Ten days off the bike is the longest break I’ve had since I can remember. It’s possibly the longest stretch sans bici since I began doing long distances back in January of 2015, pre-Strava. It has been hard, sad, relaxing, and other things — just a weird time. And I’m not out of the woods in terms of the medical situation that put me there. Of course, I’m not the only person who’s had to stop activity for a health challenge, of course, and it could be far worse. Some people have crashes (Tour de France, on parle de toi!), surgery, or life-altering issues. I hope I’m not one of them. Physically, there are changes, and there are also psychological ones. That’s what this post is about, so click on through and check it out, already!
There Is Light at the End of the Tunnel (But It’s the Lincoln Tunnel, So It’s New Jersey)
“Work on recovery. It’s a tough road trying to stay away but it will be worth it in the long run. Mobility will be key… Glad I found you, looks like you have some nice content. Stay strong and don’t fret about losing fitness as it will come back because when the time is right you will be hungry for it.”
That works for me. Nothing like encouragement from a fellow cyclist who’s been there to cheer me up! You can read his post about six weeks of recovery here. (Thanks, Ron! Can you introduce me to Janeane?) Because while we may lose fitness, our bodies sometimes really need the energy to rest and recover and heal the parts that take a beating.
Especially as we age, struggle as fathletes to lose weight or at least not gain, and have illness, there’s no substitution for rest. That doesn’t mean we just sit there on the futon couch stuffing our faces watching every single World Cup soccer football game, or every stage of the Tour de France. (Er, unless it does. Guilty as charged! And I’m only up to Stage 10 so NO SPOILERS PLEASE like a certain someone who won’t be named but who will certainly burn in bicycling hell.)
Staying Positive and Chanelling Your Energy Can Help
So maybe it’s ok to go watch a movie before Movie Pass goes out of business which is going to happen any second. (Alas, poor MP, we hardly knew ye.) Go through some boxes and recycle old papers and donate stuff. Read a book. Take a super boring online video class. Start journalling again. Go to a Meetup about procrastination. Talk to friends. Even a different activity, if your injury allows it, could be useful to maintain some base level of fitness. I’ve been able to continue walking and doing yoga daily through the illness, but at a more gentle pace. Swimming would be good.
Because cycling is a way I get out some negative emotions, not being able to do it is a big friggin’ downer. It keeps the blood pumping, gets me natural Vitamin D, allows me to congregate with friends (though group rides have been too early for me lately), and also be involved as a volunteer with the bike community. Tuning in to what your body and mind really need is one hidden gift of being sidelined. But emotionally you may need to really work on staying positive. For that the journal has helped, talking to a friend, or just alot of distraction and naps. Super serious athletes might benefit from talking to a sports psychologist. I just watch Portlandia and Seinfeld. Laughter IS the best medicine… unless you like, you know, need a real doctor.
The comment and mood booster below came today from a new Strava follower, Edgar Lopez who lives in Katy, Texas, near Houston. Thanks Edgar, you are correct, sir! I AM a hell of a rider! And as for things always getting better, well, I’m fond of saying that I will lose all my weight when I die. Hopefully not anytime soon. I also won’t have to pay anymore of that ridiculously, famously, outrageously high Austin rent. Here’s Edgar’s Strava profile.
Someday, We’ll Find It, The Mind-Body Connection
I’m beginning to see a theme. Yes, it involves positive thinking. Which for a realist like me, is not always my first reaction to adversity. It’s more like crawling into a corner and dissolving into a puddle of tears. (Not really, but I lik the phrase puddle of tears.)
But there is something to at least trying to redirect what Buddhists call your “monkey mind.” Even if it’s hard to muster happy thoughts when your body is telling you something is wrong, there are things you can do.
The mind and body are inextricably connected, but don’t forget the emotions, too. Your fellow humans can boost your mood. So can music, smelling flowers, petting a dog, even remembering the feeling of a bike ride. Some people use prayer or meditation. Use your imagination. Take care of yourself. Even a small improvement is cause for celebration.
When you are cleared to return, be easy, obviously. Tune into that Rainbow Connection (thanks, Kermit the Frog, for getting that song stuck in my brain when I was 6!). Check with your doctor and health care folks. Maybe you need a new bouncy bike seat or more padding. Only you can know what’s alright. And it will probably take alot longer to recovery than your competitive, ego-driven, balls-to-the-wall athlete-wanna be brain will like. Tough. That’s the breaks. (Sometimes quite literally.)
Speaking of broken bones, I’d like to get back to the pro riders in the Tour de France for a moment. There are often crashes, sometimes horrifically bad ones. But they don’t even think about picking themselves off the floor after hitting the deck. They are back on their bikes in under 10 seconds in some cases, and only when something is seriously wrong do they stop. Hell, Irish rider Dan Martin finished Stage 9 last year and the rest of the tour with a broken vertebrae. Those guys are freakin’ tough freaks of nature, though.
My point is that if you have a base layer of fitness, whatever level it may be at, that can protect you from some problems – but far from all of them. When you have a broken scapula like Lawson Craddock, and you’re a touch sumbitch, you can keep going. When you break your collarbone, your pelvis, or something else, you have to stop. When you’re not a pro but have issues like I have, you do your best to rest and recover. Hopefully Ron is right and I will bounce back sooner than if I hadn’t been riding 85-100+ miles per week.
What Now, Bike Dude?
For me, a commuter, recreational, charity and sorta serious cyclist, the question is how to continue without hurting myself. Or even if I can. I don’t want to think about not being able to bike, but so far none of the doctors have definitively said to do that, though one hinted at it, and it bothered me enought that I did. Some define bicycling as suffering, and some of that is true, but there’s a limit. To determine what limit really is for me, we’ll see after some physical therapy, massage, more acupuncture, rest, good posture, and whatever else I can throw at it, plus time. Stay tuned. Maybe I will have to bike less, but I ain’t going nowhere. The sky may be dark purple, but it’s not falling. I can still write, after all.
And now, for no particular reason except that she has the same last name as Ron mentioned above, here’s a picture of the smart, beautiful, short, tattooed, smoking, hilarious, progressive. feminist and otherwise very talented Janeane Garafalo. Just in case Ron is related and he can make a love match. She used to be a bike messenger, went to high school for a year in Katy, Texas (hmm, small world!) and is single. Certainly she wants to meet someone outside of show business, right? You never know. All I’m asking for is one bike ride next time you’re in Austin, JG. I think that’s a pretty reasonable request. I’ll be here.
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