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Under the Tree of Life

Jesus says, “Come and see.”
What must we do to come?
What must we risk?
Whom should we invite?
Should we just venture forth trusting God will send someone looking if we get lost?

Thanks be to God, the Word made flesh,
who will come looking,
who leads and follows and walks beside,
who holds our hand so we won’t fall.

In whose presence there is always light to see the way.

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Strengthen Before Using

I’m going to have to make a rule: You may only go for a walk or run AFTER you do your strengthening exercises.

The home gym, inexpensive but effective if you use it.

When I was going to PT two or three times per week, my progress was insured. When I went, I did my exercises, all two hours of them. But now that I’m down to one PT a week, I’m supposed to continue with my strengthening at home. Oh, I have the equipment, just not the motivation. Who wants to do band exercises in 4 directions and 2 rotations on each leg when it’s 80 degrees and sunny outside?

The problem is: when I get a bit slack and hit the roads for some fun, my knees and hips complain afterwards. They can’t run smoothly when they’re not strong. And they’re not strong enough yet. I haven’t put in the work required.

So, today, new rule: boring exercises first, then I may run, if there’s time.

And let’s not forget the stretches. Strong or not, I won’t be running long without those!

I See You but I Can’t Feel You

The oddest thing now about my recovery is the “motor sensation” or lack thereof. I rest my heels on top of the 65mm exercise ball and push up into a bridge. I see my heels pressing, but I only feel the strength of the hamstring contraction in my right leg. I know the left leg is contracting too and doing so equally to keep me in balance. But I can’t feel it.

You don’t think of “feeling” a muscle, but the proprioception we get, the feedback about how strongly it is contracted, how much pull it is placing on the nearby joint, how its pull blends with other muscles being recruited is all information our cerebellum uses to determine how much activation is necessary. This is a continuous loop that coordinates our body’s movement, its force application, its bearing the load, its gracefulness.

Oh, and along the way it lets the cerebrum know what its doing. That part seems to be missing at present. I tell it what to do and, in a semi-uncoordinated and slow to get to it teenager sort of way, it does just enough. If it’s too much it screams. But as long as its happy, it does it without bothering to share what its doing. Humble and shy. Understandable after all it’s been through.

Just getting the job done.

I will need that kinesthesis, though, to be smooth again. To “chunk” those movement patterns so I don’t have to think them all the way through. Pretty sure that’s coming. Eventually. Guess that’s why they call it functional training.

So, Are You All Better?

So, are you all better?

That’s the question people keep asking me. They wouldn’t ask if they thought I would say no. But, no. Not nearly.

I have started to get a bit of my coordination back. I can balance on the BOSU ball. March on top. Step over and back. “Not too high,” Mery calls when I add a hop on the top.

I am better, but not back. The strength is (for an average person, says Mery) 80%. For you, maybe 65%. She means as I am working toward being back to work. Jumping and hopping and twisting and turning and…playing.

It is tough to gauge because my “good side” is debilitated, too. By not being active for so long. So comparisons are a little misleading. I haven’t asked my body to lift things reach for things. The everyday activities have so declined and along with them, my whole body.

I went to the gym for the first time, Monday of this week. Yes, I tried the leg extension. 30lb. Struggled to complete 2 sets. Friday, I struggled to complete the 2nd set and then realized that the “extra” plate was on. Not 30 but 35lb. And this is my observation: My strength is coming back…on its own.

Course then there is the upper body row. I crunched through one set, then went to reduce the weight to do the second set. There WAS NO lower weight. Ugh!

The Final Update

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, all good things must come to an end. I felt like a 3rdupdate was in order just so you weren’t worried about me, but I am hoping (and probably so are you) that this will be the final episode of the Wendy Hamstring saga. And the number 3 has that ‘whole’ feel to it. This update is coming to you from the LeBolt front porch where I am enjoying this incredible June day. My friend Betty suggested I bring my computer out here during my convalescence, and the dogs and I have made it our regular daytime retreat. I like it so much I think it may become my regular writing spot even though I am most of the way to well again. I wrote the last blog post today for the “On the Way to Well blog.” Titled it humbly: “I have arrived.” Not quite back to pre-injury form but I am striding happily in that direction.

Rosy and Mom Walking

We have put away the crutches and the brace. The crutches rest next to the several other pairs in the depths of the closet. Who knew we would get to know our orthopedist so well? I am a twice a week regular at physical therapy. It is rewarding now to finally get to do some “real” exercise. Balance and strength and stretching. It is my first experience with a T.E.N.S. unit which is really quite fascinating. The PT pushes the button and you watch your quadriceps muscle contract. It feels like pins-and-needles with increasing intensity. I try to be sure I don’t anger the physical therapist before she does this.

