Shifting the Focus

8 Feb

Up until November I was skating 4-5 times a week. All in an effort to take the silver moves and freestyle tests by January or February at the latest. The final goal being to compete at adult sectionals and adult nationals in March and April. Since sectionals were to be where I lived I was very excited to work towards that goal.

However, it’s February now and did I take the test? No, unfortunately it didn’t happen. Not from lack of trying though, this time I didn’t have a choice. I just couldn’t skate anymore without major pain. It had become completely impossible to skate crossovers let alone silver level moves patterns down the ice.

I  had started my training last August from scratch and worked very hard at achieving my former level of skating (pre-summer) before actually working on test elements. August and September were also spent in group lessons rehashing the basics and learning a few new moves. I really focused on my moves like I never did before. Always being obsessed with freestyle this was a new focus for me. I wasn’t worried about the silver freestyle test, it was the moves I completely stressed about.

By the end of October, I had decided to take private lessons again and was ready to start working seriously on the silver moves patterns. I doubled my efforts on perfecting the 8-step mohawk sequence and then started in on the forward power pulls (the bane of my existence!) as well as alternating backward inside and forward outside 3-turn pattern. I learned a new way to pull into my camel AND for the first time started experiencing a pretty stable spin. But then…. my knees starting getting worse, especially as I performed those power pulls on one leg over and over again. The pain in my left knee was so bad that as soon as I stepped on the ice and tried to complete any type of crossover or three turn I would feel immediate stabs of pain. Not only was unable to do crossovers but the forward power pulls on my left leg were completely out of the question. It seems that my focus on moves was putting a tremendous amount of stress on my knees something that I had never really had much of an issue with practicing freestyle… makes you think how much harder moves can be on your body, doesn’t it?

I had also noticed since September that my warm up time had been getting longer and longer and my knees had been getting stiffer and stiffer while I skated. I was determined though that I make it to testing in January so I went back to my “old” physical therapy exercises and ramped up the warm up before I got on the ice. Nothing worked. Ice, heat, wraps, nothing. I was taking ballet, I had to stop. I could hear the crackling of my knees and I’m pretty sure that the movements especially the jumping were just making things worse.

When I finally went to my new orthopedist and had my knee x-rayed the final prognosis was patella-femoral syndrome. Something like runners knee, extremely common. My choices were arthroscopic surgery to allow the knee to track better (something my old orthopedist never advised) or physical therapy. Of course, I went to physical therapy. As much as I was in pain, it seemed extreme to do surgery. I also took a week off skating to rest. Just until I felt a little better. Surely that would happen in a week or two of rest and therapy?

Not so, I did therapy for a month. Skated twice, both times with the same pain. It seemed to be getting worse not better with therapy. At the same time I was doing the elliptical on my own, walking or weight training trying to desperately find something I could do to exercise without pain so I could keep up my fitness level. It just wasn’t happening, even the elliptical hurt. So, I finally had to stop thinking about taking that silver test. Darn it! By December I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I was disappointed to say the least.

Now, if you read back in my blog you’ll see reoccurring issues like this one over the past two years or so but nothing with pain so severe that would keep my off the ice for months just because of it. It was clear that this time I might need to really give up skating for a prolonged period of time or even for good!

Because… not only couldn’t I skate but I couldn’t really do anything else either. Walking sedately down the street seem to be the extent of my sportsmanship. Standing up, kneeling, going up stairs were all  a major pain and worse while I was skating. I wouldn’t even dream of running or jumping! So, I backed off the therapy and everything else in an effort to just give my body aka my knees a rest.

I completely stopped everything until maybe 3 weeks ago. Through the holidays and early January I avoided heels and anything remotely exercise related. I didn’t even look at skating because I knew I couldn’t handle it with my knee plus it depressed me ( to be honest). By January my knee was better, I could at least go up and down stairs without much pain just the usual slight achiness and I could go about my day to day schedule without an issue as well. It seemed that letting my knee rest had done some good.

I was left with this empty space though where skating and exercise had been. I knew my knee wasn’t really completely healed and I knew that as soon as I went back to skating it would come back.

… And it did. Something about the motion of skating just really aggravates it. So, I had my blades re-mounted and had new insoles put in hoping that it was an alignment issue. No such luck.

Now, I’ve never been a person of half measures. I am an all or nothing type of girl. Thinking about only skating once every 2 weeks or so just so my knee can have a time to recuperate each time was and still is to me like not being able to skate at all. So, I started looking at other options. It was clear to me that not having skating or any form of exercise was driving me and yes, my boyfriend completely crazy. I’ve always known it was a stress relief and a major outlet but after not skating for 2 1/2 months I realized once again how important the act of skating it is. However, I think it’s slowly killing my joints. I’m saying that in a nice way. I’ve gained much from the sport but after years of twisting myself into strange positions on the ice and repetitively jumping on thin steel blades I think that my body was/is trying to tell me enough is enough. My body is in knots, completely tight from repetitive use of the same muscles etc. and the knees are just the tip of the iceburg.

So, I’ve started to look at ways to unknot and re-align myself. Part of my knee issue is from tight hamstrings, calves and most definitely a tight IT band and also unbalanced muscles. Physical therapy tried to balance these muscles  but how can you balance something that isn’t even working properly? No one really has a full-proof treatment for patella femoral syndrome and there are many ways people have tried to rehabilitate themselves with mixed results.

So, over the next few weeks I’m hopeful I can blog about my new experiment to “unknot” and “balance” my body in the hope to not just return to skating but to fix some of those alignment issues I have seen re-occur because I pronate, have flat feet, and have had past injuries.

I decided to start with an exercise I would never have considered before, Bikram Yoga. Crazy? Yes, a little. Considering I’ve never been a yoga fan but heat and yoga appeals to my Floridian native self like other yoga never has. Plus it can be gentle and I need something to loosen these old muscles up.

My first bikram yoga and its results as related to my skating to be covered in my next blog post… Bikram pose below. Hmmm.. It looks like a spiral to me!

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga Pose

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One Response to “Shifting the Focus”

  1. Diane March 6, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    Don’t give up on your knee … when I was 20 I fell attempting an Axel when I was tired. My R knee swelled to the size of a grapefruit. I had arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn medial meniscus(1980) .. back on the ice in 6 weeks, however I was a bad PT patient and didn’t rehab correctly. 6 months later I was back for surgery #2, also arthroscopic, this time I had lost all my R knee meniscus and a lateral release done to keep the patellar from tracking. I wore a knee brace for a long time but gave up skating. That was 32 years ago… I’m 52 now. Surgery has come such a long way since then and even my (then- state of the art) surgery has held up all these years. Occasionally it pops or gives way, but I can do most things including skiing and now skating again. I’m even jumping…relearning single jumps.

    Have you considered just doing MITF and giving up on Freestyle or does everything hurt? I think that if my knee gives out in the near future I will stick to the MITF and stop trying to do any Freestyle. I would also consider learning to ice dance if I could find a suitable partner ….

    BTW … I drink an 8oz bottle of Joint Juice every day. It helps the joints – honest.
    I can’t swallow big pills, but you can take Glucosomine/Condroitin supplements.
    I also take Calcium supplements — chewy yummy ones from Trader Joes…

    I’m just getting back into skating and hate to read that anyone is giving it up.

    That Bikram Yoga looks interesting. I think a spiral on ice in motion looks easier!!!

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