Last week at this time, I had just ditched the crutches. I was getting around unsupported, but I was not moving fast and just barely navigating stairs. I was still sleeping in my Recovery Suite bed, as I hadn’t made it all the way up to the second floor of the house. My right knee was lighting up in a big way, screaming that it needed some attention and strengthening. One week later, I am truly amazed at the progress.
I knew I was making progress midweek this week when I was halfway up the porch stairs before I even realized I was climbing stairs. I was taking them like a regular person, left-right-left, not left-left-left. By yesterday, I was comfortable enough with the house stairs that I decided I’d work on the laundry. Ran a bunch of loads through the washer & dryer, folded stuff, and took it upstairs all by my lonesome. Have to help myself with the rail a bit when carrying things, but I got there. The knee is much happier; I managed to build up some leg muscle this week, which is holding everything in place better.
Also significantly, being up and around no longer seems like a workout to me. I don’t walk fast right now, but I can walk smoothly and quickly enough that I blend in. So I no longer will record grocery store trips in my training log. 🙂 The great thing, though, is that my actual at-the-gym workouts DO seem like workouts. I can finally work my body hard enough to at least get my heart rate into an aerobic zone. Did 27 whole minutes (and broke a sweat!) on the upright Precor bike at the gym on Thursday, and had a fantastic swim / water run workout with Michael on Wednesday. The pool workouts are incredibly helpful. I get out walking smoothly and feeling loose; the next day I can feel that I’ve strengthened the zillions of tiny muscles that hold everything together.
At PT yesterday, I was rewarded for my progress with…more pain challenge! I got to ride the spin bike and approximate an aero-ish position. Felt natural. Awesome. And then I got to increase weights on most of my exercises. Which is cool and, um, painful. I get to do my calf raises, squats, and “clock steps” with 5 lb dumbbells now. This converted the clock steps – basically mini-lunges – from one of my easiest exercises to one of my hardest. Every week there’s a reason I take Saturday after PT off from exercise. This week, the clock steps were it. 🙂
After PT, Michael and I waited out the passing rainstorm and went to a Redwings game. I think I’m becoming a baseball fan. Never would’ve seen that coming, but I’m absolutely enjoying it. The complexity of the game used to intimidate me, but it doesn’t anymore, mostly because Michael’s around to help me sort things out. And I’m a sucker for watching Spikes and Mittsy (the mascots) race kids around the bases…
It wasn’t until we were walking out of the baseball game, a little stiff and damp from the rain, that I had to slow down. I have this funny little catch in my leg, right where it meets my pelvis, kind of like a dull thunk with every stride. I think this is just from a tight muscle, as it doesn’t happen all the time. I hope this resolves eventually, because it is genuinely annoying.
So recovery is moving along, and it’s an incredible process to experience. It’s showing me, in concrete, palpable terms, that change is possible; progress is possible; that what seems impossible now is reachable given time and effort. It’s also showing me that progress isn’t magic. The essence of this recovery IS a miracle; the way the body tends toward and fights for health is fundamentally amazing. But the recovery hasn’t just appeared out of the air; it’s appeared because I do my PT exercises 5 or 6 times a week and don’t cut corners when I do them. It’s happened because I get to the pool and the gym, find my body’s limits, and then nudge them out again. It’s happened because I’ve learned to take pain as a cue that something needs attention, rather than a reason to panic. And it’s happened because I’m fortunate enough to have good things and good people in my life, reasons to WANT to get moving again.
I’m not trying to congratulate myself here. I’m just trying to express that this recovery didn’t just happen; it happened because I took the steps I needed to and because I was fortunate to have a supportive, knowledgeable group of people around me. For me, I’m all the more motivated by the fact that progress is a process. It means that I don’t have to just hope for good things to happen. I can choose a goal, and then figure out the step-by-step, day-by-day, palpable increments by which the goal can be reached. It means that miracles are real, touchable, living in the tiny steps that, strung together, make a stride.