Tales of Physical Therapy

I took my first real walk today.  Not just down the street, a REAL walk, and I wasn’t even that tired. And I owe it all to Physical Therapy.

For the past 5 weeks, I have been rehabilitating my leg/ankle in Physical Therapy sessions (P.T. for you cool ones).  I have to say that I was actually looking forward to this part of my recovery – bringing me back to my roots in a way. I was so ready. Get out my leggings, here I come!

Let’s just say there are two major factors that gave me pause as I started this process.

Number one: Age. I thought I would sail through the exercises – you know, former dancer, competitive spirit, highly motivated. So, that worked in my favor, but I am not 25.  Every part of my body is feeling every year of my life after this ordeal.

Number two: Mental. Fear. Never before have I been actually afraid to do the simplest things.

Week 1 – It started out slow of course- at first, I was barely standing up. I would do some exercises with the Theraband, and the therapist would manually stretch my ankle to loosen it up. But quickly, they had me on my feet, stretching (ouch) and walking (my bad ankle on the treadmill, while I stood on my good leg.)  Humbling.


Put your right leg behind your left foot, he said. Put your heel down. Uh….so I bring my leg closer. It’s practically TOUCHING the other leg. Heel goes down. Bend your left leg more. 

Surely you jest, I think.

The best way I can describe the stiffness in my ankle is that it feels like someone stuffed a bunch of Styrofoam inside of it.  But I did what he instructed, and this little tiny stretch for my calf/ankle made me see white spots in front of my eyes. I take a deep breath. Are you OK? he asks. Oh yes, fine. (No, actually, I’m dying, but I know there are Doctors just on the other side of the office who can help if I actually collapse.)

Other fun first week exercises included the “stair stretch”, where I gripped the railing so hard, I’m fairly certain there was an imprint of it on each palm.

By the end of of the first week, I graduated to one crutch. By the second day of week 2, I was using a cane. I still did not have enough strength to push through my foot when I walked, and it still gave me some pain. There were more standing exercises, I started to get to know some of the “regulars” who came at the same time I did – and it was starting to be (sort of) fun.

My favorite P.T. buddy is “hip man”.  He fractured his hip several weeks ago, and is WAY ahead of me in terms of mobility and endurance. We have the same therapist, so as we are given the next excruciating exercise, we give each other the nod. I got  you. As I lean over the table trying to eek out another quarter inch stretch in the back of my calf, (and trying not to weep) – he is practicing a dance-like movement where he has to lift his leg and raise his hip repetitively.

He shakes his head. I feel like an idiot when I do this. He stops, then starts again.

No, really, I feel like Richard Simmons. This is ridiculous. 

I laugh. You look great! Own it. Pretend you’re dancing to Madonna.

He keeps trying. He’s not convinced.

Each week, I meet someone new, and a new set of strengthening exercises that are destined to kill me are introduced. They put me on the “real” bikes, and added resistance. I pedal next to a soccer player – he is there for a hamstring injury. We talk soccer – he seems impressed that I know anything about soccer. Ha! Then I go off to do my heel rises where I can barely get my right foot to leave the ground, and he starts doing all sorts of sideways walks with a band tied around his legs. He does this so effortlessly, I am not sure soccer guy is actually injured.

Soon, I start to notice that other people have nice heating pads on their injuries, or are having ultrasound, and their therapists are gently stretching them. I start to get jealous. I don’t have any heating pads, I only have painful exercises, sometimes metal tools that are dug into the back of my leg to “loosen up” the soft tissue, and foam rollers.  This ankle stuff sucks.

Week 4, I am getting stronger, walking on my own – I can do 45 heel rises, I am still pathetically not even close to a “releve” (ballet term) that I could feel proud of, but I can actually do it, so I’m just going to be OK with that.  My therapist starts trying some ultrasound on my soft tissue and tendons that are still giving me pain.

YES! You mean I finally get to lie down, and it’s actually sort of pleasant with a little warm roller that shoots mild electric waves into my ankle and IT FEELS BETTER WHEN IT’S DONE? SIGN. ME. UP.

Now almost 6 weeks in, I am now probably nearing the end of my time in P.T. and I am feeling a mix of relief and wistfulness. It’s a nice little community of people, all of whom are in the midst of a struggle. No matter how bad I am feeling, there is someone else there who has it worse. I felt a bit connected/bonded to everyone because no matter what the injury, or what stage we are in, we’re all there with a common goal. As I took my turn this past week doing sideways walks with a band tied around my legs (crab walks, I like to call them) – another woman doing arm stretches looked at me and said: I could never do that. I would fall over.  I responded: Well, on my fourth time back, watch. I might. 

But, 3 weeks ago, I could never have tied a band around my legs and tried to do anything. So, I’m grateful for my progress.  Even though it’s truly been a blend of torture, bliss, frustration, euphoria, pain, and healing, I have worked hard, and it’s taught me a little more about my resilience, and brought me back to a familiar “self”.  While I was traveling for work, I did all of my exercises in the hotel room so I wouldn’t lose any ground, reminding me that I am capable, competent, and I can still dig into my competitive, motivated, physical spirit.

I am definitely going to join “hip man” with his Richard Simmons exercises before I leave.

(But ankles stills suck).












