Thursday 3 February 2011

4 Weeks post-surgery recovery update

Wow, that's a catchy title eh? Sounds like the title of a medical paper, hmmm

Okay how about:

The Adventures of Tara and her new-improved-NON-wooden foot!


Yes dear readers, today for the first time in weeks Tara actually has mobility in her right foot - huzzah! I hadn't realised how stiff the whole joint was until today when I attempted to point the toes on my right foot in line with my left and could only get about halfway between fully-flexed and pointed (i.e. 'good toes' vs 'naughty toes' ballet style....) - not good!

Now however, thanks to the fabulous Graham Anderson (who has been my long-suffering physio since I took my first injury-prone steps into the world of running back in 2004), from Balance Physio (in Clapham, London), I now have almost full flexion and I can actually walk without a limp - double huzzah!

I also have some good calf stretches to do, plus a plethora of specific resistance band exercises to boot - all of which I found spectacularly difficult today given the state of my poor withered calf and quads... yes, atrophy has set in big style!! It's heart-breaking really, can't stand seeing good muscle go to waste but what can I do... It's only been this week when I've really been able to put weight on my right foot and that's still only slight...

...and don't get me started on the hand blisters!! You'd think that after using crutches solidly for weeks my hands would adapt, but in fact every day hurt even more than the previous!

Positives though... (and we should always look to the positives during times of discomfort) my lats are *hugely* stronger following my brief sojourn to the land of two crutches and zero right leg weight!! The movement is similar to that of gymnasts on the Olympic Rings. Also, my left leg was my weakest - not so any more!! Likewise my left glutes, not good either or calf for that matter. Now that I've become one-legged-peg or Herr Flick as my other half has so affectionately named me!! Those of you who are too young to remember... of for whom 'Allo 'Allo regrettably (or perhaps thankfully!) passed you by, Herr Flick was a member of the Gestapo who possessed a rather unfortunate limp... I might be able to find a video of it, hang on...

ahh yes, here we go, 'tis I!

well, according to my ever loving(??) boyfriend anyway! Although not any longer!

So yes, I've got the resistance band exercises as well as a rather nifty one somewhat akin to a leg press but not so as obviously I am unable to use that machine right now!

It's kind like this - you lie on your back with one foot (not two like in the picture) pushed against a swiss/stability/gym (whatever you want to call it!) ball and push deep into the ball.

This way I'm working my glutes and my quads (as long as I don't turn my knee in which is something I got picked up on!), but not to the cost of my recovery as it's not fully body weight - I obviously can't exert the same force pushing through my foot as I could if I were pushing against a weight stack or even my own bodyweight (think step-ups which are a no-no!!).

This exercise also has the added advantage of increasing stability in my hips as it's a unilateral move and I have to work to keep the ball from rolling away from underneath my foot!

The only disappointment during the session was that Balance's ultra-cool Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill:

was unfortunately out of use at the time I went so I wasn't able to don the spectacular Alter-G Shorts... which remind me of Wallace & Gromit for some reason...


...and basically run in an air bubble at a fraction of my bodyweight!

Boo :-(

I am however booked in next week for some more physio advice, ankle manipulation and fun on the anti-gravity treadmill too - whoop! Very excited, it'll be the first time I've moved faster than a lolloping limp/slow dragging walk in almost 5 weeks!!

Good gosh! I've peaked too early I'm afraid... I was meant to tell you my recent news in chronological order and the like but have totally screwed that up so I guess I'll rewind a bit and enlighten you on my slow progress to date since I last offered some rambling text up to you all a couple of weeks ago. Okay, let's go back, waaaay back...

