In the spring of 2015, I stopped running. I couldn’t. My knees hurt with my first step on the pavement. Going up and down stairs was painful. I had only been running a few days a week consistently since the fall of 2013. I had joined a running group, I had run a few short races (a 5k, 9k, & 10 mile), and I had my heart set on doing a half marathon in June of 2015. My running "career", being only a few years long, had proved a good way for me to lose baby weight I'd gained over the course of having four children. It was a inexpensive way to get valuable cardiovascular exercise as well and relatively convenient to schedule times to get together with friends and run.
Yvette running a 5K race before knee pain took over
Before taking up running, I had been doing HIIT, plyometrics (think “jumping”), and weight-training workouts at home using home videos and YouTube for about 8 years. I did have some pain in my knees when jumping or lunging at times, but the knee pain got successively worse with each passing year.
The first doctor I saw thought I had tendinitis in my knees. Then I went to physical therapy. When the first physical therapist (PT) didn’t see my knees getting better with the exercises he had me doing, he suggested I try a different PT. After several weeks of exercises, my new PT referred me to an orthopedic doctor who had me go in for an MRI. The MRI revealed osteoarthritis in my knees—an unusual diagnosis for a healthy 38 year old female with no family history of osteoarthritis in the knees and no prior injuries.
In the fall of 2015, my husband had to help me walk downstairs and occasionally carry me upstairs when the flare up was bad. I continued physical therapy, trying to activate my glutes to take the work off of my knees. I turned to Pilates and weight-training and dropped plyometrics from my routine.
Yvette and friends at the 10 Mile Monster Dash race in Minneapolis/St Paul
But how would I get in cardio? Biking, swimming, elliptical, cross-country skiing? What type of exercise would help me be consistent with getting the cardio exercise my body needed? As a busy homeschooling mom of four, the gym wasn’t a good option for our family. We looked at our options. There will always be things that come up which we could use an excuse to not be physically active. I'm too old. I'm injured. I'm weak. I don't have time. I don't have money. I don't like exercise. Its too cold. I'm too tired.
Yvette and family at the City of Trails 5K race in St Croix Falls, WI
In June 2016, we purchased a Peloton spin bike. It was an expensive option, so we talked about it for a LONG time (over a year) before deciding to buy it and pay the monthly subscription. I’m so glad we did! This is going to sound like an ad now, but I LOVE my Peloton bike (trust me, we’re not getting a kick-back from them). The bike has a 21” tablet mounted on it, and I can take live or pre-recorded spin classes from instructors at the Peloton studio in New York City from the comfort of my own home. It’s like the spin class came to me.
So each week, I follow a training plan by one of the Peloton instructors and plan my rides. I also plan a weight-lifting routine through a fellow Peloton user who I met through the Peloton Facebook page, who is a trainer.
Going from outdoor exercise, to indoor, with a high-tech exercise bike
I’m so thankful to God that there are other cardio options when running and jumping weren’t working for my knees. I love the feeling of high intensity workouts that make me breathless as well as longer endurance rides that focus on strengthening aerobic capacity. The daily classes and trainers keep me going. I’m not sure I’d be able to consistently spin having to stare only at my basement wall. Not everyone is meant for the gym or for working out in the great outdoors. If you are motivated, you will find a way to get exercise in.
I am happy to say that my knees are not flaring up as much in the past six months. While the arthritis is expected to worsen with time, my knees are not as inflamed as they were this time last year. I can do squats and lunges without pain these days, and I can even sneak in a few squat jumps a week without much trouble. I’m so encouraged by the cardio workout I get spinning on my bike that goes nowhere. And this exercise doesn’t hurt my knees, which is what my body needs from me right now.
Don't be afraid to try something new and don't let the unexpected give you an excuse to stop trying. There are always other options to move your body. Let 2017 be a year of the unexpected - no excuses!