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How We Use HeroMode: Stretch Time!

· 7 min read
HeroMode can be used to maintain good habits, such as stretching once in a while during your busy work day.

HeroMode has many different use cases. Today, I describe how I use HeroMode to build a stretching routine to rehabilitate my knees.

  • Set up a repeat quest for a stretching session
  • Within the quest, use checkboxes to list the movements
  • Each stretching session takes no more than 10 minutes to complete
  • I set up the repeat quest for Mondays through Fridays, so that I'm reminded to get up and stretch during work days
  • Since setting up the "Stretch time!" repeat quest, I've been stretching almost daily, and my knees are feeling a lot better!

Knee Health During the Pandemic: Wish I Had Known

When the pandemic lockdown started, like many others, I began working from home. We had no idea how long this situation was going to last, so I didn't bother setting up a proper workspace. Instead, I worked on my laptop on the dinning table, crouched on an uncomfortable kitchen chair, hours at a time.

Months went by, and I began to develop knee pain. It wasn't serious at first, so I'd just take a break from my daily running routine, and it'd get better. But then, on a snowboarding trip, I came back on crutches, with both of my knees too swollen and in too much pain to walk.

Fortunately, both X-ray and MRI showed no serious injury. But there were signs of wear-and-tears like cartilage thinning. There was no miracle treatment, the doctor said. But it would take a lot of patience, resting, and physical therapy. More ominously, I might have to reshape my lifestyle. I might not be able to run everyday like before. Snowboarding might be too much. I'd have to adjust and find alternative physical activities that my knees could tolerate.

A Mediocre Runner Who Could No Longer Run

I had been running almost daily up until that point. I've never been a good runner, but running got me to a lot of cool places and see a lot of cool things. When I visit a new city, I'd run and check out different neighborhoods. I'd gotten chased by dogs, cats, goats, and saw families of cows, horses, raccoons, prairie dogs, and capybaras. Not to mention when you are running everyday, you can eat whatever you want!

I started running accidentally. It was the beginning of the 9th grade. I had just arrived freshly in the US. And each of us needed to pick classes and afternoon activities. I was given this sheet of paper with all the options. As my eyes swam in the sea of choices, most are English words I had yet to learn, I desperately searched for something I understood. And there it was, "Cross Country". I knew "cross", like "crossing the street". I knew "country", like "beautiful countryside". So "cross country" must mean some kind of field trip-like daily excursion where we explore the beautiful sceneries nearby, right? Our school was in the heart of New England. The hills were covered with maple trees whose colors were just turning. The air was fresh and crisp. With much excitement, I put my checkmark next to "Cross Country".

i knew some of these words

You can probably guess what happened next. Before 9th grade, I had not run more than the distance of the dodgeball court. In fact, I didn't even know "running" is a thing you could continuously do for an hour. On the first day of cross country practice, we met the coaches, we stretched, then we started running. And we kept running. Confusion built. Discomfort built. Panic built. We did indeed cross some streets into the beautiful countryside, but I began to realize I had misunderstood what "cross country" meant. Unfortunately, I didn't have the English skill required to tell my coach that I wanted to quit, so for the rest of the season, I did cross country. I never got good at it. I can only say I was never the last place at a meet. But the extended moments of solitude and thoughts, the constantly changing scenes and elements, the simultaneous connectedness and disconnectedness, that got me.

Decades later, I continued to run. Until the pandemic knee injury.

Struggling to Keep Up With Physical Therapy

Following the doctor's recommendation, I set up physical therapy appointments. I learned the various stretches and strengthening exercises I needed to do. But these sessions added up to be quite costly, so I stopped. Instead, I tried to keep up with the stretching exercises on my own.

While "running" was never a synonym for "fun", "stretching" was even less thrilling. Going through the movements took time, time I'd rather spend on more active exercises that burn calories and keep me in shape (so, again, I can eat the delicious foods I want to eat). It was also easy to "bargain" with myself: I didn't know which stretching movement really mattered, or if I'm doing it properly, or how many repetitions was the magic number. And if I wasn't doing it right anyways, why bother doing it at all?

So my stretching routine was inconsistent. And the condition of my knees also remained inconsistent.

Using HeroMode to Schedule (Almost) Daily Stretch Time

As I had mentioned last month, I have been using HeroMode to stay off the addictive site, Reddit. A few months ago, it occurred to me that I could also try to use HeroMode to establish a stretching routine.

So I created a repeat quest called "Stretch time!". The exclamation point was there to give me an illusion of excitement. In the "Stretch time!" repeat quest, I added checkboxes representing the movements I wanted to do each session. They are proabably not the most optimal. And I certainly don't know the proper, official names of these moves. But those matter less than me actually performing these exercises.

I set up this repeat quest to be generated at 10:30am, Mondays through Fridays. My thought was that I most need to stretch in the middle of work days.

i have a repeat quest to get myself to stretch almost everyday

And it worked! Since setting up this repeat quest in October, I have completed every single "Stretch time!" quest. That doesn't mean I haven't slipped. There have been days when I didn't complete my stretch on the day, but I'd make it up later, sometimes even a week later, but they all got completed.

And I don't know if it's the (almost) daily stretching I have been doing, or if nearly two years of no high-impact activities has finally allowed my knees meaningful recovery, the pain stayed away for the first time in a long time. I was even able to snowboard last week, albeit just a few easiest runs. My knees did got sore afterwards, but I didn't end up on crutches again. And after some more stretching, they actually felt good a day later.

And just this evening, I did a little jogging. Just a mile, very slowly, with every step carefully premeditated and gingerly positioned. But it was so good to do it again.

Staying Healthy Takes Effort

I know I can no longer run at the same pace or frequency I did before. As the doctor said, there will be adjustments of my activities, but more importantly, adjustments on the expectation and mindset. If I want to continue to enjoy similar activities as before, I'll need to put in the time and effort to stay healthy.

And such discipline is difficult to build. As a tool, HeroMode makes having discipline much, much easier.