Hip Resurfacing Surgery – One Year Later

AJW's TaproomOne year ago today I laid down on an operating table in Columbia, South Carolina and underwent hip resurfacing surgery on my arthritic left hip. Today, I am thrilled to say, I have made a full return to running and am enjoying a quality of life I had not experienced since my late 20’s. The story of this last year is, indeed, one of recovery, reflection, and rejuvenation.

The first six weeks following the procedure were emotionally the most difficult for me as my mobility was compromised and I was under strict doctor’s orders to tread very carefully on my hip as the implant needed time and stability to take hold. As such, I battled low-grade grumpiness and general angst for much of that period. After a trip to Dr. Gross’s office in South Carolina at the 6-week mark, I was cleared to begin light physical activity and the rehabilitation began in earnest. At that point my upward emotional trajectory began, as well.

AJW post-surgery crutches

AJW on crutches post-surgery. Photo: Shelly Jones-Wilkins

At first I was told to focus on slow walking on flat ground and, then, was gradually allowed to introduce the stair master and the elliptical trainer. In this period, I literally became addicted to the stair master and between Thanksgiving and Christmas spent nearly 90 minutes a day pounding out the miles on that thing. In fact, I was in the midst of an intense stair master interval workout in early December when my phone started to explode with the news that I had been selected in the lottery to participate in the 2016 Hardrock 100. Needless to say, at that point the intense stair master workouts became even more so.

Additionally, during this transition period, I consistently attended two strength classes per week in my local gym to work on developing muscle strength and balance that had largely been ignored up until that point in my athletic career. Those classes, combined with flexibility exercises that were part of my physical therapy program allowed me to transition smoothly to gentle running/hiking on January 1st.

At first all of my efforts were done at an easy/moderate pace. I sought out vertical as much as I could as my body was responding well to both ascending and descending and the advice I received was that the hip would respond well to changes in terrain and surface. By early February I was up to running 4-5 times a week and by March I was beginning to get itchy for training again. At the time I was still walking with a slight limp and twisting motions hurt, but, in general, I was returning to normal much faster than I thought I would.

AJW on Mount Tam

AJW on Mount Tam in February. Photo: Larissa Rivers

On April 2nd, I pinned on a bib for the first time in over 16 months at the Dam 50K and at the end of that month completed a second 50k at Promise Land. I finished April with 375 miles and just over 57,000 feet of climbing. I felt like a runner again! May was devoted to heavy training and building back strength and speed and I was pleased with how each weekend seemed to build on the previous one. By the end of that month I had logged 415 miles and 87,000 feet.

Andy Jones Wilkins-Amy Albu-2016 Dam 50k

AJW finishing the Dam 50k with Amy Albu. Photo: David Horton

June saw even more development as I made a couple of trips out west to run and hit some more intense trails and altitude as well as some varying conditions. Hardrock came and went and while the experience was excruciating both physically and emotionally, I was pleased that my surgically repaired hip made it through that extraordinary day no worse for wear and by the end of July I was ready to get back in the swing of things.

I have devoted that last seven weeks to simply running for the sake of running and have enjoyed just getting outside and running every single day, something I had not been able to do before my surgery. And, while I have a few low-key things on my calendar over the next few months, I am mostly running these days for the physical and psychological benefit it brings. I have to say that, above all else, getting that surgery a year ago today has brought a feeling of general well-being back to me that had been lacking for about five years previously. And, along with that well-being has come an increased sense of equilibrium and focus for which I’d been longing. The comeback has been by no means easy, but, in the end, at this point one year later, extraordinarily fulfilling.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Coconut Quadrupel Ale - Lickinghole Creek Craft BreweryThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery in Goochland, Virginia. Just this past week I had an opportunity to sample their Coconut Quad and it was delicious! As a bitter beer guy in general I have been slow to adopt to the sweeter varieties but this one is outstanding. While only available here in Virginia if you are ever in the area it is worth the detour off I-64 to try this amazing beer!

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

Share your story of coming back from a major surgery or other significant layoff from running.

There are 11 comments

  1. Tony Mollica

    Thanks for sharing Andy.i enjoyed reading your article.

