June 13, 2020 marks my three-month spineaversary! The progress I’ve made over the past few months has been remarkable. I would’ve never guessed I’d feel this great 3-months into my recovery.
The first few weeks after my spinal fusion surgery were definitely the most difficult: physically and mentally. I turned a huge corner during the fourth week; this is when I coined the term ‘backercise’, and started implementing more movement into my daily routine. Stretching and strengthening my body through recovery were my two top priorities; I moved my body as much as it would allow from the very beginnning. As I progressed, I increased the difficulty of my exercises and stretches.
Transitioning from March to April signified the first turning point in my recovery. Towards the middle of April, I started walking outside with my mom. Before that, my exercise was limited to my house: walking, stairs, and ‘backercise’ routines. Moving outside gave me a sense of normalcy; slowly but surely, I started to add jogging/running into the walks.
Seeing my hard work and commitment to recovery start to pay off made it all worth it. It was motivating to feel the progress I was making.
Feeling refreshed and eager, I bought a Garmin Forerunner 245 Watch in early May. By mid-May, I walked a half-marathon (13.1 miles) at a 15:12 min/mi pace. I was logging at least 5 miles a day consistently, and could feel my body getting stronger. Pace and form were my primary focuses of each walk.
Each week, I would have scheduled walks with different friends. We would walk around my neighborhood, or at the rail trail. Those days became my favorite part of the week, and helped me stay accountable and consistent.
Towards the end of May, I started exploring new methods of exercise. I bought a hybrid bike at our local bike shop and have cycled every day since then. My rides are usually 50 minutes for 10 miles; I have three go-to routes that each offer a different type of challenge. Cycling has been a much more sustainable option for me compared to running; the risk of injury is significantly lower, and I can ride for significantly longer than I can run.
My functionality has increased measurably since the beginning of June, especially in my upper body. After starting physical therapy on May 7, I started giving more attention to my weakest areas: my neck, shoulders, and lower back. I was compensating for my lack of motion in those areas with my lower body strength. Instead of bending to pick something off the ground, I would squat and keep a straight torso. To prevent turning my neck, I would move my entire body to see something out of my peripheral vision. Now, I am more cognizant and am working to improve my strength and mobility in those areas.
I’ve been regularly disc golfing, which has improved strength in my upper body and increased mobility through ‘twisting’ motions. I also hope to start bouldering 2-3x/week.
My journey to recovery is not over, but I’m so proud of the progress I’ve made throughout the past three months. This has been the ultimate test to my physical and mental toughness; I’ve only become better for it, and am excited to see the progress I will make a year from now.