Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

S is for Surgery

After nine months, I was fully expecting surgery. I went into the MRI hoping that whatever was wrong would be glaringly obvious so we could fix it quickly and I could move on with my life.

For better or for worse, my MRI wasn’t as clear as the doctor had hoped. My trouble spots all showed up with excess fluid and inflammation, but without full tears it’s hard to see what’s really going on.

Peroneal Tendon Surgery

Stress Test

In order to get a better idea of what’s broken, my doctor started testing my ankle. He went after my biggest source of pain first, my peroneal tendon. He injected anesthesia into my tendon sheath, and the pain immediately went away. I can’t describe the relief.

I was then instructed to do activities that normally increase my pain to see if I could bring the pain back. If I could, the problem wasn’t a tendon tear. If the pain stayed away, s-s-surgery.

I ran a glorious half mile on a treadmill. The stale gym air in my hair, feet moving under me – I hadn’t felt so free since I tried to snap my ankle in two playing basketball. I had forgotten what it felt like to run, to relax into my stride and just let my feet move. I wasn’t worried about the outcome or trying to negotiate with the broken parts of me. We just moved.

Before the treadmill of joy, I hadn’t run more than 200 steps at a time. I knew I had done more than enough to make my ankle hurt, but damn was I feeling invincible. I went into the hallway and busted out single leg heal raises like I do them all day.

After resting for an hour I was convinced. This was it.

Peroneal Tendon Surgery

The good news: Unless I twist it again, I can’t make this much worse. I got the sign off to (carefully!) hike and ride a bike (short distances) on my vacation at the end of the month.

Also good news? The week we get back, I’m having surgery. A terrifying prospect when I think too hard about the details.

The unfortunate news: After surgery, I’m on a recovery plan that will take me into 2017 before I’m back to full activity like I was before my injury. The timeline depends heavily on what my damage is. Just a small tendon tear: 3 months. Tendon tear and a bone chip: 3+ months. Tendon tear and cartilage damage: 4-5 months.

If things go well, I’ll be walking in a boot to celebrate the one year mark of my injury at the end of October.

The best news: I have a way forward. I finally have a plan to get back to running and olympic lifting. The path isn’t the one I would have chosen at the beginning, but I feel good about it. I’m so ready to be better. To be back. To be free. To not have constant pain.

When my peroneal tendon was numb, I felt like myself again. After nine months of pain I was so used to it that it was shocking to feel normal. It also made me realize just how much pain I was living with every day. When the anesthesia began to wear off and the pain came creeping back in, it was staggering. I couldn’t believe I was walking around like this every day.

I’m scared, but I’m all in. I’m ready to start chipping away at a full recovery.

Natural Beauty Products: Shower

My shower is a place of peace. It is wonderfully spare and uncluttered. While it could have even less in it, I am happy with what it holds.

I take great care to choose safe, natural beauty products that are gentle on the Earth and on me. I read every ingredient and I look up products on the Environmental Working Group’s fantastic cosmetic database before I buy them. I do my best to choose products with few ingredients and a score of two or below from EWG.

Natural Beauty Products: Shower


After many disappointing tubes and shampoo bars that left my hair feeling like sticky straw, I settled on Juice Organics Brightening Shampoo. It has a nice amount of lather and it doesn’t dry out my hair. It’s now available at Target (although I’m not sure every one will carry it), but it’s usually the cheapest here. My hair is silky for the full four days until I wash it again (more on that soon).


I like a heavy, hearty conditioner that doesn’t weigh my hair down. The Juice Organics Smoothing Conditioner is the best I’ve found so far. It smells great (it sometimes makes me a little hungry) and its very hydrating.

I break the rule when it comes to conditioner. I slather this on my scalp like I’m frosting a cake. My scalp gets dry and crazy itchy if I don’t. I apply the conditioner much like shampoo and massage it into my scalp. Once my scalp is covered I work the conditioner down to the ends of my hair with my hands and a wide tooth comb. I put my hair in a bun with a big clip and let it sit for at least a minute while I wash my body or shave before fully rinsing it out.

Soap & Shave Cream

My mom discovered this handmade soap years ago, and I haven’t changed it since. Gaia Essentials is made less than 10 miles from my childhood home, and I trust the maker and the ingredients she uses. I love her chocolate soaps because they are incredibly silky and nourishing. The soap doubles as a shave cream that won’t leave you with razor burn or parched skin.

