Friday, April 18, 2014

Compress Me, Baby

When it comes to this injury, the one thing that has been consistently beneficial is compression. The tool I've been using is Voodoo Floss.

No, I'm not a hardcore CrossFit devotee or Rogue Fitness evangelist. However, there are elements and products that I have tried and found useful, including Voodoo Floss. I wrap up my ankle with the bands and voila! temporary pain relief and improved range of motion.  Jonathon, my new physical therapist, likes it as well and it's become a key part of my therapy. At the start of each session, he wraps me up and has me do a variety of squat and lunge variations. We then take advantage of the temporarily improved range of motion to do other mobility exercises. I tend to feel some minor improvement for an hour or so after each session. Sadly, the ankle locks up again, but it's a process so I'll keep at it.

For a while now, I've been flossing (my ankle, not my teeth) before skating and ballet. It didn't make either activity pain-free, but it made it do-able. And apparently I'm not the only skater who's found value in it.

Week Three: Pain, swelling, compression. I may not be any further ahead in the process, but at least I'm no further behind.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Situational Language (or How I Screw Up Parenting?)

I was told by a reliable source (a mom of two adult hockey players) that eventually my son would develop two personalities - one to use with me, one to use with the guys. It looks like that's happening now and it's highly likely I'm about to enter into a huge parenting fail.

We were in the car running errands when the Kid told me he thought a particular song was "so freakin' awesome."

Not technically swearing but coming from a little guy it felt inappropriate. I suggested that perhaps he not use that phrase.

"Everybody says it, Mum-mum," he explained matter-of-factly.

"Who's everybody?"

"All the kids."

We made a deal. We agreed that he could use the phrase with his friends (on the ice, in the locker room); however, an adult hearing that phrase might find it rude, so he won't use it around adults. This seems like a fair compromise, right? He gets a little freedom to be a 10 year-old boy, but he also learns that language is situational. Show some respect, son.

I don't know, maybe this is a huge mistake (when I screw up parenting I tend to do it in spectacular fashion), but for now it feels right. Right?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Don't be a Jerk

The Montgomery Youth Hockey Association (MYHA) has announced that it is forming a partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA). I have to admit, it bugs me that our society has reached a point where we need non-profit organizations and behavior protocols to mandate what should be simple common courtesy. But apparently we do and from what I can tell, PCA seems as good as any other.

MYHA coaches (who are volunteers, by the way) have attended a coaching seminar already and the Board has participated in a leadership workshop. Parents are up next with a workshop planned for start of next season.

PCA has established protocols aimed at coaches, parents and athletes, including:

The Double-Goal Coach

  • Model and teach players to honor the game
  • Help players pursue mastery of their sport, not just scoreboard wins
  • Fill players' emotional tanks
  • Have conversations with players at every game and practice

The Second-Goal Parent
  • Focus on using sports to teach life lessons
  • Reinforce effort, learning and bouncing back from mistakes
  • Honor the game
  • Use self-control
  • Don't use directional cheering 
  • Get child to and from games and practices on time
  • Refrain from negative comments

The Triple-Impact Player
  • Make oneself better 
  • Make the team better
  • Make the game better

While I know it's happened, I've experienced very, very few situations in which there was unsportsmanlike behavior among MYHA coaches, parents and kids. Still, if a partnership like this can help prevent inappropriate behavior, it's probably good to pursue.

I think it should be much more simple. Just don't be a jerk.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Medical Mysteries

The vascular surgeon was fantastic. He's an adult athlete so he gets what it's like for a grown-up to want to keep playing. He was impressed by the orthopedists I've been seeing ("the best in the area") and he was optimistic that we were on the cusp of solving my problem.

"Lymphedema is manageable. You'll be fine. Now, let's take some pictures and see what we're dealing with." Nothing. We're dealing with nothing. I'm like one of those 'medical mystery' pieces the Washington Post runs in the health section. 

Crossfit Boy sits next to me, all strength and youthfulness, and suggests arthritis and dying bones. I refrain from clocking him with the kettlebell that's between us. 

And I swear if one more person says, "You're doing all the right things" I'm going to scream, because all the right things aren't working.

Week Two is in the books. Pain, swelling and bone death. Lovely.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Power to the Player

"What's my schedule tomorrow?" the Kid asked. He already knew the answer, he just liked hearing it over and over and over again.

8:40 a.m. - 9:40 a.m. Power skating
10:00 a.m. - noon Hockey clinic (including a scrimmage. Dude, scrimmage!)
3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Baseball game

He would be playing sports all day. I thought this was excessive, I don't believe in over-scheduling my son. He, however, has a very different definition of "over-scheduling" than I do. 

The Kid spent the weekend participating in a power skating clinic coached by Marianne Watkins, of Pittsburgh Penguins fame. (We forgive her.) She wore a mic, one of those Britney Spears-inspired earpiece versions, and I sat in the stands mesmerized.

Damn that woman makes skating fun. The tone in her voice the entire time seemed to say, "Guys! We're playing hockey! How great is that?!"

