Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Big Moment

I RAN TODAY! Well, it was more like a shuffle at a 13 minute per mile pace on the treadmill. I didn't plan to do it. In fact, it was scary thinking about even trying in case it still hurt and I'd feel discouraged. The surgeon said I would just know when the time was right to try and I guess I did. It felt a little sneaky, like I was cheating or something. BUT - it happened and it felt dang good. Other than my achilles feeling a bit tight, there was ABSOLUTELY NO PAIN. (That's for my mom). For the other worrywarts out there, do not reprimand. The actual running time was probably 8-10 minutes out of 30 because I did intervals; power walking at an incline the rest of the time. I finished up with 25 minutes on the elliptical and some weight training. My plan is to build up very slowly, going back to that first walk/run plan that got me started oh so long ago. Happy, happy me!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Road Trip

These photos are from our last trip to Bozeman. We stopped at Missouri Headwaters State Park in my quest to see all of Montana's parks. The views from the trail were amazing. Plus, I got a chance to test out the ankle by hiking some hills. Can someone please instruct me on the proper computer settings so that people can click on the pictures to make them bigger?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I am now the proud owner of a gym membership. Me. The one who had a 10 punch card and used one visit in a year. Even though the doc said I could be running fairly soon (I'm up to 2 cups in the 8 cup challenge! See the last post.), I need to do the rehab work. After using up my free passes to every gym in town, Steve and I finally signed up.

The things I like about this particular place is the women's only center, which has a lot of cardio equipment and a strength circuit, the cheapest price for two people, the status drop option so I don't have to pay during the summer months, a pool (for when I get the courage up to try swimming), easy starting point for great running routes, and truly good customer service. The membership lady came in on her day off to sign me up since we couldn't coordinate our schedules. Nice.

The gym makes it easy to switch things up during rehab so I don't get bored. I'm rotating between the recumbent bike, elliptical, treadmill and strength training. After today's workout of 30 minutes on the bike, weights, and 15 minutes power hiking - I set the incline at 8 -I slathered on the sunscreen and ventured outside for my first trail adventure in several weeks.

In the picture below, you'll see what I'm calling my "rehab trail." It's fairly flat with some rolling hill sections. One of the goals, in addition to strengthening the ankle, is to get out and move it as much as possible. The longer one waits, the harder it is to regain flexibility and complete range of motion. The trail is a good place because the uneven ground re-develops the brain/body signaling system. It also challenges all of the foot, ankle, leg muscles to increase stability.

It was a beautiful day, 52 degrees and sunny. It was quiet and peaceful with only the sounds of snow melt dripping from the trees, the scrunch of snow underfoot, the birds, the wind. I was just so happy to be outside. It took me awhile, but I completed two miles. No pain, but the small, short downhills were a little tricky. Each time I encountered one I had to stop, evaluate and figure out the safest way down. It was probably quite funny to watch as I was so focused and slow. Most amazing to me was how I had forgotten such dramatic surroundings. Everything was so big. The sky, the hills, the trees, the sunshine. I got a little dizzy just taking it all in.
I took the picture above because it was great seeing it almost snow free.

My feet resting during the hike back. Notice my step down safety brace. Not nearly as ugly as the boot!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WooHoo! Today was my appointment with the orthopedic surgeon and I got the all clear. What exactly does this mean? It means that I've been a great patient and my ankle has healed much more quickly than expected. This time, there was absolutely NO pain during the exam. Now I've got to focus on rebuilding strength, balance and flexibility.

I've got a series of balance and resistance band exercises along with stretches. For sure, I can use the stationary bike, elliptical and strength training machines. To my surprise, I was also told to get on the treadmill and start power hiking at an incline. Basically, I can add new activities to rotate over the next couple of weeks, icing after each workout.

The doc also took me through a very cool drill that I want to pass on to all - especially the trail runners out there who have weak ankles or are prone to sprains. Put eight cups (or the many water bottles most runners have filling up cupboards) spaced out on the floor in a semi circle. Balance on one foot inside the semi circle. Close your eyes for a moment if you want a challenge.Bend down slowly and pick up one cup (yes, while balancing on the same leg). Straighten up slowly and repeat with the next cup. You remain on one leg the entire time. See how many cups you can pick up without losing balance. I was able to pick up all eight while standing on my good leg, but I couldn't do it without a lot of wobbling. This means I haven't been using several stabilizing muscles. On my injured leg, I could only pick up one safely. He also suggested that once I've mastered it I should try it on "demi pointe." I think HE thinks I'm still a dancer.

The question I was avoiding, of course, was "when can I start running?" I casually asked if I might be able to run a 5k by the end of the summer. The response was "I hope you'll be running a 5k by next month!" WHAT????? I thought I heard wrong. Nope, I'm supposed to add some jogging to my power walks after I can pick up all eight cups. And, he discouraged pavement running, telling me to find a nice trail, start hiking and gradually turn it into a run over the next several weeks. How exciting is that?

