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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ups and Downs

Sleep continues to elude me in one way or another:

Last night I felt so sleepy, for no reason I can figure, given I had slept well the night before. So I went to bed early and I stayed in bed beyond the time listed here, still feeling a need for rest.

I woke again and again, as you can see. Some of the time it was my left leg feeling uncomfortable. I have had fewer and lighter episodes of restless leg syndrome lately, but had a bit of it with my left leg. When I get uncomfortable now I simply sit up on the side of the bed. Usually this helps. As I sat there last night I looked at my right leg and realized that it was not bothering me at all. Just the left.  In addition to the left leg issue my mind was whirling. Thoughts turning into dreams, dreams going beyond sleep time. Parts of the television program Being Human intersected with thoughts about what I should be doing and am not. It is often hard to turn off my mind.

Since my last post I have taken two more little hikes. The second was into the Irish Hills at the end of Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo. I was almost stopped at the beginning: the start is fairly steep and the soil is clayey and therefore slippery. I was afraid of falling. But I grabbed some shrubs on the side of the path for a bit for more stability and made it up that part. From there on there were no too-slippery parts. I went only twenty minutes in, to the second bridge, and then turned around.

Somewhere in the middle of the hike in Irish Hills

Yesterday, my third little hike, was the world's shortest hike: Terrace Hill here in SLO. From the sidewalk on a street not far from where I live the trail climbs rather steeply up to a terraced top, from which one can see all of San Luis Obispo, 360 degrees. The short steep climb did get my heart rate up if briefly.

My near-constant companion is the fitbit. This little guy tells me that I climbed 19 floors during the Irish Hills hike and 11 for Terrace Hill. According to the fitbit website, each floor is equal to about ten feet in elevation gain, so I climbed 190 feet on the Irish Hills trail and 110 on Terrace Hill.  Having this gadget on me really does motivate me to take more steps or climb more stairs or hills. I come back to my base (my iMac) to sync up and eagerly look at what I've done.

There is a clear difference in surfaces for me. I was in Palm Springs from the 19th to the the 24th and walked on the sidewalks every day. And every day I felt enough hip pain to make the walk uncomfortable. When I hiked, however, the hip pain disappeared almost immediately. Clearly hiking is a better activity for me right now, given that without the pain I can walk more consistently, more correctly. It continues to be difficult to walk without a limp much of the time (I am not using my cane these days, yet at times perhaps I should be).

In sum: I am having fewer and shorter incidences of both RLS and intense leg pain. My hip continues to bother me but not all the time. I am walking more and starting to hike. My legs are still not straight (sigh).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I did it!

Today another milestone. I did my first hike since the first knee surgery last April. In fact, it was probably well before April when I last hiked. I was hurting so much that hikes were far from appealing at the time I first went under the knife.

I chose the Elfin Forest in Los Osos for my first foray. The walk is almost entirely boardwalk, with many benches, and is only 4/5 mile long. It is not flat but the ascent is not steep, as it is very near the bay. Next to it, in fact. The picture above shows how it got its name. It really looks magical inside the tree cover. A separate little boardwalk enters the forest in specific locations so we can look but not touch. You could walk the whole way on the boardwalk and not know the wonders inside. But there is much to enjoy outside of the forest itself, in the views of Morro Rock and several of the "Seven Sisters" - ancient volcanos that line up, marching from Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo and actually into a part of San Luis Obispo.

But I digress. I went without a cane. I remember the last time I visited this little walk. It was well before my knee surgery. I grabbed at almost every chance to sit on one of the benches, to relieve the pain. This time I did not sit down once. I did not feel I had to. I did feel a bit of a strain toward the end but it seemed mostly because my body is not used to walking any more, not because of pain. My left knee did get a bit sensitive but it recovered all right. For a bit I thought I might need to ice my knees when I got home but I was fine by then, and am still fine now.

I could feel the pressure I was putting on my knees. It was a bit uncomfortable but not painful. I feel like I pushed them as far as they want to go right now, but I could go a bit farther next time out. I did not experience any hip pain.

This post does not reflect well how great I felt when I finished. Just yesterday I was making my way around Costco and finding it quite uncomfortable, both inside and out. I did not see how I could do a hike comfortably. Now I know that I can, and it's exhilarating.

Time Flies

Time doesn't really fly for me. Not at night, anyway.

I recently purchased a fitbit. A fitbit is a movement monitor, intended to track steps especially, but movement in general. It is small and wireless and uploads information automatically when it is near my computer. One of the special things it does is monitor sleep! Last night I set it to start monitoring and the above chart shows what it learned. Notice that I was in bed over ten hours and slept over seven. This was a good night, too. Over time I will have other examples, especially of the restless, impossible nights. Note, though, that on a good night I was awakened 47 times.

Sleep, then, is something I still have difficulty with. I still have episodes of restless leg syndrome (RLS), which accounts for some of the sleep interruptions, and I still frequently wake with a lot of pain in my knee specifically and sometimes down my leg to my foot. I do think the RLS is decreasing just a bit. I have been off the RLS meds for over a week now and not every night has been horrible. I don't know if I want to stay off those meds yet, however. 

In other news,  I am still spending time at the physical therapist's office. The above is one view of the office. It takes over an hour for me to go through everything, even when I don't have to wait for equipment. Last friday the therapist did some extra pushing on my knee. It's getting there. It's damned slow but I keep plugging.