rehab

Professional Bike Fit & New Doctor

I finally sucked it up and took my bike in to get professionally fit. I’d been dragging my feet all winter long and with my one and only bike commute attempt this spring, I realized I just need to do it. It’s definitely expensive, but I think the benefits outweigh the cost. Even though I bought my bike from Bike Gallery, I got the fitting at River City Bikes. It’s a great bike store, very highly rated and I felt confident going there for the fitting. I tried to get fitted at Bike Gallery, since they sold me the bike, but it was near impossible to coordinate and they had difficult times. River City had more of an open schedule and I could get in quicker and at a convenient time for me (i.e. not having to take time off work).

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The fitting was done in a separate building from the main retail store. It was a large room with a massage table and lots of gadgets. I was glad it wasn’t in the main store where it was noisy and crowded. I really felt like I was getting the undivided attention of the professional. Ward Griffiths was who I saw. She had a lot of experience and after only a few minutes she kinda already knew what was going on with my body and my bike.

She did an initial review of me on the bike trainer. Then she did a bunch of tests and measurements. She was testing my hips, how my knees track, my flexibility, pretty much everything. She took a log of every injury and surgery I’ve had. Then she set up the cameras in two different locations to get different views of me on the bike.

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She did her magic with the computer program to analyze how my body works on the bike and found a few things. First, I was stretching too far out to reach the handle hoods. That can put a lot of pressure on the upper body, strain the back and cause knee pain. How could that cause knee pain? Because I’m less stable and my center of gravity puts all the weight on my knees. Good to know!

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Second, she also moved my seat slightly up and slightly back. That sounds counter-productive to the issue of me stretching too far, right? But she also swapped out my stem or a shorter one. This basically moved my whole body back a little on the bike and should hopefully take some of the pressure off my knees. She was also going to change out the handlebars to a shorter model but we decided to wait and see how these initial changes effect my riding.

As part of the $175 fitting cost, I can go back to be re-fitted as many times as I want for the next 12 months. I think that’s fantastic. It’s going to take a few really good and maybe long rides to figure out if the changes she made worked. If they didn’t, I’ll go back and try the new handlebars. It’s going to be a trial-and-error experiment until we get it just right.

One other thing Ward did was put in a small plastic “lift” in my cycling shoes. The mechanics of my feet and the way I pronate could be part of the problem with my knees. We’re hoping the lifts in the shoes will help.

My “diagnosis” is that I have mild valgus in my left foot and knee, moderate valgus in my right foot and mild valgus in my right knee. Valgus refers to the structure of my feet and knees–basically I’m slightly bow-legged or knock-kneed.

After the fitting (which took 3 hours and not the 2 they said it would take), Michael and I went home famished and fixed dinner. We made the gluten-free garlic basil penne that I bought at Pike Place Market last weekend.

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I sprinkled on some of the basil olive oil I also bought at the Market, mixed in some sauteed kale and cut up chicken sausages. I shredded a little fresh parmesan cheese and called it good. It was a really tasty dinner. I liked all the flavors together. The gluten-free pasta had a different texture but it didn’t have an odd taste.

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Dinner was less than 500 calories and very filling! I like that the chicken sausages are only 100 calories per link!

Follow-Up Appointment

The following day I saw a new knee specialist. You may remember the last specialist I saw had zero bedside manner and his solution to my knee issues was to offer me a walker or wheelchair. Yeah………So I took his advice and rested my lower body for 6 weeks, didn’t see improvement and made a followup appointment with a different specialist. Enough of this. It’s gone on too long.

I saw the new doc, Carol, and loved her. She had great bedside manner, was an athlete herself and said she wanted to get me back to full capacity. She analyzed the new X-rays she ordered and reviewed the MRI results again. She said everything looks structurally good. There’s a small spot of wear on my right knee but nothing terrible and I don’t need surgery.

Her diagnosis was runner’s knee, of course, basically overuse in the kneecap. Something is weak in my knees and it’s causing everything to flare up from rubbing the wrong way. I’m paraphrasing. She gave me a few new exercises to do (one was flexing my quad and kneecap–it feels really gross and it’s creepy but she said it works). She gave me a plan for biking (no hills), hiking (recommended poles), and running (soft terrain and flat surfaces). She also referred me to a PT that she prefers. She also told me to do the leg press machine at the gym one leg at a time.

I’m going to do everything she said. I’m also back to starting Phase 1 of Suzanne’s program again. I decided it would be good to start it again because now I can do lower body exercises (squats, etc) that will help strengthen my quads and glutes. I will definitely be signing up with Suzanne again in a few weeks.

I’m happy with my doctor. I’m disappointed that it was basically the same advice I got from my regular Sports Medicine doc back in October –physical therapy and take it easy. But I’ll give it a go.

QUESTION: Have you ever had a professional bike fitting? What was your experience?

What Does My Fitness Look Like Now?

There is definitely a mind-body connection when it comes to injuries. When our body isn’t feeling right, it’s so easy to become hyper-focused on every little ache and pain. I’m trying not to let my mind do that because I think it will hinder my progress and healing. Staying active and focusing on what I CAN DO is an important factor for healing. I don’t believe spending every day on the couch instead of moving my body in a moderate way is going to help–I think that would be counterproductive.