The Real Soccer Stats

I’m still a relative newbie in the world of travel soccer. My son Joseph joined the Hopewell Windstorm soccer team only two years ago, and I’ve been to about 5 tournaments, which I recognize makes me a parent rookie of epic proportions in the scheme of things.  But, in this short time, I have discovered that the parents are the real secret weapons to success.  And I don’t mean success in the game, I mean success in preparedness, (both clothing and snacks), forethought, and general demeanor.  Windstorm may rack up the stats for the game, but I have calculated my own personal stats as a parent.

This spring at the annual Memorial Day tournament, (a local one) we he had some typical spring New Jersey weather, as in, unpredictable. Within minutes of arriving for our first game on the fields while the sun was shining, thunderstorms came rolling in, resulting in a 10 minute downpour.  The boys were already practicing, therefore they (and all of their belongings) got wet.  Well, not just wet, actually soaked to the bone, hair flopping around, water squirting out of their cleats.  My 14 year old daughter Shannon who had accompanied me,  had already made her “camp” under her fort between the chairs before the rain came, and then wasn’t able to squeeze under the tent with the rest of the people who ran for cover. So, she threw herself on her ipad to protect it, and solely it – sacrificing everything else – the blanket, my sweatshirt, and both chairs.  At the time of the storm, I was on my way back from the car with the umbrella and hunkered down in the doorway of the school, where I remained relatively dry until I walked the 1/2 mile back to the field in the mud.

So, now here we are 20 minutes into the tournament, and everyone (including me) already needs a change of clothes and new footwear.  I am regretting leaving my fleece jacket at home, and I’m quickly realizing I did not actually prepare properly. Maybe the local nature of the tournament threw me off my game.  I assess the clothing situation after they finish playing.  Luckily 11 year old boys and their soccer uniforms are drip dry, plus they were already covered in mud, so that wasn’t a problem.  Everything else in Joseph’s backpack was soaked – so much for dry socks. Word spreads like the earlier storm clouds that our second game is going to be delayed at least an hour. It is also being played on a field that is another 1/2 mile AWAY from where I had parked my car. Of course. Another calculated error. Look at the fields ahead of time! Proximity to the vehicle is important! So I decide to move the car, which means another trek through the now lake-like fields and mud (carrying the soaking wet blanket).

Windstorm team 2014 Windstorm muddy 2014

In the meantime, the Windstorm team spreads out into small packs, some split up to watch their siblings games, some go to get food. By the time I move the car and hike back up the muddy parking lot to the fields, I have lost my own soccer player. But I’ve somehow picked up two other boys from the team. We wander the fields like nomads looking for a home. Holly, another mom, has set up camp in the back of her SUV, and this seems to be working well, so Shannon, the other boys and I hang there, and we see that some parents are now returning after going home and drying out clothing. What a novel idea. I am making mental notes to myself, seize the opportunity to LEAVE. We then receive a text alert (gotta love the 21st century) that our game is delayed even later, and the clouds are looking ominous again.

Another one of the moms pulls up in her car as I’m standing in the parking lot, and leans out to ask me if I could deliver dry shorts, sandals, and one soccer sock to her son. I don’t dare ask about the one sock, but I must have looked at her oddly, as she assures me he already has the other one.  She says she’ll be back after dropping off her older son somewhere, I say OK, and then we head back to Camp Holly with the shorts, sandals and sock in tow.

I think at this point I was becoming delusional, so I decide that I have enough time to go home and dry everything.  Let’s face it, my other alternative was to hang around these fields in the rain for another hour.  I miraculously find Joseph and we roar out of the parking lot towards home. I leap into action, throwing everything into the dryer, pealing Joseph’s wet shin guards off of him, locating dry socks for myself, barking orders.  A half hour later, he is dry and we are back into the car and careening back to the fields, and it starts to pour rain again. By the time I pull into the parking lot, I can see enough through my quickly moving windshield wipers to tell there is not a soul on the fields. When the rain lets up, we venture out of the car and try to find the rest of the Windstorm boys and the coaches. I meet Holly running back to her car –  she has to go back as they need their white shirts for the game and she left her son Alex’s back at her house soaking in bleach. I wish her luck, then after a short time we find at least half of the Windstorm team (and coaches too) hunkered down in an equipment shed, all the boys look bedraggled with their mud caked shoes and their jacket hoods up. Good lord, I think, no one could have prepared for this!  Not unless we had a camper with a washing machine and a hot shower in it!

In another five minutes we find out that our game has been canceled and we will have to report back the next morning at 7AM for 7:30 game. No amount of coffee will help me through that. But believe me, I will not come unprepared for the next day. And it will start with a vat size mug of coffee, just in case the food stands are not open at 7AM.  By my mental calculation I will just be able to get all of the laundry done before we have to leave the house.

So, there you have it – my REAL parent soccer stats for just DAY 1 of this tournament were:

# of times driven in and out of parking lot: 4

# of times moving my car: 2

# of clothing changes: 4

# of jackets needed: 2

# of loads of laundry: 3

# of cleats dried out with a hairdryer: 2

# of boys in my house who love to play soccer and are unfazed by any of this: 1

Tournament MVP – my washing machine and dryer

So, I may still be a rookie, but I am learning! Travel soccer parents everywhere, remember that we rock it – we are the MVP’s (Most Valuable Parents) of every tournament. Through rain, and mud, and early morning light, we will soak your uniforms in bleach and deliver your one sock to you whenever you need it.

Windstorm 2014 celebration