Wellness Wednesday: The Road to Recovery After My Injury & Finding a Healthy Workout Schedule

Bows & Sequins wearing navy & copper Just Do It leggings with Nike rose gold sneakers.

I wrote the first part of this post at the end of January… The night my ankle really started hurting and a few days later on the night I found out I had stress fractured my ankle and came home from the doctor wearing a giant boot on my right foot. I still remember that night like it was yesterday! It’s been a while since we’ve talked about exercise and fitness, mainly due to the injury that prevented me from being my active self for most of this year. So I figured I’d let you read that draft, and then we can fast forward to now and where I’m at with the whole journey of getting back on track!

***

Exercise and fitness are my number one hobby and two of my biggest passions. I’ve always said that getting injured and not being able to work out is one of my biggest fears… The thought has always terrified me. Exercising is my me-time. It’s where I blow off the most steam. It’s where I can push and challenge myself and feel successful. It’s where I can sweat it all out and get my ass kicked when I need it. And as much as I sometimes dread it, it’s usually the very best part of my entire day.

So when I woke up to my right ankle kind of hurting a few Saturdays ago, I internally panicked (“Something is definitely not right!”) and then brushed it off. “It will be okay,” I thought. “I only do Pilates on Saturdays and that’s relatively easy on the ankles.” When it came time to put the ring around our ankles, I couldn’t because of the pain. I still kind of brushed it off, but I wore flat boots out on that Saturday night so I wouldn’t put stress on it from heels. We were out dancing until 2am that night, but hey — I was in flats. On Sunday, my plan was to go to Orange Theory fitness. But when my ankle was still feeling a bit off, I chose SoulCycle instead so there would be less impact. I sat in the back, too, so I wouldn’t feel bad about sitting down if something started hurting in class. Most everything felt fine at SoulCycle, except for a few jumps out of the saddle, so I kept on keeping on. I walked to and from the coffee shop on Monday to get work done and noticed that my ankle was definitely hurting more than it was the past two days, but I thought I was just over-reacting… I mean I could walk on it, couldn’t I?! Monday night rolled around and I was supposed to leave to go to Orange Theory, but I had a gut feeling that I should skip and rest my ankle. I bought a little compression sock at Walgreens and put it up on the couch to ice it and I don’t know if it’s because I was thinking about it, but it just started to feel worse. That’s when I realized that a few days of rest and missed workouts were nothing compared to major damage that could affect how I worked out for a really long time.

Little things add up to the big things, you know? And while I usually like to think of this in a good way, it’s pretty terrifying for me to think of it in this light. I rarely ever stretch on my own… I go to hot yoga once or twice a week and call it a day. I foam roll for, like, five minutes when I remember, which is like once or twice a week. I take baths in epsom salts a few times a week for my sore muscles, but that’s because I’m pretty sure I would live in a bathtub if I could. Simply put, I don’t take nearly enough time to recover for how much I exercise.

 Fast forward… It’s Tuesday night now as I’m writing this while sobbing on my couch. My foot is in a big fucking boot and I’m pretty much couch ridden for the next two weeks at the very minimum.

***

That’s where the draft ended. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d actually be in that boot for ten weeks and would be in physical therapy for the next six months. I had called a physical therapist on that Tuesday morning, went in for an evaluation, and got a referral to a podiatrist. Luckily, my podiatrist got me in for an X-Ray that afternoon, but never in a million years did I think I would be leaving that office in a boot that night. And I couldn’t have ever fathomed all that was to come over the next six months!

The number one question I got when I had that boot on was “How did you do it?!” And quite simply, a stress fracture is a crack in your bone resulting from overuse. Too much of a bad thing can be a bad thing, you guys. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my workout habits were erring on the side of unhealthy. And once I got through the six months of physical therapy, it was time for me to figure out what a healthy workout schedule looked like.

Before I got injured, my best friend was teaching fitness. So working out twice a day really didn’t seem that crazy, in my mind… She was sometimes teaching three classes a day! But I still remember telling my therapist about my what my typical week looked like and the look on her face when I was trying to downplay it. “Well, they’re different workouts when I work out twice a day, so it’s really not that intense.” (As a bit of a side note, I had just started seeing her a week or two before I fractured my ankle because of all that was transpiring with my parents’ divorce and honestly, it was divine timing. Not being able to work out definitely took it’s toll on me mentally and I’m so grateful I already had her in my life once that happened!)

So yeah, I didn’t realize it at the time, but hindsight is always 20/20. I was doing the GD most, especially in December and January when I was going through a lot with my family. I wasn’t really in the mood to socialize or go out, so intense exercise was how I was coping with everything, which is how I ended up in the boot.

