…and believe me I am still alive

Still here, still working, still good.  Still seeing incremental improvements to my knee.  Just not updating much :)

I have been using a cane.  This is both good and bad.  Good in that the cane helps my balance when my knee decides to not support me.  Bad in that it always takes a hand.  You know how you never know how much you use both hands to carry things until one is out of commission?  Well, in this case the hand (and arm and shoulder) are fine but occupied.

I started using the cane a little over a month ago.  Why?  My knee stopped supporting me—while walking on the office treadmill.  (Scary!) The cane made it easier to balance myself when my knee went “out”.  It also helped support my weight so that my knee could do a bit less work, which made it easier to walk further.  Over time I’ve needed it less and less.   I’m often stiff when I first get out of a chair, but after taking some steps I often don’t really need it to get around the office.

Other things that aggravate my knee is stepping too quickly on a downslope, or when I start to feel fatigued.  The short walks I’ve been doing are flatish but not flat, so I definitely use the can for those.

Today I managed to forget the cane on my way to work.  I realized this as I was turning into the office garage.  Rather than driving all the way home and back, I decided to try doing without it today.  It went better than I expected.  I would stay close to my desk or a wall when I first got up (in case I needed to grab it for support) but over time I was less worried.  I didn’t push my luck by going for a walk, though.

A couple other things:

  • I got my refund for the extra airplane seat I purchased from Alaska Airlines.   I would have been okay with purchasing the extra seat if I hadn’t gotten it refunded, but if they’re willing to give me money (about $400 in this case) I’m quite happy to take it.
  • I loved Fat-o-matic’s take on the gardening myth.  Which reminds me I should prune the roses.

How’s with you?

Feeling Better

I caught up on sleep over the weekend.  This is good thing, since I turn into a bear of very little patience when I don’t have enough.  ;)

I also realized yesterday that I’ve gone days without taking ibuprofen for my leg.  I passed “Not hurting all the time” a little over a week ago and now I’m at “not hurting unless I misstep / walk to fast”.   This is also a good thing.

Finally, last night I was able to do 20 each of:

…for both legs.  Plus 15 elbow-to-knee raises on each side and some back extensions.  Three weeks ago I had trouble doing any lifts with my left leg, so this is a goodness.

Today I walked a quarter-mile loop around the office park where I work.  It was pain-free for the first 2/3rds of it — stepped wrong, it hurt, recovered, and continued back to my office and rewarded myself with diet Pepsi.  :)

One thing I realized this fall: I thought that increasing my walking meant I could let the strength training slide.   I was wrong.  Looks like I need to figure out how to make exercise a habit, because I’m tired of re-injuring myself!

Thankful Thursday

(Yes, starting these weekly exercises in gratitude again — just under the wire :)

1) I took a Vacation.  My first full week off in over a year.   Even though I’m still limping.  Woohoo!

2) I’m adjusting to using a cane as needed, and discovering I don’t get more looks than usual with it.

3) …already blogged, but still: Oprah’s magazine printed a piece on fat acceptance.

4) My leg is continuing to improve.  In fact, I’m getting off the computer to go do 4 kinds of leg lifts before bed.

5) The man of the house, who makes my life happier in so many ways :)

On the Hamster Wheel

One of the frequent refrains in the discussion of Angry Gray Rainbow’s “I Hate Exercise” post was the dislike of exercise bikes, treadmills, and other “hamster-wheel exercise-for-the-sake-of-exercising”.   I grinned when I saw it, because yes, I’d rather walk to someplace than walk in place or around the block.

But, then, there’s today.  Today my leg is hurting.  Uneven strides and uneven walking surfaces are painful…and the treadmill offers me a level walking surface and an enforced uniform speed.  Trying to correct my slight limp as I walked over to the office’s mini-gym I wasn’t sure even that would help, but I did 20 minutes on the treadmill with no limping and no pain.  I finished with a variety of stretches.

So…yeah.  Boring, yes.  Purposeless…depends on what your purpose IS.

That said, treadmill distractions can be nice.  Today’s treadmill distraction:  Barefoot Contessa: Snapper with mustard and creme fraichebroccoli with parmesan, basil, and lemonwhole fingerling potatoes.

So how was your weekend?

Photo from Seattle Times

Photo from Seattle Times

Continuing from last week, my left thigh and knee are very sore today.

