... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Recovery, Grandma Style

Yet another week has passed and I finally got to have my follow-up appointment at the orthopedist! I was excited to hear that my foot is healing really well, has no displacement, and that I can start doing strengthening exercises for my ankle and calf. Even more exciting, the nurse practitioner gave me an orthopedic shoe -- basically a hard-soled, flat-bottomed sandal -- to replace my walking boot! Although ugly, it makes it possible for me to rotate and move my ankle, which was getting very stiff and slightly atrophied from lack of use. It seems that my training process is determined to make me look like a fool, be it from snorkeling masks, EarBandIts, or ortho sandals that look like something a 75 year-old would wear to play bridge.

I am not yet allowed to move my toes or roll through my foot, but wearing this beautiful piece of footwear, I have been instructed to do some basic physical therapy: drawing the alphabet in the air with my toes, et cetera. The sprain is feeling much, much better and only after a decent amount of use does my ankle start to feel tight and uncomfortable. It does, however, have an odd, floppy feeling. Being a former ballerina, having an ankle feel so weak is a decidedly foreign sensation.

Speaking of weak muscles, check out my calf! After nearly six weeks with zero muscle usage, my right calf has shrunk down almost comically. If you didn't know these two legs were attached to me, you would probably never guess that they are from the same person! I guess this is what I get for bemoaning my giant calf muscles and wishing that they looked more delicate. Delicate is not as cool as I thought it would be. I know that the major changes won't take place until I am able to roll through my foot again, but I am hoping that without the boot, using my calf muscle to stabilize my ankle will at least start the process of bringing it back to normal size, We'll see.

Beyond that, I am excited (and nervous) because now that I'm out of the boot I can slowly begin training again! For now, my weak ankle makes me hobble a little, but I am assuming that will take care of itself within a few days. Once that happens, I plan to start taking short walks for exercise. I think that I should be able to start some short bike rides again as well -- obviously nothing as challenging as before I got injured (I think I'll be skipping the 35 mile, 900 foot elevation change death ride) -- but some short rides on relatively level terrain should be a good way to get moving again. Swimming with a kick may still be off-limits, but I think that with a flotation device between my legs I can start working out my arms again. Getting into the water, past the breaking waves, should be easier now that I can hobble instead of hop.

Knowing myself as I do, I know that the only way I am going to make it through this rehab and back into racing shape is if I have a written, pre-planned training schedule to motivate me and keep my organized, so that is my project for the evening. I had already picked a 16-week training schedule for the Olympic length tri in November, so now I just have to create a rehab/training schedule to get me up to par before mid-late July. I'll post this plan in a few days!

On a different note, I was lucky enough to watch portions of the half-Ironman (nicknamed Honu) last weekend, right in my backyard. I spent some time at the bike turn-around before heading down to the bike-run transition area and finish line. It was great motivation for me not only to be around so many talented and dedicated athletes, but just to feel the energy that triathlons emanate. The excitement of the spectators and focus of the competitors was truly inspiring and reminded me how much I want to get back to where I was in my fitness and training. There was even a girl doing the race in a walking boot just like mine! It was a great reminder that although I will have frustrating days when I want to quit, it is mental strength that will see me through!

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