    I retired from teaching four years ago and went back to practicing law. I mostly defend indigent clients and had a work load that was almost impossible to keep up with. As a result, my running suffered and I was woefully out of shape and unhappy. In the last couple of months I have regained my life balance and have gotten back into shape. I told my wife the other day that I can’t imagine being able to be out of shape and happy. Everything is better in life now. I’m running for fun and to be in shape.

    Happy running Andy!

  2. liz

    I am so glad you shared this! I had both hips resurfaced by Dr Gross after you did and have started running again after about two years off. Dang, how I missed running. Everything is right with the world again.

  3. Lauren

    Good morning!

    I can relate to having gone through the ups and downs of hip pain, finding out what’s actually going on, waiting for surgery, the surgery, and the recovery back to running. I have been through this twice now with my hips and possibly a third time due to the congenital shape of my hip sockets. I am sidelined again and every once in a while head out for a VERY short trail run. When I am out there, there is nothing more pristine than getting out there with no mileage commitment, no time constraints, no GPS, and because the run is only a mile or two, no handheld or waist pack. It’s pure FREEDOM! What running used to be. I have yet to be able to accomplish my dream of completing the Leadville 100, a goal set for myself pre-hip issues, which is now almost 10 years ago! One day I will be able to withstand training for such an event. And when I am ready, I will be stronger. I will have balance in my fitness program. Muscle imbalances will no longer dictate my training rather the pure joy of the ability to put one foot in front of another will take precedence. From one “HIP” patient to another, never let your guard down. Listen to your bodies aches and pains. Put in the time to balance your muscle imbalances. Cheers Andy! And to anyone else who remembers what carefree running used to be like.

  4. mark

    Note to Emerson: To make the statement that overtraining is the cause of the hip problems that led to resurfacing is ignorant of you. Hard core runners, people who have never exercised more than walking since gym class in high school, and all people in between have had hip replacements or resurfacing.

    Use your head.

  5. Melanie Darmsteadter

    Thank you Andy! I had Birmingham hip resurfacing April 3rd 2018 (Almost 4 months post op) Running is slow and I worry a lot about the outcome so reading your story totally gave me hope and good vibes! I know it’s worth the rehabilitation and work. Totally inspired and encouraged by you! Thank you!

    1. Frank Row

      Melanie, I read your post with interest. I had hip resurfacing almost 3 years ago and it has been a miraculous journey back to running for me. Long runs (over 12 miles) are a struggle, at times, as my operated hip fatigues more than it used to and I suspect the supporting muscles are just not as strong as they used to be. The implant itself is rock solid. I’m wondering if you are a distance runner and if you have completed any long distance runs or races lately and could report on how that is going.
      kind regards,
      Frank from Massachusetts

  6. Rebecca

    Hi, I just stumbled on your blog since I’m doing research on hip resurfacing. I’ve been a runner since I was 12 (I’m 43) and haven’t run in 8 months. I’m going nuts. Can’t even do the eliptical right now because it hurts so much. I’ve had to decrease distance over the past 5 years due to pain until they finally figured out my hip was shot. So I’ve gone from running halfs to nothing at all. So thanks for sharing and thanks for giving me hope !

  7. Kevin

    Can anyone comment who has had either single or bilateral hip resurfacing and return to running? I mainly looking at 4 to 5 years post resurfacing to see how the hips holding up with the additional running.

  8. Rick Harkins

    Hello all,

    To start, I am not a runner. My spouse and I ahve been cyclist for a few year, 6 or 7 and when I had my first
    BHR, she began running more. She ius awesome! Did a 1/2 Marathon and working towards a full!
    Since she started running, after my first BHR we did a trail run…I did a 16 mile run and loved it. I really want to continue down this path. That being said, I had my other hip BHR about 6 months ago and have started riding again, We are actually doing RAGRAI in July, a bit over a 400 mile ride in IA…looks like a great time.
    Anyway, my basic question is: how long does it take to recover to do more of an ULTRA trail run! My love and I are really wanting to move in that direction and do some ULTRA trail runs. Any help and suggestions are very very welcome!

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