“Don’t worry, you’ll run again, just be patient”.
I can’t count the number of times someone said this to me and I had to bite my very blunt tongue because honestly, I never once considered that I wouldn’t run again.
It wasn’t an option. Maybe that’s because I’d already spent 8 months of dancing around an injury leading up to surgery. Maybe it’s because I’m stubborn. Maybe it’s because I’m an optimist.
But for the record…most injured runners don’t want your platitudes. They make our endorphin starved brains a little angry. Not because we don’t believe you have the best intentions, but because we aren’t really the kind to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, we want to TAKE ACTION!!! Take no prisoners, fight the good fight and all that jazz.I’m now celebrating 9 1/2 weeks post knee surgery and to the amazement of many have been running since week 5 without pain. This week in fact, I hit 6 miles which felt pretty epic since 2 weeks ago 1.5 miles was pure bliss.
Going in to surgery I knew I would run…I just didn’t know when or what to expect.
I’m sharing what worked for me in hopes that it helps calm someone else’s nerves! The key here is to know that while I got up to running much faster than expected, I didn’t do it against anyone’s orders! I wasn’t taking chances or risking long term recovery for a couple uncomfortable trots.
Pre-Surgery Keys To Success
One of the things which helped me to recover more quickly was the work I put in prior to surgery. Now unlike someone who has a massive accident and sudden surgery, my knee pain (lack of ability to straighten my knee) began 8 months prior. There was a lengthy process of trying varied solutions because no one thought surgery was needed.
That gave me opportunities to put in some work which placed a pivotal role in my recovery.
I’ve been lifting for a few years now with consistency…but not with a real plan or intensity. This year, I decided that if my running was less it was the best time to focus on rebuliding muscle that can be lost with distance running.
Not only was I doing a lot of upper body, but for the first time doing concentrated strength work on my legs. During marathon training I never felt it was necessary and honestly my legs were too tired for it! But I wanted to build up my glutes, hips and quads to provide better leg control.
- Lunges with weights
- Step ups on a bench with weights
- Banded squats
- Wall sits
- Clam shells, reverse clam shells
- Banded walks
- Band marches
Injuries can play with our emotions. Not only taking away something that we love, but that’s part of our routine…our social circle…and yes our mood booster. While, I was able to continue running some January – August it was a far cry from my normal runs and the longer I went the shorter and shorter my runs became.
Once I realized this wasn’t a quick resolution, there were two options: be a total sour puss or figure out something else.
While running is my joy, it doesn’t have to be the only thing to give me joy. As much as I craved the outlet for my energy and my stress, I tried to settle in to something different.
- I decided I would celebrate every tiny victory
- I decided I wouldn’t hold myself to my pre-surgery standards
- I decided I would just take the experience as it came, rather than having expectations
All of that released a ton of pressure! I could enjoy the process of coming back without feeling like there was a required timeline. Of course faster would have been better, but I could see each little step as progress and enjoy it.
Post Surgery Planning
If I felt in active before surgery, I knew it was going to be even less after surgery. I planned ahead for that and it was a life saver.
I asked my strength coach to switch my workouts so I could do some form of upper body 5 days a week. That allowed me to hobble my way down to the basement and heft around some weights, which wasn’t intense, but made a massive difference in my mental health because I wasn’t just glued to the couch.
After that it was looking at physical therapy as my training….
I didn’t dread it, I embraced it.
Not only did I show up twice a week for them to work on me, but I spent up to 90 minutes a day at home those first few weeks doing rounds of every single move that was provided. The moves were hilariously simple for my right leg and yet caused a sweat when attempting with my left…humbling.
One of the ways that I kept it interesting was to head to the trailhead on Saturday and Sunday morning with David. He would take off on his mountain bike and I’d spend time doing my exercises…then slowly shuffling a little ways down the trail. It took 30 minutes to do that first mile, but it felt fantastic and encouraging to be in nature.Week 1: I wasn’t able to bend my leg due to the knee cap realignment, so that was the starting point for most exercises. Increasing range of motion. I used crutches only the very first night and after that they really weren’t necessary.
Week 2: Still very little walking because of that poor range of motion causing me to swing my leg around and thus making all kinds of other things hurt.
Week 3: Starting to shuffle down the trail without quite the same awkward stride and able to do just a tiny bit more.
Week 4: Feeling like I can head out for a short walk around the neighborhood even though range of motion is still in progress. Doing a lot more squats and really getting that quad to start re-engaging.
Week 5: Since walking felt ok, I did a couple of 1 minute runs with about 5 minutes in between. That seemed ok, so I tried 2 minutes and then started doing 1 legged moves in PT.
Funny thing about rehab is it works great for prehab to prevent injuries!! . If your glutes and hips need some strength work, what runners don’t, checkout these 3 moves. 1️⃣single leg squat with roll out forces you to push butt back and engage mostly quad. 2️⃣band around toes is different than around ankles! Try going 30 steps each direction 3️⃣bring the band above knees, squat and repeat that walk ok 30 each way 🔥🔥🔥 Note: Video is sped up. #physicaltherapy #gluteworkout #fitnessvideo @fithealthyworkouts #werunsocial #wearetherunners
Week 6: Surgeon gave me the thumbs up to run and so I managed 1.5 miles without stopping and it was surely enough for a runners high. The PT also took that as his green light to step up the intensity and I’m loving it. It feels like a real workout now. Example: standing on 1 leg, holding 15lb kettlebell, bend at waist to reach forward, come up, reach right, reach left…that glute is on fire.
Week 8: Hit my first 4 mile run without stopping and whooped it up. PT is pushing sleds, hops, 1 legged squats and still working to get that quad to fire entirely. Plus, my gate is still a little off so we’re doing back strength moves to get rid of some hip pain.Week 9: Right now I’m plateaued around 6 miles, which isn’t exactly when anything starts to hurt…it’s just a bit of a cardio and endurance limitation that I’m working through. I’m also trying not to rush the building process, so I’m following LHR training.
I’ve also followed the advice to never run on back to back days…minus say a 1 mile Saturday and 5 mile Sunday. Mostly I’m letting my body be the guide, if it feels too sore or stiff I know that I’ve pushed too far.
I’d like to think I’ll be back up to 40 MPW by end of November, which means of course I’m itching to pick out a new return race!
Any other knee surgery questions you have?
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