On a fast, sharp curve in Stone Mountain Park on April 17 RBR Editor John Marsh fractured his collarbone; he had surgery on April 27. The break was worse than expected and was actually in five pieces, which the surgeon repaired. The surgeon told him that he shouldn’t ride the trainer for two weeks or until the incision is healed – to avoid sweating on it and risking infection.
[John just got the OK to resume showering and trainer riding a couple days ago, a bit ahead of schedule. The following was written before that time to give John and anyone coming back from such an injury an array of activities that can be done before resuming trainer riding and, ultimately, road riding. I’ll follow this column with ongoing advice over the next 2 issues focused on John’s comeback, but with plenty of relatable advice for anyone staging a comeback.]
John will be riding the Tour of Wyoming July 17 – 22: 355 miles with 32,620 feet of climbing through the Bighorn Mountains. I’m helping John to make the best use of his time to prepare for this tough tour.
The good news is that John broke his clavicle and not his leg. A broken clavicle isn’t a showstopper. Beny Furrer, who has only one arm, rode the Race Across America in 11 days 23 hours 47 minutes in 2003!
What can a cyclist do when the rider isn’t supposed to even get on the trainer and raise a sweat?
Let’s look at the body, and what would happen during a 3 1/2 week layoff? What can John do about it?
- Recovery. All of my clients periodically take a week or so off the bike to recover fully before the next round of training. Rather than lost training time, the days between the accident and the surgery were beneficial!
- Endurance. A rider like John who’s been riding for many years has built a huge endurance base. He’ll lose only a little cardio and muscular endurance, but not a lot. My friend and former client George Thomas had a serious crash and broke his shoulder, which needed surgery. He was preparing for the 860-mile Race Across the West and couldn’t ride on the road. His solution? Power walking on hills in his neighborhood. John could start power walking for several hours at a time several days a week.
- Muscle atrophy. Even the big dogs lose muscle mass during a grand tour! Neal Henderson, who’s now one of the coaches for BMC, sends his riders to the gym after a grand tour. John will start to lose muscle mass unless he does resistance training exercises such as single leg wall squats, single leg squats, step-ups, lunges, split squats, bridging and hamstring curls. These could be done at home using a dumbbell and an exercise ball or at a gym. One-leg home exercises are illustrated on my website.
- Power. Unlike endurance, this fades faster. As soon as he’s cleared to ride John should start riding intervals. Next week I’ll recommend the kinds of intensity training that John should do until he can ride on the road.
- Economy. The more economical a rider is, the faster the rider can go for a given power output. After all those years of riding John has good riding economy; however, this is a good time to make sure that his pedaling is as economical as possible. He could sit upright rather than holding the bars and do one-leg pedaling, which is also a good strength exercise with high enough resistance. He could also do different drills such as spin-ups in a moderate gear. He would start at about 80 rpm and every minute increase by about 10 rpm. He’d build to the highest cadence he could spin with a smooth stroke.
- Core. With all the climbing in the tour John needs a strong core. His legs are levers and the core is the fulcrum. His core needs to be strong enough so that it doesn’t move even when pedaling hard so that all of his energy is going into his legs, not moving his core. When riding, a cyclist’s hands should rest lightly on the handlebars like the rider is typing. Riding the trainer is a great time to lean forward into this position without holding the bars. Instead of the traditional plank, there are many exercises that John can do without using his left arm, which are illustrated on my website.
John can continue to train most of the components of cycling without raising a sweat.
The few weeks of reduced training are also an opportunity to spend more time with his family to have fun with his family and friends. Cycling is a great hobby, but family always comes first.
Next week: How to learn to love (or at least not hate) training for power and endurance on the trainer.
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 nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.