It sounds dramatic now, but getting the boot on felt like a death sentence. I remember thinking, “It’s the middle of the winter in Chicago, I work from home and will never be leaving the house, I can’t work out to blow off steam, and now I’ll be sitting on my couch for weeks on end getting fat. FABULOUS!” 🙄

(In retrospect, thank God it was the middle of winter when Chicago basically hibernates. And thank God I do work from home and didn’t have to commute with that damn boot. And honestly, I’m so thankful for every lesson I learned having gone through all of that!)

But after a few weeks had gone by without exercising and I hadn’t started gaining weight, I started to wonder what was happening to my body. Sure, I had definitely modified my eating and drinking habits, but I was certain that not working out was going to result in instant weight gain.

Read this post about how I changed my diet and everything I learned from doing so!

Once I got the boot off in early April, I had to take it *very* slow. Like, walking for more than a block was a treat for me! I got the boot off just a week or two before Coachella, and I remember my doctor and PTs stressing how I shouldn’t be jumping and needing to be VERY careful with all of the walking and dancing.

I got back from Coachella without any soreness, but had trips to London, Paris, and NYC on the horizon (lots of walking!) so I didn’t want to push the envelope and hinder my travels in any way. I was still going to physical therapy twice a week between trips and I felt like I was getting so much stronger and more confident! Since I’d given myself so much extra time off, I remember thinking I’d be able to graduate from PT and start working out again in no time.

The first time I did a workout other than pilates was quite humbling. I took a Hi-Def class (hot yoga with weights meets bootcamp) and it was an absolute disaster. You take the class without shoes on your yoga mat, but even though I had done jumping exercises in PT, this was a whole new experience. My ankle hurt pretty badly, I was scared shitless I had fucked something up again, and for days my entire left leg was SO sore from overcompensating. Thankfully nothing was wrong, but it was back to going to PT and taking it easy on the exercise front. Bummer would be an understatement!

There was more travel on the horizon, which was such a blessing to keep my mind off the fact that I *still* wasn’t back into a workout routine. By mid-June, I had taken a 2-3 spin classes without any pain at all and finally graduated from physical therapy a few weeks later. Once I was ‘on my own’ so-to-speak, it was time for me to really re-evaluate a lot of the behaviors and habits I’d formed. Part of me yearned to jump back in to my old ways, but I knew I never wanted to end up in that boot or paying for physical therapy ever again. Finding a healthy balance was necessary!

I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t travel at all in July so I could enjoy summertime in Chicago and that’s when I finally got the confidence to try to resume some sense of normality on the fitness front. I’m pretty sure I only worked out around six times towards the end of July, but it felt so good to regain a little bit of confidence in the classes that I’d been missing. (And as a side note, I now wear tennis shoes in those Hi-Def classes for extra stability… Don’t be afraid to listen to your body and modify where you need to! Sure, I may look like an idiot being the only person wearing shoes in a yoga class, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.)

Fast forward to now, and I’ve basically been out of town for the last two and half months (August, September, and the first half of October), so I really haven’t had the option to overdo it… at all. This Sunday night was the first time in about 12 weeks (since the end of July) that I sat down to map out my workouts for the week!

And to be totally honest, it’s been so bizarre to fall out of the habit of working out. I haven’t had a consistent month of being active in TEN MONTHS. Ten months! I mean, I could have had a baby in that time. I’ve always been one to schedule workouts into my calendar before the week starts to hold myself accountable, but last week I had totally forgotten about working out. Since I was gone over the weekend and didn’t plan for the week, it just slipped my mind. So this week I’m getting back in the habit of exercising regularly and it’s only been two days, but it’s felt great so far!

Seeing how my body has and hasn’t changed throughout this process has been one of the most eye-opening experiences of this whole journey! I’m definitely not as toned as I once was, but my clothes still fit. My abs have totally disappeared and I don’t like what my mid-section now looks like in the mirror, but my stomach is still relatively flat. My ass and thighs are a whole lot more jiggly than they once were, but they still fit in my jeans. If you’ve ever heard the term “skinny fat,” that’s where I feel like I’m at right now. I don’t feel like I want to “lose weight” necessarily, but I want to tighten up the areas that have gotten a little too soft. (I actually stopped weighing myself a few years ago because it creates an unhealthy mindset for me, so I simply base this off of how I look in the mirror and how I feel in my clothes.)

