Things I can do on one leg with NO support from hands or crutches: Wash my hair in the sink while standing; put away dishes from the dishwasher; move a full Crockpot from the counter to the fridge; clean the cat box; refill my Game Ready with ice; mop the floor with a towel by hand because I spilled ice all over the kitchen trying to refill my Game Ready; sit and stand with control from the couch, chair, or toilet; hop across my room to the hamper; and more.
Mastering the basic single-leg movements has given me independence. Where would you be if you were in my shoes? I definitely won’t be the one saying, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
I had both the benefit and the pitfall of knowing I wasn’t going to be able to use one leg for six weeks. The other times I’ve been on crutches for any length, it was due to an accident, but this time I had about a month warning. The few days leading up to my surgery, I had the conversation with a couple of people that it was kind of weird knowing I was taking my final steps for a while. It really made me appreciate being mobile and I embraced the last few days I had by spending them at Regionals with my Invictus family. I certainly felt the date looming. Six weeks is a long time. I can’t imagine what a planned amputee goes through.
Because of my foresight into the situation, I was able to adjust my workouts to prepare myself to be as independent as possible over the next six weeks. Besides all the wonderful friends who’ve helped me out since my surgery, the one thing I’m most thankful for is the ridiculous amount of single-leg movements I incorporated into my workouts pre-surgery. Since my surgery requires NO weight bearing for 6 weeks – not even resting the foot on the ground – I knew single-leg strength was going to be at the top of my list (yes, there is a list). It just so happens that while I was preparing my right leg to carry the load post-surgery, I was also working the left (surgical side) to pre-hab the muscle by building it for the unavoidable atrophy it faced and to stabilize the knee leading up to surgery.
Since the beginning of the year, I have basically been following the Invictus “Fitness” Program with a few modifications.
- Since I had been experiencing instability in the knee, I replaced all barbell movements with dumbbell movements. The last thing I wanted was to dislocate my knee taking a back squat off the rack. Plus, the dumbells force both sides of your body to pull their share and the stabilizers to activate and get stronger.
- I made sure to hit at least one single-leg movement each workout session to get as strong in any position as possible. The movements I frequently used were box step-ups, single-leg squat-to-box, squat-from-box, single-leg deadlifts, and lunges. I also made sure to incorporate single-leg movement and balance work into my warm-up stretches and daily routine by standing on one food while coaching or in line at the grocery store, especially while reaching for things.
- I replaced all high-risk activities (burpees, box jumps, lateral movement, Russian step-ups, etc.) with posterior chain and balance work (GHD hip extensions, Kettlebells, TGU, lunges, etc.)
- I added in supplemental work for the scaps, shoulders, and midline instead of many of the conditioning pieces since my main focus was getting as strong as possible. I knew it would be important to pre-hab my shoulders and abs too since they would soon be doing a lot of extra work in awkward positions.
- When I hit conditioning, it was only two to three workouts a week (out of five total) and would usually just involve one implement and intervals (i.e., row, Airdyne, rope whips, Prowler, etc…). I wanted to focus on getting the biggest bang for my buck with very low-risk movements.
So what does all of this have to do with you and your healthy knee? Well, for one, you never know when mayhem will strike. Be prepared. Also, I’m willing to bet your body isn’t always perfectly balanced in strength and coordination. I suggest you cycle a few weeks of single-leg and single-arm movement into your programming every six months or so. Ask your coaches how. As I’ve demonstrated, it is pretty easy to modify the “Fitness” program to accommodate your needs.