A Great Day for a Bike Ride

I’m one of those people. I did a Simon Cowell. I purchased an electric bike.

Did I use to look at those people with scorn? Wonder if they were cheating? Deem that I was getting better-quality exercise with every pedal. Could those E-bikers even call what they were doing biking?

At the beginning of this biking season I was going strong. Biking 11 or 14 miles with Jody. We have a great route from our house to around Lake Harriet and a longer route to Lake Nokomis.

Though I was doing well biking, I was also uncomfortable. With two knee replacements, I lost the get up and go from a dead stop. This is a problem when you are trying to move through an intersection. I also felt unsafe. I couldn’t smoothly slide my feet from the cage pedals. I had to think every stop, or I’d tip over. I replaced the pedals with platform pedals. I also wanted to sit straighter so I jimmied some handles that would allow me to do that. Nothing is pretty when I jimmy.

Biking became not fun. I learned that two knees replacements aren’t equal. My left knee stayed on the pedal rock solid. My right knee wanted to complain about the position of my foot on the pedal. It did not have the same range of motion as the left.

I would only go biking with Jody if it was sunny and no wind. Not even a breeze.   

My preferred method of exercise became walking, hiking, and climbing the hills at the ski hill. I wasn’t a slouch. I often got compliments. Especially, when the telltale signs of my knee replacement scars were visible.  

I missed biking.  Jody is a strong runner and biker. We didn’t run together. We just rode in the same car to the same spot and then had an agreed upon time to meet up. When biking, she’d bike right behind me. She would insist that my pace was fine. I was certain that I was hindering her athletic prowess.

Since COVID, Jody and I have done a lot of walking together. She calls it her bonus steps since she has already worked out for the day. I call it my one and out.

Do you see what this is all leading to? My birthday gift. 

I did read Simon Cowell’s article before buying my E bike. I did read the manual. I have not fallen off my bike. I have also not done any wheelies.

My first ride with Jody was around Lake Nokomis from our house on a very windy day. My first impression was happiness. I was five years old, it was my birthday, and my mother had just handed me a Winchester lever rife that shot plastic bullets. 57 years later, I have that same joy riding my E bike.

At first Jody wanted me to bike in front of her like old times. That wasn’t going to work. I can bike whatever pace she is biking.

The next day we rode 20 miles on the Cannon Falls Trail. The only tense time was when I was in front of Jody and I was waiting for her to catch up. “This is a lot of work, you know”, she said a little testily. I learned to adjust my gears after that and not assume she could go any faster.

Since having the bike it has become my preferred exercise. There is work to an E bike. I pedal. My calf and thigh muscles work. Biking has improved my range of motion in my right knee. I can also feel more strength when climbing steps. Jody says that she gets a better workout.

I’m now one of those people. Don’t be judgy. If you ask me, I’ll tell you, it’s like having my birthday every day.  

I Thought I Was Doing What I Was Supposed to be Doing

“That’s the problem,” he said. I looked down at my legs. I was sitting on a physical therapy table with my legs outstretched on the tabletop. I couldn’t see what he could see. He pointed to the concave shape of my inner thigh. “Your leg has atrophied.”

What?!? Atrophy might describe an old lady … maybe someone who’s in her late 80’s and immobile.  Not me! When I thought that I could speak without crying, I interrupted him with questions. “Is my other leg atrophied?” Yes, he said. Later that evening I would sob with Jody.

How could that be? Exercise has been a priority for me and after getting my knees replaced, I continued to exercise at least 5 days a week, whether it be aqua pool jogging, biking, or Pilates reformer. During my workday I piled on steps from walking the plant floor.

Over a month ago, I had graduated from physical therapy following my last knee replacement. What brought me back to the doctor was a constant pain where my IT band ended near the knee. My knees were terrific, but this new pain was causing me to limp.

What I learned is that all the exercising that I was doing was great, but my quads needed strengthening. If my quads were stronger, then the IT band wouldn’t have to work so hard. I needed to get my quads to fire.

I was introduced to Blood Flow Restriction Therapy. The physical therapist put a band similar to a blood pressure cuff on my upper thigh and pumped it up. This stopped the blood from flowing into my leg. I then did straight leg raises, quads over roll, and knee extensions. What this did was engage my quad muscles.

After two sessions with blood flow restriction therapy I was no longer feeling any pain.

I recently graduated from physical therapy again. I purchased a blood flow restriction band to continue the exercises at home. My goal is to climb Mount Fuji on our Japan trip this summer. No atrophy allowed.

Lessons Learned on a Sick Day

She was up barfing at four. When I arrived hours later, she had pink cheeks, a kitty ears headband, and was play-ready. She assured me it wasn’t really being sick to barf, but pre-school wanted her to stay home. She was sad Mom wasn’t staying home, sad to miss her friends, but game for whatever Grandma brought to the day.

