Training and goals with 2 injured knees

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  • #5512
    Alan Russell

    Hi, I’m looking for some inspiration and motivation (if possible).

    I injured my left knee meniscus skydiving in 2009 (bad landing), and climbing (too extreme rock-over) in 2010, and most probably playing rugby at school in about 1995, and had an operation to remove the damage in 2011. This was successful, and I returned to skydiving and climbing in 2012, and managed to clear a long-standing sciatica type issue on my left side enough to do full-day routes in the Scottish mountains by 2014.

    In June, I injured my right knee (my good one) skydiving (foot rotated out with knee bent) and it looks like I’ve injured the lateral meniscus. I’m getting good physio, not yet had an MRI (which I’m going to try and get an appointment to discuss a referral for tomorrow), so I don’t know if an operation is on the cards, but I’m really looking for inspiration / motivation to keep me going (as this has knocked me a bit), and ideas of the opportunities I may still have and restrictions these injuries might pose (I’m 11 days off my 39th birthday, if that’s significant).

    If you’ve got similar experience and can offer advice / encouragement, it’d be much appreciated!

    – What sort of things did you work on whilst injured (I’m guessing things like fingerboard and core)?

    I’m concerned about the long-term (months / years / decades), as my physio is handling the shorter-term:

    – How well did you recover from a second knee injury?
    – What long-term rehab / injury management has been needed, and has it worked?
    – Have you been restricted in your activities in the long-term (running / climbing / mountaineering / alpinism?
    – What’s the long-term health of your knees like (I’d like to live in this body a long time, and stay active as long as I can)?

  • Moderator
    Seth Keena-Levin on #5558

    Hi Alan,

    That must be very difficult to hurt your good knee and be facing yet another recovery journey. As in climbing, the majority proportion of the job at hand is mental and your active-life depends on doing the best job you can.

    My work with Uphill Athlete (website co-manager, social media manager, other…) became prudent this past January when I shattered my calcaneus ice climbing (as a group, Scott, Steve and I have LOTS of mountain related injuries). I was non-weight bearing for 4 months with surgeries and missed expeditions happening too. Good for working behind a computer sitting on the floor.

    True, I didn’t injure my knee but I can tell you positive / productive things I’ve done whilst injured:
    – Workouts, Core and fingerboard: Yes! Take the opportunity to progress (you’ve only got time) but also be aware that healing requires energy and it will be subtracted from energy going to workouts. Accept that forcing workouts inhibits healing and listen to your body. Also, get creative with equipment in order to effect the muscle groups you can (strap resistance as close to your knee as possible to work the hip…do finger curls with weights to warm-up for fingerboard…use medicine ball for support during core…). The one arm pull up is a worthy journey to begin as well. I found TrainingPeaks helpful to keep track of and progress the myriad different workouts.

    – Inspiration: I found books about doctors working in the 3rd world offered perspective and inspiration (“Mountains Beyond Mountains”, “Second Suns”). For you, “Touching the Void” is relevant. Stay grateful and celebrate the small stuff. Active people need support during forced-inactivity; accept help form everywhere.

    – Focus: Do what works now. Sidelined form my field work, I also began work part time at the front desk of the Physio office because it satisfies my needs efficiently. I can sit when I need and can schedule myself into see the PT. All the expensive PT gadgets are there too. Part of me fucking hates working the desk and it crushes my ego but it’s part of doing the best job I can to rehab. As in the mountains, flexibility and acceptance are practiced constantly, sometimes resulting in retreat: You can and will love other sports if you have to.

    Thanks for reaching out! Keep up the hard work.

    Alan Russell on #5561

    Hi Seth,

    Yeah, I’m finding it pretty tough, but thanks so much for the reply – it’s great to get good advice from someone who understands fairly well what this injury, and it’s current and potential consequences mean!

    That’s good advice regarding workouts. Since I’ve started getting a program, and trying to keep / progress my fitness in other ways, I’ve found that it’s helped my energy level and sense of purpose (I think part of the reason I got injured may have been lack of conditioning due to neglect of fitness), but I also see that if I push too hard, it will hold me back, or I’ll injure something else. I’m doing this:, for glutes, twice a day (I got this previously from a physio when I’ve had knee issues and I think it’ll help keep some strength in my glutes whilst I’m doing less weight bearing – ignore the pictures at the top, they are awful!). I’m just doing pull-ups on jugs on the fingerboard at the moment, to try and avoid injury by going too intense too soon – my goal is 5 sets of 10, a long way from one arm! I don’t have a medicine ball, and I’m not really sure how to use one to support core, but I’m doing the 4 core exercises from TFNA that I think are least strenuous on my knees daily (windshield wipers, kayaker, v-ups (variation on hanging leg raise from video on Uphill Athlete), and l-sit), and dips, v-ups, isometric hangs, and incline pull-ups every 3 days, along with antagonist exercises from Eric Horst’s site. I’ve just been using my notebook to keep track of stuff just now – I’ve got my adapted versions of the spreadsheets from TFNA as well, but I got a bit behind on them – I’ve not really looked into TrainingPeaks.

