Being the cycling mad people that we are, we live for our time on the saddle. Long rides, short rides, group rides or just that solo session for mental freedom, we love to pedal our hearts out. But what happens to us cycle-heads when we can't ride?
There are a number of things that can prevent us from riding our bikes: illness, injury, bike injury and just life in general wedge themselves between you and your freedom machine. There's nothing more frustrating that not being able to do the thing that you love, so how can we cope?
Avid mountain biker and adventurer, Sarah Wylie, found out the hard way after suffering a knee injury and having to lay off the bike and lay up her pedalling pins. She shares her story with TWC, and how life beyond the bike has been...
Life Beyond the Bike
Words by Sarah Wylie
So what does a bike obsessed nutter do when they can’t ride for a while? In my case I was unable to walk without a knee brace and crutches, and since I was so pathetic with no upper body strength, I could barely get anywhere. Rewind time, how did I get here? I'll go back to the start...
Last November I was made redundant, and so I did what any self-respecting outdoors person does these days and I bought a van to convert into the camper of my dreams. The plan was to travel and ride all over Europe with my partner, and take some much needed time out.
We set off on the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam and had the most amazing journey. With the two of us in the van, moving on when we got bored and staying longer in places where we wanted, hiking, biking and generally enjoying the great outdoors.
We took in the cultural delights of The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland and France. If you only have time for one new place go to Slovenia, brilliant biking, stunning scenery and wonderfully untouched, as it is still relatively undiscovered by tourists.
So we had made it to France, the final country on our adventure. I decided to treat myself to an uplift weekend in Les Gets for my birthday, and as a great ending to the trip.
I chose to start on the easier trails to settle my nerves, and try to relax into the weekend. I was cycling along the fire road, and BANG! My front wheel fell into a ditch crossing the road and I was thrown forward limbs and bike twisted. I felt a hot searing pain in my left knee.
Yep, my tentative first run on a green trail and I had torn my ACL in my left knee. I was rendered useless, no walking, biking or anything fun for a while. Four days in the van as a passenger getting back home were not fun, but at least I was home where I have friends and family to support me, not to mention the awaiting MRI scans and hospital appointments.
Pain and immobility aside there is a massive problem when you go from being active to being stuck indoors, on a reclining chair with one leg in a brace. Serotonin deficiency in the body can cause feelings of depression, and although I understood why I was so fed up, I was really confused as to why I kept crying and feeling utterly pathetic.
Then I chatted to some brilliant ladies on online and shared my experience and feelings, and someone mentioned: serotonin. I did my own research and it began to all make sense. I decided to get outside - at least - and just sit in the sun, hobble down the road till my hands hurt and get out in the fresh air again. It was the best medicine.
It is important not only to get outside for vitamin D and fresh air, but also to avoid becoming a couch potato. I would hate to get to a point where I am healed and be held back because I became a pie during my healing time, so exercise and good diet it vital.
- Help Recover Faster
- Healthy eating
- Listen to the professionals
- Take it easy
- Fresh air
- Train other body areas
- Positive Mental Attitude
I cut right back on processed foods, carbs and sugar, and got back my old diet of fish, meat, veggies and fruit. All the good stuff the body needs, it's sometimes called paleo eating, but I prefer to just eat real food and not processed junk.
As well as eating right I started to lift some weights to work on my pathetic upper body with the goal of getting out on my crutches more. It worked, and now I am down to just needing one crutch. I am still lifting those weights because it makes me feel great, and my arms are super toned which is a great bonus.
Sarah's Recovery Advice
The main thing is to take it slow, I have to listen to my physiotherapist and my body. Sometimes I feel good enough to jump on my bike and head for the hills, but then I walk to the end of the street and need to sit down. I can now walk a couple of miles and I'm walking with a normal gait, no limping here.
My physio is trying me out on a stationary bike at my next visit, and I can’t wait. We'll soon know when I can start riding canal paths and building my strength back up on the bike. In the mean time I am working on my core and upper body because I need to be doing something. I have an addiction to being active, and this is my way through this injury.
If you suffer an injury, then you need to let yourself heal and utilize the support around you because it really does help to talk it over with other people who can relate. Get outside and enjoy the slower pace of life for a while, but stay strong, stay focused and stay healthy because as soon as that injury is healed you will want to be out having fun and getting muddy without your potato butt holding you back. Mmm I can smell the breeze already.
Suffering an injury which keeps you off the bike is frustrating, but it's still important to let your body heal properly.
Sarah's experience shows how a lot of perseverance and a positive mind set can help you deal with the lack of pedal strokes in your life, and how you can still focus on staying strong and staying focused. We wish Sarah a speedy full recovery, and hope to see her out on the hills in no time.
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