Friday, March 30, 2012

Getting strong!

I think tonight's workout spanned about 3 hours. Since being on bed rest, I've watched several TV series on Netflix. I'm almost done with Law and Order: SVU, so I happened to have some episodes on instead of music while practicing strength tonight. It allowed me to slow down the pace and focus completely on my body in the movements instead of getting caught up in the music. I also made a quick dinner for the kids mid-workout and was in no rush whatsoever. It felt great to not have any sort of a time limit.

I finally got high-top Chuck Taylor shoes, and they are AMAZING. I love the ankle support. I've refused to work out in the air cast boot because it causes more problems than the support it provides. I wish I'd gotten around to getting high-tops before now.

I started with the usual joint mobility. I've done the same sequence from Pavel's Super Joints video since 2002. It's gold. Then strict overhead press practice, three rounds of 1-2-3 with the 8 kg. I did some naked (body weight) Turkish get-ups, and was more stable on the left side than the last time I'd done them. I think the ankle support from the shoes helped with that. I'm still struggling with flexibility in my foot but there are small improvements every day. Same with my walking gait. Today is my third day without using crutches. I'm in a bit more pain but I'm making it through. That's part of why my workouts have been so irregular. I struggle to balance the pain with making progress. I don't like to do workouts when I've had too much pain medication. I can't focus on my body as well.

I practiced some bottoms-up cleans, three rounds of 3, with the 8 kg. I really need to cut my fingernails! I can't make a tight fist when they're long. Next came two rounds of some abdominal work. First round led with the right side and second round led with the left.

Get-up sit-up, 8 kg, 4+4
Windmill, 8 kg, 4+4
Ab circles, body weight, 8 circles in each direction

I got a 16 kg kettlebell for some swing work. I hadn't tried heavy swings yet, but I felt like I was ready to try. I did 5 focused deadlifts first to make sure I was stable, and I was. I did 5 rounds of 10 2-arm swings, and it felt fantastic. My leg muscles have atrophied quite a bit (as did my glutes, which was depressing), so I had to really focus on using both sides equally and contracting all the necessary muscles. I worry about favoring my left side, since my right side wasn't in use for almost 4 months straight. My calf muscles have been tightening up since I'm walking more, so I have to stretch them a lot. It's hard to stretch my right side since the ankle joint is so locked up. I think I need to start making the salt water hot tub more of a priority to work on walking and massage. I've only been in once since I was cleared to use the pool. The heat is much more appealing than the regular pool, though it is heated as well.

It's been great to be out and about more, and the workouts are feeling great!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Getting back in the groove... almost

18 weeks, 5 days post-op original surgery. 6 weeks, 5 days post-op 4th and final surgery.

Late last night, the grown-ups finally made it out to see The Hunger Games. After the movie, I stayed up until around 3 am baking delicious cookies to share with my dentist today. I've never had half of my mouth numbed at once, so I wasn't really up to eating much before my workout. My breakfast was milk and honey Amasai  in the car on the way to my appointment and my lunch (pre-workout meal) was a raw cheddar quesadilla with a mashed avocado and sugar plum tomatoes for dipping and eating. Yummy.

I started my workout on the school playground with the usual joint mobility drills and moved on to two pressing ladders of 1-2-3-4 with the 8kg. Increasing the rungs on the ladder has been painfully slow but I'm making sure I'm completely solid before increasing the reps, sets, or weight. I don't want to inflame my left trapezius again. That wasn't fun and is completely avoidable with enough focused practice, now that I'm fully aware of what I'm doing.

From the presses, I moved on to attempting a full naked Turkish get-up. The right side was solid, so I was comfortable doing it with the 8kg. Then came the naked left side. It was great until the lunge up and back down. My right toes can't bend under my foot to push up or anchor for the lunge back down. Had I been confident with my right side and tried the left without a dry run-through, I probably would've ended up with some iron falling onto my head when my stability went away. It is from the constant reminder of safety and checking your ego at the door in the RKC School of Strength that kept me from blindly going forward and getting hurt. Of course it's frustrating that the complications from all of my surgeries are keeping me from being able to do a full get-up, which was one of my first recovery goals, but I have to be grateful to be almost walking and able to do a get-up on at least one side. It wasn't too many weeks ago that I wasn't weight-bearing or exercising at all. Perspective is everything. So is safety.