They skated around cones, she bopped them with her hockey gloves, they went fast. "Use your edges! Bend your knees! Stay down!" (Sound familiar?)

And when kids volunteered to demonstrate skills she said encouragingly, "There are my leaders!" I was impressed by how she brought energy without being condescending. Made them work and have fun.

"Do you get power from here or power from here?" she asked, standing up straight then crouching down into "hockey position." Which also is known as baseball position or basketball position or volleyball position. You know, basic athletic position. All the kids crouched down and pushed hard.

"What's the most important thing you need to know how to do to play hockey?" she asked. "To skate! You're on ice!"

And that's why the Kid was at the clinic. Every time he's taken any kind of power skating clinic he's improved his play. If I have one complaint about MYHA, (and it's not really a complaint, more of an observation) it's that the kids don't get much straight-up skating instruction as part of their regular practice schedule. Of course, as I type those words part of me thinks, actually I only marginally care about the skating instruction, I just want the Kid to have fun.

"Guys! We're playing hockey! How great is that?!"

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Signs, Signs, Everywhere...

I was practically dozing off at the physical therapist's office. In my defense, I had been up since before dawn to train my clients and get in a short work out of my own. Then I had rushed to the physical therapist's where I was put through a series of tests and measurements. Now, I was enjoying the final minutes of my session, which consisted of massage therapy (from a person), stretching and then more massage therapy from these tiny electrodes that pulsed against my ankle and calf. It was amazing, really. This is physical therapy I can get behind.

As I lay there on the table pseudo-watching college basketball, I noticed a ton of framed pictures surrounding the television. Each one was of a person participating in a sport and was signed with some variation of "thank you for getting me back on the course, The Golfer."

The ones that stood out for me:

  • The figure skater spinning in what was clearly Rink Two.
  • The young hockey player chasing down the puck in his MYHA jersey
  • And the ballet dancer leaping through the air in what looked like the Kennedy Center atrium

These are good signs, yes?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Direction Change

"If skating and dancing are causing you pain, it may be that you'll need to explore other activities for exercise," Dr. F said, not unkindly.


"That wasn't the right answer," he laughed. "Alright, we're going to figure this out."

And with that he started attacking my problem with determination. I wanted two things from Dr. F:

1) To confirm that my previous diagnosis and treatment wasn't completely off the mark
2) To suggest a different approach we could take to try to fix things

He did not disappoint.

1) Diagnosis and Treatment

Dr. F confirmed that there is no structural damage to my foot or ankle. This is consistent with what Dr. G saw. My mobility and strength are really good, the work I've been doing has enabled me to correct a lot of the imbalances that I developed from compensating for my ankle pain. Functionally, I'm in great shape.

My problem is pain. To address that problem we need to solve a little mystery - is pain causing the swelling or is swelling causing the pain. Dr. F thinks it may be the latter.

2) A Different Direction

There was no event or trauma that led to the pain and swelling in my leg, it just developed. Dr. F said the swelling isn't that bad and that he wouldn't think twice about it if it weren't for the pain. (Also consistent with Dr. G.) So if injury didn't cause pain that led to swelling, then something may be causing swelling that's leading to pain. Something like lymphedema.

I have only one risk factor for lymphedema, a cardiac condition. But I have a lot of symptoms - swelling, skin tightness, joint pain and more. There's no cure, just treatment, which includes manual lymphatic drainage/massage, exercise and compression. No drugs, no surgery. I like non-invasive.

The Plan

I'm guardedly optimistic that we may have identified the problem. I say "guardedly" because there have been so many points in the process where I thought, "This time we've found the solution" and clearly we hadn't. Still, the more Dr. F and I talked about lymphedema, and as I researched it on my own, a lot of the pieces started to come together.

So here's what's happening next:
  • I'm seeing a vascular surgeon for an official diagnosis and additional treatment (if needed.)
  • I'm starting physical therapy to address inflammation, not for strength and mobility. Dr. F is confident in my ability to do strength and mobility on my own. "Obviously you know what you're doing," he said, approvingly.
  • I'm not allowed to skate or dance as long as I'm in physical therapy, approximately four weeks.
Given the extent of my issues, Dr. F was careful to manage my expectations. But with any luck, in four weeks we'll have confirmed the diagnosis, established a plan for long-term management of it and maybe, just maybe, I'll have some pain-free skating. That would be cool.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Warning: This Isn't Pretty

Let me say straight up that this post is going to be a thorough bitch session. I'm in a bad, bad mood (real tears) and I want to complain. I figured I'd rant here. I can get a bunch of crap off my chest and you have the option of just not reading this. Everybody wins! But if you want to read the ranting of a pissed off figure skater, here goes...

Yesterday I came home from ballet in a tremendous amount of pain. Ankle and hip. I rolled out and stretched like a good little dancer/figure skater and still spent the rest of the day painfully hobbling about. It's been two years...two years...since I started trying to fix my leg problems. Aaaaargh!!