The good news is, the hamstring is attached and it works. Even after having lived this for nearly 12 weeks, it is really quite miraculous to feel it in operation.

The not as good news is that, while it works, it does so somewhat weakly and without too much coordination. The brain is willing but the body says, “Are you kidding me?”

That’s the other good and bad news: I have another hamstring that can remind its partner what to do. It is also shows me just how much remembering there is yet to do. (I think it feels a bit superior, honestly.)

I have been walking the neighborhood for exercise. I even giggled a bit as I realized I was actually breathing a bit heavily on an uphill. The kids say you can’t tell that I’ve been injured if you see me walk. My progress report is: I now can almost keep up with the kind grocer who says “Guacamole? It’s way in the front of the store. Let me show you.” I guess this means I have to stop using my handicapped parking permit. When you feel obligated to pretend-limp when you get out, you know you have overstayed your welcome.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers, your well-wishes, inquiries and general support. It has been quite a season. And though it continues, I am especially grateful to be able to stop and say thanks. I don’t do this enough. Stop, I mean. That’s what you do at the end of the season; you have the pizza party and hand out the paper plate awards. You stop and celebrate what you’ve accomplished. When the time comes, you start the new season with new energy and a new perspective.

Here’s to the new season. I’m not even gonna pretend I know what it will hold. After all, look how well I anticipated the last turn of events. But I have learned that while I’m definitely not meant for the sidelines, if necessary, I can play that position, too. 2nd string. (ha! Couldn’t resist)

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… a time to tear and a time to mend.”

Giving Thanks in All Things,

Wendy

PS The titmouse family has departed and I see a nuthatch giving the empty house a bit of consideration.

Wendy R LeBolt, PhD

Founder, Fit2Finish, LLC

www.Fit2Finish.com

Read F2F BLOG

wlebolt@cox.net

 

 

 

I Have Arrived

When is it time to declare yourself well? Well, possibly when the guilt of parking in the handicapped spot overwhelms you. When you feel you must intentionally limp to make it look legit. (My kids say, “you can’t tell, Mom.”)

I took Jodi out to the TGIF for my late birthday lunch. Hey, a free dessert is a free dessert. We parked in a lovely handicapped space in the shade. I did stumble a bit walking up the wheelchair ramp, but that was more my klutziness than my handicap. When we returned, there was a car parked in the handicapped spot next to us. The license plate said “Cripps.” So you have Cripps and you have Ixrsiz.

Cripps and Ixrsiz

Now, who should be taking the shady handicapped space?

Guilty.

Will not be doing that anymore.

 

Walk…Walk

People see me without crutches and without the brace. “How’s it going?” they ask hopefully. They figure it’s a safe question since it looks like I’m all better. I guess I look like everything is okay on the outside. They are disappointed when I start, “well…” because I am difficult to please.

I am walking and bending and stretching. This is all very good. But there is not much strength in that old hamstring curl. And oh my, the imbalance in the tug on the patellar tendon. Got that thing pulling West, rather than North South.

But because everyone seems to think I look so healthy, and I feel pretty good out walking, I decide to try one little jogging step. You know, just a one-two. A bdmp bum. I stride right and clonk, my left leg lands with a thump. Suspending it in a stride is just…not there. I feel a little silly, very glad no one is watching me. And I continue my walk.

It will be a while before I can jog.

Does One Foot Know What the Other One is Doing?

Today I discovered one reason God designed us symmetrically: it’s so, when you injure one side of your body, the other side can remember what to do by watching (and feeling) how the other side does it! I am so grateful for this.

I try to break up and alternate my sets to take advantage of myself teaching myself. It is interesting to see how Mery teaches me things in a bit of a different  way than Farrouk. Kind of nice this “cross-pollination” with ideas and approaches from different therapists. Kind of like having different teachers and coaches. The conglomeration is better and more effective across the board than each one individually.

I do find it funny (surprising) that it remains so difficult for me to do a simple hamstring curl – even against no resistance. I can squat. I can do a 90 degree squat even on one leg. But just lifting one foot backwards is herky-jerky. I can get it started and then it gets hung up somewhere in the middle.

