TCI Friday

I find myself at zero (not Less Than). Three weeks of back spasms. Three weeks of submitting myself to all manner of arcane treatments. Three weeks of couch-bound, heating-pad-attached inactivity. Some time in week two I lost my mind and my ability to keep my foul mood off my family. Fortunately, I got that mess back in the box before it went too far awry, and since then I’ve been tip-toeing up on a glorious return to action.

This morning I rode the trainer, in the basement, for 20 minutes, while blasting the album I’m currently obsessed with. I sweated hard. I huffed and puffed. I felt things. I hate/loved it.

This is the (not) road back to having a functioning back. 20 minutes on the trainer felt pathetic and transcendent at the same time. The next step is, maybe, a gentle road ride to see if I can sit in bike riding position AND absorb any sort of compressive input, i.e. bumps.

Of course, I continue to attend the massage therapist and the acupuncturist, the exorcist and barista. Liberal doses of liberal doses, followed by an ice pack and some stretching. Some yoga might even break out if I’m not careful. I wake stiff (behave) and slowly soften into the day. By the afternoon I feel like a human person. It’s tempting to go out and rage, but mostly I’m just psyched to be able to tie my shoes again without feeling as though I’m being drawn-and-quartered.

I’ll level with you. It’s been a rough six months. Last October I got a case of diverticulitis. In November I copped Lyme Disease. For my 50th birthday, in December, I got Covid which ate the first two weeks of January. February was shaping up, but then I wrecked my back in March. Like John and Yoko said, it feels just like starting over, and over, and over.

It’s possible (likely even) I’m doing it wrong. That IS kinda my signature move. So I put it to you for this humble TCI Friday, how do you come back from injury or illness? Do you have some sort of recipe? Are there special foods or secret handshakes? Clue me in. Please.

Join the conversation
  1. jlaudolff says

    We have so many charities for funding research to cure various diseases, but what about lower back pain? Seems like there is a hole in medical science there. Yoga, walking, and not sitting in a desk chair for too long are what have worked for me in the past. Good luck on the road back to health.

  2. TominAlbany says

    I’m sorry, John. I’m not the guy with advice. My back has bothered me, of and on, for the better part of ten years. It’s rarely immobilizing (thankfully!) so, I ‘power through’ and keep going. I went to PT once for a while. It didn’t help. Or, maybe, I didn’t help. I try to stretch more than I used to. I try to maintain with weights in the ‘off’ season. But still, it persists.

    I wish you the best of luck and, if you figure it out, let me know the trick!

  3. albanybenn says

    In my late 20’s while I suffered from frequent back spasms, I was hit by a car while commuting on my motorcycle. Cured the back issue, 40 years on I am still leary of 4 way interesections!

  4. alanm9 says

    Totally feeling your pain. Assuming you’ve been checked out and there’s nothing like a cracked vertebrae or bulging disc, I just throw everything at it; ice, heat, stretching, motrin and tylenol (you can alternate these every 2 hours), massage; you know the drill. Never narcotics though; they just make me feel worse.

  5. Balky says

    You and I are close in age and a few years ago I experienced what sounds eerily similar to what you’re going through. Of course, I can’t be sure it’s exactly the same injury and all bodies are different but here’s some things that got me through. Firstly, do as your medical pros tell you and don’t be tempted to start riding again too soon and definitely not riding hard – a relapse would likely be significantly worse. I kept off the bike for four months and started riding at maybe 75% after six months. A physiotherapist showed me how to alter my stretching routine to target hammies, glutes and lower back which I still keep up now. Ask someone who knows if something similar is suitable for you. Maybe it won’t be straight away but there’s a fair chance very regular stretching will become a permanent fixture of your routine at some point. I was also told to fortify myself once I was better by strengthening my core. Simple stuff like like crunches, push ups and glute strengthening exercises. Apparently and ironically, we cyclists are prone to having weak glutes which make these injuries more likely. These exercises all helped me a ton and I also keep them up now. Again though, ask a pro for specifics for your situation. I consider my recovery complete now and my riding is back to maybe 90% strength compared to pre-injury. I’m happy with this and I tend to listen carefully to my body now for when it might be at its limit and I don’t go beyond that limit. Potentially being forced to stay off the bike permanently due to further injury caused by pushing myself too much is a nightmare scenario for me so slowing down a little is a good trade-off. My riding style has changed from performance oriented to being oriented around the experiences I have on my rides – things I see, people I meet, what other activities I can combine with my rides, etc. I’m also happy with this because it has put a different perspective on riding and made it new again in many ways. A new chapter. Again though, all bodies are different and maybe you’ll get back to full strength quickly. I hope you do and that this writing is of some use.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @Balky – Thanks for this. We’re going to talk about some of it on the Paceline this week. Your advice feels solid. The only challenge is that my brain is soft and I might be what the medical profession calls a “non-compliant patient.” I’m working on that, but there is a lot of reprogramming involved.

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