There is a part of me that does not want to write on this subject. It’s not that I’m embarrassed that I hurt, feel it’s unmanly to admit it or think people don’t care. As an ambassador for all things bike I really do not want to put anything out there that is a negative reflection on riding, and the occasional (perhaps daily) truth is that riding a bike can beat your body. As with any pain in life you can learn from it and become strong, or let it own you.
Years of riding have allowed me to become familiar with the “normal” gripes my body has. Each ride starts with pain. It almost always starts in my shoulder and then moves to my knee, groin, or lower right back. Occasionally I have some issues in my Achilles or foot. Just for good measure and equally annoying itch from my kit or feeling the helmet is too tight or loose or pressing mercilessly on my head. I do not think I have ever been on a ride where some of these do not happen.
What an amazing testimonial for getting on a bike. If that was the end of the story I’m sure I would have abandoned the bike years ago. However, I discovered something along the way. Almost every pain is mental. If I keep spinning and don’t think about it, it goes away. Yes, it is often immediately replaced with one of the other woeful feelings, but that also soon disappears. Some rides it is only 5-10 minutes to work through the issues, other days it seems to last over an hour. If I ride for over an hour, I will hit a stretch where the only issues are my lungs burning from the effort or my legs searing in pain. Even when that happens if I switch gears I can often move the sensation to another muscle group.
It has almost become a game for me. OK, this is no fun, lets see if I can make something else hurt that will be a little easy to deal with. One of the great joys of riding a bike is the ability to learn how much your body can endure. When new to the sport it is often difficult to tell the difference between being sore and being in pain. If your body is anything like mine there are all sorts of parts that I “feel”.
I would not recommend pushing hard through everything. I’ve been down that road this year. During the 24 hours in the Old Pueblo I had a new sensation in my Achilles. It was a strain I had never felt before and I ignored it for the race and paid for it for months to come. At the time I was riding every day and was unwilling to take any time off. My take away is that if you have known pain, and have worked it out before, you are likely able to do so on each ride. If I discover completely new sensations, I will back off. It is a balancing act as my mind likes to do whatever it can to slow me down and learning the difference takes time and an understanding and study of your body.
The best tricks I have learned for breaking through the pain barrier is to be one with the pain, breath deep into the area of discomfort and be active. If you resist the pain it only will become stronger. Allow it to flow through you and move onto the next and hopefully less annoying pain. Deep breathing through the nose with the mouth closed while focusing on the area that is bothersome is how I work through most pain. Feel it in the abdomen as the chest should not distend on inhale. In your minds eye focus on the pain, see the air entering the area and releasing the pain like a cool breeze blowing the irritation away. Above all, stay active. It is far better to be sore than in pain.
This post is the result of watching my son, Samuel, ride through a Migrane for 20 plus miles during a team practice. As we were ending the ride and he said it was by far the worst experience he has experienced on a bike. I said, “the only good thing I can say at this time is if you are able to push through this, there is really no limit to what you can do”. On the next ride, and every practice since, he has been a completely different rider. He has been staying with the team and even pushing the pace on Mt. Lemmon and A Mountain. He said to me on one ride as our lungs and legs were searing”Papa, after experienceing that pain, I know what I’m dealing with now is temporary”.