Q&A: Rehabilitation, when to get back on the bike

Hi, I’m a 49-year-old cyclist who races in both local and national events.

I recently had a very bad crash (eight broken ribs, punctured lung and a dislocated shoulder) and I’m currently in week two of my recovery but I’m already (partly due to the fact I heal really fast) thinking about returning to training in readiness for the first race of 2013 in March.

In the high dependency unit my consultants all took part in extreme sports to quite a serious level so were able to tell me about bone density and that I need to stay off a bike for about six weeks, then just to use a turbo or a gym bike while using weights to rebuild my leg muscles.

Good though this advice was it was nonetheless vague, so I just wondered if you know of any books or training plans that I can get to guide me through my recovery.

Nigel Moore

, email.

Nigel, While it’s certainly a good idea to have a return to racing as a goal to help your recovery – and goals should always be time-phased – in this instance putting a date on your first race before you’re even a couple of weeks into your rehab could be a little risky.

All too often we see riders fail to make a return to full fitness, and consequently suffer more long-term repercussions because they return too soon and neglect their physiotherapy. So my advice would be to reschedule slightly and work with your consultants on the six-week rehab plan before you even start looking at the calendar
Secondly, as coaches we try to instill in our riders that everything has a positive – even periods off the road due to illness and injury.

Your specialists’ reference to bone density issues is a common concern for riders of your age as it deteriorates in extended periods of inactivity as we approach 50. The low impact nature of cycling doesn’t effectively address this issue so a little strength training is not only essential for your rehab but will help attenuate this problem and keep you racing stronger for longer.

So use this period as a chance to instigate a regular strength routine into your programme. Don’t look for books or off the peg training plans for help in this area as the advice will be too general. There’s a principle of conditioning called ‘individuality’ which describes the fact that everyone reacts differently to training stimulus, and given the nature of your very specific demands following your injuries, you need something targeting your particular needs. So seek out a strength and conditioning expert to work in tandem with advice from your consultants.

Finally, don’t consider your indoor training options as inferior. Used properly, turbo trainers and rollers are a very effective way of training and we often see riders perform better than ever when returning from enforced periods of indoor training as it demands some structure – often previously missing in the rider’s programme.

Huw Williams British Cycling Level Three Coach

This article was first published in the December 6 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio and download from the Apple store.