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These hips were made for walking

In passing, I would like to speculate how often the phrase “these [nouns] were made for [verb]-in'” has been used since the song was released: lots, I bet. Lots and lots.

Last October, M and I cancelled our Tasmanian holiday so I could pop over to the local hospital and have a little hip surgery. (As you do.) The recovery has been an interesting one, with steady progress, occasional setbacks, minor triumphs and then huge triumphs — overall, a really good process and one that has flown faster than I had dared hope. Under the care of an exceptional exercise physiologist, I’ve slowly rebuilt strength and motion so that my legs are better than ever.

When I first came out of surgery, I was encouraged to start putting weight on the recovering leg as soon as it didn’t hurt too much to do so. When you’re in hospital and dependent on bedpans, that’s already a breakthrough.

When I saw my endocrinologist post-surgery, we talked about the thin bones thing: I have thinner bones than average for my age, which makes me a bit more vulnerable to stress fractures. Muscles do a lot of impact absorbing, and tired muscles are weaker muscles — and if you keep charging along when the muscles are tired and protesting, your bones end up taking a bit more impact than usual. So my endocrinologist stuck a stamp on my butt and posted me to an exercise physiologist. She gave me stretches and resistance training to do, and set daily limits on how much walking I could do, to be revised according to pain and progress. That was seven months ago: I’ve done daily strengthening with resistance bands, I’ve done squats and stretches, I’ve set timers and stopped walking precisely at the daily limit (“Can you come and pick me up? I’ve run out of time.”).

I admit to crying once when my back was killing me and I felt like everything hurt and would never be better. Then I looked in my head and found a bit more patience, pulled it on like legwarmers, and kept at it.

All this background is to emphasise how much of a triumph it was when she finally said “When you feel ready, you should try a two-hour walk on the weekend and see how you feel”. We were off to the coast a few days later and the Bomaderry Gorge Walk appealed.

Welp, that rocked. A fantastic walk: creek, trees, rocky overhangs, moss, wombat poops galore, and a happy bunch of folks (and their brown dog) on a cool, sunny day. I was happy and not as tuckered out as I thought I would be. But the best part was in the days after, where my legs felt no more tired than you would expect after not having walked so far for so long — there was no arresting sharpness in the recovering leg, no flared and angry tendons, nothing but good old-fashioned physical fatigue.

The leap from “45 minutes per day” to “Try a 2-hour walk when you feel ready” was as much mental as it was physical: and it was great. The idea of heading up Mt Kosi, going street-exploring in Lausanne, or pounding New York’s pavements is suddenly, fantastically close to reality. I’m writing this partly out of self-congratulation, since I have worked steadily and patiently and helped make my body strong and well again; partly out of gratitude, since my physio was encouraging, patient, reassuring, and confidence-boosting all the way, and without her I sure as shit would have ended up in a painful wet heap by now; and partly out of a reminder to myself about what I can do when I’m patient and committed. A lot of the exercises I’ve been doing are tiny movements, ten minutes of repetitions of this and that, three times a day, and it’s amazing how quickly the results turn up. I want this to be a permanent lesson of what I — or anybody, really — can do with small, patient work.

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