Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mexican stand-off, PT style

For the life of me, I can’t remember the last time I went to the pool twice in one day. Sure, I’m happy to get in my swim, do as my coach says, but it has never entailed spending more than one session at the pool.

(And I had to work hard to do so.)

Friday was different.

But life is about new experiences, discovering new aspects of ourselves, treading down a yet-to-be-discovered path… so I didn’t blink twice when I learned of my fate.

Instead I jumped for joy when I was finally given the go-ahead (remember – figuratively, in my mind. Still no jumping as of yet. But soon…..oh so soon! Just think of the blond-headed little girl, running around with pure exultation in the back yard on a midsummer Minnesota day. Yep, that’s me!).

And oddly enough, I had to fight like the dickens for the opportunity to swim and run at the pool the way I want. First: I needed to be cleared by either 1) Physical Therapist Jonathan (who goes by J-Flo) extraordinaire 2) Medical Doctor 3) Some higher power that Jen Harrison is willing to accept.

Knowing her, the higher power wouldn’t cut it, as They would be unable to produce definitive answers surrounding my sacrum, lower back/hips/pelvis region, my recovery, or rate of healing.

So the Doc or J-Flo it was.

7:25 am Friday found me at my Physical Therapist’s office, ready and excited about the prospect of lunges. And no, I am not kidding. I was looking forward to lunges and side planks!

(Exciting day in the life of Marit, I know!)

After warming up on the hand crank (holy developed upper body Batman!), I went through a series of squats, balancing exercises, upper body strength, core work, more balancing, more balancing, leg extensions, more balancing, side steps with bands around my ankles (holy burning Glutes Batman!), and yes – more balancing.

Can you tell that I worked on balance and stability?

Good call.

Let’s just say that I’m not “one with the Swedish Ball” as I used to be – but I’m not all that far off. I was even given the chance to do a 5 minute knee balance on the Big Blue Ball. (As long as I held onto one of the therapy tables with my finger tips. Finger tip being the operative word).

Then again, knowing how much of a klutz I can be (remember – the bike crash? Tripping over my own two feet before I met Nathaniel?? Flying after tripping over random roots, sticks, leaves on trail runs???), I figured that an assisted ball balance would probably be a good thing.

No use in breaking my arm. Then I would really be sol.

And my coach would kill me.

But she would have to get in line behind Nathaniel, my parents, my doctors, and J-Flo.

And that was enough to make me clutch the side of the table.

All in all, I worked hard. Pushed my body beyond what I thought capable this soon after the crash, post surgery. I enjoyed the feeling of working my glutes, of burning quads, of experiencing my core engage as I pivoted and twisted. The old me was slowly peeking through the layers of recovery I have yet to endure. The feeling of sweat popping out on my forehead made me feel – simply stated: great.

Tired, sweaty, and sporting an ever-so-stylish ace bandage around my hips to provide SI joint support, after my work had ended, I sat down next to Jonathan to plan next week, go over my capabilities and limitations, and discuss recovery. Additionally, I wanted him to email Jen about my schedule: what I could and could not do. That was critical, as I knew Jen wouldn’t give me any sort of workouts if she didn’t have the ‘all clear” from Jonathan.

And I knew that Jonathan wouldn’t give me the “all clear” unless he really believed in me and my recovery. I’ll admit – flat out – that working with athletes probably isn’t the easiest of things to do, physical therapy wise.

Yes, as PT patients we imbue many good qualities, but the same forces that drive us to succeed in training and racing, can also have the reversal affect when we are trying to recover.

How much is too much? Reassess: are we sore from the work or sore because we’re pushing our bodies too much too soon? What does it mean to feel this? Is this a normal aspect of recovery? Or does this mean we are doing too much too soon? Or could we be doing more but we’re just afraid of pushing our bodies?

Through and through, I have found that there is no right answer. There is no easy way, absolutely no guarantee.

We need to listen to our bodies and be honest with how and what we are feeling. If something isn’t right – chances are, it’s not. So earlier in the session when I was side stepping up and over the Bosu ball (and thinking fondly of my Mom and her incredible Bosu Step Class), and I felt a dull ache from my Sacral region, I told J-Flo and we decided to nix the exercise.

For now.

For now.

Because that’s another aspect of recovery – is that we’re constantly moving forward, but just as long as we make the effort. It may not always be at the pace we want, but day-by-day, our bodies (and our minds) are getting stronger. Just one of the many amazing things that our bodies are capable of, in my opinion.

“How was your swim yesterday? Did everything go alright?” Jonathan asked, laptop and computer pen in hand.

“Great! No complaints! 34 minutes of swimming and then 40 minutes of aqua jogging. I felt fine afterwards, no aches or pains. I can do more. I know it! Please tell me that I’m ready!”

I felt like a little kid, trying to get an extra treat from the cookie jar.

In this case, the cookie jar was my workout planner, each cookie a workout – either swimming or water running – that I couldn’t help but want. And my hunger was insatiable.

“How about 45 minutes of swimming?” Jonathan asked.

I looked at him. Was her serious?

“Are you serious?” I pressed, knowing full well that I could do more. “I want more. Let’s make this happen. The water feels good, and its not like I’m swimming for time, to make a specific split. I’m just getting my endurance back. You yourself said that I was healing really well. Even though we can’t quite see the S-4 and S-5, the S-1, S-2, and S-3 all look really good. There’s no impact in the water!” I kept babbling on, knowing full well that I sounded like an idiot. I was fearful that he would interject and stop my flow of thought.