In fact, this might be helpful - here's an surgery time-line for you:

07/01/2011 - Arthroscopic surgery of the right ankle

08/01/2011 - Home for 2 weeks rest

10/01/2011 - First day on my own since the surgery, had to negotiate stairs on my own and solve such complex puzzles as how to get a full cup of coffee through from the kitchen to the living room when you're on two crutches and can only put one foot down. (Click here for ingenious solution ;-) ). Lunch items such as soup were also a bit of an enigma... *whyyyyy* did I think soup was a good idea to buy pre-surgery, I wasn't sick, just incapacitated! The answer to this problem was to decant said soup into a (tightly sealed!) tupperware box and carry in a bag on the arm of one crutch... (I avoided soup as much as possible during the two weeks I had off work!)

14/01/2011 - first attempt at gentle post-surgery exercise

16/01/2011 - second attempt at gentle post-surgery exercise

18/01/2011 - The *first* time I was able to put a small amount of weight on my right foot without feeling like I would scream... yes, a whole 11 days later!!

20/01/2011 - Dressing, padding and surgical wrapping removed (so first day I was able to move my foot at all post-surgery)... heel started feeling less numb a few days later.

Having all the wrappings removed was rather a relief, not least because of the increased mobility, but also because I'd been terrified that my ankle was actually *as* swollen as it appeared with all the bandages on!

It turns out it was a lot less so and my 2 weeks of careful rest has resulted in an ankle my surgeon was actually very pleased with!

The dimpling is from the clever gauze stuff they had between my skin and the padding to draw away any bleeding (if present) from the skin... rather like running technical t-shirts... wicking material, v clever! The dots on the right side of my foot are where my surgeon marked out my nerves for reference during the operation and I'm pleased to report that they're all still intact!!

Oh and please forgive the dreadful toenails... I'm not a terribly girly girl, so on the rare occasion that I painted my toenails for the UKBFF Stars of Tomorrow show last year I a) bought cheap nailpolish not realising it really made difference, and b) didn't take it off for yonks.... ooops, hence stained toenails - oh well... It's a good job my boyfriend doesn't have a foot fetish really!

Oh, while I was at my post-surgery appointment I was shown the pictures from the operation that they took inside my foot.... HUGELY exciting for me, I got to keep them too (after asking nicely!), looky here!

IMG_001 shows the bit of cartilage - the OCD (Osteochondral Defect) - that had partially broken off and was flapping about and 'catching' when I performed twisting movements like in netball or put my weight on my foot while it wasn't in a stable flat position - i.e. wearing heels or standing on tiptoe. IMG_006 also shows the same thing (I think!). In IMG_005 you can clearly see the lump of inflamed tissue that was also present in my ankle that Mr Davies removed. Not sure about the other pictures though to be honest, not that great at making sense of medial ankle images!

22/01/2011 - first time walking on both feet (albeit obviously mega-crutch-assisted!), the previous day and a bit had been spent feeling like someone had beaten me about the ribs and back because of the muscle ache from all the work on both crutches going to and from the foot and ankle centre! I also managed another gentle workout this day - picture update to follow soon (fingers crossed!)

24/01/2011 - first day back at work, very much enjoyed someone else doing the cooking at lunch time and managed an upper body workout straight after work. However I only took one crutch with me. Error. Ankle horribly sore and swollen by the end of the day:

25/01/2011 - had to take day off to rest and ice my ankle. Very pleased that I did though and didn't just try and man it up and go to work as it felt remarkably better the next day :-)

26/01/2011 - 28/01/2011 spent the rest of the week using both crutches and hardly putting any weight at all on right foot as a precautionary measure.

29/01/2011 - Worked my shoulders in the day time and then went to the dog track in the evening (as you do!), being on crutches did prove particularly useful as I was the only one of our group who was able to get a seat! Also won some money too which is always nice :-)

31/01/2011 - lamented the fact that it was the end of January already and reflected on how old that revelation made me feel. Spent a little too long in the supermarket after work and foot felt incredibly achey as a results... lots of ice that night

01/02/2011 - can it really be February already?! Foot felt a lot better, ice at night again

02/02/2011 - foot felt terrible - how unpredictable can one's recovery be?! More ice that night

03/02/2011 - physio appointment! So back to the start we go!