I finished my workout at home with two rounds of a circuit. I led with the right side on the first round and with the left on the second.

Snatch, 8 kg, 5+5
Overhead squat, 8 kg, 5+5
Alternating 1-arm swings, 10 kg, 20
Goblet squat, 8 kg, 5
1-arm swing-snatch combo, 10 kg, 5+5

For the goblet squat, I can almost get my hips parallel to my knees. Almost. My limiting factor is the very stiff right ankle. I am gaining more range of motion each day, but I still have a long way to go. The circuit felt wonderful, and I actually had sweat dripping down my face. I hadn't gotten to that point in months!! Definite progress.

Here's my range of motion as of today, in a completely non-scientific format:

And dorsiflexion

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

TRX Playtime

First full-on TRX workout post-op.

I'd been feeling guilty about spending more time rearranging furniture than doing my workouts this week, so I headed to the playground for today's session. It was perfect, 73 and sunny with a light breeze.

I didn't have a lot of time, so I did a quick (but brutal) simple pyramid format. 8 reps each (or 4+4 of one-arm):

Squat, row
Squat, row, standing roll-out
Squat, row, standing roll-out, press
Squat, row, standing roll-out, press, lunge

some pull-up practice using the assistance band during the halfway break point, and realized I'm still way stronger in underhand pull-ups than overhand ones

Lunge, press
Lunge, press, hip drop
Lunge, press, hip drop, power pull
Lunge, press, hip drop, power pull, squat

Squat variations included regular, narrow, plie (no single-leg squats for awhile on my bad leg, but I did a few in my warm-ups on my good leg).
Lunge variations included regular balance (assisted on my bad side) and oblique.
I got bored with the standing roll-out and changed it to the hip drop for the second half. Same with the row/ power pull switch-a-roo.

My body started shaking before the first half of the workout was over, but I kept on. The lunges felt amazing on my quads for flexibility.

I was hurting pretty badly after this one, but I'm getting more mobility out of my ankle when I use it more. I had to quickly grab a snack (avocado and clementine, washed down with some mango Lassi) before my dentist appointment. I would have munched on some raw almonds in the car on the drive over, but didn't want to show up to the dentist without having freshly brushed my teeth! I was really looking forward to my appointment because my dentist was also one of my favorite clients at Equinox. It was really neat to be on the receiving side of service after months of training him. Even though I got shafted in the foot department, the people that made me gave me exceptionally good teeth :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Game of Life

I had received some text messages from a few of my clients asking when I'd be back at work because they really wanted to train with me. I contacted my management at Equinox to let them know I was ready to come back on a limited basis. After a couple of meetings, I was told that since I'd been gone over 16 weeks, I would have to go through the interview process again to be re-hired. I never imagined I'd be gone as long as I was, or that I'd have to earn my job back. The thought of starting over from square one in my condition isn't the happiest or most welcome of thoughts, so it made me do some serious thinking. Ultimately, I decided not to return to work and to stay home to take care of my kids and myself. This past year had been really challenging for all of us, and I feel the need to put my family as my top priority.

I'm still in a tremendous amount of pain. At my doctor's visit this morning, he reassured me that it wasn't surprising, given the 7 cm (2.8 inch) long hole in my heel left from the screw coming out as well as the side of my foot being open to the bone for six weeks. I take pain medication daily to get through being on my feet long enough to cook meals and do dishes. Even after I'm on my feet for an hour or so, I'm forced back to my bed to rest for another few hours. Walking is extremely painful, and my ankle joint is still very locked up. My doctor said that I'm not ready for physical therapy until my pain diminishes. I still rely on my crutches in the morning and at night to help me along. I can go without most of the day just being around the house, but it's not easy or comfortable.

Being forced on the sidelines for this long under these circumstances hasn't been easy for me. I'm having some side effects from the four recent bouts of anesthesia just like I had five years ago when I went under anesthesia for six hours. I took a prescription medication for a year to manage the side effects, and I hoped to never need to go back on the drug again. I'm trying an herbal supplement this time around and hoping it will be enough. I'm doing better but it's still hard. I've applied to volunteer with the Wounded Warrior Athlete Reconditioning Program at Camp Pendleton, and I think if I can make it down there a couple of times a week, it will also help with my recovery. I really want to give back and help others going through similar situations.

