On Sunday 6 September 2020 I broke my left ankle. I tried to somewhat keep track of the recovery process to maybe help someone in a similar predicament frame the injury and know what to expect. I will describe significant events as days since the accident. Day 0 is 6 September, day 1 is 7 September, and so on.
This post describes days 69 (Nice! Saturday 14 November) through 86 (Tuesday 1 December).
Days 69-72: Do All The Sports!
The kine had given me pointers on how to walk correctly earlier in the week, so I decide to put them into action. I start walking daily, trying to pay attention to what he said. What I was doing wrong still boiled down to me not lifting my heel when walking, making me not walk correctly, making my form off, likely hurting all the other stuff through overcompensation. I try to pay attention to it, but the foot/leg/calf is not quite strong enough either. I find walking faster makes it easier, so I tackle the walking in that manner for the time being. More using of the leg = faster healing. (Unless I overdo it)
I still keep biking daily and the elliptical too takes up a chunk of my time. When at the kine, he has me run in place on the bosu ball or on the squishy pilates(?) block. I might not be running, but I try to keep moving.
Day 73: A Twinge
Of course, something has to go wrong. Either I was doing too much, or I piled on the walking too quickly. Combination of the two is also plausible. Either way. During the walk of the day, I feel a flash of pain on a slightly too angled sidewalk. It is the area about 5-10 cm above the break area, so the lateral side of the lower part of the lower leg. There is a tendon there, perhaps? On the elliptical later in the day, I feel some twinges in that area at a few moments, as if some muscle or tendon inside slipped over something oddly. Joy.
Day 74: Light at the End of the Tunnel
During this day’s kine session, I bring up the subject of actually running again. I ask him if he has an estimate of when that might be happening. While he evidently avoids being exact, he hints that it would be “sooner rather than later”. I interpret that as at least one more week, but no more than 3-4 weeks. I HAVE HOPE!
The kine also warned me against overtraining after he hears about the twinge in my leg. I had considered that that was what was happening, but his words put some more actual fear in me. In response, I change my “planning” a little to take it easier. Getting another injury now would be the worst.
Days 75-79: Breaking the Body
I keep feeling the twinge in the lower leg here-and-there when walking or ellipticalling. On the elliptical it mostly seems to occur if I put my foot at a certain angle accidentally. Naturally, I try to avoid doing that.
Besides the twinges, something else pops up. The left knee starts complaining. It is the area on the medial side of the knee, just above where the tibia bone ends. I am getting annoyed at myself for causing this kind of shit.
Day 80: The Scientific Approach
In this kine session, he brings out a little tool to measure the angle I can dorsiflex my ankle. I have to lie on my back with the legs stretched out and have pull my toes up towards my face. Only using the foot and ankle, evidently. With the tool he can then measure the angle between the resting leg and the foot. On the good foot, I get to 80 degrees. On the bad foot, only to 88 degrees. He hints that if I can get 5 degrees better, I will be allowed to run again. Five degrees sounds like a lot, my hopes diminish. This will take a while.
Days 81-85: Bye-Bye-Bike
The twinge on the lateral side of the lower left leg disappears, but the trouble in the left knee has me worried. I blame both the biking (it is not perfectly tailored to me like a fancy road bike) and the walking (of which I may just have done too much). I tone down the walking and essentially give up on the biking. I figure the ellipticalling is the closest thing I have to running, so I want to keep that in. As soon as things feel better, I can reintroduce the walking in order to have some “impact” and weight bearing on the leg.
Day 86: Once a Runner
During the kine session yesterday, on day 85, he out of the blue told me he was going to allow me to go for a run. No bothering to measure my dorsiflexion or anything. Fine by me!!!
The restarting plan is as follows. I can run 3×3 minutes with a 3 minute walk between each rep. I also have to make sure I warm up (elliptical or bike) beforehand and of course ensure I stretched the ankle to have enough mobility.
If it goes well, I can do that session again after having taken two rest days of no running. After another two days of rest, I can add, say, 3 more minutes of running. The next session after that would then repeat the volume. He refers to it as “one over, one under”. Increase a run, then keep it the same, increase a run, then keep it the same again. Either way, that is all future planning. For now, I have a scary 3×3 minutes to contend with.
I am not exaggerating, the lead up to those first running steps had me worried. Will my foot hold up? Will my leg hold up? Will it be all pain and will I just have to call it quits almost immediately? Much like jumping on the bosu ball some weeks ago, the mere idea of putting my poor little foot through such a beating is terrifying. Surely it cannot handle it?
Of course, there is no getting around trying it out. I want to get back to running, I need to get back to running. I will have to trust the kine’s judgement, and my own. I stretch religiously in the hours before heading out. I do some warming up on the elliptical. Then I change into warm enough clothes and walk over to a nearby park which has a flat, safe section of pavement. I need to sooth my mind and have it not worry too much about potential potholes or instability. One problem at a time. I do some more quick stretching in the park. Some more hoping it will be fine.
It was not perfect by any means, not compared to how I know running used to feel, nearly three months ago. I am happy with it though. The muscles on both sides of the ankle still had some trouble with the new impact, but nothing to make me abandon the attempt. Especially the medial side, just below where the tibia ends, was a bit too “complainy”. That feeling improved throughout this little run, luckily. My heart rate was through the roof, quickly going into the 160s. In the before times I would have been in the 140s at worst. I ignored it during the run though and just went by feel. Worries for another day.
I am running again!