Treadmills and Other Pestilents
No longer admiring the aching muscles rapidly turning into jelly, I’m finally back on a healthy training program. In returning to my favorite workout facility, I discovered they had forgotten the red carpet for me as well as neglected the looks of fond admiration. (A few former workout companions greeted me instead with blunt comments such as, “Where the H--- have you been!?) After explaining that 2 ½ months ago I had received total hip replacement #2, they said, “Oh” and returned to their busy workouts—it had seemed to me an eon, or even longer! I discovered no sympathy but found instead a vast array of machines lined up like soldiers waiting for me to conquer them.
On Day 1 (after asking a friend to tie my shoes—something I’m not allowed to do for a couple more months), I bravely stepped up to MASTER the treadmill. With a death grip on the rails so I wouldn’t fall off, I managed to struggle through 5 whole minutes at 2 miles per hour (I think snails move faster). As I carefully stepped down, I noticed my legs were shaky, and I huffed and puffed like a chain smoker, and I don’t even smoke. It’s frustrating to realize how quickly I had gotten out of shape in just a few short months!! I had promised myself a half-hour workout on Day 1, so after my less-than-triumphant start, I decided I deserved 25 minutes of chatting with friends (that IS a kind of workout isn’t it?)
I returned home not exactly enchanted with my puny start (I think I’ve mentioned before that I can be really hard on myself), and briefly entertained thoughts of an ice cream cone as a reward for my effort! At home, I contacted an adventure travel agent of mine and asked what he thought about my joining the April hiking/camping trip in Hilo, Hawaii. He knows about my “condition,” and highly recommended I wait a year so that I would be better prepared for the trip. I KNEW that I wasn’t being particularly realistic about me at the time, but I needed to have a professional tell me so. Some friends who don’t suffer from osteoarthritis simply can’t understand my “rush” for all of these adventures. However the reality for me is that I continue to see my disease progress (it’s hard to think of that as “progress”), and I know that there may come a time where my mobility is limited to the point that travel is no longer an option.
After doing some “soul searching,” I fully accepted the fact that I’d never be bikini-ready, or even strong enough to climb Kilimanjaro for my 65th birthday at this rate. (I couldn’t even ask my dog to look at me in a bikini a year ago when I WAS in great shape!!!) Soooooooo—it was back to the gym for Day 2 with a new resolve!
After having my shoes tied, I again aimed for the treadmill with more determination. My goal was 15 minutes. I aimed for time, and not world speed records. This day I decided to focus on what I COULD do, not what prevented me from doing something, so I even started doing light upper body work with free weights. After a short time, I even transferred to an older recumbent bike (the newer versions are built differently and would keep the knees above the hip level, which is contraindicated in this point of my recovery). I’m very glad that I’d been able to hire an awesome trainer after my first hip replacement and am still able to use her programs. I had planned on doing the same this time, but my dog has developed insulin-dependent diabetes, and I can’t afford the extra expense of a trainer.
As a landscaper, I normally don’t work at this time of year, and obviously my adventure traveling is on hiatus too, so I have NO legitimate excuse for focusing on anything other than my “training” program. For me (since I know myself rather well), I have returned to daily one-hour workouts, seven days a week. My first trainer said that was too much, until I promised to alternate days and forms of exercise. I alternate free weights, cardio equipment, , and walking in water (I tried walking ON water once—almost drowned!).
At this point, I’m still not strong enough to swim again. I KNOW that for me to skip one day is a terrific way to rationalize waiting until the start of the next week, or even the next month! I have to make this a vital part of my daily routine, because I know it works for me. Once the habit is re-established, the training is not only crucial to my recovery from joint replacement surgery (and my self-image), but it becomes a “natural high” for me—those endorphins really kick in!!!
I’ve had many people tell me that I’m extremely “lucky,” but I think luck has little to do with my surgical recoveries and my increasing challenges with OA! I’m very grateful for the advances in joint replacements (even within the two years for both of my hips)! I started with OA in one toe, then one ankle, then both hips. I now also have it in one shoulder and my lower spine (kinda spreading like “The Scurge that Ate Manhattan”). As mentioned in other blogs, I DO what my doctors say—I take the prescribed meds WHEN they have helped. At a friend’s suggestion, I added dried black cherry concentrate capsules to my regimen (a natural anti-oxidant). Right now, I’m biting the proverbial bullet since “they” haven’t found any meds that help me right now.
I normally stay in GREAT shape, but it doesn’t come easy. Keeping OA “at bay” in my life is simply a TON of HARD WORK! For me, the ultimate payoff is the life I’ve been able to live—to see many things that most people only read about, to experience new cultures, to travel in wild and crazy modes, to have supportive kids and seven wonderful grandkids, and to have some of the most awesome friends in the world.
NO—I don’t want OA—but for today, I CHOOSE to not let it control my life!!
- How have you or a loved one dealt with osteoarthritis? Share your story by leaving a comment below or posting it on the OA message boards.
Published On: January 02, 2007