worst I’ve felt since surgery. Luckily it was on a Sunday because I could not have worked through it, and luckily I still had a couple of my post-op painkillers remaining or I would not have gotten through the day. It was rough, and in the moment I thought I was in a full blown setback, and began wondering if the surgery was unsuccessful and that I’d need to go back under. It was a scary day.

The next morning was rough, but a lot better. It got even better as the day progressed, and the next day I was able to walk pain free again. Today feels amazing, just like it did prior to the running incident. I think the culprit this time was the step machine because it placed too much weight on my hip, which is basically the same reason the running hurt.

Based on how I feel today, I think the scare is over. I plan to take part in the Ride of Silence tomorrow, and I’m seeing my doctor on Thursday just in case. Unless he warns against it, I expect to resume my recovery. But no running, stepping, or anything else like that. Cycling will do.


Walking Before Riding

Ikea

Yesterday I had been planning on my grand return. I was going to ride in The Good Ride in Charlotte. The plan was that I would travel up with my wife, and even if I couldn’t ride, we would make a weekend out of it. Since I started back on the bike the week prior and received the green light from my doctor, riding was a good possibility. I was even considering doing the longer route depending on how I felt. There was some bad weather on the horizon, but Michael, the ride director, had done some solid meteorology and determined that the storms would happen towards the end of the event.

Unfortunately, I did not ride. And that turned out to be a good thing. There was a perfect storm of forces working against me. I forgot some stuff, had a little bout with allergies, and my hip soreness flared up. The weather was an obstacle and would have been a challenge to ride because of high winds, but it was more a mental detriment than anything. Given all my other challenges, I just couldn’t get enthused to make my grand return on a dismal day.

The reason not riding turned out to be a good thing was that I saved my legs. If I had ridden, I would have probably been holed up in the hotel room, icing my hip and probably leaving my wife helplessly bored. Instead we had a productive day, roaming around downtown Charlotte with a foray to IKEA.

For those of you who haven’t been to IKEA, just know that it is mammoth. The store is designed to funnel you through to every showroom, and by the time you’ve completed the circuit, you’ve probably walked a few miles. I’ve been walking for a couple of weeks now, but not completely painlessly. I still find myself walking with a limp, and if I spend too much time on my feet, the hip will hurt the next day. Even though I brought my cane and used the cart as a way of absorbing the weight bearing, it was still taking a toll.

This was hardly the therapy that my doctor’s or therapists prescribed, but IKEA was another way of testing the hip. I passed with flying colors on that day, however later and then today, I’ve been dealing with some soreness and a little bit of hip popping. It isn’t a setback, but more of an example of ‘two steps forward, one step back,’ which can describe most of the recovery process. The more I push, the better I will get, but progress does not equate to painlessness.

Before I start pushing it on the bike, I think I need to get to a point where I can walk without pain. I can continue riding for therapy and my doctor encouraged it, but racking up the miles at this stage of my recovery is probably not wise. Who knows, maybe next week I’ll reach another healing point and feel more confident riding. In the meantime, I’ll keep on resting and being smart. There is no deadline for my recovery. The biggest challenge is balancing my desire to exercise and ride with my physical need for rest and recuperation.


It’s Like Riding a Bike

6 Miles.

6 slow, awkward, steady, incredibly blissful miles.

I got home from work thinking that I would spend the evening tracking down my bike stuff and ride tomorrow. After all, aside from the one-mile pre-surgery ride (which I don’t count), my last ride was September 7th, 2013. That’s eight months of sitting on the couch trying to not think about riding my bike, but not a day passed where it didn’t cross my mind. Thanks to my wife, all my cycling necessities were not too hard to find.

Why do something tomorrow when I can do it today?

I kitted up, filled up a small water bottle, and got ready to take the saddle. Even though my hip has healed a great deal, it still is sore and I had to be careful. I first clipped in on the injury side, which has been my habit, and felt a twinge of soreness. That wouldn’t work. I led with my left, the stronger leg. As I first clipped in and pushed off, I was a bit wobbly. For a moment I wondered whether I would fall, something that I haven’t done in years. I got the pedals around just enough to coast down the nearest hill, and from there, I was moving. I was back.

