Onwards, Upwards and Heels too!

I have to admit since we got back from our travels in March my usual fitness plan has at best been sporadic! Work is busy and along with a wedding & Family commitments there never seems enough hours in a day or my hip is just too tired to do any more at the end of many hours doing all things horticultural. Swimming for so long a constant – and comfort when the hip can do nothing else –  has fallen by the wayside. The gym, I am lucky if I get there once a week although spinning classes and circuits are faring better!

In spite of this lapse my hip has still made some progress. Recently the long-suffering and I took on a new route riding our road bikes – for only the second time after my hip revision last August. We now live in a valley meaning whichever way we ride out there is a hill climb to start, one direction in particular poses a real challenge. It was this way we chose!

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Hill climbs – Post accident nerve damage is still an issue meaning the extra pressure of a steep incline can cause electric shock like pain in my bum and thigh. When this rears its ugly head, I get off, walk for a bit and then as it eases get back on and continue.

I used to get very cross and frustrated about this, especially as I watched long-suffering become a dot in the distance, riding in circles once he reached the summit to allow me to catch up. In another life I would have been up there with him! Now, I try not to waste energy with negativity, but instead hope for a small improvement each time.

Post accident cycling one handed – for hand signals/drinking – was impossible, due in part to the strength imbalance of my left leg/hip but also a real fear of falling off making our outings a very stop/start affair.

Not anymore though, a breakthrough…..The first hill climb although extreemly challenging, I cycled on almost to the top, walking only a few steps then resumed the climb. In the quiet of an early morning a startled pigeon flew out from the hedgerows and into the path of my front wheel – a true test of balance as my wheel ran over it sending me lurching from either side as I struggled to stay upright in a mix of shock, horror, fear and eventually sadness as the bird lay inert and motionless behind me.

Recovering at the top my legs like jelly the view more than made up for the spanners in the back pocket ache – always a presence after any hip/leg exertion!

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Feeling balance confident after the bird altercation I decided to try drinking while in motion! With a flat road ahead ………

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The first challenge was locating the bottle in its holder while keeping eyes on the road ahead. After a few panicked, aborted attempts I managed to locate, extract and take a wobbly quick glug from the spout. More fumbling followed getting it back in the holder – by then my legs were barely turning and I was zig-zagging precariously towards the hedgerow and ditch. Luckily, as I was about to give in and stop, the  holder was located. Long-suffering, oblivious to my trials was once again a dot in the distance!

IMG_2041More hills followed not quite as steep, by now on a roll, instead of getting off I tried standing up instead to ease the pressure. Another first! I could even do this albeit in a crazy side to side see-saw motion! All the Standing hill climbs on high gears in spinning classes I have groaned about have actually paid dividends.

 

Dancing…………progress continues, after surviving without incident a great evening spent ‘mum dancing’ – in high shoes – at our sons wedding reception, the next challenge was to get my latin shoes back on!

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Salsa is the only way I have ever got long-suffering on a dance floor actually dancing with me – not counting the ‘dad slow smooch’. After a few years lessons and practice together -photo right in 2010 – before the accident, giving it up is not an option! Besides which IT IS FUN!

Shoes on and a twirl in the kitchen and we were ready to give it a go – not sure Long-suffering was as totally keen, but he went along to please me.

We have since attended two latin events together in the last month and although rusty and lacking in confidence we have managed to remember……. moves = him, and following skills = me! I even managed a double spin! Watch this space………

 

 

 

 

Swimming – a lifeline

Recently I came across a small card, one that had accompanied a flower arrangement sent to me in one of my many low points by my long-suffering. Written inside were the words from a well-known quote, ‘The only time you should look back is to see how far you have come.’ author unknown.

In the midst of the fog, I spent days/weeks looking back at my once active life only to see how far I had fallen, that was then………..

My latest 25m pool swim session approx 70 min duration:

  • 500m freestyle warmup gradual increase in speed with as many tumble turns as I can manage without drowning.
  • 500m freestyle arms only using buoy tumble turns included.
  • 250m combination of backstroke and freestyle kick with a float.
  • 500m alternate lengths of front freestyle and breast stroke, the latter still incredibly tiring, frog kick is very weak still but improving.
  • 300m tumble turn, breaststroke kick practice ending with swim down.
  • 10 minute upper & lower body pool stretches.

Compared with:

  • December 2012 6 weeks post accident 1st Hydrotherapy session; chair lift into pool using winch, floating aids attached to arms & legs, surprise followed by upset at my inactive leg!
  • January 9th 2013 10 weeks; walk up steps and down into hydro pool, all floating aids removed.
  • Jan 13th 1st public pool session; practising walking, physio set strengthening exercises, tentative first front crawl swim.
  • Jan 17th – 4 lengths, Jan 20th – 10 lengths freestyle without stopping thereafter each week the distance increased.

