swimming

From Upswing to Awesome!

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Well my PT was right, this was my week! Wearing the brace while exercising has made a marked difference with my patella tracking. I’ll have to post about the particular brace that I’m using but I don’t have it on me at the moment. I’ve really amazed myself by what I’ve been able to do pain-free this week. Here are my past two days of exercise:

Thursday:

AM:

  1. 15 minutes on the recumbent bike.
  2. 45 minutes climbing. I felt stronger climbing today and was sad that I only had 45 minutes to spend doing it. I completed all of the V0s in the gym, many V1s and worked on a V2 that was all heal hooks (my favorite but tough on the knees). All-in-all it was a *lot* of deep squats and I didn’t feel pain, yay!!

PM:

  1. 75 minute Intermediate Yoga class. This is my favorite class of the week with my favorite teacher, Nina Carmel. I was ready to rock when I came in and she taught a very challenging and creative class. Not only did I succeed, but I did poses I didn’t think I’d be able to do for months (crow, several planks, tree, deep deep warriors, chair pose) and a *ton* of balancing. My knee didn’t hurt. I iced it afterwards just in case (my PT said I may want to do that) but I feel great today. It’s night and day from just a week ago and worlds better than a month ago. I really impressed myself and came home in such a great mood that as soon as I said “hello!” my partner knew I was psyched!

Friday:

  1. My rhomboids are killing me today from all the upper body work I’ve done this week (and we did a lot of “flying” in yoga, using my back muscles) so I didn’t work upper body today. Instead I did my PT leg exercises:
    1. Double-leg-lift w/ crunch x 15 (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle)
    2. Side leg-lifts x 15 each side (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle)
    3. Standing single-leg kick-backs x 15 each side (wearing 5 lb ankle weights)
  2. Then it was off to the gym to swim 500 meters.
  3. I’m scheduled to give 4 hours and 15 minutes of deep tissue massage today so I’ll get the rest of my workout in there!

Cheers to feeling great and I hope to keep riding this upswing to the top!

Back in The Saddle…Again

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Recovery has its ups and downs. I was feeling great after my last post. The knee pain was under control and I could really feel the upswing of recovery. Unfortunately, I overdid it in Seattle and have been slowly getting back to where I was this past week.

For starters, we just couldn’t find rental bikes that were affordable (I’m talking $180/wk, the same as our rental car), which put a damper on my plans to bike. It also didn’t help that we stayed in Mapleleaf, which is a long haul to downtown Seattle so the feasibility of riding daily was greatly diminished. That said, I did manage to do my PT exercises five out of the seven days we were there, and I also did laps in a pool for one day and yoga on one day. Obviously, compared to my normal workout schedule that is a drop in the bucket.

The real thing that set me back was, unfortunately, the walking. I was told walking was ok, and even light hiking would be ok. Apparently, my knee did not agree with the hills in Seattle. A few days into the trip a group of us headed to the Locks and Discovery Park. It was a long walk, up and down many hills. I was doing ok for the first few hours, but the last stretch of the hike took us up several staircases in the park and that’s when my knee pain really came back with a vengeance. I made it to North Beach and sat for a bit. By then my partner could see I wasn’t doing alright and he started trying to figure out how to get me back to the car without hiking the whole way back. He knew I was stubborn enough to just walk back, but I’ll admit I was glad he stepped in. He and a friend ended up jogging the three miles back to the car and picked the rest of us up. Since a couple of his friends were beat by then, they were happy to stay behind with me, which made me feel like less like a cripple.

By then the damage was done, so for the rest of the trip walking hills was painful both in my distal quad tendon and under the kneecap. I ended up skipping the group hike at Rattlesnake Ridge and hung out at the lake there instead, which didn’t feel like a sacrifice at all; it’s gorgeous!

Tuesday I was back in PT and let my therapist know what was up. She found that the quad tendon is doing much better, with noticeable improvement to the scar tissue, but the big issue now is the tracking of my right patella. I’ve always had tracking issues with my knees, but apparently right now the right patella is trying to go too far laterally when I bend my knee so it’s grinding on the bursa and bone beneath it, causing the pain I’m experiencing. She did the usual ultrasound, TENS and massage and we tried some kinesiotape to see if that would help.

