A while ago I suffered a really bad cycling injury that put me out of cycling for several months. Just before that cycling injury I could cycle up to about 80 km a day and feel just fine. I was in training to do the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, and I was confident that I would soon be able to do it quite easily.
Then disaster struck with my cycling injury, and my body was set back horribly. For a long time all I concentrated on was getting back normal daily functions, because even the most simple things – like watching TV, showering and walking – were difficult. It was depressing as hell.
But I tried to focus on imagining myself back in the saddle, cycling mile after mile, strong and effortless, like the athlete I used to be.
(And yes, I know I have never LOOKED much like a super athlete, but I sure as hell have FELT like one, and exercised much like I imagine real live super athletes exercise.)
Finally, I was able to get back on my bike. BUT with a difference: to start out, I used my electric bike (a Devinci Sydney retrofitted with an excellent BionX kit, which you can read about here). This meant I could go through the motions of cycling, but use as much (or more to the point, as little) energy as I wanted. Even using the motor at full power, each bike ride exhausted me, and I would lie on the couch afterwards, feeling like I’d been sat on by an elephant, and then had to run away from a ferocious rhinoceros. Not fun, and I am sure I was no fun to be with, lying on the couch and whining loudly.
Nonetheless, I was happy and proud that I was at least going through the motions – my legs were pumping my pedals in a motion that exactly resembled being a real cyclist, even if I was benefiting from a whole lot of help. My mood improved, just because I was getting out there and getting SOME exercise. And of course, I was getting to experience the joy of riding a bike – something I always find joyful, whether its on a regular bike or an electric bike, in the sunshine or in a monsoon-like rain storm.
I took my wife’s advice and took it slow. Truth to tell, even I knew it was smart to take it slow.
I did not try to graduate to a regular bike until the rides on my electric bike ONLY made me feel as if I had been chased by an ELDERLY rhinoceros. Finally I got there, and I started interspersing my electric bike rides with regular bike rides.
On my very first ride on my regular bike, I was passed by an older man on an uphill. He gave me a huge smile and confided, “I don’t usually PASS people.” I looked at him in his full construction gear, including steel-toed boots, riding his rusty, ancient bike. I was riding my slick-looking racer, and was decked out in full, expensive cycling gear from head to toe. Regardless, he passed me with the greatest of ease. Because I am a nice guy, I resisted the urge to shout: “I’m coming back from an injury!” Instead, I forced a smile through my teeth, said “Good for you!”, and let him enjoy his moment of triumph. (I’ll get him one day …)
In short, it was a bit depressing at first. I could do 80 km with ease before, and suddenly 10 km was tiring – and 20 km was killer. But I kept going, inching up my distances, trying to slowly improve without overdoing it.
After a few weeks, I finally started to ENJOY the rides on my regular bike. I found myself standing up in the pedals, feeling exhilarated, feeling like an athlete. It’s absolutely the best feeling you can have with your clothes on.
I’m still not there. I can still only do about two rides on a regular bike per week. But that’s a lot better than when I first had my cycling injury. And I can feel my strength growing and my energy increasing. Every day I feel just a tiny bit stronger. And I can feel the joy of cycling rising in my heart again.
The point is, it’s a process to come back from a cycling injury. Take it slow, listen to your body, but don’t give up, and trust that you’ll get there. Remember what bought you to cycling in the first place: the love of cycling. You still have that love, and you can and will enjoy it again.
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