Not to bore you, my point to this post… At the time my progress on land was a one step forward and three back scenario – pain an acute inhibitor to any forward progress. Not so in the pool though, with my  weight supported at all times the pain diminished considerably allowing a greater freedom of movement.

At first the resistance of the water was enough, I could hardly move my left leg against the water in any direction. Slowly with repetition whenever I could beg a lift to the pool its strength improved. I seemed to move backwards on land, in comparison my pool routine progressed to using leg weights making abduction and other exercises more challenging. I was regularly swimming upwards of 40 lengths although not always in a straight line – it was difficult to subdue my dominant leg!

Unfortunately success in the pool didn’t necessarily translate to land – not outwardly anyway. Inside was a different matter my mind on a swim day was more upbeat – for a while anyway. Hidden muscles were getting stronger, not just in my damaged parts, the increased cardio from actual swimming kept my weight down meaning less strain on an already failing hip.

The benefits of the pool exercises and swimming couldn’t change the replacement hip I was heading for, nevertheless because of them and twice weekly Pilates – more on this another time -my recovery after was quicker than if I had simply given in and given up!

Water is life, supporting us inside our bodies and in my case – and maybe yours – outside too.

Today when I look back I really can see how far I have come…. Looking forward to our imminent road trip, I will endeavour to meet full on, the exciting new challenges to come.

Watch this space…………

 

 

 

Sunday Madness

I have never been a Sunday Gym bunny, much preferring the great outdoors either gardening, walking, visiting gardens or more recently since downsizing, dare I admit it actually doing nothing. My long-suffering I believe is quite happy these days to find me still in bed beside him at the crack of dawn, instead of having to scour the garden torch in hand looking for me.

This morning the long-suffering is in Barcelona on a stag weekend with our son – the groom – and his best man, leaving me home alone. The art of the weekend lie-in still needs practice on my part hence my decision to visit the gym, that and the fact it was tipping down with rain.

Arriving just after opening at nine, I card swiped in and got straight on a cross trainer to warm up.  Already it was busy. After 10 minutes I moved on to the weight machines and from there the free weights area and finally the floor. Halfway through my programme ‘busy’ became ‘hectic’ all shapes and sizes, old and young all with their own goals in mind if not always in body!

The committed bodybuilders – lifting the heaviest weights their loud grunting and groaning making sure everyone else is aware of their every lift, followed by the ringing clang and the bounce of the floor as the weights are dropped with such force as to render anyone near by deafened, myself included.

The less committed – they whizz around the equipment at breakneck speed some at times with such unusual technique, they look to be doing more harm than good.

January newbies – most will have given up by March but for now kitted out in their trendy gym wear they got for Christmas, they are keen and focused on the task ahead, maybe a beach on a pre booked holiday giving further motivation.

There because they have to – Doctors orders – get fit or die – recovering from injury, wife/husband/teenager pressure.

Lastly the stayers – never miss a session, respect the equipment, friendly, not scary, happy to chat while in recovery period between reps if they are not on their phone that is!

Where do I fit in then? Somewhere between the last two I think and occasionally when life, holidays get in the way I become the newbie again and boy does my body let me know.

After only a two week break the first session back renders my bad side especially, into a meltdown. My left bum cheek feels as though its reverted to its post operative size – think celebrity implants, it never is but I check nevertheless.  I walk around with the feeling of carrying a bag of spanners in my left back pocket. If I abstain for too long nerves come into play and I am rendered temporarily immobile as the shocks radiate from my hip, bum and down the back of my leg with no warning. The latter I am enjoying a current respite from.

If I’m really honest the gym is not my preferred place to be on any morning, I go because it really does make a difference to the strength of the muscles around my hip.  When I don’t get to the gym or do home exercises my leg becomes weak again. The saying really is true ‘use it or lose it’ I still have a lot of work to do on stubborn weak muscles to reach my own personal goals but I am nothing if not determined……just not on a sunday!

Goal one – that shopping for any length of time will be a comfortable experience and not send my gait into decline.

Goal two – not lurching sideways when rising from the table on a meal out as though I am inebriated – on the many times I am not!

Goal three – to be able to relax and just walk normally again without constantly thinking about my shoulders being even, heel to toe, roll the foot etc.. etc…….

Goal four – Having strong enough muscles to stop the dreaded limp coming back when my leg is tired.

 

 

 

 

Back on the Treadmill

This morning after four weeks apart the spinning bike and I were reunited. Over the festive period I must confess the gym and bike fell by the wayside only walking and swimming prevailed.

