Getting Fit for Travel After Three Hip Surgeries

Fitness is not one of my typical blog themes. I’m not even sure how related to travel it is. However, if we aren’t fit for travel our adventures can become impossible or at least significantly compromised. Therefore, I hope you will forgive me the liberties of posting what may be a bit off topic. But even if this is a bit of a selfish post, I hope you will find something you can relate to and that you find beneficial.

Surely, it’s not uncommon to hear women in their 50s complain about not being in the physical condition they once were. The years around that 50th birthday are tough for women. Not just because we are forced to acknowledge that we have been on this earth for half a century or because we know that we are closer to the end of our lives than to the beginning. We also have to deal with the ravages of menopause. There’s that everyday reminder that our bodies are changing, never to be what they once were.

We all deal with it. However, it seems these years were a bit tougher for me. Now I realize this may just be my perception and not reality. I only say this because even before I started having the physical signs of menopause, my body was causing me to feel old beyond my years.

Surgery #1

One Spring afternoon seven years ago (age 46), I was out for a walk when I suddenly had a sharp pain that radiated around the right side of my pelvis. I wasn’t sure if it was in my hip or back. I had had pain in my hip before, especially when walking long distances. This pain was the same but somehow different. It was sharper and also spread across my back.  I cut my walk short. The next day the pain persisted. And the day after that and after that.

After about 10 days I went to the doctor who sent me to an orthopedic specialist. I saw a local specialist who suspected I had a labral tear. (Similar to your rotator in your shoulder but in your hip.) I was sent for an MRI which proved inconclusive which apparently with this issue they usually do. Then for a CT scan. Also, Inconclusive but I was still in pain and other diagnostic tests indicated it was a labral tear. Surgery was recommended. However, I was not confident with my doctor so I got a second opinion. The new orthopedic agreed with the first.  A few weeks later I was having surgery to repair it.

The recovery was 6 weeks non-load bearing and I wasn’t able to bend at the hip for the first 2 weeks. It was a crazy difficult recovery. After 6 weeks off your feet, your muscle atrophy and you have very little strength. Despite the difficult recovery and lengthy rehab, I was back to doing the things I had before the surgery within 6 or 8 months.

Prior to my surgery, I was a “Gym Rat.” I never thought of myself as an athlete or even a Gym Rat but apparently, doctors and others saw me this way. And perhaps it was a good thing. I attribute my rapid recovery to being in excellent physical condition prior to the surgery.

Surgery #2

Now let’s fast forward. A few more months pass and I start having a different kind of pain in the same hip. This was soft tissue pain. It wasn’t as deep as the original pain and it went from my groin down my leg. I would get cramps and I had a sharp pain in my butt cheek (not sciatica)

I tried to deal with it but ultimately, I was becoming couch-bound perhaps even more so than from the labral tear. After going to the gym during the day I would then lay on my couch icing my hip at night. I went back to the hip surgeon who did some diagnostic tests and concluded it was exactly what I thought, soft tissue injury damage. Well, Orthopedic doctors don’t deal with this so I was off to another specialist. And I ended up having a second surgery to release some tendons and clean up some other issues.

This surgery was a piece of cake compared to the first. I was walking a mile the next day as part of my physical therapy. And again, I attribute my recovery to my physical condition.

Eventually, the surgical pain went away and I no longer had the stabbing in my butt cheek or the groin pain. However, the relief was short lived. I was developing arthritis in my hip. I knew when I had the original surgery that I had a 50/50 chance this would happen. Well, lucky me. I was in the 50-percent.

My New Hip

At this point, I was not quite 48 years old. I decided I was going to try to get to 50 without the surgery. All the while, continuing to exercise despite the pain. I was working out as hard as ever and did so right up to about 2 days before my hip replacement surgery.

I didn’t make it to 50 but I was only months away from it.

After my surgery, I was not sent to physical therapy. The doctors sent me home with exercises and put under the care of a physical therapist who communicated with me via the internet. The therapist would ask a series of questions about my progress and pain level then make recommendations regarding my treatment. Like the good patient that I always am, I did all my exercises as prescribed. Before long, I was released from therapy. I was free to continue with my life the way it was before surgery.

This was wonderful. I was still in pain but that was to be expected. However, despite getting the OK to resume normal activity, I was afraid to go back to the gym. I knew my level of “normal activity” was not on par with that of most people who get hip replacements. First of all, I was not quite 50 let alone 70. I also spent years lifting weights, participating in triathlons and 50-mile walks for charity. In many ways, I wasn’t even your typical 50-year-old. For God’s sake, I jumped out of a plane for my 50th Birthday.

The present day

3 years have passed since my hip replacement and I have never really gotten back to the gym. I was afraid I was going to overdo it and injure myself yet again. And eventually, that fear went away but by that time I was out of the habit. I have spent the last two years or more struggling to get back to the gym. I’ve gained a bit of weight ( I was never a skinny person) but mostly I am out of shape. For the first time in my life, I am struggling to do even 5 push-ups. I know that this may not be a huge deal to many women but for me, it’s a big deal.

Part of my struggle to commit to going back to the gym was the thoughts that I was never going to be the woman I was at 30 or 40. This is just silly reasoning. It shouldn’t be about that. It should be about being the fittest we can be at 30, 40, 50 or whatever our age. I need to remind myself that I want to be the fittest 53-year-old version of me.  I’m hoping this shift in thinking does the trick for me.

I was totally kick-ass at 40. When I reach 60 and beyond, I want people to look at me and aspire to be me when they get to my age.  I see videos of Ruth Bader Ginsberg in the gym and want to be doing the same when I’m her age. I want to be able to travel and continue my adventures as long as I am able. And the better physical condition I am in, the longer I will be able to do so. It’s really that simple.

UPDATES

February 28, 2019: Since the beginning of the year, I am down 6-pounds. While those are not especially quick results, I am thrilled since I have been on two trips in that time. I don’t know about you, but part of the reason I travel is to experience the local food. I don’t watch my calories when on the road. That’s not to say I throw caution to the wind, I just don’t focus on it. But, when I travel I do tend to be more active so I can get away with slacking off a bit.

When at home, I use a tracking app SparkPeople (not an affiliate link) to track my daily calorie intake. I like SparkPeople and have used it on and off for years with success. The app has a vast database of foods for tracking already preprogrammed. Plus it allows users to add and share foods not listed in the catalog. In addition to the food database, you can track workouts, water consumption, weight loss and more. Also, it allows you to connect with others with similar goals to help you stay motivated and provide some accountability.

In addition to my weight-loss, I am back to the gym three days a week. WooHoo! And I’m actually feeling good about it and enjoying it again. It’s been quite some time since I have felt this way. So, all in all, I feel like I’ve had a couple of great wins this month.

 

If you are approaching the Big 5-0, check out my list of 50 Things to do Before 50, Part 1 and Part 2

Susan Decoteau-Ferrier

Travel writer/blogger, photographer. Avid potter and wanna-be artist. Wife, Mom to 6 fur kids, gardener, coffee snob.

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