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.
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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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Michael H. Johnson says
If you’re not a regular cyclist, build your mileage up gradually as this will decrease likely injuries. Look to develop the speed at which you cycle, it’s this cadence that helps develop cardiovascular capacity, and will help you get a good base level of fitness. If you’ve been a sporadic cyclist, start building a more regular programme into your routine and develop your fitness from there. If you’re cycle fit and commute to work regularly or do regular rides, consider incorporating a few longer distance rides into your cycling and you should be fine. If you need advice, visit a Rutland Cycling shop and have a little chat with one of their cycling experts.