By Heather Pardon
If you had to make the choice between spending time on crutches or spending time in the saddle, I’m going to take a guess that you’d prefer to spend time in the saddle.
You’re a cyclist, so that makes sense. You love to ride your bicycle. For fitness, for friendship, for challenge, for the fun and freedom to enjoy and explore in the great outdoors. For many of us cycling also provides a great escape from the usual demands of our daily life so if we need to spend time out of the saddle, due to injury or otherwise, it can be present a challenge for us. When you are used to keeping active, “enforced” time to rest may not be a welcome prescription.
I am an avid cyclist too. I like to spin indoors in the winter and get outside in the summer on either my road or mountain bike. A lateral interaction with an exuberantly playful golden retriever completely tore my acl years ago. Last summer, I also tore my mcl while out mountain biking which meant I could delay surgery no longer (acl is the anterior cruciate ligament and mcl is the medial collateral ligament, both of which are critical to the stability of the knee joint). My surgery was scheduled for this past February.
I have a fair number of active, cycling friends who also know how much I enjoy my cycling and keeping active. Many kindly offered their “condolences” at my enforced time off with comments such as, “oh, poor you” or “how awful”; others focussed on the fact that I would come out of it all with renewed strength and a fully functional knee — “how great that you’ll have a brand, new knee!”. I recognized that I had a choice as to which perspective I wished to take as I rehabilitated.
What I’d like to offer you are a few tips from someone who’s been sidelined by injury and surgery on a few occasions over the years, that might help you keep things positive if or when you are ever injured.
- Accept the injury for what it is. You cannot turn back time and change the fact that you have broken a bone or torn a ligament or whatever the case may be. For those of us who engage in sports, the chances are pretty good that, at one point in time, we’ll suffer an injury that sidelines us for a while. Accept the injury and don’t blame yourself or ask “what if?” type questions. Move forwards and begin to focus on healing.
- Use your healing time effectively. Time spent in the saddle means time not spent doing other things in life. Use this spare time in a positive way – catch up with friends, do some reading, or those things you’ve “always been meaning to do” but never have gotten around to. This is a great way to lend some balance to your life.
- Find the gift in your situation. I do believe that every life experience offers us a gift, a positive learning opportunity. After spending a few weeks in crutches and gradually regaining my mobility, I have new found respect for those who face disability on a daily basis. My time spent on the couch and on crutches was nothing compared to what many others face. The ability to walk, move, drive and eventually return to cycling is a blessed thing.
- Do your prescribed physio! One of the best things you can do for yourself is follow your physio protocol. Doing your physio faithfully will not only ensure proper healing, it will also leave you feeling that you are doing something, some form of exercise. And taking steps forward. Focus on where you are going (healing and a stronger you) rather than on where you’ve been (injured).
- Find other ways to satisfy your need to exercise. I do also believe that there is always something you can do, you just have to find the way. During the early days after my surgery, in addition to doing my physio exercises, I was able to do a few upper body and core exercises as well to help myself feel better and maintain my base level of fitness. Just be sure to talk to your physiotherapist about your particular situation and what is safe and appropriate for you.
- Make the choice to see the positive. We choose our attitude towards life each and every day. Make your choice a positive one and you well feel much better about your situation. Dwelling on the negative ex. “this injury is a real drag” only keeps you stuck in that mindset of feeling badly about your situation. Also be sure to check your self-talk. I learned early on to stop saying “I’m so out of shape” and instead to saying “I’m on my way to being in my best shape ever”. Remember, your thoughts create your reality and your experience.
I am now 4 months away from my surgery and am happy to say I have just returned from a 50 km ride and feel fantastic and strong. Looking back I would say that the time has passed relatively quickly. Time does heal and allow us to get back to where we wish to be, in the saddle. As with any obstacle or challenge in life, I always like to remind myself that “this too shall pass”. And it always does. As it will for you too.
Heather Pardon is an Ottawa-based author, personal trainer and life coach and avid cyclist. She has been a member of the FlyGurlz Women’s Mountain Bike Team for the past 12 years, also enjoys road riding and aspires to become an accomplished unicycle rider once her knee is fully healed. She is spending the summer travelling across Canada with her RV and bicycle in tow. You can visit her website and blog at www.wilddaisy.ca