The plan was not to ride hard. This is all about revisiting something I love, getting a feel for it again, and testing whether I feel any pain. I started out slowly, not even looking at my speed, just focusing on my cadence and pedal stroke. I intentionally rode around quiet neighborhoods with rugged roads, just because they would keep me from opening it up. This isn’t the day for me to set any records.

Riding a bike is like riding a bike. Muscle and mental memory take over. Before I knew it, I was comfortably pedaling and keeping decent form. The hip was not bothering me, but I’ve learned not to take it for granted. I kept going slow.

What a relief it was to be back on the bike again. I wanted to capture the moment, but the neighborhood was not exactly picturesque. Instead I tried to go for a picture of me looking down at the biking. I’ll need practice with my camera work too.

My first picture taken from the bike in awhile. Need practice there too.

My first picture taken from the bike in 8 months. Don’t worry. I’ll get better.

My doctor told me I’ll be sore after my first ride. I’m not now, but I expect it tomorrow, and I’ll give myself a couple days to recover. I am encouraged. For not being on the bike for so long, I surprisingly have a little bit of strength and fitness, which I can credit to my physical therapists.

This is probably the beginning of the end of my physical troubles. Sunny skies are ahead.


Ticket to Ride

bike in car

That is my bike in the messy trunk of my car, all tuned up and ready to go, sharing space with jumper cables and other junk. The one thing I missed during this long period off the bike, is I didn’t get the opportunity to complain about the weather. When I picked up the bike, there were some storms in the area. Rather than expose it to the elements with the trunk rack, I decided to keep it sheltered, and ready to ride.

Now for the good news. I AM CLEARED TO RIDE!!!

The doctor examined me, was impressed by my mobility, and said that I am okay to go. I need to go easy, not overdo it, and make sure to give myself a couple days to recover afterward. I’m still planning on heading to The Good Ride the weekend after next and most likely will ride one of the shorter routes. I’ll be the guy kitted up with an expensive Cervelo, riding with some friendly slow riders. Slow, social rides are pretty awesome.

While I have made a lot of progress, especially in the last three weeks, I still have a ways to go. He said that I should expect to be sore as I ramp up my activities, and that it’s okay to take some occasional pain pills to take the edge off. The hip has not healed completely yet, and still gets sore if I do little things like climb stairs, stand for long periods of time, or walk more than I should. I still cannot move my knee to my chest, and it’s tight when I try to move it inward.

Probably the best case scenario is that I’ll be at full activity in about 4-6 weeks. Since I’m going to be preoccupied with that whole Jeopardy experience during that time, it’ll probably be more like 8-10 weeks before I really get back. But I’m not in a hurry. If I can climb a couple mountains in the fall, then I’m good.

The “Return to Sport” for this type of injury is 6-9 months from surgery. That means that if I were a professional athlete, that’s the time period at which I’d be able to compete again. These injuries are rare in the cycling world, but they are more common in baseball and football. Percy Harvin, a Wide Receiver for the Seattle Seahawks, had surgery for a torn labrum before the season. He had to sit out the entire season and was ready for the playoffs. Lady Gaga had the same procedure, and her recovery time was about the same. Alex Rodriguez’s labrum made the sports and tabloid headlines. He recovered pretty quickly, but I suspect he had some assistance.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking at the calendar and thinking of the future.

Cycling is a little different because you reap the benefits by putting the time in. I cannot be a Percy Harvin. I’ve missed an entire offseason and the beginning of the spring. If I return to the sport in the fall, I won’t have enough fitness to accomplish the things I like to do. But I’ll still put in some time, but more with a focus of getting strong next year. And yes, I have some exciting plans for next year that I’ll be sharing soon. Rest assured, I’ll be in elevation again.

