I’ve been meaning to post this for a while.
One thing I’ve always tried to be is honest about my experience with my knees. What I went through, and what I learned, may help you. Or it may not. But at the least, you deserve an honest account. No one out there should find out I’m limping around on crutches and waiting for a total knee replacement, and that’s the coda to my book, because nothing worked out the way I thought it would and I hid that from everyone for years etc. etc. etc.
Today I’m here to talk about an occasion since 2011 when things were not great. Last year, I felt some light burning in my knee joints during a six-week stretch, while sitting at my desk at work.
Oh no, I thought. Am I going down this road again?
I’m fairly certain I know what precipitated it. One day I decided to do an insane session of short sprints, followed by quick recoveries, on my stationary bicycle. I had never done that before nor have I since. I think it just tipped my knees into a bad place – out of homeostatis, Dr. Dye might say.
But here’s the thing: I’m a whole lot smarter about knees now. So what I did:
* I dialed back on my bicycle riding for a few weeks. I still went out long miles, but alone and at an easier pace.
* At work, I said: You gotta get up and move! I had fallen into a bad routine where I never left the office. I worked at my desk for 10 hours straight, with a few breaks, such as for lunch, which I ate on site (my employer provides some free food and soups). So I resolved from then on, every day without fail, to LEAVE the building and WALK through the city for about 20 or so minutes (I’ve missed maybe one day, when the rain was just coming down too hard).
And those burning knees went away.
I’m sharing this with all of you in the interest of full disclosure, and because I really don’t know what’s happened in my knee joints, in terms of healing. Maybe there is some residual change in there that makes me susceptible to slipping back into an inflammatory cycle. But I am very sure that something got better, much better. I really do ride hard now: I sprint, I climb painfully long hills, I motor along at 28, 29 miles an hour -- and it feels really good.
Part of the reason I’m sharing this too is because I think that had I stuck with easy riding -- no more sprinting, go out with the “old timers group,” never break much of a sweat -- I doubt I ever would have had a problem again. Seriously. But I wanted to get right back at doing what I loved most, riding hard.
So I think my own story is useful as a cautionary tale. Perhaps you can return to your former activity, but you have to be vigilant. Bad knees that went south once can go south again.
And now a happy postscript: This year has been a very good one for my knees. Today I went on a 74-mile bike ride -- a very hard 74-mile bike ride -- and my knees are fine. (My legs? Eh.) We powered up a lot of small hills. At the end, as we approached a final half-mile hill at an 8 percent grade, I told another rider, “I’m less than zero.” I was completely exhausted.
But I felt great later. And right now, if I suddenly had amnesia and someone reminded me that I’d had knee problems in 2007, I’d probably say, “You have to be joking.” Because everything feels pretty normal.