Q&A: what regime to follow to regain fitness?

I’m a 62-year-old male who took up cycling when knee and hip problems meant I could no longer play squash and football. I was soon cycling a couple of times a week, and doing greater distances, leading to 100-mile sportives and charity rides.

Unfortunately, at the end of October I had a bad fall from my bike breaking my clavicle in two places and a couple of ribs. After a complicated recovery I was starting to get back until seven weeks ago a severe case of the norovirus laid me really low.

Even worse, two weeks later I was admitted to hospital with painful and swollen joints, which was later diagnosed as ‘reactive arthritis’. I was bed-bound for a week, had two arthroscopies, a number of aspirations, four steroid injections, a variety of drugs/painkillers.

I have been home almost three weeks, have ditched the Zimmer frame, but for the moment I am still using crutches, particularly on the stairs. I start physio next week, but this will concentrate on mobility and flexibility rather than cycling fitness.

What is the best regime for me to follow to regain my fitness?

Mike Holmes

Sounds like you’ve had a rough time! As a veteran, you may be aware of how quickly your muscles can lose mass and strength if not used, so I can understand that you’re keen to begin cycling as soon as possible. Despite not seeming directly related to the bike, the physiotherapy that you’ll be having will be very important and should benefit your cycling.

The NHS advises that the symptoms of reactive arthritis usually improve after three to 12 months, so I would suggest you begin light cycling as soon as your doctor gives you the OK to do so. You should be able to start with very easy 20-minute road rides (or turbo sessions) once or twice a week, and gradually build up by 10 minutes per session per 
week until you’re regularly doing a couple 
of two-hour rides.

At this point I’d introduce some resistance work, either by tackling a hilly route or by using a high resistance setting on your turbo. Choose a session which restricts cadence to 50-70rpm for around a minute, four to six times with eight to 10 minutes of easy riding in-between. It should both strengthen your muscles and replace some of the lost muscle mass.

When undertaking the harder sessions remember to take adequate rest and consider some active recovery, either with a short, easy bike ride or some light stretching and flexibility exercises.  
Rob Mortlock is a BC level 3 coach

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This article was first published in the August 15 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!