While I love my soap, I highly recommend visiting your local farmer’s market or co-op grocery store to find a local soap maker near you. You can ask about their ingredients, and very often they will have little samples that you can try.

I wash my face with water or my microfiber face cloth, no soap or cleanser.


For years I’ve used the same Preserve razor. I’m not the most frequent shaver, so each disposable head lasts me at least a month. While I like that the handle is recycled and the company seems to have good sustainability practices, I am still looking into shaving with a safety razor instead of the disposable heads.


My minimalist skincare routine.
The best after-shower moisturizer: Homemade Body Butter
Don’t forget to put on sunscreen before you leave!

Gua Sha Scraping for Pain and Recovery

For months my sprained ankle got worse after just about every treatment, except gua sha. My physical therapist first introduced it to me after hand massage started to be less effective, and I had instant results.

Gua Sha Scraping for Pain and Recovery

What is gua sha?

Gua sha is a traditional Chinese medicine technique of scraping the skin with a hard porcelain spoon or a jade scraper. Similar to Graston or ART, gua sha can help release tightness and improve recovery. While many people still use the traditional scrapers, newer plastic tools with different angles and edges are now available as well.

A gua sha practitioner will scrape down the skin around an injury until it becomes bright red or until the tissue begins to feel smoother under the tool. My physical therapist follows the tendons/muscles and scrapes up and down as well as across the tissues.

Benefits of Gua Sha

The hard plastic tool is used to break down tissue adhesions and improve scar tissue. It also helps increase circulation and clear out inflammation. Gua sha releases myofascial tension and increases mobility.

Many people use gua sha to improve their mobility and reduce chronic neck/back pain. It’s a great tool for general muscle recovery, and it is (in my opinion) extremely helpful after an injury.

The first time I had gua sha done I gained nearly 10 degrees of ankle flexion. That was HUGE for me. I had been stuck for weeks without improvement in my ankle motion. It also helped release some of the tension in my peroneal tendon and foot. The improved mobility and decrease in tightness also reduced my pain so much that I was willing to learn how to do the scraping myself.

Gua Sha Scraping for Pain and Recovery

Therapist or DIY?

I highly recommend starting with a licensed massage therapist or physical therapist. You absolutely want someone who knows what they’re doing the first few times. The location of your injury or pain is also going to limit you. It seems highly unlikely you will be able to scrape your own neck or back without causing some other strain or pain in the process.

It took me more than a month of weekly treatments before I felt comfortable enough to take the first steps to learn how to do it myself. There are lots of videos online, and after a few treatments you can get the basics down pretty well by watching/feeling. I was lucky enough to have my physical therapist teach me how to do it so I could continue my progress outside of our sessions.

It took me a while to get comfortable doing it myself. Gua sha scraping creates a horrible noise, and you can feel the bumpy, sticky quality of the tissue below. When I first started it felt like I had gravel under my skin. Just the thought of scraping by major trouble spots was enough to make me nauseous.

While I still have scar tissue and I scrape 2-3 times a week, it doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m more immune to the discomfort and the feeling of scraping myself. Although to be fair, I still prefer when someone else does it. It’s like when you accidentally pull your own hair and you get really mad at yourself for causing yourself pain. It’s just easier when it’s not your fault.

Gua Sha Tools

I started out with a plastic Asian spoon, but I eventually bought the $35 tool (GuaSha Orthopedic Soft Tissue Tool – 1 ) my PT uses. The spoon worked great for basic scraping, but once my scar tissue was less extreme, it was difficult for me to scrape my ankle effectively with the thicker spoon. I love the tool – I wish I had bought it sooner.

Things to Know

You might bruise. It takes a lot for me to bruise, so I usually have a little redness for a few minutes that fades. Some people get red marks that turn into bruises like this. I think it depends a lot on the practitioner, your injury, and the part of the body you are getting treatment on.

Bottom Line

I highly recommend trying gua sha if you have lingering pain or mobility issues. It’s less scary than cupping, but it has similar, powerful results.