Wednesday I was back in the gym for a “normal” workout:

  1. 30 mins on the spin bike
  2. Circuit x 2:
    1. Double-leg-lift w/ crunch x 15 (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle)
    2. Side leg-lifts x 15 each side (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle)
    3. Superman arm/leg lifts x 15  (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle)
    4. 30 KB swings (26.5 lb KB)
    5. 10 KB Press each side (26.5 lb KB)
  3. 10 mins stretching, including full leg stretch series with resistance band
  4. 20 mins swimming
  5. 5 mins in the hot tub

Unfortunately, my knee actually hurt while biking, which was new. It seemed fine during the circuit but I felt the pain when I bent my knee swimming again. On Thursday I opted to just swim for 40 minutes, which was fine but kind of boring.

By the time I went to PT on Thursday I was not feeling great. My therapist spent a full hour with me, doing assessments and additional treatment. She decided the kinesiotape wasn’t enough and that I should try a thin knee brace for patella tracking. I have to say I felt great after her treatment. I picked up a knee brace that’s intended to be lightweight and is used for patella tracking. I used it for yoga last night and overall I have good things to say. It’s a bit thicker than what I’d ideally use for yoga, but I’m struggling to find a thinner product; the tape was really the ideal thickness. I did feel like the thickness compromised my flexibility since it bunches up a bit behind the knee. Per the PT’s advice, I did play around with bending my knee a bit, and it was a rigorous class and my knee didn’t hurt afterwards! I’m going to take the brace to the gym on Monday and see how I do. I was also told to not use spin bikes since the clips cause some shearing of the bone that my patella is coasting over, and the position one rides in uses more range of motion than I should use right now. So back to the normal bikes and we’ll see how it goes!

I’m so ready to be recovered. 🙂 Hoping to climb next week too!!

Killer Sunday Morning

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It’s a little hard to believe that today I’ve already been to the airport, my office, spent 1.5 hours at the gym and had an awesome breakfast and it’s not even 9:30am yet. You can do a lot when you get up at 4am…not that I recommend it. 😉

One big plus was that the gym was dead, so I felt more comfortable there than usual, and I enjoyed a whole lane to myself in the pool. Here was today’s workout. I have to say it felt harder than it looks on paper, probably because I was pretty exhausted to start with. The total time was 1.5 hours:

  1. 30 minute spinning using intervals (I used their built-in spin class option and it actually wasn’t bad, I enjoyed it more than the real spin class I took on Monday mostly because the instructor was very detailed and took a lot of time to explain proper form)
  2. Two sets of the following:
    1. Hanging straight leg lifts x 5
    2. TRX Low Row x 10
    3. Kettlebell Swings x 30 (12kg/26.5 lbs)
    4. Side-plank leg-lifts x 10 each side
    5. Lying on stomach, lift one leg back, foot pointed x 10 each side
    6. Weighted sit-ups x 10 (15 lbs)
    7. Weighted seated twists x 20 (15 lbs)
  3. ~10 minutes of stretching, including a full leg series with a resistance band.
  4. 500 meters swimming, various strokes.

Then I hung out in the hot tub for a little bit, aiming the jets at my ITBs, which have been pretty tight this week due to all the cycling. I was thrilled that my PT cleared me to do the KB swings again, though she wants me to try to keep my legs straight, and I normally add squats to them. That was a little challenging but not bad.

I got creative today with the PT exercises. From my previous entries, this is what I’ve been tasked to do daily:

  1. Leg lift series (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle, per PT):
    Single-leg-lift x 30 each side
    Side leg-lifts x 30 each side
    Lying on stomach, lift one leg back, foot pointed x 30 each side

I had already modified the forward leg lifts and was adding crunches and doing some as double-legs instead of single. The hanging leg lifts today were really intense and more full-body than my previous modification. I really struggled to complete 10 and am looking forward to building up to 20 at a time and beyond. Doing the side-leg-lifts in a side-plank was also quite intense and more full-body. I love that both challenged my core. For the reverse lifts I still did it the old way today, mostly due to exhaustion. I’d like to possible try them with the TRX the next time I’m back in the gym.

