Saturday, May 20th. It’s been almost 4 weeks since the trail spit me out, and I’m thinking that I will likely get back on sometime in the next few days. My chances of success are unlikely, but I have to try it anyway. When I jumped off due to injury, I never went back home to LA, and opted to stay at my family’s place outside of the city in order to keep myself clear of any distractions. I shared in a previous post how difficult it was for me mentally to accept the circumstances and come up with a new plan for physical therapy, conditioning, and logistics. While on the mend, I have had a TON of time to think about things, and really maintain laser focus on getting healthy. I’ve basically stayed off of Instagram and Facebook because every time I would see someone on the PCT, it really bummed me out.
Basically my days are repetitive, incredibly boring, and fraught with small wins (feeling less pain; etching longer distances on my daily walks) followed by small losses (feeling better only to be surprised by crazy knife pain in my knee). My days more or less consist of workouts three times per day, some version of a walk (either at the park or on a trail up in the hills), cigarette smoking, and obsessive twitter trolling. I haven’t taken any photos this entire month, which is abnormal for me. Denying myself the pleasure of photography has sort of been my own way to keep from getting complacent and lazy about my physical therapy/recovery.
I consulted with several doctors and was fortunate enough to line up weekly sessions with a physical therapist at Kaiser. He checked my strength each week, and showed me new exercises that he wanted me to do. After 3 session, he told me that it was time to get back on the trail. Although, I didn’t feel strong or confident enough to leave just yet so I decided to stay a 4th week. I’m glad I did. I am exponentially stronger now then I was this time last week. The majority of my exercises with him focused on strengthening my glutes, my quads, and my hamstrings. With my glutes working properly, my knee is less likely to buckle from fatigue - thus eliminating the pain suffered by my IT band over-stretching.
Because I’m neurotic and obsessive, I was able to get an x-ray of my knee. It basically confirmed that I had no broken bones but obviously can’t give a full picture of what is going on. Naturally, despite my doctor and PT advising it was unnecessary, I got an MRI too. The MRI was much more telling, and showed that overall I have a good knee. I do have minor tendinitis under my kneecap, but this MRI result is the green light that I needed to start hiking again.
With all this time on my hands, I spoke to my friends who are experts in sports-medicine/kinesiology. I fine-tuned my workout regimen specifically to deal with this injury, and I thought that it would be helpful for someone else who may need to deal with this in the future. Needless to say, there are literally a million different blogs, videos, etc. with conflicting and sometimes helpful tips/tricks/tools for healing a pissed off IT band. I was able to figure out a set that really helped me a ton. My pain has overall decreased dramatically, but I have to remember that this issue can EASILY come back to haunt me on the trail. I still do get pain, but not enough to limit my ability to walk up and down slopes. But it took every single day of exercise to get to this point. And Im highly cognizant of the possibility that my IT band syndrome will come back with a vengeance.
MY DAILY ROUTINE - 3x PER DAY:
- standing quad stretches, hold 20-30 seconds each.
- standing calve stretches, hold 20-30 seconds each. I usually do this one on the bottom of a staircase.
- standing hamstring stretches using a chair, hold 20-30 seconds each.
- cobbler stretches, hold 30 seconds
- caterpillar pose stretches, hold 20-30 seconds
- sitting hip stretches, hold 20-30 seconds per leg. I sit on my ass, bring one foot and rest it on top of the opposite leg’s knee, press my abdomen forward. You should feel a stretch on your IT band/hip/hamstring.
- FOAM ROLLER: use it often and make sure it hurts. Roll out the IT band, quads, calves, or your face.
- LEG EXERCISES
- side leg lifts, 20-40 reps
- single leg dead lifts, 20 per leg
- hip thrusts, 20-40 reps
- leg ups, 30 reps
- squats with resistance band, 20 reps. Do these until they burn like fucking hell. Knees should not be moving forward or backwards. Resistance band should be tied around both legs above the knees. This set is the single most critical to getting back on trail.
- monster walk with resistance band, as many as you can handle. Resistance band should be criss crossing above and below the knees. stay low for it to really work your quads and glutes at the same time.
- Glute bridge, 20-30 reps
- donkey kick, 20-30 reps. do it til it burns.
- the first 2 weeks I would go to the park and walk 2 miles on pavement.
- on week 3 I began peppering in short 2 mile hikes in the hills to simulate the trail (in addition to walks at the park). you will find that it is completely different than walking on pavement. vulnerabilities in your IT band will show immediately if you have them - helping you change up your PT to address the issue.
- on week 4 doing 5-6 mile hikes on a trail with pack weight. taking frequent breaks to stretch and foam roll.
- SMOKE A CIGARETTE.
When I get back on the trail, I am severely tempering expectations. I won’t be doing much posting the first few days. I plan to start at Agua Dulce and head north. I also only plan to do 10 miles a day for a week or so and assess my pain/stamina from there. Hopefully it all works out, but if it doesn’t at least I tried. Stay tuned.