Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Let It Go

In three weeks, it will be one year since my ACL reconstruction.

Please note: gloomy post to follow.

I want to “let it go” but I am not ready. The injury and subsequent recovery is a pervasive part of my daily life. I had hoped that at a year I would be done with it. It sounded so simple “Get it fixed”. I have had other surgeries. I had my gall bladder removed eight years ago and I do not think about it. The lack of a gall bladder has not changed my life.

I have been spending some time reading the Kneeguru bulletin board. They call themselves Kneegeeks. I found some long-time ACLr’s because I want to know what is next. Some state that their knee has never been the same while others say their knee is better than before. It is too soon for me to decide which category I fall in. There are so many stories of multiple injuries and surgeries. Many of their stories have a common thread … the return to the sport or activity they love.

When I first told my daughter about the ACL surgery, she was nervous about it. She wanted to go to the hospital with me and stay home from school. I told her that I wanted her to go to school and I promised that I would call her at school from the recovery room. I kept telling her “Don’t worry, it is just my knee. They will fix it and I will be fine.” The more I read, the more I realize that the knee is a complex but delicate joint. I will not use the phrase “it is just my knee” ever again.

Karate has changed, perhaps forever. I am much more introspective. It has become less about my physical ability and more about the search for deeper understanding. I have been focusing on weapons and open hand bunkai. I am grateful that I can continue practicing and teaching. I want the students to know that it is about the journey. I want them to enjoy their time in the dojo. I want them to take their time and not feel rushed because there is so much to learn.

The road to recovery has been a long one. I know that my new ACL is strong. I know how hard I worked to get here. I know that I will continue to work on strength and conditioning. Knee braces, glucosamine, leg lifts and lunges are all part of my daily life.

As I approach the one-year mark, I am not ready to “let it go”. I want my knee to be better than it was before.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Day 1 at the Gym

I had my appointment with the trainer on Saturday morning. It just happened to be the one year anniversary of my initial injury. I was given a tour of the facility and then we got to work. I filled out a series of health questionnaires and discussed my right knee. I told him that I was not ready for group fitness and wanted to work on the machines. I expressed my concerns with my weaker quad.

I spent a few minutes on the elliptical (forward and backward) and then was escorted to the stretching machine. It was more like a torture machine. In the opening questionnaire, I was asked about flexibility and I told the trainer that I stretched regularly. This machine has six settings and we had to try ALL six. He told me that many martial artists use this type of machine. He kept cranking the settings a little farther. At the end of this section, he told me that I am pretty flexible because some people have trouble just getting into this contraption.

We moved over to the weight machines. He chose four upper body and four leg machines - leg press, hamstring curl, outer quad, inner quad, abdominal, bicep curl, row, triceps. I told him that my shoulders do not "feel right" when my hands are over my head for long periods. My shoulders have a tendency to dislocate at just the right angle. Since I am new to this type of weight training, we were just guessing at the baseline weight. He charted the machine adjustments and weight. He explained that it is a good idea to chart the weight increases so that I can see my progress. I think I will chart because it will help me establish goals.

The hamstring curl is going to be the hardest. We spent the most time at this station because we had some work to do. We were able to modify the setup so that I could do a single leg hamstring curl. My right leg is pathetic. When we were working on this machine there was an older, and inspiring, woman on the machine next to me. She was wearing a shirt with the local retirement home's logo on it. She kept looking at me and giving me her best grandmother type smile. She did not say anything but I got the feeling that she wanted to talk to me about my knee. I bet she was thinking knee replacement.

Once we went through the exercises, we spoke about group classes and my options. He suggested Pilate's or a body sculpting class. He mentioned that there was a tai chi instructor who had class on Tuesday nights. I am interested but not sure. I want to focus on the weight machines.

My muscles are a little sore today but not as bad as I expected. Let us see how I feel tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Please Sign Here …

I did it! It took me six weeks of research and discussion but I finally joined a gym. I signed my name on official documents and made a year commitment. For most people, joining a gym is no big deal. This was a big decision for me. I reviewed price, location, hours of operation and class schedules. I joined the gym that my sister has been a member of for 15 years. I was a member of this gym right after my daughter was born.

Why was this decision so difficult for me? It is about finding the time. Could I find the time? I realized that I needed to change my approach. I told myself that I was going to make the time. Believe me; I know that people with busy lives go to the gym. My brother goes to the gym at 5:00 a.m. My sister goes right after work. When could I go? People have brutal schedules but they still make the time.

