Q&A: Recovery after major operation

I have just had a major operation: the removal of my gall bladder and reconstruction of my bile duct.

I have not ridden my bike for two months and another two months will pass before I can take up the bike again. I am hoping to do a 60-mile charity ride on in May 2013 and would appreciate any advice on returning to some sort of fitness.

My leg muscles seem to be disappearing!

By the way, I am 74 and weigh 60 kilos and on a normal week was averaging 150 miles.

J. Finlay

Firstly, as I say to all riders following any kind of medical procedure, your doctor’s guidance is paramount.

You might be able to begin extended walking exercises and strength exercises either at home or in the gym some time before you are allowed to get back on the bike and this will greatly attenuate any leg muscle wastage.

On a more general note, it’s a good idea to include a twice-weekly strength session into your fitness regime when you get back on the bike. Muscle deterioration, selective nerve death and many other unwanted effects of aging that compromise cycling performance can be much more widely reduced by spending time in the gym than sticking solely to the bike.

If you were riding around 150 miles per week then you clearly had no issues with endurance so add some strength work and you’ll continue to enjoy your riding well into your senior years.

As far as your target of the 60-mile charity ride in May goes, if you have been given a start date of December 1, then you have in the region of 20 weeks to prepare, so don’t make things anything more complicated than breaking that time down into manageable targets.

Sixty miles divided by 20 is simply three miles per week. Which in plain English means you need to add as little as three miles per week to your rides in order to build up to 60 miles. It’s as straightforward as that. Clearly for someone who is used to riding 150 miles in a week this target is very modest even if you’re starting from scratch following an operation.

So on your return, start by setting yourself a target of one long ride every weekend and as many short rides as you can fit in during the week. In the long rides build up to event distance by gradually adding miles.

In the shorter sessions focus more on slightly higher intensities, riding hill intervals and doing some big gear work to improve your strength. Add to that some general strength training in the gym and you’ll be back up to speed in no time.

Huw Williams is a British Cycling Level 3 coach

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