The long and winding road to recovery – difficult point in time

It’s been 5 months + 1 week since my Achilles rupture surgery. Since that time, it’s been a really tough road. With respect to the injury, I’ve definitely encountered more lows than highs, mostly due to my desire to perform activities that I can’t, and being slowed down and hampered. Being non weight-bearing for over a month, those crutches and the boot. Struggling through daily activities I took for granted, like mowing the lawn or shopping became adventures. And just the general overall feeling in the lower leg that it’s just not right yet. Thinking about something I’ve done most of my life and not really thought about – walking. Frustrating, depressing, difficult.

But now I’ve hit a really interesting and difficult point in my recovery. This difficulty is based on my way of life, and to some may sound like something trivial, but I’m finding it not so trivial. My ultimate goal with recovery is what anyone with an injury would want – 100% recovery. I still have a way to go, but now I’m on that road alone. You may ask what do I mean by alone – here’s what I mean:

For the past couple of decades, my exercise regime has been fairly structured. I may have changed up the routines – cardio, strength training, and more recently the DVD programs from Beachbody. Before Beachbody, I would look up routines and follow them to give my approach some structure. With Beachbody, it was all laid out for me, structured and complete. I had a guide, so all I had to do was bring myself to the dance and workout. But recovering from a major injury isn’t that simple. And with that knowledge, I embraced physical therapy (PT) for around four months (from the time the doctor allowed it). Working with a professional that laid out a daily routine for me was great. I’d research online to see how her approach measured up to others and it seemed fine to me. But PT is overseen by insurance, and the insurance ran out. I was deemed ready to go at my recovery alone. And that is my difficulty. I am now on Recovery Island all by myself – me and the vastness of the internet for guidance.

The leg is not 100% healed yet. After 5 months, I’d say maybe 60%-70% healed. But as hard as it was to get to this point, that last 30%+ is going to be hard for me. For one, I’m not a competitive athlete. In general they have very structured injury recovery programs. I’m 54 years old, and with the body’s ability to recover, the age card plays an important role. I’ve spent days looking on the internet, and the problem is the guidance is all over the place. Some programs are more aggressive than others, and trying to match up where I’m at to different protocols is not easy. I’ve read other people’s blogs on their recovery from an Achilles injury, but the truth is every individual is different, so just because person A recovers in 6 months and person B recovers in a year has no relation to my own recovery. And to top it all off, I have to fight my own mental battle with apprehension and fear – how far can I push the Achilles today.

I wish I was on a Caribbean island right now and not this one. I will continue to march forward, but the path just became very muddy to me. That in itself is frustrating and a little scary.

What’s in a number?

“6.8” – that’s this mornings number.


“Number” – something too many people get hung up on, and something that makes progress so difficult when a number isn’t reached. “Number” – A particular weight to attain, how many miles to run (or bike in this mornings instance), increase in chest size from weight training. All things to strive for, but nothing that you should get hung up on. I read about how too many people fail in hopping on the “healthy” bandwagon because they try so hard to reach a number and fail, and then think they failed overall and give up.

Being healthy isn’t about a number. Being healthy is a mindset. I think numbers are great for goals to set. But unless you are a competitor where that number may mean the difference between first place and not placing at all, for the general population trying to get into a healthy lifestyle, numbers should just be targets and nothing more. For instance, when you set out to reach a certain weight in a certain time frame, you really have no idea how your body will react to your exercise and nutrition regime. It may take twice as long as you think to lose 10 pounds, but if you quit at 5, you’ll never know.

I try my best to live healthy. I consider it nothing more than an insurance policy with no guarantees. Maybe I’ll live to 90, maybe not. But in doing some sort of regular exercise, and trying to eat healthy, I feel I am giving myself a better chance than the alternative.

