One week after my first run back after ACL surgery, my jubilation has faded to the reality that it’s going to take a looong time to get back to anything resembling normal running. I started with five minutes on the treadmill a week ago, confident that I would quickly, comfortably and safely add minutes. A week later, I’ve added one minute. One. Any more than that, and I’m scared the swelling and soreness I feel already will increase exponentially. And since my run-to-recovery ratio is roughly 1:30 (for every one minute of running during the day, I can count on 30 minutes of icing and elevating that night), that’s not something I’m interested in.
That said, I used this past week to formulate some goals—for my comeback and beyond.
Perform every exercise in PT to its fullest. This is the No. 1 thing I can do to get back to the life I want to lead, in which I run, ski, backpack and otherwise play outside with abandon.
Strengthen my VMO and hamstrings. Strengthening my VMO (the muscle that runs on the inside of the quad) and hamstrings will help me avoid another ACL tear. This is a very, very good thing.
Swim at least twice per week—preferably three. Gradually start adding one long swim per week, starting with a 5,000-yarder, to train for the 4.4-mile Great Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim. I happily managed a 4,000-meter swim last week, and upped my two other “regular” swims to 3,500 yards. (Yards vs. meters depends on which pool I visit).
Stage a *smart* running comeback. Come back safely and slowly, starting with adult-supervised treadmill running in physical therapy and/or run-walks. I promise, promise, promise I will not add minutes or mileage until my current minutes or mileage feel fabulous.
Lift (outside of PT) at least once a week, using the assisted pull-up machine for 3X10 reps. Continue my pull-up training plan until I can do several at a time.
Try one new, in-season fruit or vegetable per week. When, and why, did I give up on this? In recent weeks, I’ve tried a sunshine squash and Jonagold apples from the farmer’s market.
Find my center of balance. During my one day of ski and toboggan training before a season-ending ACL tear, my fantastic instructors immediately identified two major areas for me to work on: I need to keep my upper body quiet while my legs do the work, and find my true center of balance on skis. Obviously, the fact that it looks like I’m trying to conduct a symphony orchestra with my ski poles while skiing bumps didn’t help with balance (ever try waving your hands wildly while balancing on the BOSU?). So every time I do a balance-related exercise in PT—squats on the wobble board, hurdles, etc.—I obsess about keeping my upper body quiet.
Master the single-leg squat. See above—once I find my center of balance, watch out!
Master the pull-up. Just because it bugs me that my shoulders are perfectly strong, but this simple exercise has always eluded me. See above.
Beat my previous leg-press record of 300 pounds. Men’s Health says being able to leg-press 2.25 times your body weight is a good measure of overall fitness. Since I’m I’m already back to doing reps at 300 pounds, I’d like to beat this benchmark.
Resume speed workouts with gusto to train for a 5K or 10K. A PR in either distance as a result would be nice. But I’m going for process goals here, and I’m going to start by simply promising myself to do one speed workout a week, once I’m able to.
Start performing plyometric exercises to develop agility and speed ahead of next ski season—and to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Female athletes are horribly susceptible to ACL tears. I’m determined to do everything I can to avoid being a statistic again. Check out this great profile of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine’s “Girls Can Jump” program. Stay tuned for more on my invincible-ACL strength-training program …
What kind of goals are you working toward right now?