How to recover from cycling injury
Crashing is unfortunately just a part of cycling that has to be accepted. You'd be hard-pressed to find a rider in the pro ranks who has not had a brush with tarmac, wet, dry, or pot-holed. The big difference between pros and lowly amateurs is their ability to dedicate time and resources solely to bouncing back and pinning race numbers on again as soon as possible. So, before we get into our top recovery tips, it's important not to get your hopes up about returning to top form as quick as Mat Hayman did in time for Paris-Roubaix, unless you plan on employing a team of nutritionists, physiotherapists, trainers and a doppelgÃ¤nger to cover you at work…
Give Yourself Time
As cyclists, our first crash is a painful rite of passage. Before the first time, you know it is inevitable, and after the fact, you start to feel like you're getting there; you're pretty much an experienced cyclist now. But the major challenge comes in the first few weeks of recovery. Even if you've just lost a little bit of skin, don't expect your body to be willing to get straight back on the bike for a six-hour slog. Yes, I know the pros do it all the time, but they get paid to put themselves through pain. It is so important to give your head and your newly grated skin time to start the healing process before progressing towards full recovery.
Follow Medical Advice
If you have managed to injure yourself more seriously than a simple - yet painful - skid of road rash, then you're going to have to follow your doctor's advice. If they say, "no riding for six weeks", then you should not be riding for six weeks. If they say, "just try half an hour and then slowly add ten minutes every couple of days", then listen to them. If they tell you to do your physio every day then, you've guessed it.
Don't Beat Yourself Up
The more you ride a bike, the more you learn that it is a sport which is one part physical strength and three parts mental resilience. The cyclist's proclivity for burying themselves in the red on a daily basis is something we all learn eventually, and when it finally clicks, our ability gets a significant upgrade. But when your body takes a hit, your mind follows. It's easy to overanalyse and beat yourself up when time spent with your bike is limited to staring longingly at its clean lines and sparkling components. Look after your head by making a clear plan for your Valverde-like return and try to enjoy the time spent with your feet up. It doesn't happen very often.
While it is difficult to prevent crashing given there is so much luck involved, muscle strain injuries can almost always be prevented if you look after your body. No matter how long you are riding, it's important to hydrate properly, eat healthily and rest well. To more thoroughly defend yourself against injury, particularly where back and knee pain are concerned, you could consider a bike fit during which a technician will assess your riding style and adjust it accordingly.
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