Saturday I went to the soccer game and found that walking a 1/2 mile or so, generally, wasn’t a problem — as long as I kept a regular stride and speed, and stayed on mostly level sidewalks.  (Which is much easier on a treadmill or at a modern shopping mall than in Seattle’s Pioneer Square!)  I had an occasional twinge here and there, but overall I was fine.

Going up the 40 or so stairs to the 100 level (which are visible beyond the gate in the picture) was a mistake.  My left knee was hurting by the time I got to the top.   Fortunately that was almost all of the stairs on the way to my seat.   Everyone around me was standing during the game, so I alternated standing with sitting.  Afterward I took the elevator down.  The 1/2 mile walk back to the car went okay.

Today I ran some errands.  Walking:  Pretty good, as long as I’m careful to take even strides.  Standing: Not so good.

The ache and movement issues I’m seeing with my left knee and quads right now are very similar to what I’ve seen with my right leg.   What does this tell me?

  • The exercises that helped me deal with this in my right leg (leg lifts, leg extensions, chair squats, walking) will probably help with my left.
  • Increasing my walking didn’t mean I was ready to drop my leg strength training exercises.
  • It’s also not a good idea to let my stretching / flexibility drop either.

Emotionally I’m all over the map; castigating myself for letting walking slide; for letting strength training slide; for doing this again.   I’m also reminding myself that I have dealt with this before and can again.  At the back of the brain is a reminder that I will continue to walk this particular functional edge of good and bad unless I make changes, and worry about my upcoming vacation.   Oh, and chagrin that a month ago I was thinking about how I can walk so far pain-free and isn’t it great I don’t have those problems anymore?

Head, meet desk.

BTW: The man of the house sent me the picture in this post because I’m in it.  :)

Fun: Two Lumps: Fat & Furry

The left leg (which has traditionally been the “good” leg) has decided to give me pain and occasionally not want to work.  I’m not thrilled with this.  I am exercising carefully and taking ibuprofen and trying to not freak out.

In the interest of not freaking out, I’m reading They Still Suspect Nothing: Two Lumps Year Four which came in the mail today.  (It’s the 4th year of the comic, with commentary on each comic from creators Mel Hynes & J Grant.)   I’d completely forgotten about this filk of the song “Ridin’” (which some know better as the basis of “White and Nerdy“).

Snooch, rolling on couch: They see me rollin' I'm purrin' But they're just jealous 'cause I'm all fat and furry! Ebenezer:  Wo yeah he's fat and furry!  Cantcha see he's fat and furry? Snooch: People tell me to just get lean But they ain't down with the feline scene No cat wanna be all shaped like a string bean I wanna nap and eat my weight in poutine! Snooch:  All the moggies wanna be like me! I steal Mom's food when she gets up to go po--- Off screen: HEY! What happened to my tuna sandwich?! Ebenezer: 5-0 at the do', gotta go

This comic really worked for me today.  Cats don’t *care* about whether they’re fat, they care about stalking and sunbeams and pets.  :)

Thankful Thursday

[Another weekly exercise in gratitude.]

It’s Thursday and I’m thankful for:

1) Over 300 responses to yesterday’s poll and some great discussion in the comments.  Wow!

2) Ibuprofen, because I slacked off on walking for a week and strength training for mumble and both knees hurt.

3) But, despite slacking off I can and did walk a mile on the treadmill OK…

4) … and my knees feel better after doing a series of leg lifts, leg extensions and leg curls last night.

5) This post articulating what it’s like to be fat:

I’m usually the fattest person in the room.  I’m often the only fat person in the room. […] When I go to the gym, I’m fat.  And there’s a part of me that knows people are looking at me and making judgements – about how hard or fast I’m exercising, about how much I should do, about why they think I’m doing it (no, it’s not to loose weight, but you can’t tell that by looking). […] Whenever I go into a shop that doesn’t cater specifically to fat people, I know I won’t find anything to fit.

Some of the items she discusses, like assuming people will reject her on first meeting, are things I’ve trained myself NOT to do.  Others are things I deal with every day.  I think it’s a useful addition to the discussion of what it’s like to be fat.

6) Noël’s rant today:

    Whether or not I am beautiful is immaterial in the face of what kind of parent I am, how I treat my fellow human beings, whether or not anyone’s lives are going to be enriched from knowing me or not — not how goddamned decorative I am.  I am a living, breathing human being.  The idea that because I’m female I should somehow be ornamental if I want to be valued drives me up a wall.

    What are you thankful for this week?

    What’s Enough Exercise?

