Andrew Starykowicz: From the Top to the Bottom and Back
Professional triathlete Andrew Starykowicz (pronounced STARK-o-witz) has had quite a journey! In the first installment of his two-part post, he details his recovery from hip surgery – part of which was performed in the Endless Pools® Performance pool in his basement.
Every athlete gets injured – heck, everybody gets injured – and it is then we learn how important our health is. When you go from being able to swim 10,000 yards, bike 200 miles, and run 20 miles one weekend to not being able to get up and get a beer out of the fridge the next weekend, it is at that point that therapy devices become an integral part of life.
This is where my journey with Endless Pools® began. In the midst of training for absolute dominance at the 2014 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, I was struggling with injuries. When I was healthy for any period of time, I was winning races. Come the end of the season, I had to withdraw mid-race at Kona.
Getting the Bad News
It was a month after the season, when physical therapy was not improving my condition, that I learned that I had a bone spur on the head of my femur that was making Swiss cheese out of the laburnum in my hip. This required a hip arthroscopy with Dr. Nho of Midwest Orthopedics at Rush. It was the start of a long journey back.
I then realized that I would need to utilize tools that I had not used before to get healthy and stay healthy. In addition to my recovery, my wife and I were having a baby, so time was coming at a premium.
Immediately after surgery, I learned that this surgery’s comeback would be a lot longer than I had originally thought. No pushing off the walls swimming, kicking while swimming, running, any of that for 4 months. The doctors knew from therapy that I would push the envelope on whatever they said I could do, so they kept the lid on it. During this time I was able to get in the Endless Pool and get in pull-sets to maintain some fitness.
At the four-month mark, the lid was opened a bit. I was able to resume normal swimming (still no pushing off the walls) and assisted running. In most situations this meant running with an Alter-G, but with access to the Endless Pools Underwater Treadmill, I started walking and eventually running a lot sooner without bearing my full weight.
Then our daughter was born. I found myself up at all hours and squeezing in training anywhere I could. Sometimes it was a pool run at 2 am, a swim at 9 am – having access at any time of day to my basement Endless Pool really accelerated my comeback to racing at the top level.
Before too much longer, I was cleared for swimming in a lap pool and running outdoors. I continued to use the underwater treadmill regularly to supplement my running.
Back in Action
It really would have taken a year to build the fitness to be remotely competitive on the run, but being able to build volume and do my warm-up and cool-down runs – all free of impact in the Endless Pools environment – allowed me to run the half-marathon at the end of a half-IRONMAN within a minute of my pre-surgery time.
To do this less than one year post-surgery filled my inbox: Many surgeons contacted me saying that I am a great comeback story but a bad example of what is possible for their patients.
I actually found swimming to be the biggest challenge post-surgery. The weakness in my hip cradle hindered my comeback greatly. The drive to get back to a competitive level was there, but I was expending so much extra energy dragging my lower body instead of working in harmony.
As time passed, and my core and hips became stronger, my swimming greatly built speed. By the end of the season, I was back to swimming in the lead pack at the races.