Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

Losing My Independence

Yesterday I left the house alone for the first time since surgery. The realization hit me while I was locking the door with my own keys, which had been sitting on my dresser for months.

What used to be an every day thing for me now felt foreign and slightly frightening. I had been hiding behind other people and relying on them for my basic needs for months. And now I was suddenly back out in the world, fending for myself.

Losing My Independence

More than anything else, the hardest part of my injury has been losing my independence and my ability to move about freely in the world by myself.

I miss grabbing my shoes and heading out for a run on a whim. I miss being able to take care of my boring errands like going to the post office or the library without having to schedule it with someone else or ask to be taken there.

Today it’s coming back.

These days I feed myself, do my half of the housework and cooking, and spend the work day by myself. I started driving this morning, and daily walks are my new reward for hard work.

But I feel like I have to learn how to be in the world again. A couple of weeks ago I took BART into downtown San Francisco for my first real adventure on my own post-surgery. I was shocked by how uncomfortable I was out in public. It certainly doesn’t help that my boot (and previously cast/crutches) draw a lot more attention than I am comfortable with, but my time hidden away in the house has made me feel awkward and unmoored out in public.

I’ve been working from home since January, and my time in my own bubble is clearly taking its toll. Ironically, at a time when most people want to stay home and spend extra time with family, I’m itching to get out and meet new people and be a part of the outside world again.

November Writing Challenge

Every day of November I will sit down and write by hand for 15 minutes.

Sure it seems a little silly to sit down and write for a short period of time while people around the world are pounding out books for National Novel Writing Month. But 15 minutes is a whole lot more minutes than I’m doing now. And I don’t have a burning book idea.

In the words of Amy Poehler, “Good for them. Not for me.”

November Writing Challenge

November Writing Challenge – 15 Minutes Every Day

Last year I was fully behind 30 for 30 – writing 30 minutes every day for the month of November. But I very quickly realized that 30 minutes is a lot of time to set aside each day. It’s also a lot of time to sit and stare at a piece of paper when you can’t think of anything to say.

Instead of torturing myself and making my daily writing something I dread, I decided to cut the time and make it a minimum of 15 minutes. I can go longer if I’d like, but each day I will sit down and put pen to paper for at least 15 minutes.

Why a Daily Writing Challenge?

I make my living writing, which means that I already write most days. But much like a graphic designer or an illustrator, most of my time is spent creating for someone else. This writing challenge is a reminder to write things that are just for me. Not things to share or pitch.

The daily writing challenge will help me start a habit that will hopefully carry me well past November. It will help me to remember to reach for my journal and really sort through some of my thoughts. Since last year’s November writing challenge, I have completely lost the habit of keeping a gratitude journal, or really writing in my journal at all.

Why Journaling?

Every once in a while I may break my own rules and write for this space, but my intention for this challenge is to build a habit of journaling. I want to cut out space in my writing that is just for me.

Want to join me?

It’s only the second day of November, you can still write for 29 days!

What I Learned From a Year-long Injury

It’s been a year since I first hurt my ankle. I’m torn between the part of me that wants to wallow in fate or misfortune and the other that’s ready to celebrate.

This has been a year of challenge. A year of learning. A year of pushing my limits and redefining the way I see myself.

Of course I miss running like crazy and I want to be the badass I once was, but I am way more resilient and grateful than that woman was. She didn’t know how hard it was to feed yourself on crutches. She never woke up crying in the middle of the night because her ankle was on fire. She didn’t know what it was like to persevere through a full year of pain and frustration and set backs.


What I learned from my year-long injury

1. You can sob all you want, but you can’t change reality.

I fell apart as my friend helped me off the court. I couldn’t accept that I was poised to set a PR and instead I was going to be rehabbing a severely injured ankle. Crying and disbelief won’t change anything.