I've had two x-rays and an MRI that show nothing. I've been through two rounds of physical therapy that achieved nothing. Completely flummoxed, my first orthopedist said, "Cortisone." And my first physical therapist said, "Orthotics." I believe there's an inherent risk any time we put something into our bodies. I accept that risk with food (and wine, c'mon I'm a hockey mom), but I'm much more conservative about drugs. I'm not ready for cortisone without trying other avenues first. And I'm skeptical that orthotics are the answer for my current situation.

I decided to keep working on the ankle and hip on my own. I've made some really good progress in terms of functionality. But the ankle remains swollen and both my ankle and hip hurt all the time. I mean it, all the time. The worst part is that it effects the two things I want to do the most - skating and ballet. One 30 minute skating practice and I'm limping around the rest of the day. One hour of ballet elicits the same result.

What if it didn't hurt? What if I could really practice? What if I could control my extreme pronation enough to hold a left outside edge? What if my hip were strong enough to hold me up skating backward? What if? Because the thing is, I love that feeling where my skates are gripping the ice and my legs feel strong and powerful. I can't remember the last time I truly felt that.

So I'm going back to the doctor. A different one who specializes in foot and ankle problems in athletes. I'm hoping a fresh set of eyes might see something the other doctor didn't. A different brain might have different ideas. I want the swelling gone, I want the pain gone, I want my strength and balance back.

I want to keep skating.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ballerina Girl

"I took my first ballet class and I was really good!" I bragged shamelessly. "I was the only one in the class who could do 5th position."

Dmytri gave me the look. "You can do 5th position but you can't do mohawk?"

Yeah, don't think that hadn't occurred to me.

Recently, I signed up for adult ballet classes. According to the brochure, these classes are designed for adults who have never taken a ballet class before. So imagine my surprise when I showed up for a class full of teenagers and twentysomethings all with dancers bodies decked out in leotards, skirts and tights. Meanwhile, I'm fortysomething in bootcut figure skating pants and a hockey t-shirt. And I'm pretty sure I'm the only one in the class who uses a squat rack.

With my self-confidence at an all-time low, we got started. Hey wait! This I can do! The instructor stood at the front of the room speaking mostly French and walking us through ... well ... stuff that has names I can't quite remember (or spell) yet. But I could do it all and I did it well enough that my confidence came back quickly. I like this ballet stuff! I can even do it to music. Which is more than I can say for ice dancing given that I don't really hear the music when I skate.

You know, based on my ballet experience, I think I could be a pretty good ice dancer...minus the ice...and the skates.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I had scheduled a skating lesson on a day when World Juniors was in full swing. I found myself sandwiched in between Alexei and Dmytri with the two of them talking to each other over my head. Presumably they were talking about their skaters who were competing in Bulgaria, but they were speaking Russian so for all I know they could have been plotting military maneuvers in Crimea.

Alexei looked down at me as if he just realized I was there. "Sorry," he said. 

Dmytri looked at me too, feigning surprise. "Oh you're still here?" he joked. 

"Yeah, yeah, every Russian's a comedian," I thought as I looked up at the two of them towering over me. Dmytri looked down at me as if expecting me to contribute to this conversation I didn't understand.

After a long pause I said, "Exactly." He shook his head in agreement.

For the past few weeks my lessons have been about trying to get a feel for the individual pieces of both Dutch Waltz and Canasta Tango and sometimes putting them together in a very slow, winding version. Apparently shit's about to get real (or Dmytri had too much coffee this morning) because suddenly I'm needing a jet-pack. First we did Canasta Tango with Dmytri calling out the steps for me. 

Dear god! It was like sprinting. With kicks. Let's face it, Dmytri was doing all the work. I was just running along beside him and letting out a long line of terrified expletives.

"I was really muscling you," he laughed as we coasted to a slower, much more reasonable pace. 

We moved on to Dutch Waltz, which Dmytri was determined we would do at the proper tempo. And as I tripped over crossovers and skidded out on swingrolls I thought, "I'm really going to kill us this time. It's really going to happen." Dmytri, fearless as always, told me to "keep going! Keep going!" And I did for fear of the alternative.

The good news is Dmytri seemed relatively pleased with how things were going, pointing out that I was getting faster and I was starting to catch on to the sequence of the steps. He didn't have to call out the steps for Dutch Waltz and he said my slide chasses were "excellent." How cool is that?

It was time to try doing Dutch Waltz to music. At first I hesitated, but then I decided I was ready to attack this bad boy. I would skate with strength and power. It would be fast and there would be edges. Dmytri would muscle me around and I'd muscle him right back. I wouldn't even think of bailing out. This was going to be good!

And it was! Strong strokes, fast crossover, deep left outside edge...

"I'm sorry," Dmytri said, bailing out.

What?! What?! That was like seven seconds of absolute brilliance! Why the hell was he stopping?!

"I have to sneeze."

I was kind of hoping I could test these dances in the spring, but maybe I'll wait 'til summer...after allergy season.