This business with the foot fracture is starting to get to me.
For those of you who’ve known me a while, my physical fitness level has varied like a yo-yo over the years. I’ve gone for years at a time being really overweight and out of shape, not really caring about what I eat and having a really powerful aversion to any physical activity.
For shorter stretches, I’ve been pretty good about getting to the gym, biking to work, and generally eating and living healthy. I know myself well enough to realize that when my exercise routine gets interrupted, the whole thing has a tendency to go to hell. I eventually stop caring and then go for another few years growing my ass and building a better beer gut.
My most recent unhealthy stretch ended back in April of this year, mostly out of anger and frustration and a need to generally regain control over my health. Fitness became my religion: up before dawn every morning to hit the Mount Allison weight room or to run a few kms. A week wasn’t complete unless I’d worked all muscle groups and matched my strength workouts with an equal count of cardio sessions. If I couldn’t hit the gym in the morning, I went at night. I picked up a used jogging stroller for times when I had to bring Leo with me because Claire wasn’t home.
I ate only salads at lunchtime, stocking the fridge in my office once a week with the ingredients so I wouldn’t be tempted by restaurant menus. I avoided alcohol on weeknights, partly for the calories, partly to ease the early mornings.
Whenever I got tempted by the snooze button at 6am, my mantra was, “This is what I do.” It’s just normal. This is my life. I exercise. I eat well. There you go.
It worked, of course. By September, I was down 30 lbs, but had also replaced a lot of fat with muscle. My pant size had gone from a 38 or a 40 (depending on the cut) to a 34. T-shirt size went from XL to L. Swim trunks from XL to M. I could wear much nicer clothes, too. Pants fit me without hemming. (No, my legs aren’t getting shorter, but apparently the only other guys with 38″ waists are also 8 feet tall.)
Just as importantly, I was benefiting from all the psychological benefits of fitness. More patience with Leo. Better overall mood. More energy to do stuff.
Then came the stress fracture. Immediately, I lost my ability to jog, but I was undeterred. Without skipping a beat, I was at the gym doing almost all the same exercises, except for squats and calf raises. The exercise bike substituted for the jogging.
At about the 3-week point, I realized from a combination of Internet research and a renewed dull ache in my foot that I really shouldn’t be walking on a cracked 5th metatarsal, Aircast or not. I switched to crutches and stopped the bike. Life in general got a whole lot more complicated and I became much less useful around the house. I kept up the workouts except now I was avoiding free weights for most exercises because I couldn’t carry the damn things to the bench anymore. I switched to swimming for cardio.
In the pool, I made a point of wearing the heart rate strap I’d been using for jogging. This was to make sure I was keeping up an intensity of exercise similar to when I had been running.
After the anticipated 6-week follow-up came and went, I was still on crutches. My brief taste of life without crutches had been a cruel tease and frustration was setting in. Then one day at the gym, I felt pain in my right shoulder. I had never had shoulder pain and was always very careful about exercise technique to prevent it. The next day at the pool, I felt the same pain in the same shoulder.
A bit more Internet research led to a new realization: I think I have a mild case of Swimmer’s Shoulder. It’s probably from the fact that I hadn’t worked my way up to full cardio intensity in the pool as gradually as I should have. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I should have known all about overuse injuries by now.
Treatment for this, of course, is rest and avoidance of activities that cause pain for about 4 weeks.
Almost every upper body muscle group uses the shoulder joint. I had already been trying to work around forearm and elbow stiffness brought on by the crutches. This changed the game entirely.
I decided I had to quit for a while, or risk finding more new and original ways to cause myself injury.
We spent part of this past weekend in Halifax, where we did a significant amount of walking around downtown. I realized that my shoulders, forearms were taking a beating from all the mileage on the crutches. Despite a few days’ rest from swimming and weights, my right shoulder was hurting as much as ever, if not more. That would be from impact from crutches on the joint, naturally. Not only this, but my right knee and hip also became sore from overuse.
Despite having had a great time on the trip, my mood was dark on the drive home as I took stock of all the ways my body has failed since that one freakin’ little bone in my left foot started to ache in early September.
It makes me angry and really very worried that this has been yet another failed effort at a healthy lifestyle.
Now, I haven’t given up yet: I am going to work more on my diet in the coming weeks if I can’t exercise while everything finishes healing up.
Careful dieting regains only partial control, though. I still worry that the loss of my hard-earned daily routine will prove to be yet another coup-de-grâce struck against the new healthy self I’ve been trying to build.
My biggest frustration right now is that as long as the foot bone isn’t healed, I’ll be on crutches. As long as I’m on crutches, my shoulder joint and other sore spots will keep getting irritated and healing there will be delayed.
The treatment I’ve been prescribed for the foot isn’t really consistent with the information I’ve found in online sources as being “best practice” for 5th metatarsal stress fractures. It’s apparently a notoriously finicky site for a fracture because of limited blood supply. A few docs recommend surgery right off the bat to fixate the bone with a screw. Most, if not all of them recommend non weight bearing in a plaster of Paris cast (complete immobilization) for 4 to 8 weeks.
Note that I’ve been on a walk-in-an-aircast then walk-on-crutches, then try-walking-with-no-cast-for-a-couple-days, then three-more-weeks-on-crutches-before-walking-again course of treatment. I’m a week and a half away from the followup appointment with the doctor and I still have a dull ache in the bone as I write this.
At one point, I thought the Halloween would mark the end of this ordeal and now I have no idea if I’ll be walking before Christmas. If I have to wait another 5 weeks before the doc recommends a bone graft and titanium screw (probably elective, low priority, waiting list, etc.) and then another 6 weeks after the unknown surgery date before I can bear weight, I’ll be lucky to be walking again by Easter.
What shape will the rest of me be in by then?!