So that wraps up my last workout before Seattle. I’m still trying to figure out what I can do there to remain active. I’m bringing my yoga mat and am hoping to bring my ankle weights, with some of the weight removed, as long as I don’t go over the bag weight limit. I really want to rent a bike but have been FLOORED by the prices for a one week rental. I could actually buy a bike on Craiglist and give it away at the end of the week for less than the cost of renting a bike. Honestly, our car rental is cheaper than renting a bike. There is seriously something wrong with that equation.

Wish me luck and remember that injury doesn’t need to equate to a sedentary lifestyle. There’s always *something* you can do to keep moving. 🙂

Steak and Exercise

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I got a good cardio workout in today, plus those evil PT exercises:

Time: 1:15

  1. Leg lift series (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle, per PT):
    Single-leg-lift-crunches x 30 each side
    Side leg-lifts x 30 each side
    Lying on stomach, lift one leg back, foot pointed x 30 each side
  2. 30 mins cycling, using Random intervals, average level 8.
  3. 30 mins swimming laps.

I was feeling all that cardio today, more-so than earlier in the week. I greatly enjoyed a little nap afterwards. 🙂

As always, exercise needs to be paired with a good diet to be effective. Last night I made a stellar carne asada and baby kale salad (if I do say so myself) and I thought you might appreciate the recipe. Paleo and delicious!

Paleo Carne Asada and Baby Kale Salad
Paleo Carne Asada and Baby Kale Salad

Paleo Carne Asada

Ingredients (for 2-3 people):

Note: Sauce ingredients make enough for up to 9lbs of meat.

  • 3lbs Grassfed Skirt Steak, tenderized (the more you tenderize, the more it will soak in the sauce)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice, preferably fresh squeezed
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, preferably fresh squeezed
  • 1/3 cup lime juice, preferably fresh squeezed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Bragg’s amino acids or coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Optional: 1 dried chipotle pepper finely ground (this will really make the dish spicy, without it the sauce isn’t too hot, I didn’t add it personally)

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients and whisk until well-mixed. Remove one cup of the mixture and reserve it for later.
  2. Add the steak to the marinade and marinate covered in the fridge anywhere from 5-24 hours. Skirt steak is traditionally a tougher cut so the longer it marinates the more tender it is, though some skirt steak (like the Boyden Farm one I purchased from Vermont) is already quite tender so 5 hours is enough time. If it’s particularly tough you can let it marinate for up to 48 hours.
  3. Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat.
  4. Grill ~5 mins each side for medium rare.
  5. Slice the meat across the grain. Pour the rest of the marinade over the meat and serve.

Baby Kale Summer Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 large handfuls of baby kale
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 1 large handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 medium-sized lime, juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Mix kale, cilantro, avocado and tomatoes.
  2. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Toss with lime juice.

The salad and steak really compliment each other. I love mixing warm meat with cool veggies this time of year. For the salad, definitely feel free to add whatever fresh vegetables you have around. I grabbed a zucchini from my garden and forgot to use it but thankfully I have more kale and will be recreating this salad again tonight. It’s been a staple in my lunches as well as it’s a very easy salad to through together at work and lime + cilantro is basically like crack. So tasty!! Enjoy!

No-Knee-Pain Workout

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Another day, another workout. This was a bit condensed from yesterday since I had to squeeze it into an hour:

  1. Light warmup.
  2. 20 mins on the bike set to “random” with an average level at 10.
  3. Circuit x 2:
    1. Kneeling weighted pushups + rows x 10 (10 lbs each arm, totally bummed I needed to keep my knees down, but the one-leg plank didn’t work for the rows)
    2. Leg lift series (per PT):
      Straight-leg-lift-crunches x 10
      Side leg-lifts x 10 each side
      Lying on stomach, lift one leg back, foot pointed x 10 each side
    3. KB press R x 10 (26.5 lbs)
    4. KB press L x 10 (26.5 lbs)
    5. TRX bicep curl
  4. 10 mins stretching, including leg stretches with resistance band.
  5. Swam 500 meters