Another testimony to the amazingness of this human body. How many muscles in exact coordination must be called upon with the proper force to smoothly perform an effort? Even a simple one. A delay, a weakness, an imbalance and we become robotic. What a miraculous machine we are? What an amazing centralizing center that cerebrum is?

Can I remember the amazement I have today?

How’s That Flutter Kick?

Today, I got myself into the pool (and out) all by myself.

Getting into the Pool

It’s a little dicey trying new (well, old-new) things. I’m not quite sure whether I can do them. No one has told me I can’t. I am imagining my friends coming along… “Now you be careful.” When did my friends become my mother?

There’s pushing off the bottom, pushing off the side. Well, no, first there’s getting down the ladder. I didn’t dare jump in, and that would be so…socially unacceptable for a 50 year old Mom to do. No. I lowered myself into the pool. Cold step by cold step. Then I walked slowly into the deeper water, shivered and dove under.

Funny, my inclination is to pull along with a few breaststroke pulls, but the scissor kick feels too dangerous. I spot a small kickboard board floating in the lap lane and I grab it. Hmm. Flutter-kicking; that sounds challenging. I lean forward on the board, let my legs float to the surface and kick. sort of. One foot kicks. The other drags. My mind spurs my leg on, but no go. I look at the lane line floating next to me. They have those alternating color rings. I always watched those go by as I kicked the lengths of the pool in swim practice. They gave me a sense of making some progress.

Today: no progress. I look and the lane lines look back at me. I know they are laughing. Suddenly, I am laughing with them. I am actually enjoying this moment. My legs are working fairly furiously, but my body is going no where. Fortunately, I haven’t made it to the deep end, so I can stand up and rest. Good thing there are no stroke and turn judges nearby. I turn around to see Scot watching me. He is laughing too.

It gets a bit better. I can use my arms to pull me along. I swim a few laps, alternating freestyle and backstroke. I was never much of a back-stroker. Always counted on my kick to propel me. Not today. Especially not today. Because, while a prone crawl kick is mostly powered by the downward thrust of your leg  with your quads, a supine stroke kick is powered by the downward thrust using hamstrings. They missed the role call.

Eventually, I complete 20 or so laps. Cruise in and gracefully slick back my hair because I want a photo of this. Not the swimming but the getting  in and out of the pool under my power. I want to remember the day I got myself into and out of the pool myself. Maybe lay this memory over the one I have of the last time I was at the pool – in DelRay beach. When I had to sit by the side of the pool with no one to help me in.

Today, I can even climb the pool stairs.

Getting Out of the Pool

“Yeah Mom,” Olivia says.

Healing waters, for sure.

Gaining on Square One

Inching my body, no millimetering my body, across the long foam roll. I wince. A tear is squeezed from the corner of my eye. I’m glad the mirror to my side is higher up on the wall than my prone body. Wouldn’t want anyone to see the excruciating pain I am in. Pain I am inflicting on myself. Who does that? Is this even sane?

It’s one of the exercise mantras that I’ve tried to discredit over the years. “No pain. No gain.” It shouldn’t have to hurt to be good for you. Yet, here I am. My IT band and quads are so tight I subject them to “self” massage to break up the asphalt they have become. This is frustrating, though not altogether unexpected. I spent several months before my injury working this out in another PT setting. My tendency is to favor the IT band in my left-footed stride because of my weakened VMO. We stretched and we strengthened and we had it all back in alignment until…

At least now I know what it is.

I am back to square one. No, back way before square one thanks to the contortions I subjected the leg to in order to sit somewhat upright while I was in my brace. Odd to think that had I just lazed around, done nothing but bed-rested and crutched to the bathroom I would not have this part of the uphill battle. But that would have been unthinkable. I would truly have gone insane.  Ah, sanity – it’s all in your mind.

So, we battle back – mind and body. Back to fighting form. No, back to even. Back to square one. It feels good to battle I have to admit. One does not tell an athlete, ah just sit around and wait to get better. I can only imagine what it must be like for these young, able-bodied girls to tear ACLs and be told, sit on the sidelines, watch and cheer for your team. When your approved to play, we’ll talk.

In last week’s sermon, a guest “preacher” (who I later found out served for 24 years as Fairfax County’s Chief of Police) asked this question: What do we take as a given instead of a gift? Well, right now I am receiving the ability to walk again as the gift it is. I can feel the attachment of my hamstring and grab hold of a handful of muscle there. (also several handfuls of non-muscle but we won’t talk about that now) I can’t help but be amazed at the miracle this is.

What do I do with this gift?

Foam roller, please…