knees, knees & more knees

17 Jul

It’s been ages since my last post – however there has been a significant development on the knee story and a message I need to give.

Firstly, after an 8 month wait I finally had the surgery on the right knee on the 4th July. This happened after an expensive private visit to the consultant after the left knee also started to become painful and swollen (this is one with the cruciate ligament reconstruction and only 40% meniscus left). An MRI scan showed that all was well in respect to the repairs and there were no further tears to the meniscus, however there was an increasing amount of ‘wear and tear’, this essentially means that the remaining cartilage is simply getting thinner so there is less cushioning between the bones.  The surgeon’s recommendation was therefore to put in some cortisone injections while they were working on the right one.

So this brings me onto the results of the right knee surgery – I went into this op hoping that it would get me back to where I was at the end of last summer – walking, kettlebells, body pump etc.  I’m now dealing with the fact that that this is looking unlikely.

I had a spinal anesthetic so was able to see what the surgeon found, as well as not one but two tears to my meniscus, there was extensive damage to the cartilage that sits behind my kneecap, this makes sense as it had got increasingly painful to kneel.  This has happened through ‘wear and tear’ and it a reminder of the amount of time I spent being severely overweight – the reality of this is that there is so little cartilage in places, there is almost  bone on bone action, it’s far worse than what is going on in the left knee.

So I am now in the position of allowing the severe inflammation that was inside my knee to go down – it wasn’t pretty!  And then working out how to move forwards with exercise, I have been increasingly restricted over the last few months as both knees got more painful.  Some of the things I really enjoy – swimming and walking will need to be adapted – breast stroke and going downhill aren’t recommended. The classes I enjoy will all need to be looked at to see how much I can actually still do as kneeling and squatting are now an issue.

The surgeon’s advise is that I need to look after my knees – or I’m looking at replacement way too early. It is disappointing, I was hoping for a better result, I am though looking forward to looking at what the plan needs to be for keeping active.

Of course the message from all of this is that this may not have happened to this extent had I not put the strain on my knees for all that time, whilst I can’t go back and change anything, I can tell my story and hope that younger people who are overweight or not, consider the effects this can have on your body.

It’s not just about not being able to find clothes, getting out of breath, risk of high blood pressure and diabetes – there is strain being put on all your joints, the longer this goes on the worse it will be, it won’t matter if you get fit later in life, the damage will already have been done, whilst you can reverse the blood pressure and diabetes problems, your cartilage won’t regrow, once its gone, that’s it.  Due to the restrictions this places on activity, keeping fit will be trickier and ironically the activity you want to do will make the situation worse!

So don’t put off getting fitter and smaller – do it while you’re young – it’s easier then and you have a chance of avoiding later issues.  I’m now looking at having regular injections into my knees (not little ones either!) and being restricted as to the activities I can do.  Far from ideal.

So plans need to be made on how to move forwards – if I gain too much weight again, my knees won’t be able to cope and I risk major problems, that isn’t the way to go.

I’ll report back on what the solution is.




An update on the knee thing, music & boredom

27 Feb

I know I’ve been absent for a while – I have though still been in the gym, however the knee injury has put pay to my walking – this has been very hard, I use walking to deal with stress. I walk without music, just taking in the fresh air and my thoughts.

The only thing I can do at the moment is cycle – in the gym, now it’s not exactly silent there, it is very necessary to block out the standard radio noise. I’ve been experimenting, part of me thought this was a good opportunity to work my way through my (very eclectic) music collection.  Sadly this has not been successful, the dreams of sunshine music making my time in the saddle more enjoyable didn’t happen, it turns out that there is only one album that keeps me pushing myself and its far from relaxing – yes it’s Guns ‘n’ Roses Appetite for Destruction.  I didn’t see this coming, however it keeps me pedalling, quite fast so no bad thing I guess…

I also tried going back in the pool, however thanks to my knee I can’t do breast stroke, so being a non-crawl swimmer my only option is using a kick board to stop my legs going back to frog action. Oh my goodness it was so boring, now I’m all for exercise but when I got out of the pool frustrated and a little bit cross it isn’t really doing what I need it to so I’ve shelved that activity for the time being!

So I’m in the gym, working out with weights, kettlebells (no classes – too much I can’t do), pilates (luckily my class is predominantly over 40s so we have all injuries of some sort!) and on the bike. I’m lifting more now than I’ve ever done before and with more confidence – I have a great gym with lots of kit so I’m not getting bored.