For now, I'm just taking it one day at a time. Some days are better than others, and I'm still having some trouble sleeping. The support of my friends and family has meant the world to me during all of this. Thank you.

The terrifying-looking 7 cm long (2.8 inch) hardware that had been drilled
into my heel and then removed after only 12 weeks:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Third Time's the Charm

Third workout back! 17 weeks, 1 day post-op (original)

The incision site in my heel has healed completely, so I did this workout barefoot. Some interesting challenges are presenting themselves. Walking is still extremely painful, and I use crutches for partial weight-bearing most of the time. Since the bone structure of my foot has changed, I am walking on a part of my calcaneus (heel bone) that I have not previously walked on. I can't even begin to describe how hard this is, or how much pain medication I've been taking to get through it. My right foot now has a normal arch in it, while my left foot is still almost flat and overpronating. It will be six months before my left foot is operated on to match my right. I still have very limited range of motion in my right foot and ankle, so walking is more like a painful hobble. On the bright side, the wound site has completely healed and turned into a barely visible scar. I am very pleased with that. It had been a gaping hole for such a long time, I had no idea how it was going to go back together and stay there.

I was looking forward to tonight's workout. My body felt great after the last one I did on Saturday, with light soreness. I'm not pushing my workouts too close together yet because my immune system is still very weak and I don't want to make myself sick. All of those surgeries and all that anesthesia was really bad for my body. I'm also still sticking with the 8 kg for strength work. No point pushing it yet. I had a yummy (and very colorful!) pre-workout soup consisting of ground beef with fresh garlic and onions, rainbow carrots, mixed cherry tomatoes, white and red kidney beans, and quinoa in beef broth with some freshly ground black pepper, oregano and basil. The whole family loved it!

Joint mobility

Three rounds of 1-2-3 press ladder
(no pull-ups this time because I don't have my assistance band back at home yet)

Three rounds of:
-Standing windmills, weight overhead, bottom hand with palm flat on the ground at the bottom of the movement (can't believe I've maintained that flexibility after 4 months on bed rest!), 5+5
-Cossack lunge, bell by the horns, 5+5
-1-arm swings, 5+5
-Straight leg deadlift, 10 (again, surprising flexibility)
-Renegade row, anchored hand on a step stool, challenging because of lack of flexibility in right foot, 5+5

Joint mobility and stretching

I had quite a bit of pain medication earlier, so I'm not feeling any pain yet. I'm happy with how I feel and how the workout went. Challenging but not beyond my ability. Getting there, slowly but surely! Definitely a success.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I am my own worst enemy

Second workout since the 4th surgery

My intentions are always good for working out post-op. Keep the reps and weight low, and stop at the first sign of pain. I can manage that. What I can't manage, however, is to keep the workout light. The endorphins are such a welcome change from the months of darkness on bed rest that I have a really hard time stopping once I get going.

I went to my place of work for this workout (Equinox Newport Beach), for the first time since November. It felt great to be back and see so many familiar faces. I started out with joint mobility, as usual. I then used a TRX for the first time in many months, just to see what I could do with it.

5 reps, 1 round:

left regular balance lunge, right assisted balance lunge
hip drop
reverse plank with pull-through
low plank crunch
body saw

Then I did a short ladder (1+2+3) of 8 kg presses and overhand pull-ups on the counterbalance machine (I used a CB of 12, staying with the "light" idea). It felt so good that I did another ladder. Form felt fantastic, and I kept lat utilization top priority.

Here come the snatches. I went to my locker to get a 10kg kettlebell. The 8kg really is too light for snatches because I tend to muscle it up instead of using my hips to send it flying overhead, and they only have an old style rubberized thin-handle 8kg and then it jumps to 16kg of Dragon Door's brand. I didn't have any of my own 8kgs with me at work, and I wasn't about to go heavier. The 8kg bells from whatever non-Dragon Door company are so atrocious I refuse to use them.

I did two rounds of 10+10 with the 10kg. It felt amazing. Then I finished up with 10 2-arm swings and 10+10 1-arm swings, also with the 10kg. I was starting to break a sweat. I felt I'd reached my limit and did an extended stretching and joint mobility cool-down on the TRX and off. Then the pain kicked in and I could hardly crutch my way out of there.

