After an unplanned hiatus, I’m excited that I’m almost ready to pick up my challenge of trying out a new fitness class, craze or fad every week… just in time for the brand new year to start!
I broke a couple of bones in my foot during a competition back in November and have been in a boot and on crutches for the past seven weeks. I had my first crutch free day last week and I hope to be out of the boot next week. Hooray!
The last seven weeks have been an eye opener for me in many ways, and it’s actually been a great experience to go through.
I normally exercise a LOT. I’m one of those people who gets itchy feet after a few hours of sitting still. For me, the idea of sitting on a beach in the Maldives for a couple of weeks has no appeal whatsoever, I’d go stir crazy. I’d always thought not being able to exercise would drive me up the wall but, actually, I’ve felt differently to how I’d expected – pleasingly so.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve lost count of the number of times people have sympathised with comments like “you must be so frustrated…” and I surprise myself every time by thinking “no! Actually, I’m still not!”. I kept expecting a cloud to hit me, but it’s not as if I’m ill, it’s just a few weeks off exercise.
Here are 10 things I’ve learned from 7 weeks on crutches:
- Kindness of strangers abounds: I felt pretty vulnerable when I was out and about on my own in the first few weeks, but everyone is willing to help. From the man who cleared a way for me to get onto the escalator at Waterloo in rush hour, to the woman who carried my newspaper and banana for me when I made the error of going to the corner shop without a backpack, to the countless people who’ve given up their seats for me on buses and trains.
- London buses are astoundingly good: I have gone everywhere by bus and I’m considering giving up the car when I can drive again! You can get practically anywhere for £1.50 and there’s a sense of camaraderie on a bus that you don’t get on a train or tube… people actually talk! My favourite bus moment was one evening sitting in traffic on Twickenham bridge when the whole lower deck had a communal appreciation of a quite spectacular sunset over the Thames. Bus time can be really productive too; I’ve gobbled up books over the last couple of months – sit down, get cosy, and get immersed in a good page turner – dreamy!
- My phone is staying in my pocket: you can’t text, talk or check FaceBook when you’re walking along on crutches… and I quickly realised that I look at my phone waaay too much. When you lift your head up and look around you see so much more, smile at strangers, and have time to simply think. So, from now on, when I’m out walking from place to place I’m going to make a concerted effort to keep my phone in my pocket – there’s rarely anything that can’t wait. If you see me walking along the street looking at my phone, you have permission to give me a slap.
- When it rains you get wet: Fortunately, it doesn’t actually seem to rain that much!
- Building in extra time eliminates stress: It takes longer to do everything on crutches… like, half an hour to put out the bins, but building in a time buffer makes travel a much more relaxing experience. Pre-crutch me would have had a sense of ‘dammit!’ if I saw my bus pulling away from the stop as I turned the corner, but I quickly realised this stress was futile, there’d be another bus along soon and you generally tend to have some pretty interesting conversations at bus stops.
- People will tell you their life story: Being on crutches seems to make you more approachable in the same way having a puppy does… everyone talks to you, and everyone has their own stories to share.
- Crutch handles hurt: I crafted a set of soft handles with some lambswool and kinesiology tape… why don’t they sell these in pharmacies?
- It’s easy to get used to not exercising: Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’ve sat on my arse doing nothing at all; I’ve tried to be inventive with exercises and my fellow coaches at Blitz have helped me to come up with some cool adapted workouts, but I haven’t been able to do anything approaching high intensity and – once you’re out of the habit – I can see why it’s hard to pick it up… because it sucks! This last week I’ve been able to get on the airdyne and wow was it a wake up call. My first session was nothing spectacular: 5 rounds of 30 cal bike/25 light deadlifts. I nearly vomited at the end and it felt GREAT! Am I out of shape? Yep… and I’m looking forward to turning it back around!
- Seek out advice and information: I’m really fortunate to have a brilliant physio a short walk from my house and she’s been looking after me since day one. The information I received from the hospital was limited (understandable, a broken foot is hardly a priority when it comes to use of NHS resources) but it was also contradictory, which was frustrating. When it comes to injury, it’s always worth investing in professional advice to make sure you’re doing all you can to optimise recovery.
- Nutrition is key: well of course I’d say this, but it really is. I’m probably more aware than most of what and how I eat – I’m fascinated by the impact food has on our bodies, and I’m a firm believer in food as preventative medicine. Fuelling your body for recovery is different to fuelling it for exercise; at first, I found myself relaxing a little more than usual when it came to what I ate, and it didn’t make me feel great. Normally, when I have a piece of cake, I feel like it’s immediately burned off by my fast metabolism, but sweet foods have made me feel more sluggish and lethargic while I’ve been immobile, and I can see how easy it would be to become dependent on them (the more you have, the more you crave!). I’ve made sure that I’ve kept lots of protein and a wide variety of vegetables in my diet for maximum nutrients, and I’ve created daily anti-inflammatory potions from ginger, turmeric, lemon, beetroot and matcha green tea. The only change I’ve really made is to lower my fat intake to reflect my reduced activity – this was as a result of listening to my hunger signals rather than intentionally cutting calories.
Overall, the major positive impact I’ve taken away from this period on crutches is the day to day appreciation that I’m fit and well and have an amazing body that can do pretty much anything I ask it to. Yeah, I’ve gained a bit of fat and lost a bit of muscle, but my body is still awesome, and I can’t wait to get back to moving it! Eat well, rest well, move often and be happy in your skin.
Of course there were downsides too… like not being able to have a coffee on the go! There’s no way to put a positive spin on that.
I’m planning my return to my year of new fitness crazes, and will be easing back in in January with some low impact options. If you have any ideas, let me know!