One question I had was about distance running. I've kept to 1.5 miles or less up until this appointment, because I don't want to develop bad habits since my surgical leg still has muscle to get back. [Yes, I do still favor my leg a bit when running.] I figure if I keep the distance low, I can pick up the speed, and when I run more quickly, it seems to lessen any limping. Dr. Shapiro said up to 2 miles would be fine, so I will stay under that until I see him again in a month. I hadn't planned on running the Detroit Marathon in October anyhow... ;)
While it's nice to get back into running, that's not all I've been eager to do! Since I'm up for most any sport (except basketball, which I've never been too great at) I had to ask, what ELSE can I do? Dr. S threw a blanket statement out there, "You can run some drills and practice pretty much all of your sports now, just don't participate in any competitive games." I eyed him skeptically because really, isn't it the motions, not the contact I need to be worried about? But I also wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth either. So, to be sure he meant 'all' I thought of one of the sports that would be rough on the knees and said, "Even sand volleyball?" His response: "Well, no. That'll be next year. Too uneven." Luckily that's the answer I expected, so I went for a more hopeful one... "Soccer?" "Yes." Woo hoo! Look out local high school turf field!
In hindsight I should have asked about more activities, but by the time I would have gotten through the list of sports I want to start playing again, I might have kept him there another 10 minutes. ;) For now, it's all about doing what I am comfortable with, and stopping if there's pain.
Being over 3 months out, I figure I'm more than halfway to recovery. At my last follow-up appointment with the surgeon, he said we're looking at a 4 month recovery, which normally I'd be super excited about. However, seeing as how I'm not a professional athlete (surprise!) I believe I'll be taking the full 6 months before I decide to commit to a sports team, perhaps subbing once in a while before that. We'll see-- I want to be steady and confident before I go out on a field and act timid and end up doing something dumb because of my fear.
- Walking without a limp (including speed-walking)
- Running (slight limp when I'm slower, but the faster I go, the less I limp). I have not tried a dead sprint yet, but really, what's the rush?
- Going up stairs- Very even and seems controlled. Even taking stairs 2 at a time doesn't seem to show much weakness.
- Going down stairs- I can still feel the unsteadiness in my surgical leg as I move my non-surgical leg to the next step down. While some days it seems easier than others, there isn't a time I've gone down stairs and 'forgot' about my knee.
- Jumping- When jumping on both legs (think: jumping rope) I can feel my right leg doing more work the longer I jump. When jumping on just my surgical leg, it's still not developed enough to accept the impact of the jump like my other leg does.
- Bending/Straightening- I can bend my knee so my heel touches my butt, though I'm still not confident when squatting all the way down and using my body weight to bend it. For straightening, there is some uncomfortable feeling when it gets close to hyperextending, but I think I need to keep working to make sure I don't lose range of motion there. My kneecap also seems to 'catch' or 'pop' every so often when I go from straight to bent, but it's not painful.
- Doing PT at home: I've been a lot better with this since my birthday, keeping a promise to myself to do my part in my recovery. I take 1-2 days off per week, but otherwise try to run every other day, and on the in-between days I'm doing more pointed exercises like lunges, step jumping, shuffling... etc.
- Physical Therapy with Drew: I am happy to announce I'm back up to my pre-surgical 1-leg press weight, as of a week ago! It feels good to be 'back to normal' in that sense, even though it doesn't translate to a 'back to normal' leg as a whole. PT will continue 1/week at least through the end of this month.
- Quad Strengthening: Lunge, lunge, lunge!!
- Calf/Knee/Jumping: Lots of jumping and quick shuffling to build up not just my muscle, but also the motor skills to be using the muscles AND moving at the same time. One exercise I do- Stand on L leg at a step with R leg resting up on step; In one jump, land with R leg beneath you, and at the same time lift L leg to touch up on step; Alternate which leg you land on (and which touches the step) after each jump, and do this as fast as you can for 30 seconds. I find this is a great gauge of how 'steady' my surgical knee is underneath me, as well as controlling that leg as I quickly touch the step through the repetitive motion.
- Jumping on one leg: Being able to balance just isn't enough. Trying to jump and accept the impact (as I mentioned before) is a whole new game. In PT on my own I try to jump forward in a straight line on just my surgical leg, and land softly. I still have a ways to go here.
Drew told me that the exercises I still feel 'unsteady' doing are the ones that are the last to come back, so I'm well on my way to recovery. Also, I have another follow-up appointment with Dr. Jeff Shapiro next Monday afternoon, and I expect more good news there!
I think age 26 will forever be marked in my mind as "the year I tore my ACL." It's wild to think that initial injury was over 4 months ago, and surgery over 12 weeks ago. Time sure flies!
I've been blessed with a great network of support, a fantastic doctor, a wonderful physical therapist and lots of resources, including my fellow fallen friends who are going through their own ACL journey! Thanks to everyone (again.. and again.. and again..) for your support!
My goal is to take 27 and make it a strong, healthy year. Obviously injuries like this can't necessarily be avoided (unless an active lifestyle is given up - which I'm not willing to do) but I will do what I can to control my rehabilitation and future athletic endeavors!
On that note, I will be making a much better effort at doing my at-home PT. I've gotten lazy in the last week or two, and it is showing when I now go to do simple exercises at home, including lunging and some jumping tasks. Since I'm down to 1 PT session per week with Drew, I need to make sure I'm doing my part so he can progress me to the next exercises and lift any limitations aong the way!
I am sorry to bore you, but happy to say, there haven't been many blog updates because there hasn't been anything out of the ordinary that seemed worth posting. I see this as a good thing though, because while maybe I'm not breaking major boundaries, I don't seem to be hitting any walls either! Progress seems slow, but steady...
The big items recently still involve jumping. Jumping rope for 3x3min intervals... Jumping onto and off of the Bosu Ball (bubble side up)... Starting with weight on one leg, the other resting up on a step, and while jumping into the air, switching both legs at the same time, landing on the opposite leg.... (This last one we pushed to do 30 times in 30 seconds -- I was definitely getting a cardio workout then!).
With PT visits only 1x per week, we tend to fill the time with lots of exercises, but I have to be sure to do items on my own during the other days of the week. I could be a little more religious with these, but I don't feel I'm falling behind by much, if at all. I recommend finding a workout buddy to take with you to the track or jump rope with you-- You'll see the exercises you've been doing will wear out even a non-surgical buddy! :)
On that note, I feel like each day is getting closer to 'normal' (with the exception of muscle mass from surgical to R leg) and it's wonderful to be getting back the independence I've been working so hard to regain! For instance, yesterday I ran just short of 2 miles on pavement, and while it was tiring and left me a little sore-kneed, it's progress!