For those of you who have been long time members of the BAC, you’ve seen me around the gym, for quite a few years. I started teaching Group Fitness at the BAC, at 19 (for reference I’m 32) while studying Exercise Science at Western Washington University. I enjoyed my time there so much, I went back for 2 more years to complete my Masters in Human Movement. I spent many years working as a Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer at the BAC, now-a-days I spend most my days moonlighting as a professional off-road cyclist, and show myself 1x/week to keep those spinners in check on Friday’s.
Maybe you’ve seen me around, and maybe you haven’t. 9.5 months ago I was the girl hobbling around on crutches. 8 months ago, I was the girl struggling to bend over to get a band over my shoes and around my ankles. 5 months ago I was the girl holding onto 5lb pound weights while turning my PT exercises into my workout. 3 months ago I was learning to jump and land again, I was teaching my body how to do everything over again, everything that was instinct before, it became new. Now, I’m the girl slowly adding heavier weights back into my strength training program while maintaining my PT exercises as part of my workouts.
February 9th, 2017 (10 days after finishing 15th at Cyclocross World Championships) I committed to undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery for a torn hip labrum and femoralacetabular impingement (FAI) correction. The labrum is cartilage in your hip that lines your acetabulum and acts as a bumper between your femoral head and your acetabulum. It’s a stabilizer for the femur and keeps the hip moving and gliding as appropriate. FAI is when you have excess bone on the head neck junction of your femur and or on your acetabulum, so when you bring your hip into flexion the 2 bones bump into each other (with the cartilage still in-tact…but) and end up pinching the labrum and/or your articular cartilage tearing (or shredding it if you want to be dramatic), which in turn has potential to lead to osteoarthritis down the road.
While the surgery is considered “elective”, to me it didn’t feel that way. Although I was able to race my bike at the level I want, it came with a significant time and money cost. Physical Therapy exercises daily, weekly Physical Therapy, Acupuncture, Massage, and Chiropractor visits, just to keep my body running smoothly. Sitting for long periods of time were painful, my hip burned, and ached, and walking too far on uneven surfaces caused deep pain within the joint. I avoided activities that flared up my hip, I lived with constant back pain from compensation within the hip, and half way through my season in 2016 my left hip started giving me grief. My hip was to the point where it no longer seemed like I had any other options if I wanted to continue my active lifestyle.
Following surgery, I spent 4 weeks in bed and walking with crutches, being 20lb weight bearing for 3 weeks and advancing to 50% after that. Chris (my husband) spent 20-40 minutes daily moving my leg in circles to keep any potential scar tissue from building up (for 10 weeks). I spent 6 hours in a Continuous Passive Motion machine (CPM) for 10 days post-op, and slowly built up time spinning my leg around on a stationary bike, intended to regain motion in the hip. I learned how to walk again without any assistive devices, watching myself walk in a mirror multiple times through-out the day to perfect my gait and eliminate any potential for a limp. I put my trust in my health care workers they would get me back to where I needed to be once my season started in September. I spent my days dedicated to rehab, from the minute I woke up to the minute I went to bed. Being a professional athlete gave me the time to put into my rehab, with no other job, I used my energy I would have put into training, into healing and when appropriate gaining strength and function back into my hip. While I was spinning lightly on my bike set up on a trainer in our living room, I kept my eyes on the prize, a healthy functioning hip come September. At night I dreamt of my first race back, what it would feel like it, how it would go, how I wanted to surprise everyone (including myself).
I watched my fitness slowly disappear each week, my right leg atrophy beyond what I thought possible (I was an athlete after all, I didn’t believe atrophy pertained to me). I watched on social media my fellow competitors start to train for the upcoming season, and I was only allowed to spin on flat ground for 60 minutes. I cried for fear of the unknown, you see, we never know what outcomes surgery will provide us with. I cried for fear of never being able to race again. While my mind was taking me to dark places, I tried my best to stay positive. I told myself on a regular basis, at least I have 2 legs that work, I can still walk, I have an amazing life. Last year my husbands’ little brother passed away from a freak accident. I thought about him a lot, and how no matter what I felt, nothing can compare to the thought of losing your child, or your baby brother. My dark hole I found myself in was nothing compared to what I watched his family go through.
I spent 4 months being told to be “patient”. While I was allowed to ride for 60 minutes and no more than 60 minutes, my rides had to stay flat, easy spinning, no standing, no sprinting, no big hills. At first this seemed silly to me, considering a year prior I was riding for 4-5 hours for my long rides. Truthfully, this upset me, but I learned. I learned with patience, good can arise. I learned to appreciate my 1 hour of bliss outside, I cherished my time, and loved every single minute I was allowed to ride.
There were times my rehab didn’t go as planned, there were times my body had a mind of its’ own. There were times I wanted to give up my rehab, my hard work, my dedication. I almost threw in the racing towel, many times. Giving up is always easier than working hard. I grew frustrated with the limitations in my hip, the flare ups, the lack of fitness. My family has a house on Vancouver Island I vacation at every summer. Every year I ride from the beach up to the lodge at the ski mountain. It’s 5,000 feet of climbing in 55 miles, and 4,000 of it is in 11 miles up the mountain. Hip surgery wasn’t going to stop me from attempting my annual tradition. I hit the first steep part of the climb and my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest, my heart rate read 185 beats per minute. I wanted to turn around. I almost did, but I reminded myself giving up isn’t a part of who I am. I’m a fighter, I push and I push until I crumble. I cried that day. I didn’t cry out of frustration or fear, I cried out of accomplishment, because I wasn’t even 6 months post op and I could never have dreamed of making it up that mountain 3 months prior.
Hip surgery taught me a lot. It taught me with a little perseverance good things will come. Hip surgery taught me I’m so much stronger than I ever thought possible. I learned not only patience, but I learned a lot about love, and the love of those around me and my community, my people. I learned those days I hated my body, when I felt my body let me down, it was only teaching me gratefulness. My body taught me physical activity is something we shouldn’t take for granted, you see, it’s a gift that each and every one of us is given. When I was finally given the green light to start training hard for my season, each ride turned into a privilege. I no longer looked at my training as “having to go train”, but “getting to go train”. I no longer let the weather depict my moods on hard training days, no matter how bad I don’t want to get wet, or be cold, I know that 8 months prior I would have traded the world for anything to be outside training hard. Hip surgery taught me and gave me physical and mental strength we can only dream of. It made me a better person and a better athlete. On those mornings you wake up not wanting to run in the rain, or go to the gym for your workout because you’re not feeling motivated, remember there are people out there who would trade positions with you in a heart beat. You have been given the gift of movement, your body is your temple, and it should be treated as such.