It was a good workout. Definitely got my sweat going and I felt like it was a good incorporation of full-body. Reflecting, I feel I should have just done pilates this morning though, since I did a circuit yesterday so I’ve lifted two days in a row, and tomorrow I take an intermediate yoga class at night so it would have been more balanced to do pilates today and then the hard workout tomorrow morning followed by yoga at night. I’ll get a routine going eventually. 🙂

Oh, and I rocked my Vibrams today! First day with them in the gym and it felt great! I usually exercise barefoot or in Vibrams at home so it made me feel much more comfortable.

Recovering from Injury

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About two weeks ago I wrote a long post about how I injured my knee at the end of May and the many frustrations I’ve had seeking proper treatment for it. I thought it was my best entry ever, which meant, naturally, that the entire body of the post disappeared when I hit “publish”. After much ado, tech support let me know there was no hope in getting it back. I will hopefully wrangle up the hutzpah to re-write it at some point, but for now I’m just moving on.

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So, quick facts on what’s up:

  1. The last week of May I banged my knee against the climbing walls while bouldering (not unlike me, I have very little grace in my legs when I climb) and bruised my distal quad tendon right at the top of the patella.
  2. The very next day I could barely move my knee and was in a ton of pain. Ice/rest/elevation and I was getting better.
  3. Feeling better, I went back to my normal workouts, which left me unable to walk for two days…crap.
  4. Spent a month modifying workouts and using ice when needed. No pain killers. Still struggling with pain so I saw my PCP, who sent me to an Orthopedist, who diagnosed me with a very small tear on the distal quad tendon and sent me to Physical Therapy.
  5. I haven’t been able to teach yoga since I can’t squat or lunge, I also can’t run/jump or do bodyweight exercises with significant quad engagement. Not easy, but I’ve been making it work.
  6. Just started PT yesterday, which already has made a difference. I have scar tissue in my quad so it will take 4-6wks to repair, as opposed to ~3 if I came in right away, but it WILL repair.

So I’m looking at about another month of recovery as long as I’m careful and keep my fitness up. Unfortunately, much of what I’ve been asked to do (swimming, cycling) I can’t do at home so my loving partner bought me a 1 month membership at our local cattle-call gym. It’s one of those fancy Boston Sports Clubs and, frankly, I fucking hate it. That said, recovery is the most important thing. I’m a physical person, I have two physical jobs and I was preparing for a climbing comp in September, which I still have a chance for if I take care of myself. My leg will also, hopefully, be with me my entire life so I have to treat it right.

I’m posting today to start a log of my workouts. This may not be daily, but I thought this would both help me track what I’m doing and possibly help give others with knee injuries ideas on what they can do. The most common thing I see as a massage therapist is clients who get injured, get out of a normal exercise routine, lose fitness and struggle to get it back or give up entirely and become sedentary. I’ve personally seen this lead to chronic health issues including depression, chronic aches and pains, insomnia, and in extreme cases issues like heart conditions and diabetes due to weight gain. Let’s face it, we all know proper diet and exercise make a huge improvement to our quality of health, so the lack of exercise can lead to poorer health. This is one of the reasons I’m fighting to stay fit, while also ensuring I treat my knee right to prevent further injury. The Orthopedist said this is not a time to “play through the pain” unless I want to be back in 6 months with a completely torn tendon; at which point I would need surgery. No surgery, please!

On to the workouts…

First one is a circuit I’ve been doing at home. I start with a 5-10 min warmup and end with ~15 minutes of yoga for a cool down, ensuring that I’m not doing lunges, squats or two-legged planks on the right.

