Let me tell you a story about that time the doc told me...and why not listening was the BEST choice
Let me tell you the story about the time the doctor told me I should stop running and ‘find another sport.’
Mind you, this was during my first (and only) pre-surgery consultation with the actual surgeon who’d be operating on my meniscus a week later.
As I sat there, listening to the description of what he might be doing, depending on the degree of damage to my right medial meniscus, this surgeon said to me, “You need to find another sport.”
And to this day, I can see myself in that moment, feel how my brow scrunched up in my ‘I’m about to tell you off’ way, see myself lean forward a little towards him and say in that cool, calm, scary mom voice, “You don’t know me.”
A week later, I had surgery. The damage to the posterior portion of my meniscus was too severe to repair, so they cleaned up and removed the hind third of it and sent me home a day later (in Germany they actually keep you overnight for observation!).
I was fine with that—healing from a ‘resection’ as they called it was WAY faster than nursing a repair back to full health.
So while I lay on the couch, icing and elevating my knee and learning how to get it to bend and straighten ‘normally’ again, I realized I had no idea how to make the transition from post-surgical healing to full running health again.
At a mandatory check in with my then primary care doc at Katterbach Kaserne, I asked for some guidance or a referral to PT. Turns out, there was only 1 PT for the entire Kaserne at that time and I’d have to wait for weeks to see her. My Primary Care doc suggested that I do ‘toe alphabet’ exercises: Flex and Bend my foot using my big toe as my pen and ‘draw’ the alphabet in the air.
So I did. I did ALL the alphabets: lowercase, uppercase, calligraphy, German, while lying on my couch. You probably guessed it: this approach wasn’t enough, lol.
I still couldn’t straighten out my knee all the way, which made getting down the stairs dicey at best, and I felt stuck—not knowing what to do next, not having the help or guidance to do it.
I started READING. Reading about running mechanics. Reading about running strength—the muscles we need to be stronger and healthier runners and WHY those muscles mattered.
Turns out, I was missing hip strength, glute strength, adequate core strength, and my running technique was a sloppy mess—I was an over-striding heel striker. At the time I didn’t understand that I am also hypermobile, so with every poor stride I took (thousands on each run!) my poorly supported connective tissues were stretched and stressed more than they were designed to be.
I set out to rebuild my body, rebuild my technique and begin again 4 weeks post-op. Only I had no idea where to START.
At the time, I belonged to a German health club in Ansbach, called InJoy, and the trainers were very much wellness-minded and many of them seasoned pros. I started using the upright bike to teach my knee how to move through its full range of motion again, starting with the seat set super high, lowering it slowly session by session.
But the very best thing I did, in my broken and rudimentary German, was ASK FOR HELP.
Susie Vogel was one of the trainers at InJoy, a woman probably 15 ot 20 years older than me, who taught spin classes, helped older clients use the machines, was kind and smiled a ton, had a nice sense of humor, and smoked on every break. That part always humored me, and it wasn’t uncommon!
And Susie was just the right person to help me. I asked if she had helped people recover from knee surgeries and she patiently taught me a series of exercises to help me regain knee stability, hip strength, core and glute strength.
I followed her protocol to the ‘t’ for 3 months, walking outdoors and riding the bike in the gym, then started short walk-jog intervals, teaching myself a better striding technique with better running posture with each step.
5 months after surgery, I ran in the hilly Rothenburg Lichterlauf 10k, in the dark, on uneven cobblestone roads dating back to before the middle ages, relishing every demanding step, and feeling not one twinge of pain (just lots of fire in my less trained lungs!). This was November of 2011.
In the years after this, I went on to train for 2 more half-marathons in Germany, and countless 10k’s. Running became a joy, a source of personal power, a means of releasing stress, embracing discomfort, learning that I had more to give, and that at 37 I was just beginning to scratch the surface of my own athletic potential.
And even when I started CrossFit in 2015 and was THE WORST at every lift and movement and workout for months, I could RUN—I was a strong sprinter.
This carried me over until I adapted to the new demands of CrossFit, eventually trading in running for kettlebell training because 3 days of CrossFit and 3 days of hard running with little to no days off wasn’t what my newly 40-something body needed and the kettlebells were calling me…which is another story for another time.
