Roadies sometimes spend weeks or longer off the bike for various reasons. Family vacation. Injury, illness or surgery. Changes in life such as moving to a new home, especially in a new city or starting a demanding new job. Four years ago I stupidly fell off a ladder, broke my ankle and was off the bike for 12 weeks. In this column I’ll use my experiences from that and other accidents to respond to a reader’s question
RBR reader Lou writes, “Love ur work. Turn 73 in August. Unfortunately after school let out in June I had to get a total knee replacement. It’s five months and one week and I hope to God I get better. Biking 100 miles a week on the road since June on flat roads and unfortunately can’t ride Mount Si yet. My physical therapist I go to three times a week says in spite of the stiffness it’s getting better with more flexion. Hopefully I don’t have to have any arthroscopic surgery to remove scar tissue as I age. I hope to get out today for a quick spin around the neighborhood as the weather is nice in South Jersey. It’ll be a short ride before therapy today. You never appreciate what you’ve got until it’s missing. Any advice would be appreciated although I think it’s just gonna take time, and I’m impatient as most people are to get back in action.”
1. Acceptance. Accept you are where you are in terms of fitness. After I fractured my ankle my rehab started with walks around the neighborhood on crutches for aerobic exercise. I jogged in a swimming pool for variety. And I wasn’t allowed to do any strength training. I vented my frustrations with an Olympic gold medalist at my gym. He told me to accept my current condition; not to ruminate about how I was riding before the accident and my frustrated plans for the summer.
2. Patience. It’s hard. But if you try to do too much you may have a setback. June 30, 1989 when I was training for the Race Across America I was hit by a truck and knocked about 100 yards. All I remember was the bright light from the medevac helicopter. My left knee was fractured and my tibia and fibula were broken. My left shoulder was dislocated and the rotator cuff muscles irreparably torn. I had a terrific physical therapist (a professional triathlete). Each session he’d point out how I’d improved a little and counseled patience.
3. Consistency and Volume. To get fitter you have to ask your body to do more than you could do the week before and allow it to recover. Going for a ride longer than last week is one way to increase the overload. However, you’ll get more total overload on your body if you focus on consistency and total volume. If your schedule allows, exercising twice a day will provide even more overload. E.g., one day instead of one 15 mile ride, go for a 8 – 10 mile ride in the morning and again late afternoon.
4. Small goals and successes. After my encounter with the truck I knew it would be a very long time before I could ride a century. I set a goal of walking once around the block. And then twice around. And three times around … Then I knew I had enough endurance to nervously ride my bike a few blocks. I set a goal of a 10 mile ride. And then a 25 mile ride. After a year I rode a century — slowly. And in 1996 I finished the solo Race Across America.
5. Whole body fitness. You’ll be 73 in August and working on different aspects of your fitness is important for the quality and duration of your future life. Right now you can’t ride as much as you’d like, so work on your strength to address muscle atrophy and improve your cycling. Talk with your PT about what kinds of lower body exercises you can do. Include core strength. Your legs are levers and your pelvis is the fulcrum. Strengthening your core stabilizes your pelvis so your legs exert more power. A stronger core also reduces lower back pain and, because your core supports your weight, reduces pain in your hands, arms and shoulders. Also make time to work on your flexibility and balance.
6. Change just one overload at a time. If your PT gives you additional leg strength exercises, start doing them but don’t increase your cycling at the same time. If you try to increase two different types of overload at the same time you risk a setback. Work on strength and then on cycling.
7. Recovery. Increased fitness results from overloading your body and allowing it to recover. By improving the quality of your recovery, you’ll increase how much you can ask of your body.
8. Think broadly. Success as a cyclist results from six success factors:
- Physical fitness
- Healthy nutrition
- Appropriate equipment
- Cycling motor skills
- Mental strength
- Careful planning
- Coming back:
- Whole body exercises:
- Recovery: 9 Recovery Tips for Older Riders
- Mental: Mental Skills to Get Faster
- Bike handling skills: 10 Essential Bike Handling Skills
How to Become a Better Cyclist. I’ve written an eBook on how to become a better rider by working on six different factors: Physical fitness; Healthy nutrition; Appropriate equipment; Cycling motor skills; Mental strength and Careful planning. Cyclists achieve maximum improvement by working on all six of the Success Factors, not just on their favorites or the easiest. 36-page How to Become a Better Cyclistis just $4.99.
Healthy Nutrition Past 50. My eBook includes:
- The key role of carbohydrates in providing the energy you need and many of the vitamins and minerals.
- How much protein you really need and nourishing protein choices.
- The important role of fat in your diet and healthy choices to get that needed fat.
- The principal vitamins and minerals you need.
The 28-page Healthy Nutrition Past 50 is $4.99.
My eBook Gaining a Mental Edge: Using Sports Psychology to Improve Your Cycling Most cyclists can improve more by spending some time each week in practicing mental skills than by the same amount of time in training! This is especially true after age 40. I demonstrate how sports psychology can be another tool in your toolbox to help you improve your cycling, just like effective training, good equipment and healthy nutrition. Gaining a Mental Edge is a workbook with a progressive set of skills to practice and master. Just you can practice specific cycling skills you can also practice and learn specific mental skills. Winter when you are riding less is an opportunity to gain a mental edge.mThe 17-page Gaining a Mental Edge: Using Sports Psychology to Improve Your Cyclingis just $4.99.
My eBook Anti-aging 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process has chapters on:
- Physiology of aging
- Assessing your strengths and weakness
- Endurance riding including sample weeks and months for riders of different levels
- Intensity training – not for everyone!
- Strength training including an illustrated program using things you have around the house.
- Stretching including an illustrated program
- Weight bearing and balance exercise
The 106-page eBook Anti-aging 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is $14.99
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.