First time back in years. Blew out my ankle. #basketball

A photo posted by Mandy Ferreira (@treading_lightly) on

2. Ice cream won’t kill you.

I’ve done my best over the past year to severely limit my sugar intake. It’s a known inflammatory food and I need all the help I can get healing. While I stand by my decision, I also don’t regret the times I had ice cream or another sweet treat.

3. You aren’t what you do.

Runner. Yogi. Lifter. Athlete. These are all just parts of me. They don’t define me. And even when I’m not able to do them, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still a part of my identity and a part of what makes me me.

4. Do what you love.

I love to run and push myself and move my body, but even before I discovered my love for sports I fell for books. This year has given me the opportunity to spend more time than ever before reading. Reading has fulfilled me in ways that running or lifting arguably could not.

5. But how is it today?

It’s so easy to get caught up in how I think things should go or should be. But life doesn’t work like that. I had to learn to take my recovery a day at a time and realize that each day was going to be wildly different. Turns out it fits for even more than just an injury. Things look and feel different every day. Some days cooking feels like the worst way to spend my time and others it leaves me feeling warm and content. How is it today?

6. Slow down.

There’s nothing like crutches or a bulky boot to slow you down. But more than physically, I had to try to slow down mentally. As much as I tried, you just can’t look ahead two months and try to project where you will be. Recovery is slow and your body does its own thing. This year forced me to drop my obsessive planning and projecting, or at least try to.

On the move! #sixmonths up on the blog #physicaltherapy #running

A video posted by Mandy Ferreira (@treading_lightly) on

Exercising with an Ankle or Foot Injury -year-long injury

7. Keep moving.

An injury (most of the time) isn’t a sentence to the couch. I did my best to move both before and after surgery. I don’t always feel like exercising these days and it’s really difficult for me to make it to the gym since I still can’t drive, but I’m trying my best. A very nice woman around my age who was doing a seriously badass workout came up to me and told me that seeing me workout in a boot was really inspiring to her. She made me realize that it should be inspiring to me too. It forced me to look at what I was doing and the effort I’ve been putting in and appreciate my effort more.

Peroneal Tendon Surgery Recovery -year-long injury

8. Put your feet up.

Don’t forget to relax. Healing takes time and a ton of your body’s energy. Respect that! A week after my surgery I thought I could go to the farmer’s market. I was so wrong. I ended up sitting on a cold concrete bench willing myself to apparate home. Even almost two months later, I still feel like I have to sleep all day after a workout. Indulge in healing. Treat yourself to some elevation and a nice soothing soak.

9. Listen to yourself.

That pain is your body trying to tell you something. The voice in your head that says “this is a bad idea” is probably right (unless it’s just fear talking, then tell it to STFU). I’ve gotten a lot better this year at checking in with how I feel and adjusting accordingly. In the past I’ve been the queen of pushing through pain, which usually ends in a lingering injury. Since I already have one of those, I’m trying to be extra in-tune with what my body needs and what I really want. It’s changed the way I work, spend my time, and exercise.

10. Pain is temporary*.

It’s so hard to remember that it won’t last forever when you’re in the thick of it. The pain spreads like wildfire, lashing at everything in its path. But it will burn out. In a few days or a few weeks, you won’t remember just how bad it was. It will slowly drain away until there’s nothing left.

*I am blessed that this is actually true for me. I don’t know how people handle debilitating pain on a daily basis. Those people deserve our admiration, love, and help.

11. Trust.

This year I learned to trust. To let myself be taken care of. I’ve never had surgery, and while I was ready for this to be all over, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea. I put complete trust in my surgeon and the entire team. I felt safe going under, and while I recovered I forced myself to let go and lean on my friends and family. I also have to trust that I’m going to recover and be back to 100 percent in the future.

Where I am now

Lately I’ve been having weird flashbacks to the first month of my injury. Post surgery it seemed like I was in worse shape than when I first hurt it, but now that I’m really making progress it reminds me of last October. Only this time I actually know what’s going on and what my body responds to best.

