Return To The Joy Of Cycling
For two years now I’ve been unable to cycle more than a couple of miles, every time I got on my bike it hurt and even those few miles took a week to recover from. I’d tried about 12 physiotherapy sessions last year and while I made some progress an experimental 6 mile ride to Lytham and back quickly undid it.
I was in despair, I’d bought a Brompton which I kept in the boot of my car and used for short exploratory rides a once or twice a week, but such short painful rides were less than satisfying. At my last visit to see my hospital consultant she examined my tendons and pronounced that I desperately needed physio. The physio said that all the tendons in my legs where, inflexible, shortened and inflamed.
The limping shuffle that I often had to revert to in a flare had caused a lot of damage, avoiding challenging my legs was not a good strategy. Where the private physio had prescribed weekly sessions and a single stretch once a day, the NHS guy prescribed monthly sessions and 6 lots stretches, 5 times a day and strengthening exercises too. I had to do these without fail, even when in a flare, and I obeyed. I was even enthusiastic.
After 8 weeks exercise I finally started to see progress, then the physio really went to work on the manipulation, breaking down the tendons, so they could repair more smoothly, wow did that hurt. Twelve weeks on though and I’m cycling 20 miles in a day without much pain, yesterday he said I now had excellent function, but needed to keep up the daily practice.
I’d forgotten how cycling opens up the world for me. It means that I now have a choice of Lytham, Blackpool and Cleveleys as well as St Annes for my morning reading, I can zip around St Annes doing errands, I have more time and more energy and I can eat more food!
There’s little I’ve experienced in my life that’s as uplifting as cycling on a cool, crisp, sunny morning when no one’s about, just me, the bike and the views. I get to experience a level of daily exhilaration that I can otherwise only find walking the hills in the lake district, or the cliffs on the east coast.
Mixing cycling, walking and swimming during the week gives me a whole body workout, but it also aids recovery and lets me adapt to the weather and flares. Having to rely so much on just walking has not been good for me.
I still can’t cycle more than 20 miles a day, but that’s enough for me now, in fact it’s more than enough – it’s wonderful. One of the surprising benefits of my illness is that during a flare I’m forced to adjust to a painful sedentary life, but then as the flare fades away I get to rediscover the joy of pain free movement all over again. It’s well known that we rapidly adjust to the good things in life as they become our new normal, I get to rediscover them many times a year, there really is a silver lining in all those clouds!
The photo is of my beloved Brompton, up against a wall in Nottingham. Keeping my Brompton in the car boot has been a fantastic success, significantly increasing the amount of cycling I do and the amount of time I spend exploring the places I find myself, parked up, with a few minutes to spare.