Benched? How to Deal


The title of this article promises more than I can probably deliver, because dealing with being benched is not my strongsuit. Now whining, I’m all about. So let’s start with the problem.

Seeking balance, always, when my business started picking up I began adding to the hiking schedule. Hiking is my doorway to Zen. Nature and the wonderful people I hike with are a large part of the draw, but add the “rocky mountain high” one enters when the heartrate zone is sustained in the red for a good long time and it’s magic. I added longer weekend hikes, started taking on day trips in the Grand Canyon from rim to river and back in a day – once each month – and I was getting faster. I also noticed some stiffness in my hip – but whatever.

Yea, the fatal “whatever.” If you’re an avid hiker, you probably know how this goes.

Stiff hip, stiff IT band, stiff knee, swollen knee, hobbling. BENCHED. And just when I felt I was really taking flight.

So what am I missing?

My Routine. For the last 3 and a half years as an Early Rise Hiker I have led hikes in the McDowell Mountains as early as the gate opens. I see the sun rise over a twinkling valley as I ascend a hill, and then after an hour of strenuous activity I get started with my day, blood circulating.

My Steps per Day and High Intensity Minutes. Addicted to your Garmin device? Me too. And my stats are looking lame.

My Friends, Old and New. The wonderful thing about a public hiking group is the people – I have established a core group of friends, and also have the advantage of meeting new people daily. But I can’t lead a hiking group if I can’t hike.

Exercise. There is nothing like sitting around to make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. I’m lethargic, cranky, and concerned that it will be hard to go back.

So What Are You Doing About It?

It turns out there is some value in taking the benching seriously. I started out just trying to “take it easy” by dropping the longer hikes. I gave up my plans for an April trip to the Grand Canyon. I only kept up the morning hikes – the every morning hikes. But this approach was slowly eroding my ability to hike well, so I decided a more radical approach was required.

Saw the Doctor. Yep, Suggested by everyone I know, and a good idea as it happens, to get some direction on what to do. The main being rest. I have been a stellar patient, following every prescription, and proscription, religiously. My new routine is RICE.

Rest: meaning Rest the Knee. Obviously I can do other things, but this means changing the old exercise routine, which isn’t always easy. My brother in law saved me with the loan of a spin bicycle, and now although I’m bored beyond belief during my exercise sprints, I can re-enter the zone. And to my great relief, I have recovered my intensity minutes.

Tissue Rejuvenator Helps. I’m not a pill popper, or even vitamin taker. However, I do feel that Hammer’s “joint health support” supplement containing glucosamine and chondroitin, taken in their recommended dose during injury has helped to reduce the inflammation.

So am I dealing? Well, in a cranky, irritated, This Must Be Fixed sort of way, I am. I have taken on board the message that if I don’t fix it, I’ll never go back to hiking the way I was, and I am certainly not ready or willing to give it up yet. I will rest my knee and start back when it’s ready to take me over the many mountains I see on my horizon.

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