The Recovery Week

There are a number of reasons for taking time off from exercise. Allowing your body to heal fully after several weeks of a strenuous programme is one. Taking heed of the sensible advice from a loved one that maybe you’re doing too much too soon after returning from an injury or illness is another. Even if that sensible advice manifests itself as unwelcome nagging. If you think the nagging’s bad, just imagine what the “I told you so’s” are going to feel like.

Endurance sports and weight lifting both tend to recommend a full rest week at least every 8 to 10 weeks to allow muscles to repair and fitness to increase. Other sports such as golf, fishing or darts recommend that you do something strenuous every few weeks just to remind yourself that your sport is actually rest.

This week I am having a recovery week. It’s certainly easier to enforce rest when the weather’s bad and you’ve got lots of other things to keep you busy. I had been out for a long run and a good cycle last week, and despite following the surgeon’s advice about rehabilitation times, I still don’t want to risk overdoing it and injuring any newly healed tissue. This week was also the first time our daughter tried cycling. She was as unhappy about cycling as I am about not cycling. Great teamwork.

I'm only crying because this bike has too many wheels

I’m only crying because this bike has one too many wheels

Next week I hope to return feeling stronger, fitter and mentally refreshed. Well, at least as mentally and physically refreshed as you can feel with a young toddler in the house.

 

Absence makes the heart grow fonder … or maybe it just makes you forget the pain

The local roads seem to be swarming in cyclists at the moment. I’ve been on the mend from surgery and not cycling, so maybe my perception has been slightly warped as I notice and envy every cyclist I see. But I think it’s more likely down to the ever-increasing popularity of cycling combined with New Years fitness resolutions. I’m all in favour of increasing cycling participation: the more who do it, the more normal it becomes and the more likely it will be for non-cyclists to have close friends and family who cycle. And you would hope when these non-cyclists are behind the wheel of their cars or vans, they might be a little more careful and courteous to cyclists. I guess there are a few other barriers to harmony on the roads, such as rude cyclists and obscene amounts of lycra, but at least this strength-in-numbers approach is a good start. On most of my own rides I usually confront a driver when it was me who made the mistake and then return home to look in the mirror and think “WTF am I wearing?!”

"Smile for the camera .... ok, well at least try not to look completely pissed off"

“Smile for the camera …. ok, well at least try not to look completely pissed off”

This weekend I headed out for my first ride of the year. It was cold and windy and I immediately found myself wondering what I’d been missing so much. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but I think injury and illness can make you a bit deluded. I kept thinking: “I’d be enjoying this a lot more if it was sunny and I was fit.” It’s difficult finding a window to get out and ride at this time of year. The roads are icy in the mornings and it gets dark late afternoon. Plus we have a small human child and a crumbly house which are both in constant need of my time and energy. And certainly more deserving of my time than riding around in circles dressed like Peter Pan. Peter Pan was definitely a cyclist, prancing around in those stretchy trousers and never growing up. Anyway, at least the benefit of cycling is that it’s relatively low overhead time-wise when compared to other sports. When you get a small window of opportunity you can just race out the door and do your thing for as long as you’ve got.

Litte cold bike on the hills

Litte cold bike on the hills

Cold, wet, windy, dark and muddy. The perfect ride

Cold, wet, windy, dark and muddy. The perfect ride

I decided to do a ride of two halves, firstly a flat lap of the lake and then a climb up into the hills. This is then capped off with an enjoyable long descent home … so it’s technically a ride of three halves. I’ve been riding the turbo trainer a little bit lately as part of my rehab and it’s helped me to feel the difference in efficiency between a beautiful, smooth and fast pedaling speed and my own slow, cumbersome pedal-mashing technique. The French call it ‘souplesse’, a fluid and even technique. I might be able to say it, but I can’t do it. Anyway, I kept the cadence sensor on my bike and tried to translate some of this into reality on the roads. It’s pretty hilly around these parts which can quickly kill momentum. Plus I quite like getting out of the saddle on a climb, but I did find it helped my stamina to keep the legs spinning quickly … at least when I remembered. Once up on the hills I thought I’d finally found my sweet-spot, souplesse Nirvana as I flew along at speed for several miles without feeling pain or tiredness. Unfortunately it turned out to be a tail-wind! It doesn’t matter how many times this happens, it still fools me every time. Ah well … it was a beautiful tailwind and with a long and sweeping descent home, at least I realised what I’d been missing so much.

Taking it steady

I am thankfully now healed from my troublesome injury and have been getting out on the bike a couple of times a week. It’s looking a bit like Winter and feeling like it too. But it was only officially confirmed as Winter today when the average speed for my ride ended up below 14mph – the true threshold of Autumn / Winter. I was slow going uphill due to the weight of winter bike, mudguards and many layers of clothing. And slow going downhill due to a cautious approach on the treacherous roads and from trying to lessen the numbing effects of cold winds blasting my bare face. For me this time of year isn’t about speed, it’s about getting out when I have an opportunity to ride. Especially on those cold, crisp, sunny days like today.

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Casting long winter shadows 

When the sun’s hanging this low in the sky, visibility can be quite difficult at times. I make sure to wear colourful clothing, have a decent set of lights and take a good look before making any manoeuvres. It’s also another reason to take it steady in the winter. I rode a 25 mile loop today, mostly along quiet back lanes. This is probably somewhere near the limit of what I want to ride at this time of year. The back lanes were filthy and despite the mudguards my bike seems to be growing a thick, brown, winter coat to keep it warm over the coming months. The signs of good winter use.