But he just listened.

“Okay – an hour. But listen to your body.”

If I could have jumped across the table to hug him, I would have. But I held my exuberance, and played my final card.

Besides, as this was a physical therapy studio, and me – recovering from a broken back, I didn’t think any of the therapists would approve of my jumping over a table and chairs.

“What about water running?” the question tumbled from my lips without any thought to how I would present my case.

He looked at me again. And I didn’t blink.

It was a Mexican stand-off, PT style. I had already been given the green-light to swim; now the final deal was the water running. I couldn’t believe that I was bargaining to spend more time in the pool.

Somewhere in St. Croix, Elizabeth just snorted (in a coffee depleted rush, no doubt).

After some deliberation, and promises that I would listen to my body, Jonathan agreed to let me water run. But as long as I wore the floaty exercise belt to help with buoyancy. And as long as I listened to my body. And as long as I followed directions from him AND from my coach.

I agreed.

Now all that I’m missing is the 1930s-era water cap – the one with the chin strap and flowers stuck to the side. Cap aside, I will run to my heart’s (and body’s) desire, aerobics belt and all.

Nearly three hours later, and for the second time in as many days, I floated out of the office.

I had the green light to swim and water run, and Friday had started off great.

After conferring with Jen and going over schedules, I had my two workouts for the day: one swimming and the other water running. And it felt great.

Through this ordeal, this experience, I have learned so much. I know more about myself, my body, my passion that I ever did before. And I know that I’ll fight for what I believe. Yes, I can be stubborn and on occasion (gulp) oppositional. But sometimes you have to really go after what’s important, what you want.

And you can’t be afraid of rejection, afraid of not getting the answers you want. Because – let’s face it – we’re bound to get a lot of “no” before we get our “yes”. That’s just part of life. We can’t change that – but we can control our reactions, how we choose to look at our scenarios.

For the past three weeks, I have been begging and pleading to start swimming. Water walking was a good first step. But I was continuously shot down on the swimming, as the PTs and doctors had no real way of knowing what my body was doing. We waited for the 6 week mark to get x-rays and ct scans – and the proof of my healing was, so to speak, in the pudding.

Am I mad that I couldn’t swim sooner? Well – I would be dishonest if I suggested otherwise. It would have been great to swim, but in the interest of allowing my body to heal, of following doctors, Jonathan’s, and Jen’s orders – I held out. And I guess that’s why it feels so much better now.

Because I know I can. Not only mentally (mentally I wanted to start swimming, to get in the pool a week after my accident), but physically. I have done all the work, all the pt sessions that I could, but I have also held out to let my body recover. And now I’m ready.

And when the Body and the Mind are on the same plane, incredible things can happen.

All of the positive thinking, the good mental attitude, the tremendous support from friends, family, and complete strangers has, I believe, impacted my recovery and helped me to heal faster. There is no doubt in my mind about this.

Absolutely none.

Life won’t always be easy. We have to get gritty; we need a strong resolve, and we need to be willing to fight for what we want, for what we believe. But we also have to be willing to listen to others and to our own internal voice. Only then can we achieve a balance of what is true, of what is right.

So if you have something you want – go for it! Do not give up, keep believing, and keep fighting for what you aspire.

A few days ago I was still water walking in the shallow end, sporting a wet suit for warmth. And today I swam and aqua ran (2 different sessions, mind you). And I didn’t need a wetsuit, as I was warm from the exertion. My triceps and lats were sore after my swim, and I could feel the hamstrings engage as I ran along – at a snail’s pace back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…. And the sacrum was fine, handled the workouts like the pro it is.

And that’s okay for now – because this is what I wanted.

Next target: the bike.

Or perhaps I’ll go after the bathing cap with the flowers stuck to it. You never know.

So if you see a woman in a flower-clad-bathing cap, running at top speed but covering 25 yards is just under 60 seconds, be sure to say hi. Because she’ll be in her element, doing what she loves, living her dream and well on her way to recovery.

“Nothing is Impossible, if you Believe.”


Beth said...

I'm so glad that you are really getting back into things now and healing so well Marit!! Great to hear!! Life is good and it will only get better... Have a great weekend!

E.L.F. said...

Actually, I "bleated". I don't snort. :) Hey that's great. Did you bust out some fly?

Danni said...

It is great to hear you are able to swim again! Little by little things are starting to look up and that is simply Awesome!

Train-This said...

SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET Marit! We will be walking carefully into the ocean on Thursday afternoon, dodging sharks ... again carefully..... and we will have good old careful fun!


TriGirl Kate O said...

That is such wonderful news, yey! Enjoy the water.

Anonymous said...

I feel like we're totally in the same boat. i did my first bike ride in about two weeks and it went well. I think I've gotten that taken care of and questions in my mind about whether it will make things worse have pretty much been put to rest.

but when do i start running and how much? right now i'm trying not to get ahead of myself. water-running is great for the time being.

keep enjoying everything that you can do and take things one day at a time. I know you will! (i'll do my best as well)

Mira Lelovic said...

I am so happy you've made it through the 6 week recovery and all is looking good. I am sure you are a great PT patient and Jonathan is loving every session with you. Enjoy all your pool time!

Danni said...

Totally random here...
I was looking through the latest issue of the Martha Stuart magazine (my mother in law subscribes to it), and there is an article on tea pots you might want to check out. I saw it and it reminded me of you :) There are some nice looking ones.