I arrived for the class early to get set up. There are about twenty bikes in all arranged around the room in a gently curved half circle two or three deep all facing to the lone instructor bike in the corner. The back ones always seem to get taken first – presumably to be less visible if a rest mid session is needed!

Duly taking my place at the back near an open window for air – my excuse – I set up my bike. By the start of the session a few front bikes remained empty, the rest carried riders regular and newbies varying in age between twenty and sixty.

A few facts about spinning…..It is ridiculously hard – if you don’t cheat. The music is LOUD. You will be SHOUTED at throughout – ‘keep going, you’re doing well, don’t give up’ and ‘last push’ the favourites. Saddles are NOT comfy. No matter how many fans are blowing, windows, doors are open, by the end all will be steamy and the floor will be wet from yours and others sweat!

The session got going with everyone settling into their own particular rhythm as we warmed up. Heads nodded up and down like the nodding dogs in back of cars, bodies hunched forward over the handlebars, Tour de France style, some sat upright hands on thighs, others swayed, side to side to the beat of the song. All of us building to the challenge to come.

Why do I do it? Twenty minutes in this morning I wondered precisely that as after a few sprints, seated and standing hill climbs I was secretly slumped over my bike, legs still spinning, trying to dismiss the very real threat of adding yesterdays food to the already damp floor.

The answer…because I can, low impact on my hip, pure adrenaline rush, great workout for the lower half and heart, safer than muddy roads, sociable – although last not strictly true given the loud music and sheer exhaustion rendering idle chat nigh on impossible.

I did recover as I knew I would – first time back is always the worst – and made it to the finish line without mishap however with a river running between my chest and down my back, hair sticking out at all angles, my face resembling a shiny tomato, and my legs like jelly I was not a pretty sight.

Glancing around the room happily revealed I was not the only one!

 

 

 

 

Never give up!

A breakthrough at last!  Just when I (and my Physio) was thinking that after three major surgeries, extensive gluteal nerve and muscle damage in four years my abductor and gluts were as strong as they were ever likely to get, the last two days have proved me quite wrong.

August 4th this year I underwent surgery.  The last I hope, to replace the failed ceramic implants of my 2013 left hip replacement.  My bionic hip had always made a clonking, popping sound with every step I took feeling like it was shifting inside. Nothing had showed up on yearly x-rays in the 2 + years since and quite frankly to walk unaided virtually pain and limp free at last who was I to make a fuss!

Imagine my distress when on our holiday in mid June to Crete, walking became increasingly difficult again after dancing in the sand at a beach party.  At first we – my long suffering husband and I, presumed a less serious pulled muscle was to blame, especially as I still managed to climb to the top of Gramvousa, a 16th century Venetian fort built 137 meters above sea level.  The terrain was extremely difficult lots of deep steps and slopes baked hard  by the searing heat, the top surface loose and unstable beneath our feet making the ascent and more importantly the descent treacherous.

Back in England we kept reassuring each other ‘with rest the muscle would ease’.  We were kidding ourselves.  The discomfort became grinding pain and the noise was now audible enough to be embarrassing!  I was back to limping and lurching around and struggling to hide it while working.

An emergency meeting with my surgeon and subsequent X-ray revealed the devastating news my ceramic liner had catastrophically failed.  He assured me the dancing would not have caused this, rather that would have been the catalyst to tip an already failing implant over the edge I was just ‘unlucky’.  Nevertheless facing another major surgery all I could do was to blame myself.

Due to ceramic fragments floating about and causing more damage  I was within weeks back on the operating table.  The operation went well, in fact so well that my first walk with crutches the next day was a revelation.  The clonking and popping was miraculously gone.  Already my hip felt more stable than at any time over the last four years.

On my return home our lovely new abode resembled a care facility with mobility aids in almost every room.  I was back to square one with crutches, weak muscles, restricted movement, aids to dress with and basic exercises for six weeks.

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Six weeks later to my apprehensive question ‘Where do I go from here?’ My trusty surgeon replied and I quote ‘You must go and live your life’.

Fast forward fifteen weeks post op my gluts and abductors have finally started to wake up……..

 

After four years of intense targeted exercises, when I had almost felt like giving up, this morning in a side lying straight leg lift position – I attempt these morning noon and night,  my normally unresponsive leg raised up an inch!  Such a small thing but for me HUGE in terms of my continued recovery.  I will be driving to the gym and the pool with a increased sense of purpose this morning.  Walk on all you hipsters out there and NEVER GIVE UP!