After weeks of crutches and cast/boot life, I’m so happy with my progress.

Goodbye Crutches

FINALLY! I was originally told I would be on crutches for three weeks post-surgery. What they really meant was I could not put any weight on my foot for three weeks. After that I would slowly! transition to weight-bearing until I could walk without my crutches. It took me two weeks or so to get down to one crutch and be able to walk the seven steps from the sink to the dining room table without feeling like I was ripping my ankle in half.

Last night I walked two (short) blocks in just the boot and felt pretty good! The way back to the car was less fun and rest of the night was a bit uncomfortable and swollen, but it felt so good to move around in the world without the crutches.

Bye Bye Boot-y (er… sort of)

A couple weeks ago I got the okay from my doctor to start putting weight on my foot without the boot. I started with putting a teeny tiny bit of weight on my foot while brushing my teeth or showering. Progress has been slow, but earlier this week I made it up and down the stairs in Tiny House in just my socks. I’m still stupid proud of myself.

Six Months Eversion Ankle Exercise with Thera-Band

Physical Therapy (Round 2)

I’m back to doing nightly Thera-Band exercises in addition to everything else I’ve been doing. It’s only been a week, and my progress is astounding. Physical therapy gives me the warm and fuzzies. And hope for the future. And really weird marks.

Women of the Road: Is #Vanlife Really Instagram Perfect?

It all started with following a couple people on Instagram. Then I found the #vanlife hashtag and it was all over. I was obsessed.

For months I played with the idea of interviewing people about what it’s really like to live and travel in a van for weeks or months at a time. Is it really as great as it seems? Does it look anything like it does on Instagram? I had so many questions.

While holed up in bed with a casted ankle, I finally got to speak to incredible women who have traveled in ways I have only dreamed about. Their solo trips around the U.S. and New Zealand were incredible. And if anything, it only made me more obsessed. Their stories were refreshing and honest and left me just as captivated as before.

Is #vanlife really Instagram Perfect? Mandy Ferreira for Misadventures October 2016

This story begged to be written for months, and I just couldn’t help myself from sharing it. The story is now live on Misadventures!

Soothing Nightly Routine

There is something so comforting about a routine, especially a nightly routine. The right routine can set you up for a good night’s rest and an even better next day.

The hours before bed are precious. But it’s all too easy to try to get as much done before the day runs out. The laundry that’s been strewn about all day, the dishes from your after-dinner snack, the pile of work you didn’t get to today.

I’m fully guilty of this. It’s so easy to run around and clean up my messes and randomly decide to organize my closet in the hour before bed. But since my surgery I’ve been more strict with my nightly routine. To be fair, I didn’t consciously stop doing all of the random tasks that used to distract me and keep me from getting in bed in time – I can’t physically do them on crutches. But my limitation gave me the space to create a relaxing nightly routine.

My Soothing Nightly Routine

The hour and a half before bed have turned into my healing and soothing time. I massage my ankle, drink a magnesium supplement, and do a quick sinus rinse. I wash my face and slather myself in aloe vera and jojoba oil. Next I spend 25-30 minutes contrast bathing my ankle. I’ve started adding epsom salts to the bucket of hot water, which makes it feel extra indulgent.

soothing nightly routine

How to Create a Soothing Nightly Routine

The best part of a soothing bedtime routine is that it’s all yours. You can make it into whatever you want. These quick tips will help you make your own soothing nightly routine that you won’t want to skip.

1. Set Aside Time

Nothing is relaxing or calming when you are rushing to fit everything in. Decide when you are going to start your nightly routine, and be strict with yourself about it. You can set an alarm that reminds you to start your bedtime routine if that will help.

I have found that for my pared down nightly routine, 30 minutes is cutting it too close. I like to have a full hour, and if I get done early it means I get to read in bed or do something else relaxing with my extra time.