When I’m at home, I eat a pretty healthy and balanced diet most of the time. We all have our ‘cheat meals,’ right? It’s all about balance! (Traveling, especially in Europe, is a whole different can of worms! I let #treatyoself go a little too far.) When I was overdoing it on the workouts, I was doing some form of (usually intense) cardio almost every day, with strength and toning classes added on top of that. So my new goal is to focus more of my time on strength and toning and peppering in some cardio along the way!

This is what I have in mind for the average week when I’m home in Chicago and not traveling…

Monday: Kick off the week with a sweaty spin class in the AM!
Tuesday: Low-impact toning class… Lagree (It’s a megaformer machine similar to SLT in NYC!) A barre class could also count here.
Wednesday: Low-impact hot yoga class… C2 or HPF at Core Power Yoga
Thursday: Class that kicks my butt, but is more strength vs cardio.. Hi-Def @Studio Three, Sculpt @CPY, Boxing? (Been wanting to try forever!)
Friday: Another spin class to set the tone for the weekend! If I ever get back to running, Orange Theory or Barry’s could sub in for a spin class.
Saturday: Potentially pilates if I’m feeling up for it? I love Carrie’s class at Flex Pilates.
Sunday: Rest!

Another big part of my plan? Not just rest, but RECOVERY! It’s honestly just as important as your workout. Stretching, foam rolling, massage, baths, cryo therapy… It all makes such a difference in preventing injury. I learned a lot in my six months in physical therapy and I plan to put together a post before the end of the year with some of the different techniques! Stay tuned.

And much unlike before, I’m going to listen to my body and not going to beat myself up if I miss a workout. I think that’s truly the key for me having a balanced workout schedule!

As a little disclaimer… Please keep in mind this is just what I think is going to work out well for me, personally. I realize working out 5-6 times a week may sound like a lot to some, but that’s about half as much as I used to work out and much less intense. (I’m also single without kids so I’ve got more time on my hands than some might, too.) I truly enjoy working out and find that I’m my best self mentally when I’m in a regular workout routine. I think the fact that I work from home without any co-workers plays a huge part of this, too… Getting to a class is my time to get out of the house each day and carve out a little me-time from the workday!

I’d love to hear any of your stories about recovering from injuries, finding a healthy balance, squashing some unhealthy habits, or finding the motivation to get back to the gym! <3

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14 Comments

  1. 10.25.17
    Jess Zimlich commented:

    As someone who exercises for both physical and mental reasons, one of my biggest fears has always been getting injured, too! I made the terrible decision to run the Chicago spring half the night before the race earlier this year (I’ve run a handful of half marathons before and had been doing interval training so I wasn’t completely unprepared) and ended up paying the price for it. I got down to the last few miles and realized I could set a PR and finally break 2 hours and let’s just say, I really overdid it on the last half of mile 13. I clocked in with 12 seconds to spare, but hobbled away with an achilles injury that left me unable to workout (or walk properly) for weeks. I was SO mad at myself, mostly because I knew better. Rest, icing, and elevating it was the cure and I’m so thankful I didn’t end up needing surgery. Every once in a while my foot will tell me things still aren’t right (and the doctor said they probably never will be again) and I have to scale back during a class or take the next few days off, but I really listen now. I’ve also always been one who likes to eat whatever “because I workout and I can” but this summer I started paying attention to what I’m putting in my body and how it makes my body look and feel and finally get why people say “abs are made in the kitchen” (I still don’t have abs though lol). I’m still working on the whole balance thing and this was a refreshing read. Whew, sorry for the novel. I loved reading this post! I’ve only taken one boxing class before and it was years ago but I want to give it another go!

    • 10.25.17
      Jessica commented:

      From my novel to yours, girl… No worries — I had no idea you went through that injury earlier this year! So sorry to hear, but thankfully you didn’t have to go through surgery. It’s unfortunate that it usually has to be some sort of injury for us to start listening to our bodies, but I’m so grateful I’m finally in tune and able to recognize the warning signs without brushing them off. Better late than never, right?
      And isn’t the whole food portion kind of wild? As they say, you can’t out-train a bad diet! I wish I would have started paying attention to that phrase sooner. But again, better late than never!
      And should we do the boxing class together?! I’ve heard good things about Title Boxing here in Chicago!

  2. 10.25.17
    Tiffany commented:

    Ahhhh, I workout twice a day 4-5 times a week. My ankle has been a little sore recently (thought it was because I tried Orange Theory & don’t really run), but now I’m terrified! I can’t wear a boot. Thanks for sharing- I’m def contacting my doc ASAP!

