your leg guy / girl should have sorted you out with a leg that works, your physio would have got you up and walking, mostly in a safe, level environment and sent you on your way, in some parts of the country and if you are lucky there might be personal trainers (if you have the £"s) who might know :- what you might or might not need to walk correctly as an amputee but I suspect for most of us it’s up to us.
As I discovered on day one, if anything good was going to happen, it would be because I put in the time and effort to make it happen. it wasn’t easy but its all down to me now so there is no one to blame but myself.
So what did I do?
First I decided what and where , simple really “practise walking & someplace quite “(didn’t want to go where the crowds where) but like most thing it’s not really that simple, I didn’t want to practise for just a short time I wanted to be at it all day but I knew that I would soon be knackered and have to rest especially in the early days. So I needed to take stuff with me. That meant that I had to carry it. Or have someone along with me. What should I take with me? Who should I take with me? What about the weather (it was January when I started) what sort of surface / terrain should I start on.
Should I take or what about?:-
Walking sticks ?
Food & Drinks?
Music to hum along to?
A mat to sit on and rest. ?
First aid gear for sore spots?
And so on and so.
I decided that I would disappear up to a beautiful valley in the Northumberland National park that I knew, that way I get to practise in a beautiful area away from all the funny looks that you get of some people. (And for me just getting away from it all is always like a breath of fresh air and is always a great Motivator).and lets be honest here I certainly needed all the help and motivation I could get.
It had several types of surface, from flat road to soft short /long grass to wet peat bogs and heather moors . A good place to start I think!
For the first few trips I had decided that I would go on my own, that way I had no one to either blame or moan at if things didn’t go the way I wanted, and if the truth was known I needed the time on my own to sort myself out, and the last thing I wanted to do is taking my frustration out on anyone who happened to be with me. (Yes at this stage I was incredibly angry with ……………….Myself……………. I suppose.)
The “gear” went into a ruck sack which makes life a lot easier for carrying around.
Once I go to where I was going the first thing was to “set up shop” this entailed parking up , near where I was going to practise , then putting down the rug or blanket with drinks bottle , coat (it was winter) food already set out ready .(still in plastic containers ) and my log book .
My Log book was possibly the most important bit of kit I had , each day I had kept a written diary and kept my innermost thoughts recorded in there , also what I wanted to do each day and how far I came to hitting my targets.
Then I would pick a spot and simply walk up to it, stop turn around and walk back, each time going slightly further and at different speeds till I was happy with what I was doing. Nothing special but at least Iwas doing something myself for myself.
In the early days the “spot” was only 20 meters away and I would just about make it back to the blanket / mat where I would claps in a snotty heap ,put on the winter coat , have a short rest , drink , and most importantly record how I felt about my last practise walk. I can’t describe how totally knacking this was to start with but I suppose I was still recovering from my accident, whatever the reason I certainly didn’t like it .
To start with I kept on short grass, the main reason for this was it didn’t or wouldn’t hurt so much if I fell over , but as strange as this seemed I found the fear of falling far worse than the fall itself.
I would spend hours pushing myself up along the valley and back again , all day , stopping when I felt I simply couldn’t take another step or when I “felt” something was starting to burn or tear on the stump , then it was sit down leg off and get the first aid kit out and patch things up.
I have often heard you should start with “baby steps” and build up slowly I suppose this is what I was doing only my baby steps and other amputees baby steps where two different things, (but then again we are all diffrent) myself I like to push and push as hard as I could WITHOUT doing any damage to the stump or other parts of my body, being knackered or aching all over simply didn’t count.
After a while I decided that I was happy with my walking over flat grassland, and would start all over again on a different type of terrine or start walking up and down small hills and chambers, so same routing was put into place the only difference was that for the first few walks I would use a walking stick , with each “circuit” done I would phase out how much I would use the walking stick so I got to the stage where I would have it ready but not use it , then I would start over again without the walking stick .
One thing that I had discovered almost straight from the start was :- Deep breath and be positive and firm about how you threw the arty leg about , you take charge of it not the other way around.be firm, positive, make it do what you want it to , dont "pussy foot about with it" yes are are limits to all arty legs , find out where or what those limits are and try diffrent " work arounds" ,I often supprised myself with what is seemed impossible the first few times would be posible by trying the same thing from a diffrent angle or diffrent method.
naturally things didnt always go the way I wanted and it wasnt unusall for me to get back to the car and have to get changed into clean gear & after I fell into the river whilst trying to get across the stepping stones once I always make sure that there is a big towle in the car. its one hell of a learning curve.
One thing that always sticks in my mind was how nerve racking the first circuit was without the walking stick always was. Both physically and mentally. But no matter how it went it all was recorded in my log book.
As time moved on, so did my training with both the distance and the terrain, I actually went out looking to practise going up and down steep rocky hills all day, the only difference being I had to carry all the gear to a suitable starting point and “set up” a fair distance from the car, so I had to remember not to completely knacker myself as I still had to get back to the car. and over a period of time actually had "practise routes set up" where there is a bit of eveything to deal with . (I still use these routes today when I am not happy about how I am doing)
On weekends and days off my wife would accompany me or we would go to some deserted beach and set up, one thing that I did notice was how my foot prints in the wet sand would change as the day wore on and I became knackered from nice straight smooth footprints to uneven “wobbly” with my good foot making a much more deeper print as it did more and more of the work.
And of course there are the huge sand dunes to practise on , they used to kill me one step up then two steps back as the lose sand dragged you back down again. Sometimes it took me twenty minutes just to get to the top of the first dune, I would reach the top totally out of breath head pounding, face turned a funny shade of red but totally pleased with myself, I use to take it as a personnel change.
Slowly as I got better these training sessions changed into full blown walks, still using up most of the day , distance didnt really matter at this stage but it wasnt uncommen for me to struggle up or down some hill only to turn around and redo it several times till I got it right or changed the technic a bit to suit, I still have the same gear with me only I carry it from place to place in my rucksack and I tend to pick my spots where I want to stop for a rest or bite to eat.
I found by spending most of my spare time doing this far more rewarding than spending time at the local gym , trying to keep fit , I think that Iwas lucky in that I have good core body strengh anyway and lets be honest Walking on some tred Mill isnt the same as walking outside with all the uneven surfaces .
Of course there are those dark days where nothing goes right , I am certain that we all have them and I couldn’t walk to save my life, it was on these days I found simply reading my log book made a huge difference to how I felt about myself and my progress from the first few steps to the last session , there was a written reminder on how far I had come so “things “ didn’t seem so bad , after a couple of years I replace my log book with a photographic walks thingy (this web site when it’s finished) just to keep reminding myself that thing are pretty good despite all the problems .
So I suppose it’s all down to practise, I think it’s a win / win situation, the more you walk the easer and the better you become at it and so the further you can go. And of course there are the health benefits.
This is just me talking & I am not saying that this is correct or anything but if you dont try you will never know and I have found it to be so very rewarding.