The Road to Recovery

In January of 2017, I started training to compete in triathlons. Why not, right? I was feeling really healthy and wanted to tackle a physical challenge while I still could. I was a competitive swimmer for my entire childhood, could run a few miles once or twice a week, and my dad and brother were (and still are) avid cyclists… so I figured why not? It would be a challenge, and something truly rewarding once I crossed that finish line! So I bought a bike – and the training began.

A little about me… I stay as busy as possible. Sometimes I wonder how I manage to function day to day – but I make it happen! I work full time, bar tend on the weekends for extra mula, help out the bar with some accounting work every Sunday morning, and somehow find the time to make a few cakes each month! I am constantly on the go with work, and my social calendar. Where on earth was I going to fit in training for the two triathlons I signed up for in June and August of 2017? Early AM… and lunch break work out sessions were the answer!

Three to four times a week I packed two gym bags – one for the morning, and one for the afternoon. Each day got up at 4:30 am, drove to the gym close to my office, swam for an hour and a half, then got ready and went to work. My boss at the time was (still is) super stellar and let me come in half hour early – to give me an hour and a half lunch break. So – back to the gym I went for 50 minutes, running as far as I could on the treadmill before taking a quick shower and punching back into work! The days I didn’t double up at the gym, I was biking the 12 miles each way to and from my office, backpack in tow with a change of clothes. Outside of that, I was running after work when I got home, and on the weekends I would train for about 2 -3 hours a day. Swim bike run, swim bike run!

Guuuuuurrrl, I was in the best shape of my life! I felt amazing, strong, confident (for the first time in a while) – like I could take on the world! The best part of all that working out was I actually enjoyed it. It was a high, and helped so much with stress relief. Regardless of how tired I was in the morning, jumping into that pool did the trick. If you’ve ever been a swimmer – that is quite possibly the hardest part of practice… jumping into that frigged water. The only way to warm up is to get moving!

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In May, I started noticing some pain in my right hip. Sometimes it would travel down to my knee. Did a little research, and was told my IT band was most likely really tight. Foam rolled that out as much as possible, and the pain in my knee went away… but the hip pain continued to get worse. I completed my first Olympic triathlon in June! It was definitely hard – and although I wasn’t thrilled with my results, I was eager to improve my time in August. Rested for a week… then was back at it. The pain in my hip at this point was constant – even when I wasn’t training. A week before my second race was approaching, I went on a long bike ride, and could barely walk later that night. Long story short – went to an orthopedic doctor at Northwestern, and the diagnosis was a labral tear.

No second race for this lady. The months that followed were full of x-rays, physical therapy, and MRI’s. A labral tear does not heal on it’s own due to the location in your hip, and the fact that there is little blood flow running through that joint. If you don’t have surgery, your ball joint will keep rubbing against the socket wall – causing a lot of pain and bone inflammation, and the possibility of developing arthritis is imminent. The only way to fix it is to have surgery. Major bummer – and what was more frustrating was that I could no longer run or workout. Every major movement in your lower body goes through that joint.

Patience: a virtue, is right! When someone tells you you can’t do your normal routine, can’t run, can’t workout… that’s literally all you want to do. In order to be approved for surgery – you have to show you made effort to heal the issue through PT. While we knew that wouldn’t work, the stretching and exercised I learned did help curb the pain. The insurance company gave my case the run around for about two months… so my patience at this point was running thin. As much as I didn’t love the idea of surgery – I wanted it over and done with so I could get back out there. The recovery for this surgery is 24 weeks. UGH! Thankfully this procedure is done through three little probes – so scaring is minimal considering the amount of work they did.

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The first six weeks you’re in a hip brace. This contraption can only be described as a modern day chastity belt! It was thick plastic that wrapped around your hips and waist and down to your upper thigh. It was connected by a large metal bar, that restricted your leg from bending past 30 degrees. This is to protect the joint and let it heal properly. Uncomfortable to say the least, especially when you’re forced to sleep in it!

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There is literally no rushing the healing process – and man was it hard and lonely. The smallest things took so much effort. Tying my shoes was impossible (amen to slip on tennis shoes), putting on clothes was a trick, and getting up and down was more of a roll/lunge onto the good side until you could push and stand upright. Six. Freaking. Weeks. So grateful to have my Mom and Dad so close – they put me up for the first week, and nursed me back to the point where I was OK on my own. However when you’re 33, and relying on mom to help you get out of bed, get dressed, shower, and keep you from falling over… makes you feel a tad helpless! I just wanted to get better – and throw that brace out the window!

The excitement of my days when I got back to the city was simply hobbling down the block to Walgreens or Chipotle, just so I could get out of the house and into the fresh air. I went from working two jobs and baking, to nothing… and could do nothing but rest from the time I woke up to the time I went back to bed. I watched everything on TV, Netflix, HBO Go… and read three books! If you know me, you can applaud the book reading, since it’s something I never do. My parents did their best to keep me company, and I saw my friends a few times on the weekends – but getting ready with that brace, getting in and out of Ubers, and just general standing/sitting was so difficult that hibernation was the best option.  It made me so hot because the plastic piece wrapped all the way around my stomach and back. I had to wear a tank under it to protect my skin, and then another shirt over it, then struggle with the smallest movements – so I would get hot and flustered instantly! My mom’s best friend named by brace “Sweaty Betty”! I still refer to it as that name to this day, ha!

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I am 12 weeks post op currently, and moving along really well in my PT program at Athletico. Shout out to my instructor Erin W! She is seriously the bomb and has been with me through this entire process. I feel like we are besties (I mean she may feel differently, ha) and I can tell her anything, which makes the process so much more comfortable. I saw her before my surgery for 10 weeks, and currently see her twice a week now for my post op recovery. Mainly working on flexibility and stretching the joint to break up the scar tissue, and some strength exercises to balance out my weight back onto both sides. I was told in two more weeks I can possibly start the “back to run” program which will be so exciting… HOORAY! Already bought new running shoes to celebrate the occasion – I mean, duh!

My advice to anyone who has any type of physical set back, an injury, or undergoes surgery is to just be patient and not push yourself. Even the smallest amount of progress needs to be celebrated, and not compared to what you could do before your set back. Let your body tell you how it’s doing… and listen. As hard as those six weeks were for me, and as hard as I know the next 12 will be, I truly believe my body needed all that rest – and frankly so did my brain. I kept Sweaty Betty on, I followed all the rules, and I’m healing wonderfully. It is so important to physically and mentally be on the same page when it comes to all things fitness. My mind was telling me to “go go go”, but my hip was screaming for me to slow down. If something doesn’t feel right – go get it checked out! I look forward to competing again in the future… but for now, I’m content with the slow and steady comeback!

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