Someone posed this question to Google to get to my site: “I have been off my bike for 15 months how long until I am back in shape”?
The irony is thick. I just found out that a very good blog friend of mine is just starting what one hopes will be a short journey back from some time off.
Here’s my opinion, and it follows the same line as a post that I wrote the other day. Recovering from time off is all about frequency and intensity within the body’s ability to cope with the workload. The harder I work, the faster I come back.
Cycling is an awesome sport that way. I am in no way subject to the same rules as I am with running when it comes to increasing distance. I can increase almost with impunity at this point. F or instance, every ride I went on between March and July, except two, was between 10 and 35 miles. Yet because (I believe) I ride every day, I jumped into centuries as if I never missed a beat from last season – and I’m riding a lot more of them, faster and with less recovery time in between. Last August I rode two. I had two in by the 11th this August and I’ve got another next weekend. In other words, it’s been my experience that it’s a lot easier to increase my miles on a dime. Another example, last month I rode 487 miles. This month I’m on pace for about 820 give or take (I’ll probably end up with around 720 though) – I’ll increase my miles almost 70% month over month (68.378% to be exact). The one caveat here is that I’m already in great shape. Increases won’t hurt the same as they would if I were not, so caution would be advised. Either way, the 10% rule for running obviously doesn’t apply to cycling (or maybe I’m a super hero cyclist and the laws of physics and fitness do not apply to me).
Now, recovery from an injury would probably be a different story, though I’m guessing here… Since I’ve perfected my bike setup I haven’t been close to an injury, overuse or otherwise.
Now this is the important point: 90% of all of cycling is mental. So is the other 10%, as I try to increase my ability to enjoy suffering while increasing my speed (but that’s another post entirely). Even though I have to do the work to get back, mentally I know I can take the work so 75% of that 90% plus the other 10% is replaced by confidence (dude, if you’re not laughing, you didn’t read that last few sentences properly, I don’t even know if the equation is possible). We would also have to take into account the lack of confidence attributed to whether or not the injury is healed. Any athlete or fitness buff whose had to take time off for an injury knows it sucks and you can’t wait to get back and then once you finally can start back you’re scared as hell that you’ll hurt yourself again. So I usually figure a couple of slower weeks after I’m good to return just to make sure I don’t have any problems or setbacks. Then I’ll slowly increase intensity for another couple of weeks to make sure I still don’t have any problems… If everything checks out from that point, it’s on.
Sadly, all injuries are not created equal. Some obviously take a lot longer to come back from than others and a doctor should always be a part of the process of coming back.
Now, there is one thing that bugs the ever-loving hell out of me and I’d be remise for leaving it out… If I had a dollar for every time someone used a hangnail (or something close to it) as an excuse to relapse into their sedentary lifestyle (or better yet, stay in that lifestyle while giving the impression that they’re actually doing something), I’d be writing this post on a beach somewhere. If I had another buck for every time someone has said that they would be back but the recovery hurts and the doctor was wrong to tell them to come back too early, I’d have a permanent home on that beach. There are hundreds of injuries that require movement in order to aid the recovery and in those cases, if one takes it too easy the recovery process becomes even more painful and slow. Take the ever popular plantaris muscle strain with the minimalist running craze. I’ve heard of people taking two or three weeks off for that. My doctor had me back on a bike immediately, followed by jogging/running in two days. In less than a week I was pain-free, running and cycling. In those cases where people took time off, it took them (up to) months to get back. Now granted, we could be talking about varying degrees of the strain (the three other instances were all described as strains, not tears), but I highly doubt it – imao. The point here is this: I specifically pick out the tough doctors that will get me back on my feet as soon as humanly possible, pain or no (and let me tell you, cycling with a strained plantaris is no walk in the park) because I want someone I can trust if I run into something that really does require rest.
So, the question is how fast will it take me to get back after a year and a quarter on the couch? I have no clue. It depends on how much heart and ass you put into it. If you take it easy and slack every chance you get, it’s going to take forever and a day. If you devote yourself to coming back and really work at it? As fast as three to six months. It’s up to each individual to move his or her ass. The real question is how bad do I want it… Now that’s a fun one to play with.