The body is wise. It will tell you when it needs to eat, sleep, evacuate, and stream the latest cool show. The trouble is we — our brains, minds, egos — often ignore these signals. We’ll skip breakfast, or have second helpings when we’re really just thirsty. Instead of a nap, we’ll drink caffeine to power through the afternoon lull. We stay up late looking at our blue light screens, not go to bed early. The unhealthy, too early start to the school day, working late or the swing shift, fitful sleep nights with a new baby, hospital helicopters, asshole dogs — we’re constantly bombarded by noise during what should be our restful hours. We’ll push through a workout because of the intense societal pressure to be thin and stigma against fat people — even though we’re the majority! No wonder so many people, at least in urban areas, are out of rhythm. The world keeps spinning, as do I with my legs and wheels. Inertia is not a good option, injured or not.
A Dude Abikes is not immune to such pressures. So it should come as no surprise that I have kept pedaling through some pain for the last good while. As a not-so-young dude with daily biking, walking and yoga habits, injuries are bound to happen. Fortunately it’s not like I got in a crash with a car. A skinned knee, a tweaked hamstring, whatever it is, the standard advice is usually R.I.C.E. — Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation then physical therapy. But with this pain, a sports doctor said was okay for me to keep going. And it is getting better. A normal person would take time off to heal. But then I never claimed to be that. Keep Austin Weird, baby!
I lived as a virtually car-free person for 15.5 years, and continue to mostly do so. (The car I was given requires thousands of dollars in repairs to be operated safely.) When it comes to biking, I’m like that old Timex watch commercial, I take a licking but keep on ticking. I passed 500 days in a row of cycling a while ago. Whether that’s the smart thing to do, I’m beginning to wonder. I exercise for hours a day, so I’m kind of a jock. And jocks aren’t famous for intelligence. But then, I never claimed to be smart, either.
So am I a cyclist with an injury problem or an injured person with a cycling problem?
Hmm, it’s hard to self-evaluate one’s own sports psychology. Since a doctor hasn’t told me to stop or that continuing would cause harm, and a physical therapist did some manual therapy and just said avoid steep hills, I see no reason to stop. Plus I’ve been doing foam rolling, taking it easy, using an herbal anti-inflammatory, lotions, ice, and heat. I finally got a new shifter installed so I can use my easiest “granny” gear when needed, which is often. And it is slowly improving.
Another doctor could tell me to lay off and rest completely. That might help the injury, but it would have some negative side effects. Not having any exercise would be bad on multiple levels: I’d lose conditioning and muscle, gain weight, have no Vitamin D and fresh air, decreased cardiovascular fitness, and certainly my mood would not improve. I’m dedicated to keeping my streak going and working through the aches and pains. And that is the trade-off. Of course if you break a leg, heart attack, stroke, or something major like a really bad hangnail, I may not have a choice but to stop. #DontBreakTheChain is a great idea for establishing streaks and developing habits. But life happens, it goes on. No one really gives a damn but me. One can go overboard, and what that means is different for each of us.
From the Buddhist, non-attachment perspective, it would be excellent for my ego to interrupt all my streaks. However, I’m not a very good Buddhist, or even a lower-case buddhist. I use the Insight Meditation Timer for five minutes a day but usually am asleep before the guide is done. I get my mindfulness from 30 minutes on the mat doing yoga. It is unbelievable to me that I’ve done it every day for over seven years. And unthinkable that I would stop unless I’m unconscious. Still, there is something to be said for rest and recovery. My biking isn’t that far or fast, but it still adds up to 100 miles a week, despite a goal to keep it to just one hour and forget the mileage.
Some day a reckoning will come, but until I literally can’t, I plan to continue. I gotta lose the COVID quarantine 15 — pounds, that is. And then some. After all…
Check out this old but still relevant post from cyclist blogger Gerry over in France, Cycling and Suffering. Although it’s about the pros, who experience a whole other planet of pain, they also train themselves to deal with it. We mortals suffer, too.
Do you suffer through injuries on the bike or take breaks?
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