"Consistency," says my friend, FatBacon VanderMark. "That's the key."
And he's right.
There's been no consistency during the last month - for good reason - but that's changing.
Every time I asked the orthopedist about how long it would take to really recover from my foot surgery - the one that put more stainless and Ti into my toe than the rear subframe of my Moots - he just threw his head back and laughed his ass off, like a donkey on Nitrous.
Now I get it.
When last we met... I was stoked about doing a couple short, token bike rides. It was really hard though because I couldn't fit my mucked up feet into my regular bike shoes.
In addition to putting on 20 pounds of high grade, Chesapeake Bay Region Lard, the feet themselves adapted to using crutches and surgical shoes and I now have these immense, almost bony muscular bits just behind and above the arches on both feet.
This makes it damn tough to get into normal bike shoes, and between that and some residual post-surgical swelling in the right foot ("Takes up to a year to go away... ha ha ha eeeee-awwwww-eeeee-aaaaw") this messed up my ride plans.
Then there's the mostly atrophied right leg. All the muscle didn't disappear. Just most of it. So I now have the right leg of a 170 pound non-cyclist. A hairy ass 170 pound non-cyclist.
There's also major creaking in the knee and hip joints. They just aren't used to moving. When it became clear that the foot wasn't going to heal right unless I really immobilized it for 4.5 months... I truly immobilized myself. So the range of motion sucks, the tendons are tight, everything.
The last month has largely been about learning to walk right again. I'd love to have been straight back onto the bike knocking out miles. But it wasn't to be and to try to push myself in that direction would have been foolhardy.
You know how stupid I would have felt, to have pushed myself straight into knee surgery and another 4 months off, by forcing the matter? Well, I don't know how stupid I'd have felt, but "very freaking" is probably at least one of the right adjectives for that stupidity.
There was a breakthrough late last week though. I got into my proper bike shoes. Perhaps the effect was as much psychological as physical, but I got right onto the bike that very morning - last Friday - and knocked out an awesome road training ride.
Okay, it was less than awesome. It was merely pretty nice. And it wasn't Some High Intensity Training (SHIT). It was low intensity training, small ring, high-ish cadence spinning for about 9 miles. But it was doing it the right way, baby steps in the right direction, and it felt good.
On Saturday, I hit Rosaryville on the Redline Singlespeed with my kid. He's still in Lacrosse shape which means he can't pedal for love or money right now, so in spite of him being in good shape, I was able to pedal away pretty hard up the hills, then relax at the top (translation: cough my stomach up through my throat, inside-out, starfish-styley) and let him catch up. Then we'd cruise away. Once the knees and hips loosened up, that was fun.
Today, I kicked the morning off with about 15 miles, again with the high cadence, low speed method. It was not comfortable but it was not hard, and the improvement from Friday was easily noticeable. The side benefit is that my legs feel a lot better during the day after a ride, the stiff feet and ankles are loose, the knee and hip joints are loose, and my feet do not swell while piloting my chair at work. And my attitude does not suck. *Everything* is better if I ride.
And that makes three days out of five, if you're scoring at home.
I think tomorrow I may hit the dirt at Rosey on the way into work. 75-80 minutes of mostly easy cruising, hills notwithstanding, would feel good. It'd be a hard-ish workout in terms of effects on my legs, and I could follow it up Thursday with a nice easy, early morning spin.
While consistency is the key to working back into shape, Mr. FatBacon didn't mention the other side of it. It's a real morale booster too. What seems like an enormous, impossible mountain to climb, actually moves along underfoot at quite a clip, thanks to the noticeable improvement.
Consistency breeds a sort of momentum, so that once you are in the habit of doing the right thing, it becomes hard to break. It's... inertia. People forget that inertia just means a tendency not to change your energy state. If you're at rest, inertia means it's damn hard to get going. If you're rolling, it's damn hard to slow you down.
Consistency: it's the nicer neighborhood in Inertiaville.