Day 40: Feelin’ the Burn

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March 16, 2005 at 8:27 pm

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PT has definitely stepped up in intensity this week, and I can feel the results.

Between that and the weather taking a turn for the worse today (rainy & chilly during the day, and 35 degrees tonight?!), I have developed a slight achiness across my knee; it’s nothing significant, but certainly noticable after weeks of being symptom- and pain-free.

My entry from

mentioned the new exercise ball routine that’s been added to my PT regimen. Today, I Googled it and found an example — it’s the

(scroll down the linked page). Today, we increased my repetitions from 2 sets of 15 to 2 sets of 20; whooo, boy, does it work the ‘bod!

I messed with my part-time PT, Laurie, telling her this is “my new favorite exercise,” and she said it was good I liked it so much. Of course, I made sure she knew I was lying through my teeth! She confirmed why my lower body shakes so much during this exercise, particularly until I get into a “groove” (first 10 reps or so) — the exercise works pretty much all the muscle groups I mentioned in Monday’s entry, and is used because it’s excellent for “torso control”. I can see/feel that!

It took awhile to get a full 40 repetitions in, and by the 30 rep mark my hamstrings (both legs) were burning pretty good, but I can see the usefulness of this exercise. In fact, I’ll probably order my own exercise ball off Amazon.com soon, so I can do this one at home too.

Today, I graduated to the gray (higher resistance) Theraband for everything except my supine hip flexion sets (see ““), and I only do the standing exercises now — no more exercises seated on a stool with a Theraband on my ankle.

I suspect my single-leg presses for 3 minutes at level 10 on the Total Gym are taking their place.

It was somewhat of a surprise to my part-time PT today that I’d moved from level 7 to level 10 on my single leg press on Monday, but when Renee asked if I wanted to try it at 10, I said “Sure!”

Level 7 (or maybe it was 8?) hadn’t killed me the week prior, and I was up for seeing what the knee could do on its own. I definitely felt/feel more tightness in my post-op knee during the single-leg presses now, but it’s manageable.

There is still a dramatic difference in how many leg presses I can actually do in the time allotted depending on if I’m doing single- or double-leg presses.

Double-leg presses for 8 minutes are tiring, but only because I’m doing them in a fairly rapid, rhythmic fashion; single-leg presses for 3 minutes are challenging from the start, and go very slowly! Neither one result in a “” feeling afterwards, anymore, though.

The ball toss is getting really easy, and I’m hoping to move on to whatever’s next on that this coming week. I did my two sets of 30 repetitions in back-to-back fashion without losing my balance at all today — a first!

When you’re not wobbling all around doing balance-checks, it’s a lot easier to throw the 4lb. ball consistently in the middle of the trampoline, and thus a lot easier to catch it (since it doesn’t cut off to the right or left).

After PT, I walked 2 miles on my own and then iced my knee while visiting my mom who’s off for Spring Break.

Then around 5 PM, I walked 1.37 miles with Justin at the county park near our house. I hassled him a bit, since The Plan was to walk at least 2 miles, but he wimped out because the cool, blustery winds were making his ears simultaneously freeze and burn.

I tried a “pep talk” consisting of, “If I can walk with a post-op knee after having done 1 hour of PT and already having walked 2 miles, surely your ears can take this!” But to no avail… sometimes, your spouse wins!

So, my total walking mileage for the day was 3.37 miles.

I’m really itching to try out an unpaved hiking trail soon, but not until the soil has thoroughly dried out and I can carefully pick my way around rocks and tree roots.

That, and I’d like to be a little further past the 6 week post-op mark which is rumored to be when the ACL graft is at its weakest, since it’s not yet revascularized (fed with blood from newly established blood vessels.)

, I quoted another ACL journaller who’d stated, “If it weren’t for this (knee) injury, I wouldn’t be in the greatest shape of my life!” That statement rings truer for me every week.

While my post-op leg doesn’t look perfectly “normal” yet, due to a few still-swollen/tender areas, my non-operated leg doesn’t look “normal” either. Why? It’s getting in shape!

All the exercise since surgery — 1-hour PT sessions three times a week, plus my increased walking and home exercise regimen — is strengthening and toning muscles I’ve never intently worked on.

Even when I was a teenager, frequently spending my days bicycling, walking, hiking and backpacking, I didn’t have the kind of overall muscle development I’m seeing throughout my legs and arms.

The closest parallel I’ve experienced prior to surgery was during my peak (3+ days a week, at least 40 minutes per session) use of the indoor rowing machine; even with that, I didn’t develop my muscles the way the past 5.5 weeks have done, with the possible exception of my abdominal muscles. With that in mind, I’m starting to put out feelers to friends and family on local gym memberships, since I don’t think I’ll want to lose access to an elliptical trainer, leg press machine, stationary bike, and other equipment, after I graduate from PT. Clearly, these things in combination and done routinely is the key.

I’ve never obsessed about my weight and I’ve never dieted. I’ve always carried around more “padding” than others my height, and it never bothered me until I actually began feeling unhealthy. Getting myself down to a healthier weight became a personal goal of mine in late 2003 when I realized I weighed 153 lbs — the most I’d ever weighed in my life. I was absolutely addicted to Dr. Pepper and Starbuck’s caramel frappuccinos (expensive and fattening, how much worse can it get!?) I was spending far more time working behind the computer, and far less time pursuing my passions — hiking/backpacking, camping, gardening, and taking photographs on location (with 25+ lbs. of camera gear on my shoulder!) Simply addressing these issues led to slow, very gradual weight loss.

I haven’t visited a Starbuck’s since 2003, and I now drink primarily water and Coca-Cola C2, with only an occasional “treat” Dr. Pepper.

As soon as I started cutting back on my high calorie sodas, and resumed more frequent outdoor recreation and walking, I began feeling healthier even before any noticable weight loss.

By , I’d shed at least ten pounds.

Little did I know, the timing couldn’t have been better! When I checked in for my knee surgery on , I was down to a much healthier 139 lbs., and that’s pretty much where I am hovering, depending on when I weigh myself.

About a week after surgery, I weighed 135.5 lbs., due in part to the copious amounts of water I was drinking and the wonderful home-cooked or healthy take-out meals Justin and my family were bringing daily.

(I am not a cook, though I know if I can write and debug computer programs, surely I can follow recipes to completion. On this point, I plead laziness. I’m working on it!)

Out of curiousity, I weighed myself today and am back to 139 lbs. While I would love to get down to 130 lbs. someday, I’ll gladly trade that goal for continuing to tone and strengthen my muscles and increase my endurance.

And so far, that is exactly what my physical therapy and self-guided exercising is doing.

So, I definitely am in the “I’m in the best shape of my life, thanks to my knee surgery and subsequent rehabilitation!” camp.

It’s a nice camp to be in, too.

It’s almost guilt-inducing in its rewards — every gain you make in mobility of your knee seems to coincide with noticing, “Hey, I have muscles now — check ‘em out!”

I still haven’t graduated beyond subjecting Justin and my parents to demonstrations of my new muscles — “Check out my quads! Look at these things — it’s like I have a cyclist’s leg, now!” It’s a little geeky, but I take my motivation anywhere I can get it!

On a related note, it took me 5.5 weeks to look up their websites but I want to give a shout out to the nursing and hospital staff at the

(M.A.S.H.), and all the physical therapists at

(Northwest San Antonio location)!

The M.A.S.H. staff made my surgery and resulting overnight hospital stay comfortable and uneventful, which is just as it should be.

And all the PTs at The Orthopedic Store continue to make my 3x/week PT sessions rewarding and worthwhile!

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