No knee pain circuit (repeat 2-3x) – Total Time 30-45 mins
  1. One-Legged Wide-Arms Pushups x 10 (bad leg on top)
  2. Bicep and forearm curls x 20 each (10lbs)
  3. Tricep overhead and push x 20 each (10lbs)
  4. L side-crunch x 20
  5. R side-crunch x 20
  6. Chest push and flys x 20 each (10lbs)
  7. Kettlebell Seated Twists x 40 (26lbs)
  8. Weighted sit-ups x 10 (15lbs)
  9. Butt-lifts->legs straight full sit-ups x 10
  10. One-Legged Close-Arms Pushups x 10 (bad leg on top)

And here’s what I did for my first two days at the gym:

7/14/14 – Total time: 1:15

  1. 45 min spin class without standing
  2. 10 mins stretching
  3. 8 laps in olympic-sized pool, various strokes
  4. 10 mins sauna

Reaction: Spin class was SO BORING!! I really struggle with machines that use a lot of cardio but don’t go anywhere. I get the rat-in-a-cage syndrome. That said, I have to bike right now so…

7/15/14 – Total time: 1:15

  1. 30 mins cycling, using intervals for both speed and tension
  2. 5 mins upper-body stretching
  3. Circuit 2x of:
    1. Chest push and flys on ball x 10 each (12.5lbs)
    2. Bicep and forearm curls x 10 each (12.5lbs)
    3. Tricep overhead and push on ball x 10 each (12.5lbs)
    4. Leg lift series (per PT):
      1. Lying on back, lift one leg up, foot flexed, and lift upper body into a crunch x 10 each side.
      2. Side leg-lifts x 10 each side.
      3. Lying on stomach, lift one leg back, foot pointed x 10 each side.
    5. Side-crunches x 10 each side.
  4. 5 mins stretching
  5. Swam 5 laps, various strokes, one lap with kick board.
  6. Attempted to sit in steam room, it smelled like a pile of old socks.

 Reaction: This was much more my style, even though I still wanted to gauge my eyes out during the cycling. It’s so boring. I have to find a way to make it more fun. The circuit was good, shorter than I’d like but it’s hard to fit everything in before work. As it is, ideally my PT would like me to do 40 mins on the bike and I’d like to have swam longer, but I really needed the circuit to make me feel good in my upper body and abs. I realize swimming is a full-body workout, but as someone who’s used to lifting weights, it’s not enough for my upper body.

Through this process I’m also tightening up my diet. I have been cheating on my food allergy diet off and on since moving back to MA; lots of temptations down here. It’s amazing that in just not eating the things I’m allergic to I drop weight immediately…like 7 lbs in a week. That’s just pure gut inflammation, and I was feeling it as my belly started protruding again. For the record, this is not a calorie-restrictive diet, it’s simply not eating the foods I was diagnosed as being allergic to. Huzzah science!

Speaking of which…after a workout like that a healthy breakfast is imperative! This is what I went for:

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Eggs on a gluten-free millet bun with half an avocado with salt + pepper and a small handful of fresh fruit. I have my healthy fats, a good amount of protein, and some carbs to perk me up. Feeling great!!

It’s Trekkin’ Season!

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For those of us up here in the Green Mountains, we’re finally just starting to find Spring popping up all around.  While today’s blustery winds brought a mix of snow and rain and there are still small heaps of ice and snow coating the wetlands behind my house, the flocks of birds at the bird feeder and blooming crocuses in my front yard let me know the end is near.

We had a long winter this year and some unusual thaw and freeze patterns.  That mixed with the recent floods and thunderstorms has done some real damage to my most trekked trail along the Mad River.  While I was sad to see the downed limbs, broken branches and layers of debris spread along the almost-washed-out path, I couldn’t fight back the urge to come out of my cocoon and get my butt back outside!  It’s not surprising that it was just about a year ago when I started barefoot running.  Today, I received my second pair of Vibram’s in the mail.  It’s true, I’m hooked.  This time I picked up a shiny pair of the new Vibram Fivefingers Treksports.

My KSO’s are holding up beautifully, despite all the running, swimming and hiking I put them through last year.  However, there were several reasons why the Treksports lured me in.  I recently started working with a personal trainer.  Naturally, I brought my KSO’s with me.  The first day, I took her spinning class prior to my personal training intake and I immediately regretted my decision.  The pedal of the bike I was on rode right on my arches, the softest most vulnerable part of the foot (aside from, perhaps, in between the toes).  I was visibly in pain,  My trainer moved me to another bike with a wider pedal, which helped, but overall I found the KSOs were just not the right choice.