My main rationalization for not writing a workout before getting in to do it is that I don't know how much I can do. Now that I have a good idea, it's time to write a workout before I start, and stick to it (within reason of course, backing down when necessary but NOT extending it). This workout took me an hour and a half, start to finish, including all the warming up and cooling down. I'm not happy with that or the amount of pain I'm in. It really didn't feel like I pushed it too far at the time, but I also felt that last workout for 4 days. Painfully so, especially in my hamstrings and triceps. We'll see how my body handles this one.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Return from the Living Dead

On November 16, I had a subtalar joint fusion that led to nearly 4 months of bed rest due to severe complications and multiple subsequent surgeries. But that story is for me to tell another day. Today I want to share my first workout since the final surgery.

This morning (March 5th), I was cleared to do partial weight-bearing by my doctor. I had been standing on both feet for about a week for stability while in the kitchen cooking, doing dishes, etc. Whenever I try to walk without crutches, it is painful and I can't do it, so I'm just starting partial weight-bearing while using crutches. I hope to be off the crutches completely in another couple of weeks. I get way too many compliments from random people about my skill with using them. Time to put them into retirement.

Since my last surgery almost 3 weeks ago, I've been in tremendous pain. Both feet hurt for similar but different reasons. My right foot for healing from the surgical trauma and bones fusing, and my left foot for bearing all of my weight on top of the arthritis. I had a cortisone shot a week ago today in the left foot, and I was in a lot of pain from it all week. I still feel twinges but it's not overwhelming. My immune system is completely shot, so I can't even have a glass of wine with dinner to help take the edge off of the pain at the end of the day. I still take a vicodin almost every day, but it doesn't do much for the pain except take the edge off of my grumpiness from being in pain for so long. Pain is worst at night, so my sleep schedule has been altered badly. It doesn't help that I live with someone that works 7pm-7am night shifts, so the house has to stay pretty quiet during the day for sleeping. While the kids are in school and nobody is around to help me get food and my pain is low, I've gotten on a daily sleeping schedule. That works very well until I have a lot of things to do during the day! But I digress...

On top of the pain and getting 2 or 3 hours of sleep last night, I was dealing with some personal issues today. I knew it was a perfect time to get my frustrations out in the form of a workout. I've been going a bit crazy with the bed rest, because I've always relied on workouts to get me through the stress of whatever I'm dealing with at the time. Take that away, add surgery stress and pain, and I'm a mess. I headed to the school playground wearing workout clothes and my Chuck Taylors, knowing that if I went wearing the air cast boot, I'd end up taking it off anyway and continue in my socks. Due to the surgical incision in my heel, I won't be going barefoot for awhile. It felt great to wear two matching shoes. The last time I wore both shoes was the day I was taken off of a wound vacuum I'd been on for a month. My right foot was so swollen the shoe would hardly tie. My feet and ankles are close to the same size now so that wasn't a problem this time.

I took an 8 kg kettlebell with me. It was challenging crutching to the playground with the kettlebell in one hand and my water bottle in the other, but I managed. After a wonderful joint mobility warm-up, I did a little circuit. I wasn't sure what I could do, so I developed my workout in the moment. It went something like this:

1-2-3 OH press ladder
2-arm swings (5)
Bottoms-up clean (5+5)
Snatches (5+5)
Squat (5)
1-arm swing plus snatch, alternating (5 each side)

I repeated this circuit three times.

Because of my state of mind, I wanted to focus more on cardio than strength. I felt myself coming alive again for the first time in months. It was a perfect day, in the upper 70s, with Adele singing loudly in my ears, urging me to keep going. One challenge I found was not being able to walk to lower my heart rate after snatches. I did the best stationary fast and loose that I could manage. At the end of the workout, I did the kneeling hip flexor stretch, crutched over to the monkey bars to hang on them to stretch a bit more, and finished swinging with my daughter on the swings for the first time since I sprained my ankle in mid-October. Without the boot, I could clear the ground. It was fantastic to feel so weightless and carefree. I think more adults should play on play grounds. It really is quite fun!

Looking forward to what's to come, and hoping I'm not too sore to use my crutches tomorrow!