Aches and Atrophy on the Road to Recovery

I’m now two full weeks removed from the fateful stumble that left me with a closed avulsion fracture of the lateral malleolus of my left fibula. I was finally able to ditch my crutches three days ago, which has certainly made life a bit more manageable.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I’ve already seen a noticeable amount of muscle wasting in my left calf thanks to the 12 days spent on crutches. I started experiencing discomfort in my lower leg seven or eight days into my recovery. The sensation started just below the back of my knee and felt a bit like a muscle cramp or the dull soreness that I’ve experienced after dry needling therapy. While the pain wasn’t severe, it was bad enough to wake me up in the middle of the night on multiple occasions. It took me a few more days to realize that this discomfort was a symptom of muscle atrophy. I’ve never broken anything more significant than a toe, so I simply didn’t realize that I would start to lose muscle mass so rapidly. My fracture occurred late in the evening on May 25th. Here’s how my calves compare as of June 9, 2019:

I was having a hard enough time coming to terms with my inability to run, cycle or spin for the next month. Knowing that my injured leg is basically eating itself while I continue to convalesce is only adding to my frustration and despair!

I’m expected to be in an air cast for at least four more weeks. While I should be able to hobble around without crutches from this point onwards (fingers crossed), I have no idea how much muscle I’ll continue to lose while stuck in this boot. It’s tempting to ignore my doctor’s orders and start trying to incorporate weight bearing back onto my injured leg now, but I realize that increases my chances of other complications and would likely just prolong my recovery.

Since a broken ankle makes my regular workout regiment impossible, I’ve started taking one or two of Peloton’s strength classes each day to keep the rest of my body from wasting away. I’m relegated to upper-body exercises at this point, which isn’t going to do much for my marathon or 50K finishing times, but it’s keeping me from feeling like a total blob while I give my body time to heal.

Well, there were a few unplanned "days off" at this point.
Well, there were a few unplanned “days off” at this point.

I never would have guessed that this is the route my life would take roughly halfway through 2019, and my fitness goals seem more unattainable than ever before, but I’m going to do my best to recover from this set back as quickly as possible and continue my pursuit on one of the World Marathon Majors. Everybody loves a comeback story, right?

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