My main reason for seeking personal training right now is that I have some big plans in mind for my summer.  Now that the weather is warming up I’m just itching to be outdoors as much as possible and I really want to push myself this year.  Running was fun, but I’m not necessarily looking to run as much this year.  I’m thinking of trying climbing and taking on more adventurous hikes.  I also need a shoe that can continue to play with me while I kayak, canoe, and splash around in Vermont’s rivers and lakes.

While the KSO’s did a fine job of keeping up with my water-bound activities last year, the Treksport’s plated midsoles and lightly cleated outsole really appealed to me.  I never fully felt comfortable using my KSO’s on adventurous hikes because of those few moments of stabbing pain on my arches when I hit a rock at the wrong angle, and the fact that I slipped quite a bit in mud.  For running, they were perfect.  For hiking, they just weren’t beefy enough.  However, the kangaroo leather upper on the KSO Treks didn’t jive well with my love for water or my being slightly put-off by wearing kangaroo hide on my feet.

So, on to the part you’re probably most interested in: a picture comparison. Disclaimer: keep in mind my KSOs are a bit worn.

The first time I slipped the Treksports on I definitely felt they had more continuity, but I still felt a firm connection with the ground and easy articulation.  My first test was to wrap my arches around a pointy piece of wood and the plated arch definitely works!  More on that later.

Let’s start by talking about the posterior difference:

As you can see, the Treksport have some padding around the Achilles.  This triangle-shaped pillow rises from the heel and makes the heel look wider than the KSOs in this picture, but when worn it hugs the heel nicely and provides additional stability.  Both feature the same strap design and both have a loop on the rear.

From the front there are some fun differences.  The Treksport toes have additional texture to them and the tips of the toes are reinforced:

While I haven’t experienced this with my KSOs, several folks online have complained that their non-reinforced toe Fivefinger shoes show signs of wear and ripping on the tops of the toes.  In the champagne color Treksports, the reinforced toes are clear and shiny.  I’ve read other reviews that the dark colored models have black reinforcing.  Regardless of the color, this is an important feature for those of us who really want to put our Vibrams through its paces.

Laterally, there isn’t a huge difference between the KSO and the Treksport with the exception that the Treksport sits a bit higher on its cleated sole.  It also appears that the outside rubber comes up just a hair higher on the Treksport.

Medially, there’s a noticeable difference between the two.  The KSOs actually have greater coverage on the medial part of the sole which causes the Treksport to appear to curve more at the arch.  While I haven’t played around with these enough to know yet, it does appear that the Treksports have more arch support whereas the KSOs are fairly flat with just a mild curve for the arch.

Now here’s the real money shot:

Oh, let’s see that up close!

The biggest visible difference between the KSO and the Treksport is the sole.  While my KSOs are a bit worn, the texture on the bottom of the KSOs are minimal.  The Treksport has noticeable grooves and mild cleats to provide better traction and grip in various terrain.  I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t want the Treksport if I was new to barefoot running.  “Real” barefoot runners already poo-poo us Fivefinger folks, and the Treksports push that line further.  Yes, it’s still much less padding than a sneaker and one can certainly run in them, but it wouldn’t be my choice.

However, with the additional grip and the reinforced arch I will definitely feel more comfortable trying the Treksports out in environments I shied away from with my KSOs.  One other thing to note is that the midsole is much thinner on the Treksport.  I have narrow feet and after walking around in these for a while I felt no discomfort or insecurities.  If you have wide feet you might want to really try them out in a store before making the investment.  I’ve only read positive reviews on the midsole width so far, but it’s something to take note of.

I’m super-stoked to take my new Fivefingers out for a ride!  Now that I’ve come out of winter hibernation, expect to hear more of my Treksport adventures!  Let’s hope they can keep up with me. 😉

Oh, and for those of you who are only here for the dog stories, here’s Toby and his new buddy, Charlie, enjoying some VT April showers.  Seriously, this white death falling from the sky has got to stop!