2. Slow Down

Take a few deep breaths and slow your roll. When we spend all day running from one task to the next, it can be hard to sit still and take things slow. Let your body and your mind transition from your busy day into a calming night. Give yourself space to adjust.

3. No Screens

Trust me, it’s hard for me too. It’s so tempting to scroll through Instagram while I brush my teeth or to watch a video or two while I contrast bath. But between the light from the screens and the nature of online content, we leave ourselves more wound up than when we started. Turn it all off. You’ll sleep better and the time away is refreshing.

4. Relax

My nightly routine used to just consist of getting ready for bed, but since I’ve started sitting in the bathroom for a half hour dipping my foot into buckets, I’ve had time to actually read before bed. I equate reading in bed with luxury. It feels like a soak in a really deep bathtub without the pruning or the water use.

You don’t have to read. You can write, play a game (IRL, no screens), draw, meditate – whatever helps you relax.

5. Play Around

I haven’t been sleeping all that well since my surgery. Between a busy mind and a restless body, I have trouble settling in and falling asleep. My daily routine is a mess and my body doesn’t know what to do without its daily hit of exercise.

To try to help myself get to sleep faster, I’ve been playing with my routine and my timing. I’ve been switching up the time I get in the morning and the time I go to bed to try to trick myself into being tired sooner.

You might not find the perfect nightly routine right away. Being flexible and playing around with what you do and when is a great way to sort it all out. And don’t freak out if your nightly routine stops feeling right for you. Switch things up until it all fits again.

Tips for Exercising with an Ankle Injury

For the first time in years I’m having trouble motivating myself to exercise. I’m not training for anything – all of my energy is focused on recovering and healing. While exercise is definitely an important part of that, my limited abilities are a total downer.

If you don’t mind me borrowing from Beyonce, “I’m not feeling like myself since the baby” ankle injury. My drive is muddled in feeling frustrated and trying to moving forward. My focus is on improving my ankle motion, depriving myself of sugar in the name of healing (AKA eating the best nutrients I can every day), managing inflammation, improving circulation, and trying to figure out how much pain is alright.

I don’t have a ton of mental energy to get creative with my workout. Especially since I can’t actually drive myself to the gym and crutching there may kill me. I have no experience working out at home, and so far I have to be honest, I hate it. Going to the gym is a reset. Even if I don’t feel like exercising, once I’m in the gym that feeling disappears 95 percent of the time.

How to Exercise With an Ankle or Foot Injury

Despite my whining, it’s fully possible to get a great workout without weight-bearing on an injured foot/ankle. Bonus, you’ll heal faster if you do.

Exercising with an ankle injury

1. Change Your Priorities

The last time I was off my ankle, my arms and core were solid. I returned to CrossFit being able to do things that were impossible for me before. Sure, you’ll have to build up your leg strength and balance again, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fine-tune something else. All is not lost.

Target your weaknesses and focus on setting yourself up for a quick, safe return. I’m focusing on hip strength and stability (yes, even without weight-bearing), core strength, and getting rid of imbalances between my arms.


2. Embrace a New Focus

I fight change like a boxer. I refuse to let it go, even when it’s clearly going to win anyways. Before I hurt my ankle I was working on running further faster and improving my leg strength. Weeks before surgery, I hit my previous squat PR.

After surgery I’ve had to let go of all of that. You can’t mourn the strength you are losing or the effort that was “wasted.”

Put all of that energy into something new. I’m all in on my recovery.


3. Track Your Progress

I write down what I’ve done each day to recover and heal, including how I felt and the quality of my sleep. Your workout journal is a great place for this. My phone is full of (nasty) pictures of my incisions so I can scroll through and remind myself how much as changed and how far I’ve come. (Pro tip: These are also great for freaking out your family and friends. You’re welcome.)

Same goes for my workouts. I write down what I did that day, if anything caused pain, and if anything was too easy/hard.


