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 86 (Tuesday 1 December) through 127 (Monday 11 January 2021).
Days 86-91: First Week of Running
Picking up where I left off in the previous post. I am running again. I resist the urge to immediately start thinking out intricate plans of getting back to my previous volume. For now I am bound to what the PT has me do.
Wednesday, the day after that first run back, I have another PT appointment. I tell him how it went and he OKs my continued running. Two days rest between every one of them though. To appease my need to run, he has me run in place on the bosu ball for a few minutes at the end of the session again. Friday, day 89, I repeat that first run back: 3×3 minutes with 3 minute walking breaks in-between. I still do it by feel and the HR still easily skyrockets into the low 160s. On the first rep, I did not feel like the push-off was going great, like I really noticed my attempts at bending the foot. I think it improved afterwards. Figure I had lost some of my warm-up/stretching by the time I got to the park where I did the actual running.
Throughout the week, I do a daily elliptical session. 45 minutes on days where I run (including the bosu ball running), 50 minutes on the other days. One entire hour on Sunday to pretend to do a long run. I also still try to walk a little bit most days.
Days 92-98: Tens of Minutes of Running
This Monday would have been an outside running day, but I have a PT appointment. He already has me run in place on the foamy pilates block and I felt a bit beat up after the session. Best not overdo things, the outside run is moved to Tuesday. My foot ends up more swollen than usual after the session. I skip my planned walk, but still do my elliptical for the day. It does not feel ideal.
The next morning I have sore spots on both legs, that PT session must have really done a number on me. Still, I warm up and go for my planned jog. That one feels perfectly fine. I end up doing a total of 12 minutes, split up into 3-3-6, again with 3 minute walking rest.
On one of my walks this week I notice I might still not be pushing off correctly during walks. I feel like I lift when I am still resting on the ball of the foot, rather than really rolling through to the toes like I do on the right side. If I recall, I showed it to the PT on the next appointment and he saw nothing wrong though. I try to pay attention to it anyway.
By Friday my back is screaming in pain. I had been sitting in the living room couch all week during work and I think that was not the best idea. Non-ideal back support combined with being a little hunched over the laptop. I am getting old. I repeat the 12 minute run and I definitely feel the back throughout the session. Far from ideal, but I really wanted to get this in.
Elliptical usage is similar to the week prior.
Days 99-105: No News Is Good News
In this week nothing really of note happened. The back got slowly better throughout the week. Some small runs, a kine session. A yoga try-out. Boring is good.
Days 106-119: Holiday Running
The PT was taking a winter break, so I had no new appointments scheduled for the two weeks of winter “break”. With this, in essence, workout day falling away, I figured the time was now to switch to three days of running a week. Up till this point I had been following the back-to-running idea of the PT: two days rest between runs, go up in distance one run, then keep a run at the same distance. I kept the plan for increasing, though diminished the increase a little to account for the runs being closer together.
For those two weeks, I ended up with the following “plan”. Week one: 22, 27, and 27 minutes. Week two: 31, 31, and 35 minutes. Following the PT’s advice, I kept two 3 minute walking breaks in each of those runs as a way to assess how I am feeling. If something feels off, I am more likely to really pay attention to it while walking versus running through it. That is the reasoning anyway. It ended up not really mattering, the runs felt fine enough and I seem to have gotten through them without injury. Knock on wood.
Some other things of note happened in this period.
On Christmas eve I spent too much time standing up. It felt fine throughout, but by the end of the evening my foot and ankle looked super swollen again. That was worrying. On the flip side, this event made me pay some more attention to the swelling of my foot. A few days later I noticed the foot was beginning to look a whole lot more normal again. It is still not as defined as the good side is, but the left foot can largely pass for normal again.
After spending New Year’s Eve at our “knuffelcontact” (and crashing there), I ended up walking the 9 to 10 km home. I felt too tired to do my planned ellipticaling, but a decent walk counted as a replacement in my head. My knee was not a big fan of the long walk though, I wonder if I still did something wrong in that process.
Days 120-126: Final Countdown
Monday I go back to the PT for another appointment. During the exercises he points out that this might be the first time he sees my foot so “not swollen”. I suggest perhaps it is due to the lack of PT exercises the past two weeks, but he tells me it was just time for it to happen. I am healing!
He is happy to hear how the running is going, has me run some in place on the bosu ball to cool down, and ends the session with a bombshell: next week will be our last session.
The rest of the week I run 35, 40, and 40 minutes. My sleep is not ideal, what with the whole coup in the USA, sprinkled in with a false alarm in the home security system, but I trudge through.
Day 127: This Is The End
I go for one final PT session. We talk a bit (i.e., I ask a bit) about what to do from here on out. He mentions it takes six months for the fracture to fully calcify for a young healthy individual, which I apparently am. It means very little for what I need to do from here on out, but I wanted to add that little titbit of information. I mention the Jack Daniels’ return from injury plan I have read about, which would have me back to 100 km weeks by the end of April. He actually thinks that sounds reasonable. I was worried he would tell me it is definitely too fast. He does admit that the science around all this is shaky at best. There is no defined best way to go about it. He advises me to write out the planning and send it his way for a look over.
And that makes my final PT session. He tells me I can contact him if something feels off the coming weeks/months, but that he is no longer needed for my rehab. I will miss the guidance, perhaps not the suffering of some of those sessions from the past months. He tells me to keep up the stretching, but does not give me a particular ankle strength routine. I will have to remember to keep on practising the balancing a little, maybe add in some “stand up out of a chair with one leg” exercises. Some lunges are also always a good idea (and would have been a good idea regardless). Over the winter break, I briefly tried some pilates youtube videos. Maybe I will get back into those.
This also marks the end of my (somewhat) day-by-day log of my broken ankle. The next update will likely be some musings about how I plan to get my kilometer per week back up. Likely it will be using the Jack Daniels planning, perhaps adjusted to some input from the PT and/or a coach at my athletics club.