The Long Run

As much as I like to dictate to my body what it should do, as I get older I’m noticing it doesn’t always want to cooperate the way it used to. Last year, I rode myself into a serious case of tendonitis in my knee that limited my on-bike time for a few months. It was a classic case of mind versus body, with the body eventually having the final word and saying “enough”.

It was a classic case of mind versus body, with the body eventually having the final word and saying “enough”.

With the help of a good physical therapist and a wonderful wife that reminded me on a daily basis to not push too hard, I eventually healed up and I’ve had a few months of relatively pain-free riding… until this week. I’m not sure when it began, but somewhere along the way I started riding harder and started taking fewer rest days off the bike. On top of it, I fell back into my old habit of ignoring my body’s signals, and when my knee started getting sore a couple of weeks ago, I looked the other way and convinced myself one or two days off the bike would be enough. Well, it wasn’t.

To make a long story short, I ended up laid-up over the weekend, off the bike again, and sorely P.O.’d at myself for making the same mistake that I made just last year.

The good news is that I now have more weapons to combat my knee pain in the form of stretching and strengthening exercises picked up from my physical therapy sessions last year. Even though the pain for the first couple of days was as bad as last time around, I’m recovering much more quickly and I’m already back to walking a fair distance every day. I should be back on the bike within a week if things continue to progress along at this pace.

This recent episode got me questioning why it happened again and what I might learn from the experience. Why can’t I slow down and take a break when I should? Why do I have to push my body to the point of injury before I can excuse myself for taking day off?

The reason, of course, is this commitment I’ve made to myself, this—I hate to say it—obsession with minimizing my car-time and getting where I need to go using as little energy as possible. And the solution to my problem, of course, is a little moderation. I need to ease up and take a few rest days if my body is hurting. I need to not mentally beat myself up for “wimping out” and accepting a lift to the train station. I need to give myself permission to conserve my body so I can keep doing this until I’m 90 years old. And most importantly, I need to remember that it’s not what happens this week or the next, but what happens over the long run, that really counts.

13 Responses to “The Long Run”

  • Ows says:

    Get well soon, Alan. Or as we say here in Wales, “Brysia wella!”

  • Elisa M says:

    I find myself having this battle with myself pretty regularly. I am only 30, but often my body feels much older when I push it up the hills with complete disregard to the screaming pain in my knees that was just a dull ache days before…when I should have taken a break. Learning to listen to our bodies and accept their limitations is…well, a pain in the ass! (or knee)
    thanks for posting about it

  • Croupier says:

    Take care, Alan. Everything in moderation.

  • charles says:

    Well Alan……………it doesn’t get any better at the age of 50! I have found that I have to take it down a notch or two when riding and especially in cold weather, I must dress warm enough.
    Riding the other day in the low 30’s I had on my wool tights under my Riv MUSA pants and I was still a little cold for the first few miles. My recumbent with a front fairing ( I need one) is looking better all the time for cold days and a change in position for the old leg muscles.

  • Duncan Watson says:

    Alan,

    I too have similar issues, some for me is fit (of the bike), others are stretching and the last part is the body signals. I find that if I take even a few minute break at various points on longer rides I can avoid causing issues. Once you have recovered again, maybe going a bit slower and stopping every once in a while will still allow you to ride and avoid the car use.

    I wish you the best of luck in your recovery and hope you find a path through this that avoids chronic injury.

  • WestfieldWanderers says:

    Little and often seems to be to answer. As one who qualified for a bus pass in 2008, I have yet to suffer (touch wood) any serious ageing effects. I repeat…YET.

  • Timmy Mac says:

    Alan,

    Yours is the voice of reason I’ve been needing. I’ve had a weird pain in my knee lately, and while common sense would dictate checking with a doctor and maybe easing off on the cycling and spin classes, I’ve been trying to ignore it and hope it goes away.

    Your post is a wake up call for me. Thanks.

  • Dale says:

    Alan,

    Chill out Dude, you’re stressing yourself. “Stress” is the single most factor behind ANY physical anomaly.

    The infinitely intelligent creative Force(s) of the universe made us PERFECT and made us to last hundreds, (if not thousands), of years – if we just don’t screw it up by stressing ourself.

    You can’t really believe medical doctors either, (or trust what they say), because they are only ‘physical’ scientists and scientists are ALWAYS proving themselves WRONG by making NEW discoveries.

    So just stay in touch with your own Source & Center, (most easily and effectively accomplished by Meditation), BELIEVE in ‘good health & well being’, and don’t stress yourself by attempting to force Life – one way or the other and you’ll be the “perfect” being, in every sense, which you were made to be.

    :- ) :- ) :- )

  • Alex says:

    Can you describe some of the stretches and exercises that your PT has you doing? My knee is exactly the same.

  • james o. says:

    Hey Alan,

    Have you considered wearing a knee brace while you ride? I know that it will only mask the pain and that you will need good PT and / or surgery to really correct it, but maybe it would help alleviate some pain. I’m going through a similar knee hell due to patellar dislocation / pain, and my orthopedist gave me a good brace that seems to help off the bike. I’m thinking of trying to use it on the bike, with my PT’s blessing of course.

    Best,

    James

  • Alan says:

    Thanks to everyone for the well wishes, and to those who are struggling with similar issues, get well soon.

    Alex – it’s hard to describe the stretches, but there are some good ones here that might be helpful: http://howtostretch.com/

    James – I haven’t tried a brace, though I know someone who has had some success using a patella strap: http://www.kneesupport.com/straps/index.htm Understand that I’m in no position to recommend or even comment on the use of a strap, just passing along something you might bring up with your PT. Best of luck.

    Alan

  • Julian Smith says:

    I’ve been using knee braces for several years. What works best for me (not necessarily you) is urethane material that provides warmth and flexibility, and an open knee area. I suspect most of the benefit is in the warmth. I believe that it prevents pain rather than masking it. Search online rather than in individual shops. You might find that you only need to wear them for the 1st half-hour, until you really warm up.

    Again, another simple solution is Kneesavers http://www.kneesaver.net/ They might help your particular problem, but even if not, they are relatively cheap.

    Julian

  • Scott Wayland says:

    Hey, Alan: Dang, can I sympathize. I’ve had various such battles, and these began when I was in my early twenties and pulled a tendon in my fingers while rock climbing. Seems like I’m always dealing with something.

    Currently I’ve developed a case of Achilles tendonitis. And it’s come on at a bad time when I’m trying to get a youth bike touring club started. Double damn. I’m laying off this next week. I just hope this isn’t a case that takes months to overcome!

    Cheers (?),

    Scott

 
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