11 Ways to Naturally Ease Sore Muscles

I love to feel the burn as much as the next person, but sore muscles can quickly go from a nice pat on the back for a job well done to crippling. Instead of popping a pill, naturally ease sore muscles with these tips.


How to Naturally Ease Sore Muscles

1. Hydrate! Not just when you are done with your workout, but all day every day. How much water do you really need? You can try this calculator for figuring out how much you should drink during your workout.

2. Mobility and foam rolling. I know, the last thing you want to do at the end of a hard workout is roll around on the floor like a spastic seal, but it’s important to get the blood moving into all of the tissue you just used. Foam rolling (and other forms of self-massage) help break up tissue adhesions and speed recovery. Try for 10 minutes a day (wether you worked out or not!) of foam rolling and targeted muscle release. For tips, check out how to properly roll out your legs and your back/chest.

Runner's World Ice Bath Running Recovery

3. Contrast bath. Shock your system and scare the soreness right out of your muscles with a contrast bath. Not really, but a contrast bath will increase circulation and nourish your tired and torn up muscles. You can do full body plunges or stand in the shower, but I like to use two buckets and just do my knees down. Try for at least four cycles of 3 minutes in hot water and 1 minute in cold water. Always start and end on hot.

4. Sleep. My personal favorite. When you sleep your body repairs the tissue you have torn and broken down by exercising. The more sleep you get, the better you recover. Many professional athletes sleep up to 12 hours a day.

5. Arnica gel. This is your best friend for really sore muscles. Arnica helps reduce inflammation and pain. Personally, I like this gel.

6. Magnesium. I used to get horrible muscle spasms. My legs would wake me up in the night with twitches that seemed to last forever. I would jerk myself awake with a massive twitch that would send my arm or leg flying. I started drinking magnesium a couple of years ago to sleep better.

Turns out I was also giving myself a massive recovery boost. Calcium aids in muscle contraction while magnesium helps the muscle relax. An imbalance between calcium and magnesium leaves you with stiff, tight muscles.

I drink Natural Calm every night before bed, but you can also rub it straight on your sore muscles. I like the powder better than a pill because I can control the dose and make sure I get enough on the days I have a hard workout.

7. Gentle movement. An easy walk or short yoga session can go a long way toward loosening up muscles and relieving soreness. This isn’t a sprint or an hour long swim. Get your blood flowing with a bit of slow, gentle movement.

8. Legs up the wall. I love coming home from a hard run or a heavy squat session and putting my legs up the wall. Ahhh, feels so good! I like to imagine the soreness draining out of my legs while I lie back and relax. But in reality, it’s a nice boost for your circulation.

9. Compression. Jury is still out on compression for improved performance, but it does help you recover. Try socks or other compression clothing to get the blood flowing. I swear by the Voodoo band for serious compression and relief – it also really helps remove tissue adhesions and get everything gliding properly again.

10. Naturally anti-inflammatory foods. Ginger, turmeric, and fish all of have anti-inflammatory properties. Whole foods also help muscles get the amino acids, minerals, and vitamins that they need to repair and get stronger.

11. Cupping. A little intense for your run of the mill muscle soreness, but totally worth keeping in your back pocket for the days where breathing feels strenuous. You can read all about my experience with cupping here. (Spoiler, I like it.)

Best Mineral Sunscreen

Let’s be real, I use a lot of mineral sunscreen. Anytime I’m outside or driving for more than 10-15 minutes I’m usually slathered in something or wearing sun protective clothing. After years in the sun, I take sun protection and sun damage very seriously.

Why Mineral Sunscreen

For years I have avoided non-mineral, or chemical, sunscreens. After reading the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide, I refuse to use anything that has oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, or nano particles. I want to know that my skin is safe and I’m actually being protected. With that in mind, I would much rather drench myself in mineral sunscreens that will protect me better and not seep toxic chemicals into my body.

The Best Mineral Sunscreens

the best face body waterproof mineral sunscreen-mineral-sunscreen-face-body-waterproof

Face: MyChelle Sun Shield SPF 28
I had been unhappy with my face sunscreen for a while, so much so that I was neglecting to put it on at all. But after doing a ton of beauty research for this article, I was motivated to find a new one.

