Can I just say that it’s harder to be a happy, shiny healthy blogger when you are injured?  Ok – I’ve said that and I feel better now.

Pain is part of the athletic process.  There’s the pain that comes as we work a muscle to its full potential.  There’s the normal soreness of recovery after a great workout, run or class.  There are pains that come as we get older – for me, it’s arthritis in my knees.  It’s this last one that can be the most difficult to discern.  When is it just something that you have to live with every day (like my crunchy, achy knees) – and when is it time to seek medical advice?

For me, with this latest injury (low back, hip, glute and right leg), it finally took a perfect storm of factors to convince me that this was not going to go away with my usual methods (stretching, massage, ice and heat).  I could no longer do my favorite things.  By the end of a ballet class, my low back was screaming.  Even a 2-mile run made my IT band and glutes seize up for days. I couldn’t reach for any of the wide shots in tennis – and I was done after an hour.  Even Pilates was hit or miss – sometimes I felt better, sometimes every movement hurt.  It hurt to stand too long, sit too long, drive my car too long.  It woke me up at night. Life was one big ouch.  

The verdict?  Lumbar facet arthropathy – basically arthritis in the facet joints located in the back of my spine at L2, L3 and L4..  My PT, Ashley – who treated me for a recent knee injury – is amazing.  We have a plan for recovery, but it includes taking my current activities (barre, ballet, Pilates, running, Tabata, tennis) waaaaay down for a bit.  I have exercises to do and she is doing soft tissue work.  I told Ashley, who knows me well, “Be very specific with me and tell me what I can and can’t do.”

“No twisting of your spine. No running. No ballet.  No Pilates.  If it hurts, don’t do it.  You can walk.  Take a relaxing kind of class, like yoga,” advised Ashley.  

This all started to sink in.  Slowly.  I can walk? Walk? Sob!  And I had a feeling that Ashley was not aware of just how strenuous Gail’s or Jayme’s yoga is. So I was pretty much out of class options.

True confession time.  I spent almost a week not doing that walking.  Here’s the thing:  I do most of my working out early in the morning.  Really early.  Like dairy-farmer waking-hour early.  People have always asked me how I manage to get up at that hour.  Well – a big help is when you are signed up for a class or you know you are going to emerge from your workout sweat-drenched.  It’s a lot harder to get up for a walk.

So, here’s what I did do:

  1. I did the exercises Ashley gave me to do.  Every day – sometimes twice a day.  I want to recover from this injury and I know that this is the road.

  2. I tried not to focus on what I CAN’T do – and instead I’m focusing on what I CAN do.  On Sunday, I took Meredith’s Athletic Stretch Class.  It was amazing!  And it was something I had never tried, because typically, I’m at ballet at that time.  

  3. I made a conscious effort to enjoy the time that I gained, because I had been banned from so many favorite activities.  I tried to use that time to do other healthy things (like visit a new farm stand, try a new recipe, or sleep in for a change).  And I could do so guilt-free.

  4. I found ways to make walking exciting, using my Aaptiv app.  I love Aaptiv – it’s such a great resource for running and treadmill playlists.  I even use it for stretching.  And now I’ve found that it is fabulous for walking programs.  I found hill and interval workouts that had my heartrate almost up to running levels.  

  5. I thought about injuries that I’ve had over the course of my lifetime – and how I’ve handled them.  I have both exemplary stories and sit-on-the-couch-and-eat-bon-bons-until-you-heal kinds of tales.  Experience tells me that when you keep up with a workout routine (in some way, shape or form) and a healthy eating plan, you can emerge from the situation unscathed.  When you treat it as a big vacation, the pounds creep on, you lose muscle tone and it is a much longer road back to health.

 Yesterday, I had just finished one of my hill-walking on the treadmill workouts and I went to the grocery store after.  I stopped in the parking lot to let a pedestrian pass.  I quickly realized that this pedestrian, who was in a wheelchair, was a double amputee.  I thought to myself, without sobbing, “I can walk. And my injury will heal.”  That is something to be joyful about.