For now, just being outside is going to be paradise.

The bike will stay in my car. Today wouldn’t be a good day because of the rain and some soreness from doing a lot of little things. One day, maybe tomorrow, maybe Saturday, when I feel up to it, I’ll drive somewhere flat and do some spinning. And it’ll feel amazing.


Week 12: Getting Closer

One of these is getting tuned up.

One of these is getting tuned up.

The last few weeks have consisted of three things: Rehab, Rest, and Repeat. Each week I would improve, and each week the rehab would get just a little bit tougher. In that way, this schedule resembles a training schedule. It is carefully structured to increase difficulty each week, and shoots for gradual rather than immediate gains.

This also means that each week I have been hurting at relatively the same level. Even though I could see improvement, the discomfort has been somewhat discouraging. I had hoped that by 12-weeks, I would be pain-free and riding up mountains again. Among other things, this whole process has taught me patience.

And then something good happened. I got sick. It was a rough virus, maybe or maybe not the flu, but it left me incapacitated for about a week.

Rarely would I consider getting sick to be a good thing. I certainly didn’t feel that way while I was laying on the couch, wiping my nose and coughing my lungs out. It was good because it gave me a week off to recover from my rehab. It gave me a sense of where my hip was at.

One key difference between a training and rehab schedule is that with training, you will occasionally need a rest week. That’s one thing that Coach Bobby insists on keeping in his training schedules. I’ve found that with a rest week around the corner, I will push harder on my tougher weeks, knowing that a break is near. There are both physical and psychological benefits. With rehab, there are no rest weeks. You have to keep momentum and keep healing.

I got sick on a Monday immediately after physical therapy, and it lasted most of the week. On Wednesday, I found that I was little sore from therapy, but my focus was more on the frustrating illness I was enduring. At one point, my wife asked how my hip was. For the first time in awhile, I had to pause and think before answering. The sickness gave me some psychological relief because it shifted the focus from my hip to my sinuses.

The sickness forced me to cancel my PT later in the week, and I found that I was feeling less sore and walking a little better. Previously I’ve had to concentrate on my walking to avoid limping. That hasn’t been the case as much this week. After some rest, I have walked faster with a normal gait.

Even though injuries can linger, colds usually pass quickly. By Friday, the worst was behind me and I was able to resume normal living. I went to work and walked around mostly pain free. There would be occasional soreness, but nothing compared to what I’ve experienced over the last several weeks.

Next week is the big doctor appointment. I expect him to clear me to do a little bit of riding. At least I hope. If so, as I previously blogged, I’m going to do my first charity ride of the year in Charlotte at The Good Ride. My first regular ride will probably be next weekend, and that one will be pretty good too.

Today, I am taking my bike in to get tuned up. That’s another good feeling. I haven’t been to my local bike shop in months.

I’m getting close physically, and psychologically, I am more than ready to get outside.


Planning the Comeback Tour

Aaron Good Ride

Over the last couple of weeks, I have improved dramatically. This makes sense based on what the doctor and the physical therapists told me. Once my bones and cartilage healed, the rest would fall into place. It is beginning to look like I’ll be back on the bike again, and possibly sooner rather than later.

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to increase my rehab and do some actual exercise, but I’m at the mercy of my doctor as to when I get back on the bike. My next appointment is 5/1/2014. Assuming I continue to make progress, then I expect to be cleared to ride. He’ll tell me to go easy, no major climbing or century routes — at least not yet. For the early going, I’ll need to ride around the neighborhood and maybe with some slow, social group rides. Given that I now get winded by walking up stairs, my heart probably couldn’t handle any climbs or long routes anyway.

The timing looks like it could work out for me to participate in The Good Ride on May 10th in Charlotte. Some of you might remember that I wrote an article for them a little while back, one that I was quite proud of. It seems only fitting that this will be the first stop on my comeback tour.