I picked this one up on a slight whim before my last camping trip, and it exceeded my expectations. It goes on SO easily for a mineral sunscreen. There’s not endless rubbing and constantly having weird, white streaks down your face from where it didn’t get rubbed in enough before it dried. It also doesn’t leave you looking like an Edward Cullen wannabe. Finally, a face sunscreen that goes on clear!

While I’m usually wary of putting anything on my sensitive, temperamental face, I haven’t had any problems with irritation or breakouts. After I do my morning skin routine, I apply it before I leave the house, including before I exercise. The only time I notice it is when I sweat a little bit. My face feels like I have something on it, but it’s not bad and it feels pretty similar to other sunscreens. The rest of the time it’s incredibly light and I forget I’m wearing it. Bonus points for being untinted – no more staining my clothes! You can find it at many natural food stores and Amazon.

Body: Solar Body Moisturizer SPF 30+
When I was commuting hours each day in the sun, this beauty was my best friend. It goes on like body lotion and makes my skin feel moisturized. There’s no heavy, oily coat on your skin, and it works great. I took this all across Spain with me. It’s so easy to apply it on the go. I frequently bring a little bit with me in a smaller tube if I’m unsure of the weather or I think I might end up taking off a layer (or two).

It’s not water or sweat proof, so it’s not great for extended exercise or a dip in the pool. I do, however, put it on my legs before I run and it stays on great. Whole foods and a few other markets carry it – although Amazon is usually cheaper.

Water/sport: BurnOut Eco-Sensitive SPF 35 Sunscreen
This little tube is by far my hardest working sunscreen. I wear it when I ride by bike, go for a run, swim, or do anything else where I’m going to sweat or otherwise get wet.

From the tops of my feet to the part in my hair, I use this sunscreen everywhere. I haven’t had any trouble putting it on my face. It’s a bit more work to rub in than the other two, but once you’re done you can’t really tell it’s there. I’ve tried a few other sunscreens from BurnOut, and I think this one goes on the most clear. It stays on in water pretty well, and based on the burns I’ve gotten when I’ve missed little spots, it definitely works. This one is usually a bit more expensive in most natural food stores, but it’s also on Amazon and it looks like it might be cheaper at other random online stores if you Google it.

In case you missed it:
All the sunscreens I’ve tried in the past
Sun Safely, my article in Yoga Journal

Six Months

When my dad pointed out months ago that it looked like my injury was going to take at least six months to heal, I crumbled a bit on the inside. How could an injury that took less than a second to happen stretch on for so long? Why couldn’t I get this to heal?

I know what you’re thinking. “But the doctors said 4-6 weeks. What happened?”

When I first hurt my ankle it was hard to tell just how much damage was done. I was so swollen that my range of motion was extremely limited and doctors couldn’t do most of the tests to figure out the extent of my sprain. I was hurried in and out of the sports doctor’s office with the golden ticket to physical therapy.

six months flat tire

Slowly fixed with confusion, just like my ankle.

It wasn’t until I started physical therapy and my progress was like trying to chisel a new, functioning ankle out of a block of granite that we realized something wasn’t right. The more my physical therapist dug into what was going on the more problems he found.

By the time it seemed like maybe an MRI would be on the table, I opted not to. Nothing was completely torn, and it wasn’t like an MRI could heal me. Instead, I swallowed the fact that this was a severe injury that I wouldn’t instantly bounce back from and I let go of ALL healing deadlines.

This is one you take as you go.

Six Months

Half a year. All of 2016. I haven’t run since the third week of October. And I haven’t sobbed uncontrollably since my friends carried me off the basketball court listening to me babble about how I only have 14 weeks until my race. What am I going to do? What am I going to do?

Take it one day at a time. That’s what I did. There were nights I couldn’t sleep because of the pain. I got so used to saying “I can’t do that” to nearly everything because I couldn’t go up that many stairs or stand that long or walk that far or sit without my foot up.

I got used to knee-replacement patients lapping me in the physical therapy room. I’ve been around longer than some of the receptionists. My physical therapist hears about more of my life than most of my friends.

So Much Progress

But so much has changed, especially in the last month.

This past month has been HUGE for me (get huge, bro!). I’m lifting three days a week (ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!). I am only 20 pounds off my 1 rep max back squat and my 1RM deadlift. I finally (FINALLY) feel strong and capable.

