Coming Back After Sickness Or Injury: Getting Over The Fitness Hump
Awhile back, I wrote about not coming back too soon from injury or sickness. Making sure you are fulling recovered is essential to not making things a lot worse on your mind and body as it relates to your personal life and life on the trail.
But what about when you are all healed up and ready to get back out there?
That first ride back is tough. The amount of fitness you are used to your body producing is now gone. What you are left with is a shell of what you used to be as you struggle to claw and scratch your way back to your former glory. For every rider, this bar that has to be reached is different…but the process is the same struggle as you try to recoup the time lost spinning the cranks.
Getting Over The Fitness Hump
I wish I had some great insider secret that I could give that drastically reduced the pain and effort required to get back to that fitness level you are trying to achieve, but the reality is that there is no magic pill.
Coming off of my last sickness, I have been dealing with 2 months of being sick and not feeling good on the bike. This past holiday weekend, I decided to bite the bullet and get myself back to where I once was. I knew it was going to hurt…I knew I wasn’t going to like it…but I also knew if I didn’t do it I would keep on getting frustrated on the bike.
So what do you have to do?
You have to force yourself to be in pain a little bit.
This past weekend was planned with two rides. A long death march in the mountains on dirt Saturday (the group planned 30 miles) and then a 4th of July road ride we do every year the following Monday (a fast 52 mile route with some serious motors). Saturday was my day…the day I was going to finally get past the fitness hump that I have been battling ever since the sickness left my lungs.
The trick is simple. You have to take yourself to the point that your body wants to quit…and keep on riding.
The section of trail we hit is split into 3 sections (Pinhoti’s in north Georgia). After section 2, I could already tell the at my fitness level was starting to deteriorate. Section 3 is known for zapping the fitness straight out of fit riders, so it was going to be a struggle at best. Half way through, my body hit that limit. No cramps…no pain…just no power.
Instead of turning back and calling it a day, I pushed on. By focusing on pedal strokes and trying to keep things slow and smooth, I was able to keep the bike rolling forward through the mountains without too much un-comfort. This was slower than usual…but it was still moving and not giving up. While trying to keep my mental health in check (you know…that voice that says, “what the hell are you doing?!”), I tackled each 50 foot section of trail at a time and made sure I was managing water and nutrition correctly.
By the end of the 20 mile ride in the mountains, I was completely cooked, out of water and back at the car. It took much longer than it has in the past, but I was roughly 5 miles longer than my body really wanted to go without too much trouble. The soft spinning, power management and food intake worked even if I felt like I was moving at a rate that even trailside turtles could pass me.
So what happened on Monday after my slow but steady push on Saturday?
Power and endurance.
Monday felt incredible for the first time in months. The power was back in my legs, my lungs were using the oxygen provided and finally I felt like my old self (prior to getting sick) on the bike. The ride on Saturday combined with a day off in between brought my body back to where I am used to riding.
I don’t know why it works…It just does…
We all go through this at some point in time in our riding. It could be sickness, injury or just life getting in the way, but that period of time on the bike takes a little bit out of our fitness. Sometimes it is a lot…and other times it is a quick, small amount. I don’t have the specific reasons why pushing yourself slightly past the breaking point works, but…in my experience over the years…it just does.
If you are struggling to get back to a fitness level that you are used to and you are starting to get extremely frustrated, pick one ride and get it done. You will be surprised at the results. Just remember…don’t get on too early. Make sure you are physically ready before turning on mind over matter.
Once you are there…keep the cranks moving.
What do you think?