This mornings number – 6.8 (miles). To some a wimpy bike ride, to others a great achievement. To me, just another step in my recovery. It was my ride home from dropping my car off for service. At 4.5 months (hey, another number) removed from my Achilles rupture/surgery, it felt great to be outside doing an activity such as riding a bike. Some say at my age (54) that it “should” take longer to recover. But I choose not to give up just because there is slight discomfort. It’s no different from starting out to exercise. You feel aches and pains you never have before – those are signs of progress. You keep at it, and good things will happen. Sure, there’s always risk of injury (I was jumping rope when my injury occurred), but injury can strike at anytime, anywhere. You just need to be smart. And a number – don’t get hung up on it. It’s a long-term decision to be healthy, and hopefully a way you will live your life. In the long run, if you keep at it you will see results.


We all face adversity in our lives. Family death, economy, injury – it’s not about comparing, but just about how each individual handles the cards dealt to them. Sure, my thoughts are currently fueled by an Achilles injury, something that is healable. But, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s adversity and is greatly altering my current lifestyle.

I mentioned to Denise last night how this injury (my adversity) makes it clearer to understand how someone can fold under the pressure of adversity, and have them taken off of their path and pushed to an entirely new one. The Achilles for instance is for the most part an athletic injury (yes, can happen to anyone, but prevalent in athletics). Consider an athlete who’s economics depends on their body only to be taken out for a year from injury. They want to play – they want to make a living. There may be guaranteed money with a contract for their year of injury, but no guaranty that they’ll ever return to 100% form. Re-injury or replacement (Tom Brady replacing Drew Bledsoe for instance) can alter that person forever. You read about sad stories all the time – athletes who turned to drugs/alcohol and sometimes don’t make it to an elder age, some dying in loneliness and despair. Those same stories happen everywhere – rich, poor, city, suburbs – it’s about life, and when something is taken away from you, it’s up to you to handle it.

Adversity tests ones inner strength. No one, and I mean no one, can fix you. You can have plenty of support from family and friends, but you still have to face each day with your own mind and body. I don’t think any of us comprehend what goes on in our minds, and what it can take to crack your strength and suck the life out of you. This simple injury has fought to bring me down. Yes, I’ve felt down, but not out. I’ve had my share of adversity like everyone else has.

Is there a point to this lengthy post? I guess only to look inside yourself with whatever you are facing, and realize there is enough good in this world to make it worthwhile not to let adversity win. Whether adversity takes something from you temporarily or permanently, until your eyes close forever, you are here to fight and live. All I have to do is look at my wife and best friend Denise and watch how she has handled adversity – she’s a strong woman who whether knows it (or admits it) or not, she is a true inspiration.

Muscles/Tendons – Lengthen/Stretching – Personal Injury Experience

I have been active most of my life, and have been consistently exercising for almost 25 years. During that time I continually research and learn. One aspect of exercising has been clear to me for a long time – the importance of lengthening and stretching your muscles. On April 17, 2014, I personally experienced the result of taking this important factor of exercising for granted, and not spending enough time warming up the muscles pre-exercising and regularly practicing stretching (and yoga).

A little over six months ago I started body building/weight training, a departure for me of over 20 years of mostly cardio. The benefits to weight training are easily researched – strengthens bones, builds muscle to lessen chance of injury, burns calories, body composition, etc. I was performing deadlifts (PR=335lbs), squats, shrugs, presses, etc., all with the intention of gaining some muscle mass and strength. On 04/17/2014 I was in a training session for some core/cardio. I was on my third set of jumping rope, when I felt nothing short of being hit on the back of the lower right leg with a baseball bat or rock or something. I went down and looked up at my trainer and asked him what I hit. The answer was nothing, and then I knew something was wrong. It was fairly obvious it was the Achilles I ruptured.


As I write this blog entry I am one day removed from surgery, with 12 weeks of crutches and 8-12 weeks of a walking air boot in my future. What I wanted to know was the “why” – what seems like an innocent exercise of jumping rope to cause an Achilles rupture. I’ve run 5K’s, done a Spartan Sprint, climbed Mt. Katahdin in Maine, weight training – no injuries. A side note – a few years ago I blew out my right calf muscles stepping off a picnic bench.

