GETTIN’ MY KICK ON

Farewell, pull buoy, it’s time to get my kick on!  You became my new best friend on January 3 when Dr. Andrachuk said I could return to the pool after hip arthroscopy surgery, “…but NO KICKING!”

On February 9th at my follow up appointment, Doc gave me the green light to start working with my physical therapist, Chip Ransom on a more advanced strengthening-focused program.  Still, though, I was told I had to wait another month before I could add hip extension with resistance to my program.  My blue and white-striped pull buoy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pull_buoy) would have to continue being my pool buddy for another four weeks.

Is it March 9th yet?”  Not to rush time (It’s already going by fast enough!), but that was the question I felt like asking each day leading up to the magic day my legs would be allowed to do their horizontal happy dance.

Don’t get me wrong.  Any day I can be in the pool doing anything is a happy day.  It has been pure joy, even if I had to create an entirely new framework for what a “best time” was for a practice race.  Swimming a best time with only my upper body is entirely different than having all four limbs running full steam ahead.  My pull buoy best time for my 500 yard freestyle is 50 seconds slower.  It didn’t matter, though; it was just as exciting to hit the wall and look up at my watch at a new best pull buoy time as it was when I was running on all four cylinders.

In memory of my last two months of rehab, here’s a look back by the numbers:

2,000 – The total number of yards I swam each day, averaging six days per week.  Even if I felt like swimming more, I limited my yardage to protect my shoulders.  (Swimming with a pull buoy and no kick is ALL shoulders.)

200 – The maximum number of total yards I swim butterfly for the same reason.

55 – Miles I have swum since I was allowed back in the water on January 3rd.

51 – Days I have swum since my plunge back in the pool.

45-60  – The number of minutes I average each day doing my physical therapy exercises for both lower and upper body.

45 – The number of repetitions I do of each exercise.

30 – The number of different exercises I learned in PT that I added to my master list to pick and choose from on any given day.

1 – The number of shoulder-friendly stroke revisions I made to reduce stress on my rotator cuffs.  I adopted the Scapular Plane Swimming Technique which emphasizes keeping the hands and arms within my peripheral vision at all times.  On recovery, the elbow stays lower to the water but is still kept higher than the wrist.

0 – The number injuries I sustained while training exclusively upper body with a pull buoy and no kick.

HIP HIP HOORAY…!

…for my hip! Thanks to my physical therapist, Chip Ransom of Benchmark Physical Therapy (and my by-the-book daily exercise sessions); I abandoned my crutches today when I went to the pool.

Life’s little victories are sweet.

Today marks my 6th week anniversary since undergoing hip arthroscopy for a labral tear and psoas (hip flexor tendon) release, and it’s been a slow process of weaning off those crutches. Two weeks post-op my surgeon, John Andrachuk, gave the green light to start that process; so, I started leaving them in the car while I was at home. The short treks around the house were doable, but nothing more.

At first, I needed them all of the time when I wasn’t at home, but I slowly progressed to needing them only for “distances.” By “distance,” I mean the distance from my car to the pool at Club Peachtree where I swim each day, or the distance from my car into a store. Believe me; that distance is far when you are recovering from hip surgery!

Yesterday, I finally felt good enough to carry my crutches to the pool. I thought I would need them for the return trip; however, I carried them all the way back to the car. Woo-hoo, I was finally ready to leave my crutches behind today!

Last week was a big turning point in my recovery, and I attribute it to the success of Chip’s manual therapy. I appreciate that he trusted me to let him know if he was stretching me too far. It was a constant banter of, “Does that hurt?” “No, Chip.” Does that hurt?” “NO!” “Does THAT hurt?” “Nooo. I’ll tell you if you’re hurting me, Chip!”

He pushed it further than he would with most patients; however, I was fit and flexible going into surgery, so I seem to be bouncing right back.

That’s the moral of this story: If you want a successful recovery after surgery, be as fit and flexible as possible before your operation.

Oh, and make sure you get yourself a good surgeon and physical therapist.

Most importantly (that is, once you have had a successful surgery), DO YOUR PRESCRIBED PHYSICAL THERAPY EXERCISES, and don’t forget to ask your surgeon and therapist what else you can do to get better faster.

In my case, with the blessing of Dr. Andrachuk, I was back in the gym the day following surgery to work my upper body. Using the SciFit to “peddle” with my arms kept my upper body fit and the endorphins pumping. I also made sure to keep up my prior physical therapy exercise routine to keep all three of my other limbs fit and strong, while my fourth limb was on restriction.

The day following removal of my stitches, I was back in the pool swimming. I’m on a no-kicking restriction for a total of 3-4 months post-op, so I dusted off my pull buoy, and it has become my new best friend. It’s just a figure eight-shaped solid piece of foam rubber that sits between my legs while I swim; however, it keeps my legs buoyant and prevents them from kicking.

Since my upper body is stuck doing all of the work, I limit my yardage to 2,000 yards per day (six days per week) which is two-thirds of my normal training volume. Between the reduced yardage and my daily routine of shoulder physical therapy exercises, my shoulders are managing fine. I limit my butterfly yardage to 200 yards (broken up) per day, though, and I do a LOT of sculling to take the load off my shoulders and strengthen my forearms.

Some of the sculling I do is face-down sans snorkel, and it must look funny to those in the gym who happen to glance out the window while they’re pumping iron.

My body and neck stay relaxed while my arms are straight in front of me, and I’m looking at the bottom of the pool. Only my forearms move, and they make a quick figure eight pattern out to the side and back in. I do move forward, but it’s admittedly pretty slow. It’s so slow that I need to lift my head a few times in a 25-yard stretch to catch a quick breath.

When my head is down, the bubbles are coming out my nose and mouth in a relaxed way. It must look funny on the surface though, as my still body floats slowly down the pool with bubbles coming out on each side of my head.

Meanwhile, from my perspective, I’m just sightseeing through my goggles as I make my way down the black line. I’ve done it so many times, I am confident I have every crack in the tile and concrete memorized. I have also become quite familiar with the feet of every noodler from the water aerobics class on the other side of my lane.

It’s all good. Hip hip hooray!