Coping with a Cycling Injury.

I’ve spoken plenty of times about fracturing my Clavicle last December. For anyone who hasn’t read this blog before, I didn’t see a pothole whilst out on a social ride. The next thing I can remember is waking up in a hedge on the other side of the road a few minutes later. My injury required surgery, I was off the bike for a total of eight weeks. In short, I have  first hand experience of the highs and lows that injury and subsequent recovery can bring.

It is a sad inevitability that you will crash at some point during your Cycling career. Most of the time you’ll be fine after a few days, but if you do incur a more serious injury the recovery can be both long and painful. Here are my top tips on how to get to the other side

  1. Don’t be a hero – listen to the Doctor.

The single worst thing you can do is to try and force recovery or return to training too early. This could lead to a much longer total recovery time. Listen to advice and stick to the rehab guidelines you are given. Much better to have eight weeks off the bike than try to return after four, suffer a recurrence of the injury and have to avoid riding for another three months.

If you need painkillers to sleep through the night in the first few days after injury – take them, you’ll sleep better and recover faster. No point in going through unnecessary pain, suffering on the bike is one thing but this is another.

2. Don’t beat yourself up.

Yes, if you’d done things differently you wouldn’t have gotten injured. Ultimately you didn’t – no point in worrying about it now. For me, thinking extensively about all the what-ifs lead to anxiety, stress and a pretty terrible mood. These will all be detrimental to your recovery, not to mention the strain placed on family and friends.

We are all human, mistakes are going to be made. If the injury was directly your fault (which is actually fairly unlikely), forgive yourself for it and move on. Remember, it could be much worse – some people crash and don’t survive.

3. Use goal setting.

I went into some more detail on why this strategy works and how to use it effectively in my post on Mental Skills for Bike Racing, click here to read it. Breaking the recovery process down into smaller steps and setting achievable goals can make it seem less overwhelming. Just be sure that your goals fit in with any rehab instructions you have been given.

When I was first injured, eight weeks seemed like a massive space of time to be off the bike. I learned to think only in terms of the next few days; trying to achieve a given goal, rewarding myself when it was done and then moving onto the next step. For example in week three my main goal was to start exercising properly again in the form of running. I still had some pain in my shoulder and this was easier said than done. I had of course checked with a Doctor that light running wouldn’t harm my recovery.

I felt much better for doing the exercise, it got me out of the door again and made me feel more in control. As time went on I gradually returned to training, rewarding myself for the making steady progress and looking back on how far I had come rather than how far I had to go.

4. Occupy yourself – make use good use of the time.

You’ll find that being unable to ride leaves you with a massive amount of free time. Boredom can be real enemy, leaving you lots of time to think about being injured and feel sorry for yourself. If you have any other hobbies, now is the time to get more into them – if not, find one fast. You can turn this newfound time to your advantage.

I occupied my lay-off time by reading training manuals, trying to work out how to avoid past mistakes and make myself faster upon returning to the sport. The knowledge I gained during those two months was instrumental in what was to eventually turn into a successful Racing Season. In fact it was what got me interested in the field of Sports Science, prompting me to apply for a degree therein. You never know.

5.Watch what you eat.

In the absence of training, it can be very easy to let good dietary habits slide. I often  found myself reaching for the cookie jar out of boredom. With no events on the calendar, there wasn’t much of an incentive to keep my weight down. I had to work hard to lose what I had put on when I did make a return to Cycling, ideally this time would have been devoted to putting on muscle and gaining power rather than losing weight. Sadly, the latter was a necessity.

It goes without saying that eating unhealthily, or simply too much will be detrimental to both your recovery and future performance on the bike. You will have to cope with hunger in the first couple of weeks following injury, your body is used to eating a certain amount and having less will leave you feeling unsatisfied to start with. Again, goal setting can be a useful tool here.

6. Plan a Comeback.

Ok, this does tie in somewhat with the last two points but it is useful nonetheless. It will make it easier to comply with rehab and be sensible with your diet if there is a real incentive at the end. After a long lay off and consequent loss of fitness, it can be tempting to simply not return to Cycling. Speaking from experience, you start to get used to the more sedentary lifestyle and entering back into a training regime can seem daunting.

I’d put off making an appearance in the Racing world and may well have done so for another season it it hadn’t been for getting injured. It was entering a Road Race that got me through those first few hard sessions and made me stick to a proper plan.

7) Buy a new Bike

On a less serious note – there is never a better time to acquire a new machine. You’ll want to ride it, giving you something to look forward to during the recovery process. Your significant other will likely be feeling very generous and sympathetic, more receptive to an expensive suggestion.

It may be that your old machine was written off at the point of injury. Leaving you with no choice but to invest in a new one – and of course an upgraded model may in fact be better value in the long term. Every cloud and all that.

For today, I’ll finish with this. At the time, getting injured seemed like the end of the world – in fact for me it was a blessing in disguise, this blog would have never come about otherwise. As ever, stay tuned.


2 thoughts on “Coping with a Cycling Injury.

  1. A few years ago I injured myself pretty badly and I was unable to ride for about a year. Sucked so badly!

    I found what helped me most was doing exercises and physio. I’m not sure if it even helped the recovery that much, but it gave me back a sense of control.

    I found this to be a great thing after spending so long feeling powerless.

    Great tips mate

    1. Thanks – glad you liked the post. Injury is horrible, no doubt about that. Hate not being able to ride my bike & suddenly having to rely on others so much – nightmare!

Leave a Reply