4. Drop the Comparison

You wouldn’t say any of the shit running through your head to someone else with a similar injury. Stop comparing yourself to what you used to be able to do. Yes, it’s disorienting and frustrating. Quit being an ass to yourself (talking to myself here).

An injury is a clean start. Stop looking back at what you used to do and explore what you can do now. I’ve stopped flipping through my workout log to decide on weights. Instead of failing at them and feeling less than, I’m listening to my body and getting a solid workout.


5. Plan

This is the most important. Go into your workout, whether at home or in the gym, with a general idea of what you are going to do. Leave room for making adjustments based on how you feel (and the availability of equipment). This will stop you from wasting time once you get going and will make exercising so much easier.


Exercises to Do When You Have an Ankle or Foot Injury

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s what I’ve been working with so far. This list is for people who cannot weight-bear at all. These exercises are perfect if you are in a boot/cast or are on crutches.

  1. Russian Twists: use a plate, medicine ball, or dumbbell to make these more difficult
  2. Bird Dogs: put a balance pad beneath your knees for added difficulty
  3. Fire Hydrants on hands and knees
  4. Hamstring Curls with resistance band or machine. I’ve been doing it like this.
  5. Side Plank 
  6. Plank with injured leg raised out to the side or draped over other foot
  7. 1 Leg Pushup: Hello, core. Or pushups on both knees, increase reps or add weight to your back for a challenge
  8. Pull Ups: Play with grip, embrace the weight of your cast/boot/brace
  9. Dips
  10. Ab Roll Outs: AKA accidental faceplants if you are me.
  11. V-Ups & Boat Pose
  12. Supermans
  13. Kneeling/seated lat pull down with resistance band or cable machine
  14. Kneeling tricep rows on bench or floor
  15. Side Leg Raises
  16. Leg Raises
  17. L-sits & L-hangs
  18. Seated bicep curls or really any seated arm exercise


Exercising with an Ankle or Foot Injury

Ride a stationary bike. No, you probably can’t go to SoulCycle, although by all means ask your doctor. My doctor got me on the bike in my cast for five minutes at no resistance. I’ve slowly built up to 10-15 minutes in my boot, still with no resistance. 100 percent ask before trying this if you are not supposed to be weight-bearing.

Swim. Be sure to have proper support for your injury (tape or brace), no kicking, and don’t push off of the wall with your injured foot/ankle.

Arm cycle. No one wants to do it, but it will definitely get your heart rate up.

Row. Put your injured leg on a skate board and go for it. Personally I feel off-balance when I try this, but see how it feels to you.


What have you tried? Are there any other good non-weight bearing exercises?

5 Ways to Welcome Fall

Fall is elusive in Northern California. It comes and goes as it pleases, and cool weather can turn into one of the hottest days of the year overnight. When I was in college, it hit 80 on Thanksgiving.

All of this is to say that I never fully believe it’s fall, and I’m often dragging my feet on embracing the new season. I always firmly believe warm weather is right around the corner. It’s all too easy to wait until it’s basically winter to accept that fall has already come and nearly gone.

I refuse to miss out this year.

5 Ways Welcome Fall

5 Ways to Welcome Fall

This year I put in a concerted effort to stop being in denial. The temperatures have dropped, nights are cold, and the air smells crisp. All signs point to fall. Instead of pining for summer, I jumped head first into getting ready for the season.

(Spoiler: There are no PSLs or pumpkin flavored anything happening here)


1. Swap in warm clothes

Earlier this year I embraced swapping out my clothes seasonally. While I wear most of my minimalist wardrobe year round, my summer dresses and light sweaters dominated my closet and drawers for the past few months. But last week I found myself reaching for my warm sweaters and dreaming about cozy layers.

This weekend I pulled my cold weather clothes out of my canvas storage bag and put them in the wash with all of the warm-weather pieces that will take their place.

Seeing my favorite sweater dress and thick socks made me excited for fall.


