I never imagined writing a blog about rehabilitation, but I guess there is a first time for everything. So for those who don’t know what happened, on October 5th I fell with my knee on a sharp rock during the epic Ötillö swimrun worldchampionships in Sweden. In a split second my right quadriceps tendon was cut right above the knee cap. After two surgeries and liters of different antibiotics I was finally released from hospital albeit in a full leg cast running from hip to toe. Hopping around like an “outcast penguin” futile things like: sitting on a toilet seat, driving a car or a spontaneous wrestling game with my son became a major hurdle. So hereby, respect to all those people out there who have a mobility issue because no matter how you look at it everything just takes more time and more effort.
So how did things turn out for me? Well, during the first 2 months of complete leg immobility I tried to mentally process what happened during the race (ref: blog about anxiety) and second of all to distract my body from the negative side effects of zero training. What better way to do this then to travel and see some interesting places. So off we went for a trip to China and Japan. It turned out to be a great idea because I got back full of energy and a renewed sense of “There is no better place than home”. Six weeks later the leg cast was removed and soon after I was able to bend my knee 110 degrees even though it hurt like hell. From then on the biggest problem seemed to be that the scar tissue around the knee prevented the skin from moving around freely. The solution? Aloe vera cream….lots of it! Guess what, Jasmina even bought me a mini aloe vera plant from which I harvest pure 100% aloe vera extract. It worked really well until my son decided it was time to cut the tree down….and that was the end of it.
It’s now first of December and bending the knee beyond 110 degrees is not possible yet but even if it was the case it’s really only half the battle won if you can’t put any weight on it…..so that’s the next goal I am working on until Jan 2018. It’s a tricky process because weeks of “nothing” have left a huge muscle imbalance in the legs. The loss of muscle mass in my left calf, quadriceps, hamstring and glute is clearly visible and as such I have been promoted (within the family ranks) from penguin to chicken. Jippie! Not too sure about a chickens’ swimming skills but let’s not jump too conclusion yet. Besides lack of muscle mass the tendons around the knee have become so short that every knee movement hurts especially after training when everything tenses up. The objective now is two fold: 1) build-up functional muscle mass while 2) increasing overall range of motion of the knee. Easier said than done…but luckily there is a thing called non-impact training! It does wonders and guess what it’s also super boring!….anybody who tells me he/she likes aqua jogging I find “utterly disturbing”. Oops Jasmina is one of those but I have to give her credit…. she knows how to do it properly and I don’t. In fact I really suck at it… she keeps reminding me to keep a good posture and maintaining a specific leg / arm movement in order to engage the right (running) muscles. I am slowly getting to terms with it and on a lucky day I actually do get tired and even manage to get lactic acid build-up in the muscles that matter. Anyway, I am not really in a position to complain…so it’s a necessary evil that needs to be done. Besides that I have realised that it is so easy to “cheat” by engaging the bigger muscles in specific work-outs. Key is to get the supporting (smaller muscles) to get stronger to promote efficient running form. It’s all about regenerating functional muscle strength and not pure visible muscle mass. Luckily our local gym is a good place to work on the big and small muscles. My favourite non-impact machines are 30 minutes on the cross-trainer (strong glutes and hip flexors), 10 minutes on the staircase trainer (quadriceps, calves and hamstrings) and of course 15 minutes on the Concept 2 rowing machine (spine, shoulders, arms, quadriceps). Jasmina tends to help me with specific weak muscles the way cross fit people do. (i.e. who often make use of their own body weight). In a way I really admire those cross fit dudes they have so much control over their core strength. I feel a bit misplaced when trying to do a simple abdomen exercise huffing and puffing like an old fart but hey…practise makes perfect so I will keep trying to get rid of my “fluffy belly” and turn it into a toned and ripped 6-pack.
The other ultimate non-impact training is simply to get in the pool and start swimming. So, if you ignore my messed up “granny” flip turn every 25 meters I have no real excuse to lose aerobic capacity over the next few months. It will also help to work on my weakest discipline in a desperate attempt to keep up with all those naturally good swimmers out there. As far as the running is concerned I am now able to jog at a controlled10 km/hr pace on a treadmill with 2.5% inclination. Not very exciting but I am really pleased and grateful with the progress I made over the past 2 ½ months.
Now it’s just a matter of slowly building on the things I am already doing without breaking anything in the process. I found that key to getting back in shape after a serious injury is:
1) setting yourself achievable goals each of which you can accomplish in a week. This way you stay motivated rather than frustrated.
2) grabbing the opportunity to view things differently and do things in a way that will eventually make you even stronger and faster than before the injury (i.e. lot’s of non-impact training and core strength excercises)
3) having faith, by sticking together as a team through good times and bad times. (i.e. your partner is essential in getting your posture back and help with excercises)
4) “No pain - No gain” but….don’t force too much / too fast because only time will heal all wounds (i.e. lots of stretching and once a week a sports massage)
5) It’s the perfect time to focus on improving technique and not just pure strength and intensity training (i.e. analyse your swimstroke and rebuild your run form with specific drills and crossfit excercises)
6) Eat healthy, fresh (local) food with a focus on: 1) protein to build up muscle tissue and 2) pro-biotics to restore stomach flora (which was destroyed by 3 weeks of intense antibiotics treatment)
Me: Thomas Schreven
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