As much as I’d love to stick with the A group and ride without stopping, I’ll be more like a C. Depending on how I feel, I’ll opt for either the 22 or 36 mile route, and I’ll be riding closer to the rear of the pack. I’ll probably have to stop a time or two. The route will have rolling hills, and I’ll have to go very easy on the climbs.

But I’ll be riding, and that’s all that counts. And if any ride of mine would live up to the name, this one will. It will be a good ride, indeed.

If the doctor doesn’t clear me to ride, then I’ll plan to volunteer in the morning. We’ve already booked the hotel room and decided to make a weekend of it anyway.

From there, things are more up in the air. I’ll go very easily and gradually ramp up mileage (10% rule). The good news is I’ll have more free time in the summer, which means even if I cannot ride much, I’ll be able to continue with physical therapy. By that point, the focus will be more on return to sport, so it’ll all help me get back to 100% by the fall.

I’ve already mentioned that I’d like to ride Beach or Bust, and I’d like to do some climbing as well. If things go perfectly, then I could take a stab at the Blue Ridge Parkway this year, although that’s still a long shot at this point.


These Shoes Were Made For Walking

photo-11

If someone told me years ago that I would someday write a blog post about the ability to walk, I would have called them crazy. That’s just something we take for granted. But when you’ve spent 10 weeks off your feet, it feels pretty amazing to get back on them. Alas, here is my post about walking, which I feel is completely blogworthy.

My first real walking experience was earlier this week during pool therapy. The water absorbed roughly 50% of the weight bearing, so I’m not sure it could really be called walking. I was, however, proud of the eight minutes. I was also physically exhausted. After publishing the blog, I immediately fell asleep for hours.

The good news was that I wasn’t terribly sore the day afterward. That means that the walking didn’t interact too much with the injury. I was sore the day after that, which was mostly just muscle soreness. That was completely understandable, as those muscles have not been used in their entirety in about six months. Yes, six months. Maybe longer.

When I delivered this news to my therapist on Wednesday, he was encouraged. He had me walk around a little bit during therapy just to see how it felt. He wanted me to pay close attention to my gait to make sure I’m walking straight. He also wanted me to focus on the pain. Soreness is going to be expected and is something I have to deal with, but any sign of actual pain means it is time to stop. He told me that I could split time trying to walk with crutches, with the reminder to listen to my body for warning signs. If I felt okay, I could increase the walking. If not, then I better rest.

I first tried it on Thursday. It felt weird, like my right leg was not altogether a part of me. I was mentally willing it to move like I would will myself to push something. I had to look at my feet as I walked to make sure they were straight, and I tried not to limp. If I lost focus, I would naturally start limping again and walking wobbly.

After the first couple short excursions, the soreness came back. After resting and using the crutch awhile, I would try again. When the day was done, I had spent about half of my traveling off crutches. That was worth being proud about.

It still felt weird when I started walking this morning, but the soreness was not as evident. At first I was wobbly, and had to be careful again to walk in a straight line without limping, and I improved. Before I knew it, I was standing in place, walking around a little brisker, and gaining strength.

By the end of the day, it finally hit me that I’m finally walking again. This is it. I may use the crutches sporadically from here on out, perhaps on stairs. I’ll be careful not to walk too much, and will bring along a crutch when going out just in case, but this is still a turning point. Tomorrow should be easier; the next day will be even easier. By next week, I should be 100% back on my feet, ready to take the next step (pun intended) in my rehab.

I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this feeling. I’ve already heard from many who had knee surgeries, broken legs, or various other conditions about the oddity, thrill, and liberating feeling of walking again. All the stories I’ve heard are just like mine. During the time that they were incapacitated, it felt like they would never walk again. It seemed to last forever while immobile, yet in hindsight, it didn’t seem like very long.

10 weeks sounds like a long time, and it sure felt like a long time. Now that I’m walking, in time these past weeks will seem like a blur. When I’m riding, this current transition period will seem like a blur as well. I’m getting pretty close, and have already begun wondering at what point I should start getting my bikes tuned up.

I think soon.