It won’t be for ever, I’m now on the surgery list with a diagnosis of a torn cartilage and some issues with my knee cap which can’t be formally diagnosed until the surgeon has a look inside.  The plan is to make sure I’m fit going into surgery just like last time so I’m back pounding the pavements hopefully by the summer – I have a charity walk to do for the hospice that cared for my dad – it’s very important!

So I’m learning to focus on what I can do – not what I can’t.

Body Image – what do you see?

27 Feb

There have been various news articles recently about body image – an interesting one was about allowing teenage girls to do sports like cheerleading because other activities made them feel unfeminine?   I’m all for choice, if you’ve ready my story then you’ll know one of the reasons I didn’t do sport after the age of 13 was that my school only offered team games and I wasn’t confident (or any good at them).  However what it raises for me is a more fundamental question about what we see in the mirror?  What do we see and what do others see?

I put together a before and after picture for an article this week – looking very different at points in my life makes me ponder what I thought about my body at those points.

... before and afterWhen I was big, for a few years I didn’t really think about it, at this point I was just grateful to be well, as time went on, I didn’t hate my body, I just ignored it, I could not see myself in a mirror, I would look but not really take it in on any level?  As I reached my 40s  I did start to have an uncomfortable relationship with it as the reality of obesity settled in.

As I got smaller, it was a tricky time, as I looked in the mirror, I wasn’t sure what I saw, she looked familiar, however she wasn’t the person I’d lived as for over a decade?  It was only thanks to a photographer friend offering to take some shots of me that I slowly (and I mean slowly) came to terms with what I now looked like?

So what about now?  Yes I am more confident, when I now look in the mirror I am pleased at what I see however there are some things that are still tricky and they are probably invisible to most.  My body is fit, healthy however as I’ve talked openly about before the effects of long term obesity are present and despite all my best efforts will not improve.  The skin isn’t good, it is very loose in places, in fact I made the decision a while ago not to lose anymore and to put a little back on as the sagginess was not pleasant and was affecting my body confidence.  I could see little point in creating a body that made me as unhappy as the old one – the main thing was about getting fit and healthy.  A boyfriend not being able to deal with that didn’t help either and I was more than honest with him about my story, he thought my fitness was great however the reality of what my body looked like was a step too far for him.  For those of us out there in the ‘dating’ world, its a tricky one, when do you tell someone what lies underneath?  I think that may warrant another post at some point!

This posed the question of what others see too –  many of the people in my life now, have no idea about me until I tell them.  That is also a strange one, for me, the old me was me for a long time, yet many only know the present me?

I do think we all – male and female have a perception of what is beautiful – what makes me sad is that often its isolated to what someone looks like. We’re guilty of it ourselves & in what we think of others, we’ve been pulled out of reality by media, celebrity, news, plastic surgery, the list is endless, we’ve forgotten about what normal people look like, we fight against age, genetics, what our lives have thrown at us – so our expectations are unrealistic, of course this is perhaps easier to deal with as we get older, for teenagers today, it’s harder, they don’t have life experience to draw on.  I hope the debate continues as to what a healthy body image is, I hope to see it associated with self respect, confidence, honesty, obesity, healthy living, eating disorders and weight management and included on school syllabuses.

And as a final note on the sport thing – if I’d had more choice at school and been able to continue with gymnastics or other things that didn’t involve being in a team or running maybe my story would have been different…make the debate about that, not girls not wanting to look unfeminine?

It’s not just about the cardio?

21 Nov
My Swollen Knee

My Swollen Knee (Photo credit: Bekathwia)

So the knee problems continue, lots of swelling, painful most of the time now and 3 weeks until my hospital appointment. Yes it is frustrating however it is making me look at what keeping active now means to me and how I move forwards?