2. Edit

Every day is a good day to declutter if you ask me, but the change of the season felt like the perfect time to let a few more things go. A tank top I wore once all summer and didn’t feel great in got the boot. I also finally put up the last few things from my move on eBay.


3. Deep clean

Okay, I haven’t actually done this in real life. Turns out it’s difficult to clean the baseboards and reorganize the cupboards when you’re on crutches. I have quite literally been dreaming about cleaning, and as soon as I’m more mobile you better believe it’s going to get real serious up in here.

Welcome Fall

4. Indulge

I can’t tear myself away from books lately, but the cooler weather makes me feel even less guilty about spending the day hiding out in bed with a book… or two.

Books are my pumpkin spice latte. I get it. Indulge in the thing that makes you feel good about the new season. Light a few candles, whip up a pie, cuddle with your warm blankets – it’s all just right.


5. Slow down

Summer tends to be a time of rush and business. It’s fulfilling and wonderful to travel and spend warm nights with friends, but fall is the perfect pause before the holidays.

I’m committing to spending more weekends savoring the moment. Slow mornings are my favorite. And dinners that simmer on the stove are pretty much all we’re cooking this week.

September Reads

This month was a rush of reading, but even so my September reads were nourishing in the best way possible. I’ve been laying low after surgery, and I have to say I don’t mind the extra time for a good book (or six). These books are perfect for fall. They have the right mix of cozy, uplifting, and embracing change.

September Reads

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009

Confession: This book took me longer to read than any other book before it. People read the Bible faster. I started reading this in 2010. I finished it the first week of September. I’d like to blame college and generally business, but really I let shinier books distract me. I would also get bogged down in some of the dense articles, set it aside, and forget it was on my shelf.

But I persevered. Two vacations later, and it’s finally finished. If science and nature writing is up your alley, I would suggest starting with the most recent collection. Please let me know how it is so I can read it in 2022.


The Book of Unknown Americans

I haven’t been reading much fiction lately, but this book reminded me why I like it so much. The heart-breaking story was a powerful view into a life so different from mine. From what it means to start over to feeling at home, this book dives into the lives of two immigrant families and takes you along for the ride.


Cabin Porn

I picked up this book as a treat for after surgery… and I read most of it before then. I was slightly dissapointed when I first flipped through it to realize that there longer stories about specific cabins throughout the book, but once I started reading them I realized they added way more to the book than if it was just more beautiful photos. I wish it had showed the inside and outside of more cabins, but overall I still liked it. It totally fit in with my tiny house/vanlife obsession.


The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

There is a reason this book got so much attention and praise. I loved it. The story is silly, but totally engrossing. I frequently laughed and I was upset every time I had to put it down. To be fair, there were so many times when I had quiet the voice inside of me that would say “that would never happen!”, but if you treat it like the fiction it is the story will take a hold of you. My favorite fiction this month by far.


Lab Girl

Lab Girl was my favorite book this month. I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t convinced I was going to finish it after a couple of chapters. Suddenly, I was tearing through it and all I could think about was working faster so I could read it.

Hope Jahren gives a vulnerable look into what it’s like to be a female scientist. She carved her own path, and bared her struggles. Her self-doubt and passion were a soothing tonic for my own life fumblings and confusion. I started to love her amazing facts about trees and plants, and they have really stuck with me. This book is a must read for science lovers and a highly-recommend for everyone else.


The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

NFL teams swear by it. Tim Ferriss won’t shut about it. I didn’t get it.

At just over 200 pages, this wasn’t a particularly long book or one that dragged on. And yet I didn’t make through a single page without getting distracted and thinking about something else. I could not stay focused on this book. I don’t know what to say, other than maybe it just wasn’t for me.

I took a couple notes and overall it was a nice reminder, especially when I’m currently navigating an obstacle of my own, but it just didn’t do it for me.


Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

April and March