Oh, I forgot to mention earlier that I bought some new heavier ankle weights! They're quite nifty in that they've got individual pockets each containing a 1kg weight:

They are however very cumbersome and unwieldy but I guess that's to be expected at such a weight! I have therefore had to 'cap' the ends (e.g. the part near my fragile ankle!) with my lighter weights to prevent them slipping down and hurting the joint...

... I can attest to the fact that it's not the most aesthetically pleasing solution to this exercise dilemma, but it's pretty effective and as I'm the only one who sees me when I work-out at home, I don't really care either way! ;-)

So that *almost* concludes this update for now! In true Tara fashion I've probably blabbered on far too much but I do hope you've stuck with me :-)

Although I'm obviously not able to do any cardio or lower leg weight training like squats, lunges etc, I'm still keeping up my upper body and core work and I'm feeling very excited about the coming year's competitions during 2011. I couldn't find a list of all the forthcoming bodybuilding, figure, fitness, bikini etc competitions and contests for 2011 where everything was all in one place so I put one together myself.

You can find it here:, I hope it's helpful, it certainly is for me to have all the federations and shows together in a single point of reference!

I had really hoped to do the Muscle Mania/Fitness Britain Show in April this year but realistically I think that might be a bridge too far in terms of it being so close to my surgery so I'm thinking May at the earliest would be for the best. I definitely want to do FAME UK again, it's very expensive but I really enjoyed the experience last year (if you've not seen my pics then here's a link to the album on facebook :-) ). It's funny looking back at pics that are that old, I'm not sure I'd go on stage now if I looked the way I did then - not that I looked 'bad' per se - just not nearly lean enough!

At the moment I'm trying to organise my life as much as possible in terms of scheduling my training in (I trained my tris and bis after work today, was a great session, I felt super strong!).

I'm also cleaning out my diet as much as possible. The only real weakness I can see is alcohol. I don't eat sweets, chocolates, cakes, crisps etc, nor much pasta, bread etc as I prefer to get my carbohydrates from rice/quinoa and vegetables as much as possible.

So for now I've cut out all drinking at home and am limiting myself to when I'm out socialising. We've got friends over next week though so will doubtless have a glass or two of red wine but not much more than that as it's a school night! However, closer to my first show I'm pretty sure I'll cut out the alcohol altogether, I just won't have room for it in my macros!

My protein is quite high at the moment as I'm trying to keep the weight down while I'm so inactive and lose as little muscle as possible. My macro ratios are about 50/30/20 - although my protein was higher today as I had a weights session. I'm really pleased with how things are going, I've actually lost weight recently but bizarrely I'm not pleased about that as I'm pretty certain it's all muscle that has gone from my right leg!

Okay, I'm waffling here, I need to post this and go to bed but I'm super keen to update again soon and also post a few reviews as I've been working my way through the Multipower range and I'm itching to tell you about what I've tried so far, I'm really impressed!

I'm also hoping to start video blogging - vlogging? that must be right, ha! I figure that it would take me a lot less time to waffle into a webcam that it would to type this random stream of consciousness that erupts from my brain at arbitrary intervals. Finding anyone to *watch* it however is a different matter so we'll see how that goes shall we ;-) You'd watch my vlogs wouldn't you? x

Bye for now, stay strong



  1. Ooh I feel queazy when it comes to stuff like this. Hope your recvovery is less of a rollercoaster x

  2. Thank you :-)

    A bloke on the train trod on my bad foot today as he got up to let someone out... cue sharp loud inhilation of breath!! Couldn't be mad at him though, he was so utterly mortified when he turned round and spied my crutch, he was like "oh God, that wasn't your injured foot was it?!", yup!


  3. Oh you poor thing with the clodhopper stepping on your foot! At least he was embarrassed though, my experience of commuters is that they would climb over a dead body to get on and of...

    Glad you're making good progress!