  • It’s vital to how my head feels. This for me is of course a big thing, the girl who really couldn’t ever see the point in doing any exercise now needs it.
  • Keeping active doesn’t mean going to the gym, it means not sitting on my bum for hours on end, I get up often now (it stops my knee from getting too stiff anyway), wander around a bit, talk to people rather than just emailing them (I can be so retro!). I also fidget! I make a list of jobs that need doing in the evening and make sure I do them, rather than making for the sofa!
  • I can adapt – my personal trainer is now working up new programmes for me that don’t involve my legs. After a session on the static bike last weekend, its now apparent that my knee doesn’t even like that so my last bit of kit for cardio/warming up has gone. It’s made me feel very frustrated and worried that I’ll lose control of my weight without being able to do it. So the lovely Kelly is working out what I can do and we’ll re-focus the effort to my back, arms, shoulders and core – I will look wicked from the waist up!
  • It’s not just about the cardio – there is a panic when you can’t do what we all think is calorie burning activity. For me the main thing that has changed my body shape over the last year or so has been the weights and resistance work, as you’ll know for me its always been about the tape measure not just the scales.
  • Smiling – I need to work on this, focusing on the positive what I ‘can’ do – not what I ‘can’t’?
  • I’ve been there before!  I have already got through one lot of major knee surgery and it didn’t result in me getting back to the old me!  I need a little more faith that it won’t happen this time either?

Disclaimer: those are not my knees!

Back to the surgeon

29 Oct

After months of exciting new exercise, challenges and feeling pretty good about myself – I’ve had a bit of a set-back.  Getting into bed one night, I twisted my ‘good’ knee, it now swells up, the joint is hot and my GP can feel fluid. It doesn’t like doing nothing or any exercise, so most of the time, it’s very annoying.

I’ve been referred back to my surgeon at the beginning of December to assess what the problem is.  It is disappointing – however once I’m back from holiday next week, I’ll be working with my trainer on new programmes that don’t put it under any strain until we know what the problem is.

I’m in Cornwall this week and the plan was to do some walking however a mini hike at the weekend proved this probably isn’t a good idea at the moment, so I’ve scaled back my plans. What I’ve learnt over the years is that there is always a way to keep active, when I was getting smaller but still big there was the swimming, there was a whole load of stuff I could do before my last knee surgery and after.  And most of the stuff I’ve been doing this year I would never have felt possible so I’m sure I can keep myself occupied with this new challenge.

And as I approach my 46th birthday I am actually still quite chuffed at what I manage to achieve!

Image 24 Aug

Me in the Gym

I don’t often post photos of me in my gym kit, but I’m feeling quite good about how I look at the moment so what the hell! So here am I in the studio at the gym (weekends are great as its often free so you get some space and the opportunity to use the mirrors to check your technique) with my friends the medicine ball and the kettlebell.

Being Active

24 Aug

IMG_1122I’ve had a great week, my hips are less sore and I’m feeling more flexible.  And this seems to have happened because I upped the activity levels – it’s also been a week of another first, this time a Body Pump class.  I’d always seen the people go off to this one and thought them to be super-fit and out of my league, so to be able to do it with a really decent amount of weight lifted and knowing I could lift more was a pretty good feeling.

So this week so far I’ve done that, an intermediate Kettlebells class, and two big legs sessions one with my PT and one on my own where I smashed the previous results!

We’ve also added in a lot more stretching before and after a session in the hope that this will also help my joints.

I love my new gym, I feel part of something especially now I’m doing the classes (I’ve been a bit of a lone exerciser up to now).  The attention to detail and variety from the training plans is great and I’m really enjoying seeing my progress.

I thought you might like to read what my sessions now include, we’ve doing some more ‘body part’ focused sessions now.


Legs (and bum!)

Warm up: 1000 metres rowing (I’m averaging at 5mins)

Treadmill  x 2 sets

  • 4 mins at 3% incline at average pace of 6km
  • 3 mins at 5% incline at average pace of 6km
  • 2 mins at 8% incline at average pace of 5.6km
  • 1 min at 12% incline at average pace of 5.6km

Leg press:  69kg 10reps x 3 (30 sec rest between each set)

Leg extensions:  20kg  10 reps x 3 (30 sec rest between each set)

Leg Curls: 34kg 10 reps x 3 (30 sec rest between each set)

4kg Medicine Ball lunges (round the clock) x 2 sets

Sumo Squats – 10kg kettlebell x 10 x 2 sets

Upright Bike: HIT

5 mins at steady pace >70RPM @ resistance 8

20 secs sprint at >100+ RPM x 3 (10 sec rest between each)   (I’m aiming for >110 RPM consistently)


3 minutes cooldown on the bike + leg stretches. 

So we continue, I’ve just picked up a new pack of sessions that I can do on my own (a lot need two for timing and spotting etc) – my body seems to really like a bit more intensity.

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