The Knee & Fitness Update: March 2019

If you have been following me for a while (especially on social media) you may have noticed a shift in my content and posts over the past several months.

This was not accidental, but it also wasn’t a planned change. Many of you have reached out regarding this, and have been checking in with me, so I wanted to post an update. I also wanted to share my plans going forward in case you want to follow along or join me for accountability. The road becomes easier when you have good company.

The background:

Mostly, my social media has been a compilation of whatever fitness adventure I was currently undertaking. I started by posting my workouts and meals after I joined a female-centric workout community. Then as I focused more on running, I shared my marathon training and races. Recently I had begun developing and recording a yoga and weight training regimen with plans to share that with my audience.

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This is the pic Ari took the morning of my bike accident.

However, in November of last 2018, those plans changed. On a beautiful and unseasonably warm day, I decided to go for a bike ride with Ari. What started as a beautiful ride through the city, ended with me in the Emergency Room at a local hospital and halted my work on the yoga and weight training plans.

*I will preface this by saying that I insisted I was fine, and demanded to be taken home to change out of my ripped leggings before we “went anywhere else”. After getting cancelled on by not one but two Uber drivers, someone finally picked us up and took us (and my bike) home.

Only after what is best described as a comical attempt to be dragged around the house with a furniture mover under my right foot (my bright idea) and Ari holding up the rest of me, somewhat unsuccessfully, did I finally agree to go to the Emergency Room. I couldn’t stand up on my own and I finally acknowledged that was a problem. It was 3 pm on a Sunday.

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Headed into the Emergency Room. It doesn’t look too bad!

Initial Diagnosis:

After several x-rays, a magnetic resonance angiography to rule out bleeding, and a CT scan, I was sent home on crutches. The suspicion was that I had an injury to my MCL but with significant amounts of swelling and bruising, it made it hard to determine the extent of my injuries.

I was told to avoid putting any weight on my right leg and to make an appointment to follow up with someone in a couple of weeks when the swelling went down.

The Real Diagnosis:

Fast forward to an MRI during my follow up appointment (after the swelling subsided) and the new diagnosis was a grade 3 MCL tear, a grade 1 ACL tear, and partial meniscal tear with excessive bruising. I was told that if things healed perfectly, I would avoid the need for surgery, but there were no guarantees. I would likely need at least a knee scope in the future to assess the damage and ‘clean things up’.

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I should note that during this time, I was in the middle of quitting my job (see my earlier post here), and finishing working my notice, when I had the accident. Needless to say, I ended up finishing the year with some extra unplanned free time on my hands.

Being between jobs also meant I ended up without insurance coverage during this time. Full disclosure: I elected not to purchase COBRA coverage unless it became absolutely necessary because it was over $ 1200 a month, which I felt was too expensive, especially without a paycheck coming through the door!

Not sure that was the best decision, but without insurance, I did home Physical Therapy for the next 8 weeks, following a protocol the Orthopedic Doc had given me at my appointment.

I am fortunate enough to have a spin bike at my house and a little workout room, so I was able to do most of the exercises in the protocol without issue.

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One month post accident, finally starting PT.

Physical Therapy Round 1:

I have to say I wasn’t super diligent with the exercises every day, but I managed to do them 4 days a week, which I felt was pretty good. Slowly the range motion was coming back and weight bearing became less painful. I also got pretty good at stairs which was something I absolutely took for granted pre-injury.

As the weeks went by, I slowly upped the intensity of my exercises. I was increasing the number of reps, then adding weight, and finally progressing to one leg exercises as I felt my knee improving.

I was also supplementing my body like crazy during this time. I started reading all sorts of books about healing and articles about how to repair muscle tissue naturally (my goal was to avoid surgery and save my meniscus at all costs). I was taking powders, supplements, collagen, you name it just to try to heal better and faster.

Testing It Out:

In late February, I decided I had healed enough and went snowshoeing with friends while we were on vacation in Vermont.  (You can read about that here).

I had been on the sidelines long enough and felt my knee was ready. As Ari always was encouraging and reminded me, “if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there.”

I managed to get around just find on the snowshoes, and even though I wasn’t terribly graceful, I didn’t have any maneuvering issues or pain on the outing. It seemed successful!

The next day however, I was incredibly sore. My right knee was super tender, and much to my surprise, my entire left leg was stiff and sore. Painfully sore, like more so than after running a marathon (which was a type of stiffness I am familiar with).

I decided I needed another follow up appointment to figure out what was going on. At my appointment, they did range of motion tests and some flexibility exercises, but decided that I was healing well and that the stiffness and soreness would eventually resolve.

Honestly, it’s not what I was expecting to hear, but I thought, “Ok, you’re the experts.” It seemed like they were giving me a green light for workouts and increasing my activity level.

The weekend after my appointment, I decided Ari and I should take the knee out for a jog. We hadn’t been on a run since my injury, and I was overdue. So, we set out on our usual path to see how much running affected my knee.

(I will preface this by saying that running is my preferred method of exercise and meditation. To say I had high hopes to be able to run again (without pain) would be an understatement. I still have a few marathons left on my bucket list, and I am eager to resume training as soon as I can).

The Bad News:

About a half mile in, I was limping considerably. I was putting so much of my weight on my ‘good’ side and coming down heavy on my left foot. My right side felt like it was weak and dragging. I couldn’t get it to wake up or respond in any meaningful way, let alone help my stride or help me ‘push off’ on that side. I secretly hoped Ari didn’t notice and wanted to see how far we could run before I needed to take a break.

No such luck. He noticed almost immediately, and even cracked a few jokes. We only made it about a mile before we stopped our run and started walking home. It was so disappointing. I walked home without saying a word. My sunglasses hiding the tears welling up in my eyes.

I broke down in a puddle of tears in the shower that night. I was so upset. I couldn’t believe this was ‘my new normal’.

I called a fellow runner who I had trained with early in my running, and after a long conversation, she advised me to try PT to regain strength and work on mechanics to get my leg muscles firing appropriately again. The next day I called the ortho office and asked for a script for physical therapy.

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So, now here we are.

Physical Therapy Round 2:

It’s mid-March and I just had my first evaluation with a new physical therapist. She is also a runner and understands my goals and wishes to return to my baseline level of health and ability. I have scheduled appointments twice a week for the next month, as well as ‘homework’ to do on the days I don’t go to PT.

I will also be starting to incorporate upper body strength training and core exercises this month. I got the nod that upper body was okay for resistance training and lifting (light) weights. I lost a fair amount of muscle mass during my injury and recovery and am eager to get it back, as well as return to my running and squats in the gym!

It’s definitely been a longer road than I anticipated but I am eager to have a plan to finish healing and get me back outside!

I’ll be sharing my workouts, my nutrition supplementation, and my progress in physical therapy with you all as I move forward and heal. Hopefully I’ll be good as new soon and can finish writing and recording the workout plan I started so long ago! I can’t wait to share my journey with you all!

As always, thanks for reading!

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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