But circling around to the beginning of my story, can you imagine what would have happened to me, to the course of my life, if I’d actually LISTENED to that surgeon in June 2011?
If I’d given up running and tried to find another sport (I think he’d actually suggested Nordic walking)?
Where would I be today? What would I have missed out on?
EVERYTHING. I would have missed out on everything.
And even more, I don’t think I would have become the trainer I am today, because while I was busy teaching myself to run again and doing the strength workouts Susie gave me, I was also studying to earn my Certified Personal Training credential…a test I took and passed on October 31, 2011.
I started working as a personal trainer and then group fitness instructor on post on February 1, 2011 in the American gym on post, making contact with the new Physical Therapy docs so I could pick their brains for ways to help my clients deal with or avoid common low back, knee and shoulder issues.
It’s a practice I’ve maintained to this day—staying in touch with physical therapists, making connections with other body work experts, asking other fitness professionals with different niches than mine for their ideas when I find my own knowledge insufficient in certain situations. I ask for help so I can help my clients better.
And you know what?? I still have clients come to me and tell me things their podiatrist told them to avoid, clients whose ‘knee specialists’ told them to quit running, clients whose chiropractors or primary care docs have told them to never do deadlifts and that CrossFit will ruin their body.
Clients whose health practitioners are still in the habit of telling them they're broken and limited.
Heck, I was in the room in April when the doc giving my 13 year-old son his sports physical told him if he didn’t wear cushioned shoes he’d ruin his knees doing track (like she did). With no mention of strength training or technique, of course….Keeping my mouth shut was a feat, let me tell you.
In the same month, my husband was present when another doc doing an evaluation on my 16 year-old gymnast daughter’s knee that her doing CrossFit was dangerous and she shouldn’t do it…without asking any questions about the way in which my daughter trained.
And now I know enough to challenge those narrow-minded pieces of ‘advice’ and give my kids and my clients what they need to trust their bodies, do what they love and thrive in the process.
So I’m grateful I messed up my meniscus with my sloppy running mechanics, that the American PT doc didn’t have room for me as a patient, that I had to reach out to a perfect stranger in a foreign gym for help, that I had to go back to the beginning and learn more because it all set me on a path to help OTHERS better.
To help women, in particular learn to advocate for themselves, to look at the body through a wholistic lens, rather than a joint-specific one, to ask questions like ‘why should this be avoided?’ and ‘what other solutions can we find that will help?’
To reach out and create a supportive network other professionals dedicated to helping people rebuild their strength and personal freedom by thinking outside the box and creating specific plans tailored to meet the need of THAT individual client for THEIR individual needs, especially as they rebuild their fitness after a lapse in training or a physical setback.
All because some doc I met once in a Germany surgical clinic back in June 2011 who told me I needed to find a new sport because all he could see about me was my knee…and I knew he didn’t know ME.
And now I’m here to help YOU.
To help you restart and/or rebuild. To learn about how to get strong in a wholistic way that will set you on a path towards even greater fitness gains, personal confidence, personal and physical freedom.
To help you bridge the gap between getting started with fundamental core, strength and cardio conditioning and taking on those 5k and 10k runs, going to boot camp classes, trying out things like CrossFit or fun HIIT workouts, going for those longer hikes, trying kayaking, being able to get down on the floor to play with your kids or grandkids, to pick them up and swing them with ease.
To help you build the confidence to do what you want with your body, whenever you want to, without fear of getting hurt or not being able to keep up.
Bridging the gap between where you are and where you want to be in your strength, fitness and overall health is what I do, and if this sounds like something you’re ready to take action on, I’d LOVE to hear from you—to hear more about YOUR story, YOUR goals, and what you want for YOUR life in your one, precious, resilient, amazing human body.
Can’t wait to hear more about YOU.
I’ll be here!
In your corner all the way,
P.S. I'm currently building a 12-week program that serves women over 40 BETTER, no matter where they live, so they can bridge the gap between (re)building their fitness and starting up/over and feeling powerful, capable, more energetic, having better core strength, building better LEAN muscle, with FEWER aches and pains so they can ENJOY moving their body ANY and EVERY way THEY please <3
Sound interesting? Hop on the waitlist here to get more details as it develops...program drops in early September '22!