Lemon-lime soda was no longer needed. Water was fine. Munching many plain saltines and a cup of dry cereal made up for a missed breakfast. Within minutes we were on the sofa deep in a Brain Quest card deck working through sequencing challenges, adding, matching letters and words, talking about calendars and telling time on old-fashioned round clocks.

Those clocks sparked the first pronouncement of preschool wisdom. She thought I must have had a clock with numbers in a circle because I am old. I corrected that statement to older. She didn’t buy the change. A teenager had given me the same look when I asked if the general store in a small town carried watches.

With interest in Brain Quest waning, I suggested we start an art project. She turned down the idea because she said she loved to learn things. There wasn’t anything better she could have said if she hadn’t finished with a sympathetic sigh before sharing that it was sad that old people couldn’t learn stuff. That’s not true I replied and told her about a friend who learned another language to work with immigrants, another friend attending university classes, my own tap-dancing studies. She frowned and said maybe I had special friends. That I do.

Even at her age I couldn’t do backward summersaults, so she had me at that, but I didn’t expect to frighten her when I got down on the floor to do a plank next to her. Old people could get hurt doing planks she said. I replied anybody could get hurt doing planks, but we were both strong because we could hold a plank for almost a minute. Then I sat back to watch her attempt head stands and intricate twirls.

We rounded out the day with dressing the cat, coloring paper dolls, and baking a chocolate cake. She looked tired, but happy. Her mother looked tired after an important work day. And grandma drove home, happily tired out after an unexpected play day.

IMG_6051

The New Peer Group

Recently I joined the YMCA, tried a yoga/Pilate combo class then attended the orientation session required before a personal trainer consultation. I made my reservation, studied group offerings, and put together a few questions.

What I missed was the message that this meeting existed for adults fifty-five and over, complete with handouts and a discussion of course offerings that didn’t require doing anything on the floor. During introductions I shared my interests and mentioned an interval training course I thought might be a challenge. Chair yoga, gentle stretching, and a couple of special aqua classes were presented along with a building tour and treadmill demonstration.

Bundling all adults over fifty-five into one peer group makes as much sense as organizing only one social activity for school children between ages five and eighteen. The year my mother turned fifty-five she decided it was time to sell the house and move into a building built just for their peer group. They were in the prime of their working years, still building retirement accounts, dancing and traveling.  She believed the developer’s advertising about making new friends who were also unencumbered by children and building a rich social life.

My father noted the assistance bars in the bathroom, the lack of entertainment space in each unit, people my grandparents’ ages in the lobby. He refused to move into a senior citizen facility called something more attractive. And continued refusing for the next quarter century.img_5048

It appears that decades after my mother’s attraction to the advertising of an over fifty-five condo, marketers are still lazy about how to identify the needs of those who check the last box in the age question. How about adding a few more boxes? I am glad to be beyond tampon days but am not ready for Depends. I just wanted to know if a personal trainer would think that the interval course was going to be too much of a challenge.

Crossing Over to the Other Side

crutches-350x350[1]I blamed Tae Kwon Do for the broken foot and bum knee. I told myself I’d be all right If I did an alternate exercise.

Not so.

I’ve learned that I’ve reached the age where you don’t fight through pain. You respect it. Pain means I stop what I’m doing and alter my workout. If not, I’m likely to be using crutches.

A couple of weeks ago, I could feel a twinge in my knee every time I took a step. It wasn’t from Tae Kwon Do. I hadn’t returned to Tae Kwon Do since I broke my foot last year. I thought I could walk myself right through the pain and come out the other side where it would feel better and I would be the stronger for it.

Yeah, right.

By the end of my workday, I could barely hobble to my car.

At home, Jody got me a broom to use as a crutch. The thought of walking upstairs or downstairs was too much. I wanted to fly up those steps. You miss being healthy the most when you’re not healthy.

182[1]Saturday morning, I was TRIA’s first customer. I told Jody I could drive myself. I knew once the receptionist saw me coming in the door that I’d be placed in a wheelchair. I put the broom in the back seat of the car just in case I needed it to get from the car to the door of the clinic.

A knee brace, steroid shot, and a pair of crutches later, I shuffled out of TRIA.

Lesson learned. It wasn’t Tae Kwon Do. It wasn’t the Boot Camp at YMCA. It was me who had crossed over to where the truism, “No Pain, No Gain” wasn’t true anymore.

I’m still learning lessons. I went to the YMCA to see what I could do with my newfound knowledge of respecting pain. I went from machine to machine. If it hurt, then I tried something else. Finally, I found what I was looking for—a cardio machine that is similar to skating and skiing that allows you to prepare for all sports that require lateral movement in your legs. I would have been okay had I stopped there. There was a diagram on the machine that showed how you could do squats at the same time as your lateral movement.

The next day, I felt as if I was kicked in the side by a horse. Now, I limped and I couldn’t straighten up.

You don’t miss health as much as when you don’t have it.

Well, there’s swimming. If I don’t drown.