This week is the 1-year anniversary of my total hip replacement, and I marked it in a wonderfully decadent way. Seven layer fudge cake, you ask? Fancy-flavored double martini? Paid day off at the spa? (Ha – my boss is too mean!)
In fact, none of the above. The way I celebrated is . . .
In case you missed the caption – I ran!
Not like the running between meetings or racing with time that I’ve been doing since opening the new studio. I mean I ran. Outdoors. In running sneakers, with music in my ears. Like the old days. Well, not exactly like the old days. The old days would not have involved a running track, except for the rare occasions when I trained to increase my speed for a race. I detest running in circles. But I used the track this week for measurement, and ultimately for moderation. In other words, the track helped me contain my running while still allowing me the utter thrill of doing it. Just a little.
Should I be doing this?
To answer the question many of you are asking: No, I’m not really supposed to do this on my new hip, although the rule is subject to interpretation (as are virtually all rules handed to me, but that’s another story).
Before my surgery, more than one person told me of someone they know who “was already back to running” with his or her new hip. My orthopedic surgeon advised against it, although I know that’s out of an abundance of caution on his part. And he meant “don’t make it a regular activity.” The fact is you CAN do it, but there may be consequences, and no one knows exactly how to quantify those. Of course, more running means more wear on the prosthesis and surrounding structures than a low-impact activity such as walking. The thinking goes that more wear might shorten the life of the prosthesis, necessitating another surgery later on. But materials have gotten more sophisticated over the years, and of course every body is different. Every body endures wear & tear in a different way, at a different pace and according to multiple variables (i.e., genetics, lifestyle, overall health and fitness level). One could argue that a little bit of occasional running is actually beneficial to keeping the surrounding structures strong. I’m willing to bet that even my surgeon would agree with that, if he could say it in a world without malpractice lawsuits. Heaven knows the stimulation of impact is good for my bones.
Don’t touch that dial….
Now, before you dial the phone to yell at me (Mom), it was not a lot of running. Just enough to remind me that my body is still strong. That I still have a jock inside. That I can push the envelope, in moderation. That, just like I teach my clients, I can challenge my body where it is today. And it made me happy, which is ultimately all you really want, right?
For those who are interested in how I pushed the envelope mindfully, here’s what I did: First, let’s remember I’ve had a full year of re-building my strength and stamina. It all started with walking and doing very specific exercises to strengthen my hips and legs in functional ways.
Over the last few weeks I’ve done more yoga than ever (I couldn’t do yoga without pain before my hip replacement), and yoga has significantly improved not just my overall strength and range of motion, but it has more evenly distributed my body’s exertion of strength. I’ve also been learning and experimenting more with pelvic floor stabilization – something I’ll get into further on my blog one day….
Keeping all that in mind…. First, I walked over to the track, which is maybe a quarter mile away. Then I walked a full lap around the track while thinking about how I would structure my adventure. In the old days of speed training, one drill we did was to sprint on the “straight” part of the track and recover while walking briskly on the curved part. I decided to start with a gentle jog around ONE curve. I was a little winded after that and immediately started lamenting my cardiovascular strength of younger years, worrying about how much I’d lost, even though I’ve been faithful to the elliptical all year. I walked the rest of the track, and on the next lap I jogged the straight part. That felt slightly easier than the curve, even though it was longer. After another period of walking I decided to tackle half the track. That was sweet! I walked another 1.5 laps before going for a full lap around the track. I had not planned to do this, but the bug was biting. I soared right past the marker and ended up running 1.5 laps. I was having such a great time but also starting to feel a little something on my new-hip side – not pain, maybe fatigue. It’s hard to tell with those deep structures, some of which are now working with an inanimate object in their midst. I decided that was enough for now.
I walked home with a spring in my step. I could have been depressed about how little that was compared to what used to be. I could have been depressed about the fact that I won’t be doing this regularly, even though I really, really want to. But I’ve gotten used to the idea that things – and bodies – change. And instead I felt enormously grateful that I could do this “little bit.” I admit I had fleeting thoughts of friends who are regularly training for races. Friends for whom I do my best to act encouraging and happy even though my inner-runner-child is having a crying fit while listening to them talk about their last training run. Yes there’s a (big) part of me that wishes I could re-join the runners. Then there’s the part of me that knows I can still do a lot that many others can’t. I mean that in a compassionate, not competitive, way. In other words, so many people don’t even have this option. For more than a year, I was among them! So rather than wallow, I prefer to swell with the gratitude. I can’t do everything I used to do, but I can do a lot.
And the next day …
Just like I tell my clients when we’re pushing the edge – we pay attention not only to how things feel in the moment, but also to how sore we are in the next day or two. You need to know both things to assess the edge. A little soreness is okay. Debilitating soreness tells you it was too much. Not that I’m planning to repeat this any time soon. But when I do – maybe a few weeks from now – I’ll be able to do it with informed feedback from my body. As it turns out, I’ve had just a little soreness in my calves – just enough to make me feel good about the challenge. No backlash anywhere near my hip joint. <Cheshire Cat grin here> I should wrap this up now before the phone starts ringing with over-protective loved ones who want to slap my wrist.
I’ll cut my parents some slack here, since their wedding anniversary “celebration” this time last year consisted of hospital cafeteria cake and ginger ale, followed by multiple trips to the pharmacy and grocery store. Then I’ll remind them not to worry. After all, I’m a professional.