Many thanks to Rebecca who met me at the gym to get serious. She showed me how to use the elliptical - and I didn't fall off! 25 minutes on the elliptical and 20 minutes walking on the treadmill at a slight incline and I was done for the day. No swelling or pain, but I am blissfully tired.

Now, what fall race should I consider????

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ups and Downs

After my workout on Saturday, my ankle felt pretty good. Unfortunately, the following day it swelled up with some pain. Once again, I'm backing off, just focusing on upper body stuff for a couple days. I suspect that some pain and swelling might be part of rehab, but I want an expert to tell me that before I push it further. My next appointment with the ortho surgeon is on Wednesday, and I'm hoping for the "all clear."

For the gym goers out there, please tell me how to use the elliptical. I gave it a whirl, but was completely out of control. In fact, I almost fell off. It was crazy and my ankle is in no shape for that kind of mess. Not sure what I expected - to mimic a running motion maybe? Definitely not right, whatever I was doing. Probably a danger to others too!

As for the green smoothie kick. I've had lots of inquiries and comments about it, so this is to clarify a few things.

1) I'm not using the green smoothie to subsitute for meals. I still try to EAT my servings of fruit and vegetables.
2) Green smoothies are an easy way to add a little extra healthy stuff to a regular diet.
3) Yes, you can make just plain fruit smoothies, but they are not "green smoothies." The purpose is to add more fresh greens to your diet, especially for people who don't like to eat their spinach.
4) I do not taste the spinach or other greens, and I put in at least two big handfuls each time I make them.
5) For those who asked about the effect on "regularity," your body adjusts over time. Some people have experienced gas, constipation or loose stools as their body adjusts. Most people who eat plenty of vegetables anyway don't seem to notice much of a difference.
6) The trick is to blend everything really well. When you think it's blended, blend some more!
7) I've noticed a decrease in my desire for sweets because of the natural sugars in the fruit. Plus, they just taste darn good.

Drink up!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The BIG Moment

Steve took me to the YMCA for my first "workout" in over five weeks. The only way to describe how I felt is absolute happiness. There wasn't much to it. Twenty minutes on the stationary bike for a total of three miles. Steve also showed me how to use the Cybex system for strength training. I was able to do the entire circuit except for one exercise that put too much pressure on my ankles. SO MUCH FUN!

Steve not wanting his picture taken.

On the way to buff!

As for the green smoothie update. I'm on day seven, and still loving them. The trick is to blend everything really well. I've tried every kind of fruit, but love banana, kiwi, strawberry, and apple the best. I've also tried various greens, but still prefer a couple handfuls of baby spinach. Since I tend to drink them in the morning, I also add a cup of plain yogurt (not the fat free or low fat kind - I'm talking the real stuff) for some protein and because I like the tart taste.
For those of you still dubious, try Steve's way. He likes bananas, kiwi and strawberries with lots of ice and a shot of orange juice. He's not yet keen on the color so use the greens sparingly at first. Even without the greens, you are still getting fruit servings!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Where to go from here?

I'm on a rollercoast ride. The ups and downs of my injured person can't be healthy. The first month of this injury, I lived in denial. Or, I kept busy with work to avoid thinking of the true meaning of "12 weeks off." When I got the good news that I could spend some time out of the boot cast, I was pretty ecstatic. But, the true reality of rehabilitation is sinking in.

My ankle has lost all range of movement. I know this is partially due to the cast, but even with nightly stretching, the difference between my healthy foot and injured foot is dramatic. I can flex the foot fairly well, but pointing it feels both painful and disgusting.

Without the boot, I can stand with my full weight on the injured leg with no pain. I am also able to walk with only a slight limp. But, going up and down stairs still causes painful twinges, and if I lose my balance and try to correct, I definitely feel pain. My mother keeps warning me "don't do too much. Don't run." At this point, I'm more worried that fear has rendered me motionless. I can't even handle the THOUGHT of running.

Strangely, the boot has become somewhat of a security blanket. I still wear it often, maybe more often than I should. I've got questions. Do you keep the boot on because it's safe? How much pain is too much pain? How much do I stretch to increase flexibility, but if it hurts, am I supposed to continue? How much of the pain is due to inactivity? How much is from the pressure of the splint cast and/or the boot? IS THIS EVER GOING TO GET BETTER?

That last line is truly tearful panic. I'm trying to be positive. In fact, Steve thinks I'm doing amazingly well. Today was my first real emotional breakdown. This week, especially with the 60 degree weather yesterday, it really sunk in. If I can't even start a walk/jog program until at least May, that pretty much leaves most of the summer/fall racing season out of the question. And, since I will only be able to run on flat surfaces for awhile, that means no trail running. The worst part is that I can't run with other people. Everyone goes on with their lives, planning their race schedule, planning their training. It makes me feel lonely, even though I'm not really alone. I am sad. End of rant. Tomorrow will be a better day.