From Injury to Ironman: 5 1/2 Months Post-Op Road Block

 I decided to write a post about my recovery before the 6 month mark, because the last 3 weeks have been particularly trying. The progress is fun to document, but the setbacks are not always so fun. After many emotional ups and downs on the past weeks, I finally feel clear headed enough to write this post. 

In my last post about my hip arthroscopy recovery at 5 months post-op, I was very optimistic and excited to making such great progress. Unfortunately, that all changed 3 weeks ago. I went on an 8km run where I picked up the pace a bit. I had previously been running around 6-7 km at a very cautious pace of about 5:30/ km and felt ready to increase my effort. I was just a tad too eager though, and during the run I was so excited to be back at it and running with a group, that caution went out the window and somewhere never to be seen again. I was running a tempo pace, this was great! What I didn’t realize is that this was a BAD IDEA. During the latter half of the run I felt a slight twinge in my hip/ quad. The next day there was some pain, but I thought to myself that it must just be lactic acid…wrong! I had aggravated what I think is a hip flexor muscle and pain ensued. Unfortunately this carried over into biking. While pushing up a hill on my long weekend ride I felt the same twinge of pain, which progressively got worse throughout the ride.

I was travelling the following week to Boston which meant I had an excuse to rest and let things heal. The whole first half of the week I had searing pain in my hip, which was pretty much constant. Sitting, walking too much, you name it and my hip was hurting. After attempting to bike again this week there was more pain. It was like a bad dream where feelings of discomfort overwhelm you. Why is this happening? What did I do wrong? At one point I got so frustrated that I broke down into tears. This was while I was at the pharmacy of all places. Not embarrassing at all right? I am practically and Advil junkie at this point. To put it mildly, I have been struggling these past few weeks and my logical brain knows things will get better. But my tired, emotional brain wants to give up or maybe just punch something. I know this is not the uplifting and positive story you may want to read. Hopefully in the next 6 months I will be able to write that story. For now my story is living this reality. I am recovering from the disappointment of this setback and reorienting my attitude. It’s funny, but I didn’t think that writing a blog would actually help ME as much as it does. I just look back to some older posts and I realize that I need to take my own advice and really apply it. It’s too easy to get discouraged and wallow in self-pity. The challenge is to stay positive and patient. Patience is the story of my life right now! I think getting better substantially had me a bit too excited and led me down a path of focusing less on my exercises. It’s easy to get carried away, but recovery takes focus, discipline, and conscious efforts to hold back and stick to the plan.

Difficulties in Weeks 21-23 Post-Op

  • Aggravated hip from running too quickly despite feeling good (< 5:10/km)
  • Hip pain radiating down quad
  • Inflammation of muscles around the hip
  • Low-back pain from weak glutes and over-use of hip flexors
  • Pain when kicking too hard in the pool
  • Pain when pushing too hard on the bike (especially up steep hills or hard on flats)
  • Muscles are overly tight and imbalanced-need to stay on top of yoga and exercises

Progress in Weeks 21-23 Post-Op

  • Swimming steadily improving and cardiovascular fitness better than ever
  • Easy runs felt good and no pain after 5-6km easy
  • Biking fitness feels high despite the set-back and the pain

Tips to Avoid Setback Around the 5-6 Month Mark:

  • Stay on top of your exercises
  • Increase running pace and mileage EXTREMELY gradually
  • Hold back and don’t do too many “hard” days
  • Yoga – keeps you honest about balance and flexibility (my hip flexors were so tight on my affected side and I hadn’t even noticed until yoga)
  • Don’t push above lactate threshold on bike- this causes pain and injury if anything is even remotely aggravated and puts a lot of stress on the hip flexors
  • Don’t sit all day at work- get up, stretch and walk around

Last night I went to watch the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford, a track meet where some of the worlds’ best runners congregate to achieve some fast times. I was mainly interested in seeing the women’s 5km. Every year there are records set at this meet, so you can imagine the level these athletes are at. It was so inspiring to see these runners at the top of their game laying it all out there. But I couldn’t help but think that these performances are so much more that what we see on race day. They are the product of months and even years of hard work, discipline, commitment, passion and sacrifice. Yes, these athletes have some natural ability, but that is not enough. The focus in their eyes said it all. They had worked hard for this, and they were here to execute a plan. As much as it could have been discouraging to see these athletes flying by at a pace I can only dream of, while I can barely jog around the block, I didn’t feel discouraged at all. I actually felt inspired to know that these journeys don’t come easily, and that these athletes have spent countless hours working towards their goals. In a weird way it made me feel happy. I am now going to try and stick-out this rough patch and focus on healing with yoga, swimming and self-care for as long as it takes for the pain to subside.

My best advice would be to remind yourself, whatever injury you may be going through, to practice patience. It is a skill to be used in all aspects of life, even in relationships or at work. It needs to be worked on and exercised just like a muscle. As you can clearly tell, I lost my patience this week. I personally struggle with this from time to time. I am the kind of person who likes to get things done quickly, and I often feel a sense of urgency. Sometimes it’s better to question that urgency and ask yourself “what is the rush?” Being in the moment and slowing things down can really pay off and reap great rewards. Having a good attitude when things are hard is one of the greatest signs of strength.

Happy recovery!

Leigh

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for your blog! I’m struggling with my recovery and your story makes me feel more normal. I hope your setback was temporary!! Please keep us updated and stay strong!

    Like

    1. Thanks Jess! I appreciate the feedback. It’s great to know others out there are going through the same thing. Good luck with your recovery!

      Like

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