    This started as a conversation over at Spoonforkfuls’ blog.

    living400lbs Says:
    […] One of my recurring issues with injuries is finding the line between working out too much and not working out enough….

    spoonfork38 Says:
    Yeah, it’s that definition of ‘enough’ that gets me almost every time.

    I mean, enough for what, exactly?

    living400lbs Says:
    In my case?   I’m working out enough if I avoid that nice painful feeling that I get on the outside of my right leg when I don’t walk much. It’s enough to keep my right leg lowering me down to the next stair instead of giving way. Enough to keep my lower back from aching by the end of a day at the computer.

    I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that I have an answer for that.

    On further reflection I think it’s good that I have an indicator, a concrete reminder to get moving.   But there’s more to it than that.

    First, there’s “not working out enough” and “working out too much”.   The problems I described in my comment happen when I’m not working out enough … but also when I’m working out too much.  It would be nice if they were more different but oh well!

    Second: Bodies tend to be able to do what we ask them to do regularly.  When I worked in a day care and ran after 4-year-olds all day, I could be on my feet all day and carry 4-year-olds with ease. Your life may already provide a good balance of activity and ability, or you may have too much activity your comfort. Me?  Currently my life allows me to be pretty sedentary.   Too sedentary to support everything that I want to be able to do, such as to easily walk a few miles or to easily walk up and down stairs.

    I also have luxury of being mostly able-bodied, however temporarily.  I have some arthritis in my knees and a history of wrist RSIs, but those are not currently limiting my ability.

    As I see it, this leaves me with the following options:

    1. Decide I don’t care that much about walking a few miles or more than 1 flight of stairs at a time.  After all, I obviously don’t need to do that on a day-to-day basis.
    2. Decide to change my life so that I must do those things to get through the day.  For example, I could sell my car and house and move to a 3- or 4-story townhome near a shopping center.
    3. Decide to exercise enough to support what I want to do, even though I don’t need do to it on a day-to-day basis.

    In some ways I’m a bit lucky in that I do get a concrete indicator (pain) when I’m not exercising what I deem to be “enough”.

    Here’s the thing, though:  What’s enough for me?  Is likely not what’s enough for you.   You may feel the level of activity you get in a day is fine and not bother getting additional exercise.  Or you may training for a marathon.  Or you may be trading a manual wheelchair for a motorized one.   So much depends on who you are, where your body is at, and what is possible.   Then you can look at what you want and whether it’s feasible to get it.

    Small Pleasures

    Tuesday I got tired of feeling stiff each time I got up from my desk.  I started an experiement: even if I’m just getting up to get coffee/tea or go to the bathroom, I “take the long way”.  I walk through more of the office than strictly necessary, then downstairs a flight and back up.

    I don’t feel stiff after doing this, and also more awake.

    Why is this a victory?  Because ever since I messed up my knee, walking downstairs has been a lot harder and more painful than walking upstairs.  Even when I’d built back up to walking upstairs with both legs, I’d still often only use the “good” leg to go downstairs.  At the office I had months of walking upstairs and taking the elevator down.

    Now I’ve built enough strength and control that an extra trip down or two doesn’t bother me.  It’s a small pleasure, but I’m savoring it.   :)

    Thankful Thursday

    [A weekly little exercise in gratitude.]

    1) I haven’t had a romantic partner try dropping “hints” about my weight.  Part of it is that I’ve had enough of a chip on my shoulder to say, “I know I’m fat.  I’m not trying to make my weight go up or down. If that’s a problem for you, we shouldn’t date.” pretty early in my relationships.

    2) Laughter.

    3) Fresh strawberries from our patio, served with a kiss.

    4) Walking upstairs is no longer a challenge for my right knee.

    5) Less work stress!

    Thankful Thursday

    1) Back at the gym with its many different sorts of weight and cardio machines …

    2) … and my knees are NOT hating me.  :)

    3) Not getting embarrassed when I start sweating and breathing hard before my workout partner (who’s on the next treadmill over). 

    4) A good weekend away from work.  

    5) The man of the house…just because.

    Thankful Thursday

    [Another weekly exercise in gratitude.]

    1) Started doing full squats again* – not very many, and not using any extra weights, but even so, I am pleased with this progress.  ;)

    2) Finished a big rollout at work, which has seriously reduced my stress. 

    3) Three-day weekend coming up.