My schedule:

Monday – Friday 8:30-5:00 (January - September) 8:00 – 6:30 (October - December)
Saturday – part-time job (4 hours week)

Teach karate
Monday – 7:00 – 8:00
Wednesday – 6:00 – 8:00
Thursday – 6:00 – 8:00

I also need to take into consideration my daughter’s schedule:
Monday – Brownies after school
Tuesday – Tambourine 6:15 -7:00
Soccer in the fall, play practice in the winter and summer
1 hour of homework M-Th

I did not even mention all the regular responsibilities of home and family. I need to etch out enough time to get to the gym three times a week. During my last gym membership, I spent all my time attending group classes. This time I am going to hit the machines! I have my first appointment with a trainer on Saturday and we are going to discuss a program.

I will make the time.

There is a three-day buyer’s remorse clause …just in case.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Leg Press 2:1 Ratio

I have been lamenting about my deficient leg press abilities. I know that my leg strength is uneven but what I did not know was by how much. I thought the leg press machine could provide me with concrete data. I called my sister and asked her if I could use her home gym. When I arrived, she showed me how the equipment and the weight plates worked. She has a Body Solid home gym. She went back upstairs and left me to work out. I did a few warm up sets and started to increase the weight. I was disappointed and confused by the results.

Over the next few weeks, I worked on increasing the weight of my leg press. I even consulted my PT with the results. It was a good conversation but I could not help feeling as if she was a bit concerned. I had no idea what I was able to leg press prior to ACLr. The last time I used a leg press was my senior year in high school. I signed up for the track team because there was not a girl's softball team. I was terrible. I started as a triple jumper and was also assigned to throw shot put. The coach was just trying to fill the spots so he sent me to the weight room.

I searched the Internet to find out what people are able to leg press. I found that Madeline Albright could leg press 400 pounds and that Pat Robertson could leg press 2,000 pounds. Many weight lifting sites would argue the value of a leg press as compared to a squat. There is a leg press test that evaluates athletes lower body strength. Finally, I researched leg press machines and how they work. For those familiar with gym equipment, you can start laughing now at my naivete. I made an interesting discovery. Some home gym leg press machines work on a 2:1 ratio. I immediately called my sister and asked her if her leg press was a 2:1 ratio. She did not know but she gave me the make and model of her machine. I quickly discovered that my 60 lb single leg press was actually 120 lbs. Thank goodness!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

11 Months – Time for a Jump Kick

Today marks eleven months since my ACL surgery.

Monday nights are black belt workouts in the dojo. We decided that we were going to work on open hand kata, sai and bo. The open hand kata we focused on was Chinto. This kata has all the elements of ACL difficulty. There are pivots, heel kicks to the chin, spins, quick directional changes, kosa-dachi, a one-leg kneeling position and a jump kick. We performed the kata together and then took the floor for individual demonstration. I asked the other black belts to watch my kata and look for disparity in my movement. In the past few months, I would walk through the jump kick part because I felt I was not ready. Well, last night I was ready to try a jump kick. It was not my best but it was a jump kick

When I finished the kata, I waited for my review. I was told that there was one spot (the kneeling spot) where there was a noticeable knee issue. A comment was made regarding my kicks. My new ACL is kicking higher than my other leg. It is not a flexibility issue rather a support leg issue. I am not comfortable doing heel kicks to the chin using my new ACL as my support leg. I am thankful that there are black belts in the dojo that will help me fine-tune my kata.

I think my knee has been physically ready to do a jump kick for a while. The issue was that I was not mentally ready to do a jump kick until last night. This injury has proved to be more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Having the surgery and working hard at rehab is the easy part. The hard part is being able to trust my knee again and letting go of the fear of re-injury.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

An Uneasy Feeling … Remembering

On April 26, 2007, I walked in to the dojo with good intentions. I took my daughter to karate class with the hope that a different instructor would help her adjust to class. I find it difficult teaching my daughter karate especially since the dojo is adjacent to our house. She has been exposed to karate since she was born. I packed up our karate equipment and headed to the dojo. In the car, we discussed how we were going to attend class every Thursday night. I had no idea my life was going change during the next two hours.

It was during this class that I tore my ACL. I was practicing a two person bo form. At one point in the kata both partners perform an upward strike clashing their bo in the middle. Then one partner tries to sweep while the other partner jumps over the bo. I jumped over the bo. My foot planted but my upper body did not creating a twisting motion. I collapsed on the floor. I had no idea what just happened. I stood up and finished the kata. I tried to continue with the class but every time I was in nai hanchi, my leg slid out of place. This was a terrible feeling and I will remember it forever.