    Those books sound intereseting – “Touching the Void” has sat on my shelf for a while, so I probably should read it (I’ve seen the film and know the story, but I think the book may give more of a personal perspective). I think you’re right about keeping perspective – it’s really easy (for me at least) to get sucked into my own bubble when fighting a significant issue like this. Finding support is something I’m really bad at, particularly when injured, but good advice to stay grateful and celebrate the small stuff.

    I think you’re right about it being helpful to focus on what works best now, rather than beating myself up because I can’t do the things I really want, though it’s good to hear that I’m not the only one that finds it hard! Maybe this exercise will be good mental training!

    I remember reading a post from Scott to someone else on these forums who broke their leg where he said that he injured his knee badly in 1978, and managed to subsequently return to running, ski-ing and alpinism (after a lot of hard work), so I’m hoping I can manage something like that, but, like you say, being flexible and listening to my body is more important.

    Once again, thanks for the reply, and I hope your recovery is going well.

    p.s. I noticed after I made my initial post that the tag probably should have been “Illness / Injury”. Is there a good way of moving this post into that tag, to keep things neat? I didn’t want to try putting in a different tag for this message incase I made a bigger mess!

    Seth Keena-Levin on #5576


    From the sounds of it you are doing some good stuff and have a good attitude. Jane Fonda knows how to keep that butt in shape! I LOVE that you are using that – It works for you and also will help maintain whats there. Thanks to the internet we have endless adaptive workouts at our fingertips, just takes some time to find what works. Keep seeking them out!

    I mention medicine ball because it can take the place of your lower leg during something like the 2-point or pushups by placing it above your injured knee. Anything about 10-12″ high works but balls activate stabilizers. Straps (like TRX) are good for adaptive floor work too.

    Something to get the lungs going is a XC ski machine like the C2: You could sit on a chair and pull to movies or podcasts (I knelt and bowed to the C2 god…lots!). Eventually, when my other foot’s sprain got better, a stationary bike with a foot on a stool was welcomed change. These may work for you but don’t focus too much on aerobic “training” during this phase because the stimulus is relatively small w/o the legs and it will return quicker than strength.

    Getting impatient and frustrated is so easy to do. The other day I impulsively over exerted on a hike and I felt it. I’m still learning how to recover and not train. Ideally the anger and desire for normalcy would feed the reservoirs for geriatric workouts and super small load progressions (like 5% per 2 weeks) but sometimes it gets the better of us.

    Scott is one tough dude and blows my mind how active he’s been and is after all his injuries and repairs. A constant source of inspiration and knowledge to everyone, he works hard for his fitness. He’s been smart about recovering and listens to his body; he’s a better coach because of it. Last winter I watched a 65 yr old with 6-week old knees sending WI4+. I guess the lesson there is don’t use your average Jo as inspiration.

    Keep us up on the recovery and whats working. Hang in there!

    Thanks for asking but don’t worry about the tags. We’ll post something about them soon.

    Alan Russell on #5583

    Hey Seth,

    Thanks so much. Ah, now I understand better about the medicine ball, I might look into that. I might leave the TRX and XC ski machines for now until I get more exercises from my physio – I don’t want to buy too much equipment that I hopefully won’t use that much!

    Cheers for the advice about aerobic training – good to be reminded that it should respond more quickly than strength – I’m guessing strength will also be more of a priortity for my legs once I’m (hopefully) working them.

    Yeah, I think I’m going to need to be really disciplined with my recovery, whatever path it takes. I seem to have been through this process a lot in the last 10-15 years, so I kind of know what to expect, but it’s a bit dispiriting that it’s happened so often. A few things that this experience has highlighted to me is that I’ve been poor at a few of the foundations of looking after myself over the last year e.g. sleep (averaging 5-7 hours / night due to a combination of work, home, and travel commitments – I haven’t managed to fix this yet, but I’ve upped the activity without noticably changing it), activity / training (slackened off for the same reasons as sleep + I work best when following a plan, and I’d lapsed long enough that it would take a bit more time to replan, so the training pretty much ceased – I’m a bit concerned that by upping it now, I’m not following the “continuity, gradualness, modulation” principles, so I may have to monitor and adjust), support system (I’ve always been poor at this, and injury seems to make this harder).

    I guess injury helps to understand the limits of physiology, and empathise with the mindsets that help to promote physical change, but the trick I guess is to learn well enough to avoid injury!

    Good advice too to learn from the mindset and motivation of those who have and are exceeding your capabilities, despite similar / greater obstacles. I guess the biggest lesson I’ve learned recently is to try to train and care for myself like my life depends on it, because it does.

    I’ll post if I find any useful lessons from my recovery, and best of luck with yours – I’m sure you’re getting great advice! This site is an incredible resource and community!

    Cheers for fixing the tags!

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