My COVID experience PART 2 - Darren Lee
CicloZone founder and CEO Darren Lee follows up his first post-COVID vaccination blog to talk to us about his health and fitness journey after contracting COVID over the winter.Read post
Hi, welcome to my blog – hopefully it will be inspiring to those of you coming back from an accident or injury. Me? I’m coming back from both!
First off, a little bit of background…
I suppose I’m classed as middle aged (46), married with older teenage children. I’m fairly fit - or I was - and, in normal times, I’d exercise around five times a week and walk 6-7 miles a day. I also have a fairly sedate job as a graphic designer so am sitting at my desk A LOT!
Back in 2006 I was a keen netballer – right until I dislocated my left knee cap. Fast forward 13 years, 2 full marathons, 7 half marathons, miles and miles of training, a decision to purchase a cocker spaniel and many dislocations and pain later – I finally got my operation to correct it scheduled for March 2020.
However, in the run up to my operation, I was involved in a rear end shunt to my car, resulting in whiplash and lower back injuries. This immediately put a stop to any gym sessions, my dog walking and, more importantly, my beloved indoor cycling sessions. Then, just as I was beginning to feel like I could get back in the saddle after the car accident - I wanted to build up the muscles in my thighs before the op - lockdown hit, closing the gyms and cancelling my operation!
Hobbling on through the summer, walking the dog and trying to keep myself fit (I’m most definitely NOT an outdoor cyclist so this was off the cards), I just had to sit and wait for my knee operation to be rescheduled. July came and I received the call that the operation was back on for 4 August. But on re-evaluation of my x-rays and scans, they decided that rather than a relatively straightforward arthroscopy, I now needed knee re-alignment surgery – a Tibial Tubercle Osteotomy – as my knee cap was no longer sitting where it should be in my leg.
This procedure involves breaking the top part of my shin, moving it across and down to move the tendon that would then pull the kneecap back into place, and fixing it with screws. Along with this, I also had a partial medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction, which basically means they pulled the ligament at the bottom of my thigh over to hold the kneecap in place where it belongs as, over time, the ligament had stretched to accommodate the wonky position of the knee cap.
Yes, it’s all as vile as it sounds!
I was discharged from hospital in a full leg brace which, given I’m not gifted with Elle McPherson legs, stretched from hip to ankle, locked in a straight position and crutches.
I’ve never felt pain like it! Off my head on painkillers, I spent most of the first week home crying and sleeping – never knowing if I’d ever bend my leg again, let alone get back on a bike. But after a week of crying and feeling sorry for myself, I got my head around the fact that the best person to help me was myself!
Being encouraged to lie down and drag your foot up and down the bed to bend your knee is soul destroying – imagine having taken part in indoor cycling and running marathons for the last 12 years, to only be able to bend your leg to 10 degrees… I never thought for one second I’d be back on the bike within 6 months - and given I couldn’t lie down properly either because of the cumbersome leg brace (which I had to wear 24 hours a day!), my back injury from the car accident also started to play up - thank goodness for codeine!
Physio was slow – and if it hadn’t been for my private physio, who knows what stage I’d be at right now - but she encouraged me to start using gym equipment (gently) again and a friend lent me an old exercise bike to get the movement back in my knee. It was at this point I knew I wanted to be back in the saddle properly as quickly as I could! My consultant (at 4 months) allowed me to do pilates and yoga sessions to strengthen my core but discouraged lunges, squats and anything too weight bearing.
At this point I still had next to no muscle in my thigh and my legs looked so odd - the difference in my thigh muscles was hilarious - one looked like it belonged to me, the other looked like it belonged on a 100 year old lady - but I was determined though, and hard work got me to the point that I felt I could manage a light indoor cycling session again – but with who and how to take part when the gyms were still closed?
First off, I needed a bike, with a weighted wheel at least. Good old Groupon and their persistent emails to the rescue. Having been a participant in Darren’s classes (founder of CicloZone) over the years, I’d seen CicloZone updates appear on my Facebook news feed and was intrigued… could this be the answer I was looking for? Well here I am, and I'm looking forward to sharing my experiences with you over the coming weeks. I'm more than ready now to get (back) into the zone...!