I drove home. I sat on the living room floor thinking that it would be better tomorrow. I was still awake at 3:00 a.m. Several times during the night, I tried to stand up and each time my leg slid out of place. I sat down and cried but not because I was in pain. I cried because there was so much going on in the next few weeks. My daughter’s birthday and First Holy Communion were just a week away. There was a party to plan and practices to attend. I knew that there was something very wrong with my knee.

I went to my family doctor the next day. I was immediately sent to an orthopedic specialist who was a sports medicine doctor. He drained my knee and sent me to get an MRI. He then told me that he thought I tore ALL the ligaments in my knee not just my ACL. If the ligaments were torn, I could decide to have surgery. He then told me that the first comfortable month of summer I would have would be August. He fitted me with an immobilizer and told me to stay off it. I saw this doctor one more time to get the MRI results. At my follow up appointment, he told my ACL was gone and I needed to see a surgeon.

The surgeon was great. The first thing he said as he walked in the room was “So, you are a karate instructor.” I said “Yes”. He said “No ACL … no karate”. I asked him if he could fix it the next day. He laughed and said “How about next week?” I liked this doctor much better. He was very positive and drew a picture for me about the procedure. He was not as gloomy as the sports medicine doctor. Ten days after surgery, I went on vacation with my family. They snapped a picture of me walking across a picnic area with one crutch. My head is lowered and I am focusing where I am walking. I look so sad. I keep that picture in my office. It reminds me to be grateful every day of how far I have come.

This is the picture that my family took 10 days after surgery while on vacation. I had no idea I was being photographed. This is one of the only pictures I have. Looking back, I wish I would have documented my recovery with photos.

Last Saturday, I attended a six hour training camp. I was armed with two knee braces, the one that I wore and the one I set out in the corner for luck. It was a good event. I saw many of my karate friends and it felt good to be training with them. At the end of the event, my leg was feeling a little tired. I made sure I took extra precautions on pivots and spins. Over the next few weeks, I plan to be very careful because of the uneasy feelings I have had since April began.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A Break From The Dojo

I had a mini break from the dojo. We had kyu rank pre-testing and testing in March. Pre-testing lasts for one week and during that time the dojo head determines if a student is ready to test. As a class instructor, I usually get a mini break from teaching during a testing month. Testing makes class instructors nervous too. If widespread corrections need to be made it usually ends up being the responsibility of the instructor. Six months ago, after testing, I was asked "why don't the green belts know how to ...?" I like when testing goes smoothly.

During the last two weeks, I have been gym shopping. I think I found the gym I want to join. Now I am trying to figure out how often I can get there. The cost of joining the gym is a little more than one PT appointment. This gym has a yoga program that is included with the price of membership. I used to pay extra to attend yoga classes. I am motivated to join and it may be because it is the year of The Big 4-0. I have been spending time at my sisters' house using her home gym. I am happy to report that my leg press ability has improved dramatically.

Tomorrow is Renshi training at the Honbu. It should be a great workout. I am hoping that my knee can withstand six hours of training. It was last April that my injury occurred and I am planning to be very careful.

In The Kitchen with Bob … Sort of

I spent last Sunday at QVC Studios. My family (mom, sister, and daughter) had tickets for In the Kitchen with Bob. When we arrived, we were told that Bob was on vacation and Rick was going to host the show. The QVC complex is impressive and the staff was excellent. As we entered the studio, we were handed a fork and spoon and were told that the audience was being fed today. My daughter was hoping that there would be audience participation during the live broadcast. Before the show, the host announced that they were planning some audience trivia. My daughter raised her hand when they asked for volunteers. Unfortunately, there was an age requirement of 18 years old. She was disappointed because out of all of us, she is the one who watches QVC.

I have never been at a live TV broadcast. The stage was set up with several products and guests. After each presentation, there was a set change and more products were brought out. During this show, the audience was being served their meal. We had several courses presented to us in large soufflé cups. We ate pasta salad, rice, mashed potatoes, meat loaf and chocolate peanut butter cake. The chocolate peanut butter cake was wonderful. QVC sold out of their gourmet peanut butter during the show. It cost $25.00 for four 16-ounce jars. I tried to buy one jar of chocolate chip cookie dough peanut butter ($7.35 for one jar) in the QVC store but they were sold out too.

At the end of the show, a stage manager came over to where we were sitting. He had a black gift bag in his and handed it to my daughter. He told her that it was one of the trivia prizes and she was getting it for being the prettiest girl in the audience. She was thrilled!

I think that next month we will try to get tickets to see Paula Deen!
My sister just sent me this link. I do not think I could survive a bacon, doughnut egg burger.