Figuring out the “why” was looked at from several angles. My cousin mentioned to me he thought is was the heavy deadlifts that weakened the Achilles which started me on my quest for an answer. I thought I was strengthening the Achilles with my deads and squats so in my mind I didn’t think my cousin was correct. Maybe it was just a freak accident, and the jumping rope caused the injury. But something in the thought process was missing, and then I put the pieces together to figure out the why. Although I know all about warming up and stretching and their benefits (flexibility, lengthening), in hindsight I neglected those on a regular basis and took shortcuts, blaming time as the major factor. A couple of minutes warming up, a few minutes of stretching afterwards – not enough.

My answer to the why – a combination. With the weight training I was performing, I was strengthening the muscles. But with the lack of warming up and stretching the muscles, I was not lengthening the muscles back out from the weight training, thus slightly decreasing my range of motion. So in the act of jump roping, I was continually stretching the Achilles, and since I had been strengthening them over the past several months without stretching them back out, like an elastic band I was asking the Achilles to stretch but they ran out of room and BOOM!! – complete rupture.

This is my personal experience, and from my research I will live and learn. As I progress through physical therapy, I will add stretching probably as a daily morning routine. I will spend no less than 10 minutes warming up before any exercise routine and will spend time post workout stretching. I also plan to add Yoga and Pilates to my overall approach. I won’t sit here and pull out the age card (I’m 54) although I know it’s a factor. In my case, this injury wasn’t from pushing too hard for my age, but was simply a procedural error overall.

My advice to all is to never neglect warming up and stretching.

The Key To The Healthy Lifestyle – Do What Works For You

When I titled this entry, I chuckled at its simplicity and duh factor. But at the end of the day, staying fit and healthy is a mental challenge, and you need to provide yourself the best method to stay in the game. Based on your daily life filled with work, family, social, financial, and other worries, it’s not as simple as it may seem. My last blog post was about resolutions and how I feel they can be a recipe for disaster as you can set an unrealistic goal for yourself based solely on a date on the calendar.

My definition of living a healthy lifestyle is one that you will see everywhere – good nutrition and exercise. It all starts with good nutrition, because no amount of exercise will offset bad nutrition. With that said, I have changed my viewpoint on nutrition, based on my change from a cardio based eat low-fat low carb mentality to a resistance training with some cardio and tracking macros approach. I find the latter to be more sensible, as it allows for more flexibility with the enjoyment of food. With bodybuilding, simply put, you calculate your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) which will provide you calories to eat to maintain, and then adjust your eating habits if you want to lose weight or gain mass (cutting and bulking in the bodybuilding world) by eating 10-20% above TDEE to bulk and 10-20% below TDEE to cut. Using an app like MyFitnessPal has been an invaluable tool for me, as I can control my weight fluctuation based on my daily food intake because I know pretty accurately what I am eating. You have to eat every day, so smart nutrition is a daily work-in-progress.

Exercise is the wild card, because each of us have different abilities and circumstances. You may like running, or weight training, or cycling, or indoor cardio, or taking fitness classes. There are almost endless possibilities in what you can do to stay fit. I could sit here and tell you based on my research that resistance training is probably the best method to stay fit, as you can use resistance training to gain lean muscle while still enjoying heart-healthy cardio benefits, all of which will help you with weight control. I’ve spent 26 years actively “working out” – started with a Nordic Track, did lots of cardio for decades with the elliptical, running, spinning, etc. Now I am weight training, using cardio only for its heart benefit and doing such 1-2 times per week. Muscle burns fat as well if not better than spending 1 hour doing cardio that might burn 400 calories, whereas after a weight training session your body continues to burn fat. I’ve proven this to myself, as I can control my weight better now than I used to on the cardio train.

At the end of the day, when I mentor others with their fitness goals, my only true objective is to find a program that a person wants to do every day. Regardless of all the research out there comparing various forms of fitness, if you are doing any form of fitness, it’s better than doing nothing at all. I may not personally like to run, but if that’s your thing, then you should be doing it. Exercise for me is a release. I enjoy it as it helps clear the mind and give me a sense of accomplishment, all the while knowing I am doing something good for my body.