    • 10.25.17
      Jessica commented:

      Sounds eerily similar to what I was going through! I hadn’t run since gym class in high school because of the chronic shin splints I would get. I decided to give Orange Theory a whirl with one of my friends who had just joined and I ran through the shin splints and finally got a taste of what that “runners high” is like. I was probably only going to OTF 2-3 times per week, but my doctor explained it this way… Even though I was in great shape from spin classes and other workouts, I quite literally went from zero to 150. Not just 100, because OTF includes intervals, inclines, etc.
      I was feeling a burning sensation in my fibula every time I was running, but I just sort of attributed it to something with the shin splints or muscle soreness. WRONG — Ignoring that burning feeling was what lead to the stress fracture in that spot.
      My biggest learning was to NEVER run through the pain… It’s not worth it when it comes to the long term!
      Sorry to terrify you, but I’d definitely get it checked out, you’d rather be safe than sorry! Well wishes, lady. xx

  3. 10.25.17
    Stacey commented:

    I had something somewhat similar to happen to me. I wasn’t out as long as you, but I had a sprained foot and my husband made me take a break from working out. I hated it and even when I started to workout again it was lot of upper body and I still couldn’t run which killed me. I now know that I need to slow down and listen to my body.

    xoxo
    Stacey
    @stylingsofstacey | http://staceylyynn.wixsite.com/stylingsofstacey

    • 10.25.17
      Jessica commented:

      Glad to hear you weren’t out as long, but as someone who works out a lot, even just a week or two can take such a mental toll. Slowing down and listening to your body is so, so important! Kuddos to your husband for making you take a little break. 🙂

  4. 10.25.17
    Miki commented:

    I have had a shoulder problem for a long time, and since I travel so much I walked a lot on cobblestone, sometimes in heels and they’ve gotten weak. It was hard to feel like I couldn’t do all the same things I always did. I worked out 5-6 days a week 2-3 hrs a day and it was a bit of a bummer to change the schedule. I’m just getting back into it, but it’s an opportunity to try new activities with lower impact but give you what you need. I’m just getting back to a better schedule, but man, I feel so out of shape. It’s a bit lifestyle change when you stop for awhile. I’m still in the process of healing and it’s been over a year, but you’re totally right – recovery time is super important. I’m not 16 anymore.
    >.<

    Xo,
    Miki
    http://mikialamode.com

    • 10.25.17
      Jessica commented:

      I totally hear you! There’s so much that goes into it mentally … Having to feel like you’re not strong enough, feeling out of shape, adjusting to the lifestyle change, etc. You hit the nail on the head, though — it’s a fun opportunity to try new things. Change is almost always a good thing, right? xx

  5. 10.25.17
    Lindsay S commented:

    Hey Jessica,

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing this post. I mean, I couldn’t relate to the exercise thing at all really because I have never been physically fit or motivated by exercise (despite the fact that I also suffer from the same “skinny fat” condition where I wear a size four but EVERYTHING about me is squishy and not toned at all), but I’m glad that you mentioned going to therapy. Two years ago, the same year I turned 30, my parents decided to get divorced. There is something weird about going through that as an adult and I found there was almost no information or support out there for people who weren’t like, little children and dealing with divorce. I’m sure it’s awful if you’re parents split when you’re a kid, but I almost wonder if it’s better in some way, because it because so normal for them not to be together at a younger age, rather than having to try to deal with these feelings when you’re an adult and understand more about the complexity of relationships. I felt like my parent’s divorce was taking a toll on me in so many way, but I also felt like I wasn’t “allowed” to be upset about it. Like I’m an adult and still have to go to work, take care of my dog, function as a normal human being. You can’t blame your shit on your parents splitting at age 30 the way you can at 8, you know? I felt like it was starting to affect not only my general demeanor, but my relationship with my husband too, and that’s when we started going to therapy together (even though I pretty much took over our sessions with my parental drama). It didn’t hit me until after one session she said “I think you’re a bit depressed. Like not completely, because you’re still trying to live your life and be happy, but it seems that you’re living at about 75% of your true self.” I was shocked. Like even after everything that happened I still felt like it couldn’t affect me that way. It wasn’t until I allowed myself to be a child that was hurt by their parents that I started to feel better, but I always felt like I was the only one going through it. That was two years ago, and little by little I have met others who have experience the same thing – parents who are together for like, 30 years, so you think you’re in the clear, and then this hits you. So this whole long-winded message was just really me saying thank you for mentioning this, because I always feel just a little bit better when I realize I’m not the only one. I haven’t gone back to therapy in a while, but at the time, it was what I really needed.