My balance is killin’ it. When I was first able to test my balance without excruciating pain, it was abysmal. My broken body just didn’t know how to handle itself anymore, especially since so many muscles had atrophied or hid out of fear of pain and punishment. Now I’m doing crazy things on uneven surfaces. Yoga is starting to feel like it used to. I can’t wait to see how far I can take this.

My ankle is starting to feel steady, strong even. I have been doing exercises for six months now and the progress is enormous. I’ve accepted that I will most likely be doing most of these exercises for the rest of my life. And that’s okay, especially if I don’t have pain and they keep me on my feet.

Six Months Eversion Ankle Exercise with Theraband

You should have seen my face the first time I could do a full ankle circle a couple weeks ago. I looked like a baby who walked for the first time. Surprised, excited, and ready to eat shit at any moment. Priceless.

I’m still not at my normal range of motion, but I finally think that I’m going to get there. For months I thought “maybe this is it, maybe this is my life now.” But I’m holding out hope on those last few degrees and the pain that comes with them.

You heard me. For the past month or so I’ve been slowly adding short “running” bursts into my walks. I started with 10 steps. 20. 30. 50. 100. 200. Now I’m able to do the first day of the Couch to 5k program which is a total of 1 minute of running 10 times with 1.5 minutes of walking between.

I’ll probably stay here for a few weeks as my body gets used to this and my ankle and feet hopefully stop being upset by it. But I’m so stoked in the meantime.

I went for my first hike a couple weeks ago and even though I spent the whole time staring at my feet to make sure I didn’t step on anything, it was amazing! I can finally do inclines and declines without pain (for the most part) and relatively unstable ground went okay!

This girl used to have air. Jumping has always been one of my favorite things. I know that sounds weird, but sign me up for max height box jumps and vertical jump tests – I love them! I’m finally taking my first tentative jumps into the world and it feels good. Top shelf foods, I’m coming for you.

I’ve long ago come to terms with my injury. I have no deadline in my mind. No timeline. No expectations. While six more months of this seems unlikely, I’m prepared for anything. I feel fantastic about my progress, and I’m really excited about what I can do right now. Right now is good. Tomorrow is even better.

I’ve come so far. So far.

In case you missed it:

Run Strong Challenge

I am so close to being able to run. And I don’t mean the 100-200 steps I’m able to “run” right now. To prepare for when I get to really run and to speed my progress toward running, I have been doing Kinetic Revolution‘s Run Strong Challenge.

While it was intended to be done each day for 30 days (you know, when it was being posted live a couple months ago), I have been doing it every time I go to the gym. And crying pretty much every time. (That’s the best my face looked during those side plank leg lifts. Killer.)

Kinetic Revolution Run Strong Challenge #RunStrongChallenge

The program is meant to target weaknesses and strengthen core running mechanics. So far it has certainly made me rethink my readiness to run. I’m far shakier than I wish to admit on most of the exercises. My core is pretty strong, but as soon as I have to stand on one leg and do something else it gets ugly.

I’m always surprised by how hard the exercises are. They look so easy and simple when James demonstrates them, but after the first set I’m convinced otherwise. Most of the exercises are things I’ve never done before or are fun variations on old friends/foes.

If nothing else, it’s been a key reminder to me that strong, healthy running starts with the little things. It’s not all about the mileage. Maybe I can’t go out for a run right now, but I can get ready for months of healthy running.

Want to try it for yourself? Here’s day one.

A video posted by James Dunne (@kineticrev) on

How to clean mold with lemon

Mold can be so much more than a pesky problem in your shower. Mold spores are naturally found in both outdoor and indoor air, but they become problematic when they start to grow in our homes. In high concentrations, mold spores are considered indoor air pollutants. They can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, eye irritation, and even more severe reactions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children exposed to mold during infancy have a much higher risk of developing asthma.

how to clean mold with lemon

When faced with mold, many of us reach for a disinfectant like bleach. But there may be safer, and more effective, alternatives to the standby.

In a recent article on Rodale’s Organic Life, I pit bleach against lemons to see which comes out on top. From the pros and cons of bleach and lemon to permanent mold removal tips, I got the dirt on mold removal. Learn how to clean mold with lemons in the full article here.

What's the better mold cleaner: Lemon or Bleach?