    4) The insurance company finally approved the prescription antihistamine, which combined with the Advair seems to be improving my ability to breathe.   It’s definitely making my eyes less itchy, too ;)

    5) The man of the house picked up delicious fresh strawberries this week.  One morning I mashed a few to have instead of jam on toast (why have the “perserved” when you’ve got the real thing?)  Last night we finished the strawberries for dessert – along with some Lindt chocolates :) 

    *Some good instruction on how to do squats is here, though I will note that the site (like many exercise sites) is not fat-accepting.

    Fun with Breathing

    Manufacturer's pic of my CPAP mask    
    Manufacturer’s pic of my CPAP mask

    Sunday night (and Monday morning) I kept waking up due to my CPAP mask blowing a stream of cold air on my lip.   I thought it was perhaps an inadequate seal between the rubbery “nasal pillows” and my nostrils, but futzed around and eventually got back to sleep. 
    Monday night as I took my book to bed, I put my mask on, turned on the CPAP…and discovered yes, a steady stream of air blowing on my lip.  I tried my usual adjustment tricks, no dice.  But in feeling around to see where the air was coming from (and helped by the fact that I was much more awake than previously) I realized it was coming from just below where the rubbery nasal pieces connect. 

    In fact: There’s a wee crack in the hard plastic of the nose piece.  

    A wee crack in what the man of the house pointed out was an eminently duct-tapable hard plastic surface….  

    I slept much better last night.  Yay duct tape!   

    My geek side wants to add that it’s very appropriate to use duct tape on Star Wars Day since it has a light side and a dark side and it binds the universe together.   *boom-tish*


    Not that I won’t be getting a new mask.  But I can shop around online instead of paying OMG prices at the sleep doctor’s office.  In other health-related stuff:

    • I often go days, nay, a week without my right knee hating me.  Once it loosened up from the car ride it had no problems with sloped aisles at the Seattle Rep or  at Safeco Field last weekend.  (My hips even cleared the box seats!)   This is mainly because I have been exercising enough to keep my knee happy …
    • But not enough that walking a mile is easy.  This makes walking with someone else tiresome, since my pace is usually slower.   I’m not sure how much of this is due to …
    • My allergies kicking my ass.  I’ve doubled up on my “one a day” antihistamines and using my inhaler once or twice a day and still can’t take a deep breath half the time. 

    So I have an appointment with my ARNP to talk about more asthma-treatment options.   I’m a little worried that I’ll just be told to lose weight, but given my previous experience I don’t really expect it.  :)

    Knee Rehab: Feeling Good :)

    Well, not completely.  I am a bit amused that I can work up to a brisk, steady clip on the treadmill in my office building’s mini-gym with no limp, then limp as I’m walking to my office.  I think it’s partly that I am usually walking a bit slower when I’m off the treadmill…and that the treadmill is level. I used to think of sidewalks and streets as level, but now I realize I was wrong.  The slope is gradual, but it’s there.  

    (BTW: I am going to talk about exercising here, if you don’t want to read it then you should stop … about … now … ) Continue reading

    Walking review: Burke Museum

    Since the knee has been bothering me lately, I’ve been making more of an effort to go for walks.  The University of Washington’s Burke Museum, which focuses on natural history and culture, has a special exhibit on … Coffee.  In Seattle.  Of course.  

    Totem Poles Outside the Burke Museum

    Totem Poles Outside the Burke Museum

    Cynicism aside, it was an interesting overview of the history of how coffee spread outside of Ethiopia with a focus on the present day.  Lots of interesting facts, like how one result of the Stamp Tax and the Boston Tea Party was that coffee became “Patriotic”.   There were live coffee plants, information and videos on processing and growing techniques, coffee-producing vs coffee-consuming parts of the world, and so on.  I was faintly surprised to learn that Scandinavian Europe drinks much more coffee per capita than the US, but then, they’re further north than even Washington is… 

    I also checked out The Life and Times of Washington State.   Less of it was actually familiar to me – either I hadn’t known, or had totally spaced, that much of Washington was once underwater.  I’d also forgotten that dinosaur fossils have been found in Washington.  

    The $9.50 entry fee seemed a bit steep, but it’s free on the first Thursday of every month. 

    Walking-wise, the museum is not so bad.  It’s a pretty good size, and if you don’t find it enough walking on its own there is the entire rest of the UW Seattle campus  :)    In my particular case, however, the plethora of stairs were an issue.   I was there on a day when my bad knee hurt enough going up stairs from the parking lot to the entrance that going down stairs to the other exhibits was prohibitive.  The elevator was hidden in the back, so I ended up just sticking to the top floor  of the museum.  I’ll go back when my knee is happier with stairs or when I feel up to finding the elevator.