    And eventually, I’m going to start working out too. Maybe a pair of rose gold sneaks would help… 🙂

    ~L

  6. 10.26.17

    I’ve been in similar situations too, but with patellar tendonitis instead. Thankfully my injury didn’t get as bad as yours, but it also stopped me from working out the way I always had and I had to reassess my approach to fitness. Before the injury I was doing a pretty intense boot camp twice a week, a circuit session twice a week, and running every spare day. I was fit enough to run a 14km race with no training, and I didn’t stretch or give myself any time to recover nor did I do anything to recover when I worked out. The whole thing culminated with me not being able to bend my knees without pain – I couldn’t sit in a chair or car for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time and I once cried after spending an hour in the car. Then, a few months later I got glandular fever (mono) and couldn’t exercise at all – I simply didn’t have the energy. I’d gone from working out every day to not working out at all. That was a few years ago now, and it’s only been in the last six months or so that I’ve gotten back into a routine. Now, I try for variety so I don’t put too much stress on any particular body part: Mondays is circuit, Tuesdays is usually a walk or a different circuit, Wednesday is boxing, Thursday is a pump/strength class, Friday is a rest day, Saturday is usually an interval run (my knees still can’t handle consistent running, and even for intervals I can usually only 5km), Sunday is either a walk or rest. I love swimming laps as well so try to work that in when I can, and I’m not too hard on myself if I miss one of the aforementioned work outs, I just try to get in a walk instead. It’s tricky because I travel for work every month or so which completely disrupts the routine. But, when I am in my routine, I’m super conscious of stretching properly after I work out, of hydrating properly, taking epsom salt baths if I’m sore, eating enough protein for recovery, and seeing a physiotherapist every now and then if I feel like I need some needling or remedial massage to loosen things up. My body has changed, but I don’t get injured as frequently (save for a back injury earlier this year that saw me out for about 6 weeks, but now I need to move to keep it from seizing) and I all round feel better. I need to move regularly for my mental health, but my mindset now is about listening to my mind and body on any given day and assessing what it needs. I’m trying to incorporate more mindful eating practices into my day as well, which seems to be making a difference. Like you, I don’t weigh myself but I can feel it in the way my clothes fit and how I look.

    And you should definitely try boxing! It’s one of my favourite workouts, I love that there’s a level of skill involved in remembering combinations, precision of hitting, and maintaining correct form. Plus, it’s great for your core – a good punch work your whole body!

    Good luck with your new routine! x

  7. 10.26.17
    Paige commented:

    Love this post, Jess! It couldn’t come at a better time. Over the summer I had to schedule a tonsillectomy for the fall because of a multitude of issues, and my ENT said it was best to do this surgery when I have ample time to recover. I graduated from college in the spring and am living at home, working part time and studying for the LSAT, so I figured this fall was a great time to get it over with (I work in retail so the holidays were a no-go). He had told me 1-2 weeks of recovery. Over the last year or two of college, I finally got back into a groove of working out 4-5 days a week at a place that I LOVE (very similar to Orange Theory workouts) and I truly look forward to going everyday and how great I feel after. So for me, even taking 1-2 weeks off made me nervous! By the time my surgery rolled around, I found myself literally in the most miserable pain of my entire life, not for 1-2 weeks but almost a whole month. It was truly awful recovery and I would not wish it on anyone but one of the worst parts about it was not being able to work out! I was under the impression that “Oh its just my tonsils that doesn’t effect the rest of my body” so I was hoping to workout by the end of the 2nd week. It was so hard for me to just take the time to rest and fully recover. I finally got back to my workout this week and it felt so great to get back into the habit of one of my favorite parts of my week! I am sure it killed to have to wait for months. Luckily for me, it was only a few weeks, but it still felt like an eternity! I felt myself saying “omg me too” reading this post quite a few times 🙂

  8. 10.26.17
    Margaret commented:

    I broke the fifth metatarsal in my left foot 2 weeks ago so I’m having surgery tomorrow to fix it. I’ll be on crutches w/ boot for a few more weeks but hopefully in normal shoes by Christmas.
    I go to orangetheory regularly and enjoy walking all over Chicago so being stuck in my apt for 2 weeks has already been frustrating and I’m sure I’m going to go crazy with weeks more of this boot and crutches.

    Silver lining… I’m losing weight and saving money from not eating out and drinking 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  9. 10.26.17
    Madison commented:

    Thanks for sharing! I live in LA and I feel like it’s normal to work out twice a day through Classpass. But I do worry that I over do it sometimes too. Something to be mindful of. 🙂