In light of that, I think it’s time to change things up. I’ve written before about how it’s not a good idea to get Married to My Workout. Having the same routine day in, day out isn’t going to show progress; instead it’s probably holding me back and may even be causing the injuries!

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History of Injury

I’ve been through injury before. I had ankle surgery 8 years ago to repair a torn ligament. I had bursitis in my ankle once (thankfully it only lasted about a week). I had an issue with my sacrum and worked to strengthen the area and improve my running form to fix it. I had achilles tendinitis from running on the beach (that lasted about 2 weeks and I was in a boot for 10 days).

The most “severe” injury was an overuse of IT Band injury a few years ago and my doctor told me NO running for 6 weeks. I thought it was the end of the world and I cried, I yelled, I wallowed–for about a week. And then I pulled myself together and figured out what I COULD do. This injury is when I learned about weight lifting.

Previously I’d tried incorporating strength training into my gym routine but I half-assed it at best, doing a few favorite machines once or twice a week for maybe 10 minutes tops and then wondering why I never saw results. I never saw results because weight training was a stupid waste of time! Or so I thought. The reality was that I was a cardio junkie and I didn’t do any DISCIPLINED strength training. I didn’t care. I didn’t like it. I didn’t spend time on it. I didn’t work towards building the results I wanted to see. I wanted instant results. That’s not the way it works.

Not being able to run (which I LOVED) for 2 months meant I needed to find other things to do. I started seriously lifting weights and after a few weeks, I actually liked it. It wasn’t the waste of time I thought it was and I saw results right away. I lost 5 pounds immediately–which was shocking because I had been struggling with those “last 10 pounds” for a good year. I saw some definition in my arms, I didn’t feel as flabby…I liked it! And I kept doing it, even after I was able to run again.

Stages of Grief

So as you can see, I’ve been down this road before. This current injury is by far the most lingering I’ve experienced. I don’t know why it is. I don’t know if I had taken an entire month off in October when this first happened if I wouldn’t be having this issue today. I followed what my doctors and physical therapists instructed. I thought I was doing everything right.

Since getting the MRI and seeing the specialist, I’ve been going through the stages of grief. I think the last few months have been the “denial” stage. I was making progress! I was doing better! Two steps forward, one step backward. A constant back and forth since October. I get better, then it gets worse. So frustrating.

I’ve felt despair. That’s the most intense emotion I’ve experienced beside anger. I’m furious. I’m angry. I’m angry at my body. I’m angry at all the “other people” who can do “ALL OF THE THINGS” I cannot do and not be injured. I’ve been in this place before. With the IT Band injury I deleted 95% of the running blogs I read and loved because they made me want to cry and scream with every race recap and running post they wrote. I just couldn’t deal with it, so I avoided it.

I definitely went through a “bargaining” phase. I’d say that was every encounter I had with every doctor (the sports medicine doctor, the physical therapist and finally the knee specialist) — “Please, doc, tell me what I CAN do. Give me SOMETHING.” Then of course there are the “what ifs” that plagued me this winter. What if I quit everything? Then I’ll gain back the weight. What if I quit biking and running all together? Then I have swimming–which I love, but is kind of boring because it’s too easy for me. What if I hadn’t gone for that run in October? Then I’d never be injured…

The last two stages of grief are depression and finally acceptance. I don’t think grief of any kind (illness, death, loss, etc) is linear. I think you can experience all of the stages and many more stages out of order, all at once and you can probably skip some, too. I’ve felt ALL of the stages so far, in a jumbled, tangled mess in my brain. The defining emotion? Depression. That’s been hanging over me for months. When you have a physical ailment it’s hard not to have all of your energy and attention focused on that. Especially when it’s something with your knees. I am super aware of my knees at all times because, obviously, I need them to get around in my day to day life.

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What Does My Fitness Look Like Now?

Obviously things have changed a bit. Luckily I was already way into strength training and I was working on the 6 week program I bought from Suzanne. That definitely made the transition easier. I didn’t think “Oh my god I can’t do ANYTHING.” I knew I could.

Yoga has become a once a week thing now. I think it will help (eventually) but right now it’s often a struggle to do some of the poses and I haven’t noticed any increased flexibility yet. I’ve been thinking of doing an experiment and doing ONLY yoga for one week to see if there’s any positive change in my flexibility. I’ll let you know if that happens.

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Swimming is still part of my routine. I do it once a week now instead of twice but that is because I added the yoga day. Eventually I might add back the 2nd swim day and drop one of my other weight lifting/cardio days.

Two-three days a week I do the weight lifting program. Suzanne was super accommodating when I told her what the doctor said. She said it wasn’t an issue and that she could create a plan for me working around my legs. She said she’s already doing that for lots of clients who have had knee replacement surgeries and what not.

So, I hope you guys hang in there with me as I make my way back. It won’t be a fast return. I don’t plan on focusing this blog on injuries or rehab. It will still be about weight loss and maintenance. Thanks for reading. 🙂

QUESTION: What is your injury history?