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On the quiet roads of the Mendip Hills today

A Smörgåsbord of exercisings

This week I went out for my first proper ride in quite a while and remembered the satisfying feeling of returning home exhausted and hungry. I ate like a horse, hoovering up a big bowl of pasta followed by bread, cheeses and meats. The table was a veritable smorgasbord of foods, at least according to my wife who has a more impressive vocabulary than me. I rode up our local big hill at a relatively slow speed, partly due to the combined weight of steel bike, unfit rider and winter clothing, and partly due to the unfitness of the unfit rider (it doesn’t take much to have a better vocabulary than me).

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Taking a rest on top of the hills

In total I rode for an hour and a half. Normally it would seem strange to define a ride in terms of time rather than distance, however during the winter months I prefer to look at it in this way. Riding much more than 20 miles in the cold and wet never seems particularly appealing. Plus I’ve decided to run our local half marathon in March next year to give me an interesting challenge this winter. I don’t mind running in the cold and wet months and it should hopefully keep me in good shape for cycling when the good weather returns.

On the (indoor) road to recovery

After 6 weeks of pain I made a tentative return to cycling this week; unfortunately not being quite recovered enough to do more than 20 minutes on the turbo trainer. Despite my usual reluctance to use the dreaded contraption, I actually enjoyed it and was pleased that my body reacted ok with nothing more than a bit of muscle tightness for a couple of days afterwards.

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20 minutes on the bike, 30 minutes off the bike fiddling around with bits of equipment 

It felt great to be strong enough to do something more strenuous than rolling on a foam roller. Although I had been been doing that strenuously and often enough to wear out my wife’s old styrofoam roller and had to splurge on one of those expensive rigid rollers as a replacement. I bought one in hot pink by way of apology as this is my wife’s favourite colour. On top of this I been attending weekly pilates classes on my quest to become a bit more flexible. Unfortunately, by spending most of my time looking after a baby, rolling on a pink roller and attending pilates classes I was beginning to question my masculinity. So it’s nice to get back to something close to resembling normal service.

Injury rehabilitation

Over the last few years I’ve been lucky with injuries. Usually a few days of rest have been all I’ve needed to recover. Unfortunately this latest injury has completely knocked the wind out of my sails causing a rethink to my approach to exercise. Focussing exclusively on cycling, often going out 5 or 6 times a week, and doing no other form of exercise has made me a bit lop-sided. As my physiotherapist tried to illustrate – if you imagine three glasses, one being endurance, one strength and one flexibility. My endurance glass is full, the strength glass has a small drop inside and the flexibility glass is empty. Ideally for a normal person they should be equal measures.

Walking

I’ve been getting out and walking when I can

10 years ago I gave up long distance running due to recurring ankle, knee & hip injuries. All I did was run. I spent several years in the gym lifting weights until I got bored. All I ever did was lift weights. And then a few years ago I started cycling, and I cycled and cycled and cycled until I broke.

This week I’ve finally returned to some light exercise. On Tuesday I tried pilates for the first time and feel this would be a sensible addition to my exercise regime. I also went to the gym on Friday and did a light weights workout which reminded me why I used to enjoy strength training. Looking forward I’d like to combine my running, cycling and weights with the new addition of pilates to develop a more balanced approach to exercise. For some reason it has always seems more desirable to become a specialist in one form of exercise (or work), rather than be a ‘jack of all trades’. But this latest injury has served as a bit of a wake-up call.  Fortunately I’ve found some less derogative terms for the lowly jack-of-all-trades: the “Renaissance Man” or “Polymath” would try to become proficient in many areas rather than specialise in just one.

I’m not sure what this means for Bike V Car, but my future plans are to take a few eggs out of my cycling basket and put them in my strength and flexibility glasses, if you’ll excuse the conflicting analogies. I just need to find my running shoes …

Farewell old friend

After 10,000+ miles and many happy years together I decided it was time to bid farewell to my oldest bike. I wasn’t being forced to implement  the S-1 Rule where my total number of bikes was causing matrimonial disharmony, it was purely to free up a bit of space at home and because the old fella wasn’t getting any miles these days. I felt sad seeing him collecting dust and cobwebs in the back corner of the shed and thought he’d be better served as a starter bike or winter hack for another cyclist. The fact that old bikes seem to hold their value on eBay was an added incentive.

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eBay selling photo

I took the time to give the bike a thorough clean, and then probably went above-and-beyond the call of duty by dismantled the head-set to clean and re-grease it. The last time I’d ridden the bike was a rainy day and the headset had spluttered rusty gooze over the top tube. I didn’t want the buyer to think they’d bought a lemon if the same thing happened to them, so it gave me peace of mind to fix the problem.

Buyer beware

Buyer beware – the brand name has worn away from the side of the saddle. Which isn’t the original saddle that came with the bike. This bike clearly has some miles in it

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I made sure to include photos of wear to forewarn potential buyers

With 5 days to go, bidding is already fierce so I’m expecting to recoup some of the expense that’s gone into this bike. If I still lived in a city I think it would be handy to have a number 3 bike for locking and leaving without worrying too much. But living out in the sticks, it would appear that the correct number of bikes to own is 2. One carbon-fibre bike for training and racing, and one steel frame bike with mudguards and rack for winter riding, baby-carrying and errand running. However … I’m not completely ruling out the possibility that the freed up space in the shed could be nicely filled by a shiny new bike.