 

 

The Main Event

This time of year much of the work in the garden involves preparing for the next years display whether that be planting spring bulbs, moving, dividing plants or as I have been doing today preparing the soil ready for late autumn planting of 3 bare root fruit trees.

The trees I am planting will never become full size orchard specimens, instead they will be trained on wires attached to short stout posts as stepovers to edge a border. The yields are not as high, however in a small space more varieties can be grown in this way. Preparation of the soil for all trees is the same no matter the size. The better the ground work before planting will give them the best chance to grow away with good strong root systems.

My trauma surgeon followed the same principle when he planned the surgery to put my pelvis back together. This meant that for the week following the accident my left leg was attached to a heavy weight hanging off the end of the bed, gradually pulling my leg out by degrees from within the shattered hip socket In preparation for the repair work to come.

The strength and fitness I had built up over the years- labouring in mine and other people’s gardens as well as swimming, cycling, keep-fit classes and Salsa dancing was about to stand me in good stead for the immediate future and beyond. Although the flip side of this in the months/years to come would be frustration at my forced inactivity.

In my hospital bed with my lower half rendered immobile, my upper body bore the brunt of any attempts at movement using the cold metal triangular hoist above my head. The heavy lead weight was forever dragging me down the bed, my arms were forever heaving me slowly-on account of the eight broken ribs back up. This scenario and others-think balancing on unstable cardboard bed pans, went on many times during that long painful week until this date back in 2012.

I was informed by a nurse the day before that I was ‘The Main Event’and would be going down for surgery at 9am. I had briefly met the lead surgeon earlier in the week to outline his plan of action. My short list of questions were at the ready, in the event my mind a jumble with all the strong medication and information I could only ask one ‘will I be able to dance again?’ He chose to evade giving an answer. A removable filter was to be inserted in my neck the day before surgery, this would catch/break up any clots to reduce the chances of me suffering a possible fatal embolism on the table! At this point as I signed the consent form I found myself wondering with the seriousness of the upcoming surgery, would the night before be the last time I ever saw my family again. My morbid thoughts were threatening to overwhelm me……….

Thanks to good pre op preparations – many painful X-rays, traction, blood transfusions and more my surgeon gave himself during the 7 1/2 hour operation the best chance to fix my shattered bones and in turn gave me the best chance to grow strong once again. I was hopeful my damaged nerves would slowly like the fine roots beneath the trees grow out and in time along with my damaged bones and muscles stabilise my body to walk and eventually stand tall once again.

 

 

 

 

Leaves glorious Leaves

My new watch arrived yesterday a week early, not only does it tell the time but tracks and records my activity levels amongst other things.  Waterproof to 50m – an added bonus for me a regular swimmer all my life. The last four years especially, the water has been my lifeline helping me to walk again. In water there was freedom my limbs could move freely – albeit not always in the right direction. I felt like me before…and then I would have to get out. Back on poolside I was Quasimodo again, limping on my uneven legs, trying to control the sticks from slipping on the wet floors, fear and pain with every step. The challenges of the changing room another story…..

This morning I decided to put my watch to the test.  After a night of heavy rain and strong winds I left home early to drive to my local pool. There is something about being up and out at the crack of dawn, you get to see magical sights that later on completely disappear as the world wakes up. This morning the headlights of my 4×4 revealed the beauty of untouched fallen leaves. They lay on the road in a thick layer covering every inch of the tarmac like a never ending soft eiderdown illuminated in shades of burnt orange, brown, red and gold. The roads became like tracks through fairy tale woods enclosed for miles by the tall hedges and trees on either side of me as I left my village in rural Dorset.

At the centre, my watch set to 25m pool swim I plunged into the cool water. At the end of the session a quick check of my watch revealed it was still watertight. All I had to do was stop the activity counter. Sounds simple!

The first problem was flashing instructions on the watch face, without my reading glasses I could not read the small print. There followed much pressing, swiping and tapping to no avail except to cause reboot!

Back in the car, watch rebooted, in the natural daylight I could just about make out the message on screen. Turn dial to expel water – ok I thought it was watertight! Water expelled and looks like my activity counter has stopped itself.

This time of year out of doors there is no getting away from the leaves, I love nothing better than spending a couple of hours raking them up into neat piles or spreading them as a mulch under the hedges. This was my first job today for a client. The worms had already started working them down into the lawn to decompose and feed the many organisms below. Above ground a robin foraged amongst them looking for his next meal.

After an hour or so of brisk raking I checked my watch to see how much energy I had used only to see it was still on swimming mode, I had now swum 148 lengths and counting! Obviously a lot to learn on the watch front but for now I didn’t need technology the sun was shining, the cold wind was chilling I was doing a job I love in the great outdoors surrounded by Leaves glorious Leaves.