Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Post-Recovery Period: It’s Not Always Smooth Sailing Either

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.


  1. Dude, you are my hero:)
    It is very useful for me to read about setbacks at the moment.

    Here's a tiny bit of my knee story.
    I've been doing for years ridiculous amounts of zazen+desk sitting+insane cycling. I added yoga to the mix to open my hips and the joints got fed up one day.
    It's been an ordeal for me to find out what is really wrong for a loooong while. The docs I met were useless. Finally, MRI scan showed chondro grade I. I had the burning while sitting, pain and all that jazz.
    Before I got the MRI images, I went for months in Indonesia where intuitively I did the right things for the knees it seems. Good diet&weight loss and moderate movement primarily in water. In three months time I felt much better. So much better that I thought I am more or less okay. Then got back riding my bike and the zazen cushion and things are really bad now.
    But now I know to some extent what I am dealing with. I am positive one can get the joints somehow better because I experienced it. But I slipped into an evil hole now where my knees are perhaps worse than before in some symptoms. My limit is around 6 000 steps a day at the moment. I measure them all the time, not only during longish walks.
    Damn this inflammations!
    I begun to doubt if there I'll be graced with a second chance for healing. But my resolve&discipline are getting very strong.
    I started working out in water again and I feel it is invaluable for my healing because it brought results almost at once. Really hope I get a second window of opportunity. I also begin to doubt all this strengthening the quad non sense, which may be even detrimental in many cases. I think mine are so strong, which contribute greatly to the problem because they begun to pull the knee cap and the joints in the wrong directions when inflamed. I think loosening the quads and training them to fire in sync is a better way to go in many cases.


  2. Great post Richard, it's great to know your knees were fine after that long cycling! I resonate with what you are saying, while I am now slowly going back to my dancing routine (almost an hour twice a week with little or no symptoms) I still have to be cautious. As you, I would love to jump into one of those workshops where we dance for hours non-stop but obviously at the moment is not possible. But hey, it may be possible one day, so I'll keep training. I continue with my exercises routine plus dancing twice a week, I'm f*** exhausted :) Still have some symptoms, here and there, my fat pad syndrome shows up from time to time and also causes pain...although is temporary and the only way to manage that is with anti inflammatory creams and taping. Of course since I've become stronger I've had very few issues with my fat pad but it seems it becomes irritated relatively easily so well... have to manage that.

    So the road to going back to the activities you love it's another story on itself. I would have expected to feel completely "normal" again by now but it seems that even though I'm able to dance the knee story doesn't ends here. I went from "recovery" to "retraining" but this stage has its ups and downs as well!

  3. The dangers of the stationary bike again?!

  4. Thanks, Richard! This was a wonderful post to read as I've finally managed to find employment that doesn't aggravate my knees and it's a good reminder to be cautious. I'd love to get back to dancing one day!


  5. hello everyone

    i recently happend to read abt a new study where botulinum like toxin ws injected to VL and then with physiotherapy a remarkable improvement in AKP was observed, As this ws trial condeucted , they havent incorporated the technique yet!! i reallly hope this turns out to be a useful measure for all AKP patients.
    does anyone have better information regardin the same here

    it would be really helpful
    thank you