The day following ACL/meniscus surgery I was already thinking about when I could ride again. Return to my normal routine on two wheels. A routine that helps to ease the stress of the daily grind, a routine that brings me life from the inside out. I counted the days, set up my bike on the trainer, cleaned and revamped the stable of steel, er carbon horses, kept busy. All to be ready for that first ride outside, the return to nature.
Three weeks after surgery, wilted and a shell of myself, I started sitting on the stationary trainer. Patiently warming up my leg for 5 minutes, rocking it back and forth until I could complete a full pedal rotation. Day by day I got stronger, physically and most importantly mentally. For three weeks I sat there, pumping out 50watts, maxing out my HR at 98bpm, 60 minutes at a time. Thinking about my return to nature, my return to the sun.
Six weeks post op came and went. Had a check up with the doc. "All looks good". "Sweet, thanks for the incite, jackass," I thought. I'm just a number to this surgeon. He has a 7 figure professional athlete in the room next door. Some assistant brought in a new brace, it's an athletic one, so I'm told. It's collecting dust now. For two more weeks I suffered. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but this train was stalled out and low on coal. DOH! I started a more serious training program. That program is saving me.
Teton Consulting took me under their wing and devised a training program that would not only get me fit, but save me from myself. 3-5min on at 200watts, 3min off at 130watts, 4 sets, 40 minutes, 2 times a day for 3 weeks. That was the structure I needed, the sweat I needed, the fatigue that I needed. Riding on the stationary trainer is a very clean way to get fit. The environment is controlled, focusing is straightforward, numbers are easy to watch, zones are easy to hit and maintain. Still, I dreamt of the day when I could get outside, take my training, my life back to nature. When that finally came I would be ready.
Eight and a half weeks post op and I'm cleared to start pedaling outside. Road only, no hills, low torque, no standing.
Rules for riding.
Rules for life.
I don't like rules.
But, I want my knee to heal, so will do as I'm told. Monday was the maiden voyage and the ship sailed. I felt the sun, felt the wind, it almost brought a tear to my eye. I'm pedaling, I'm moving, I'm outside, I'm living again.
Outside, the sun is shining, birds are chirping, but I can't hit the numbers. My progress regresses. The watts are fine, but the fundamentals are suffering. Leg balance is off, torque is high. That rolling hill in the distance is going to make me over compensate with my good leg. My hips are rocking. Being outside is a blessing and a curse. My soul is healing, but riding this way isn't doing my bad leg any favors. If anything, I'm training my good leg to overcompensate, creating uneven and inefficient pedal strokes.
That's where I'm at today, balancing the life of stationary training with the outside passion for adventure. Ride the trainer in the morning, hit my numbers, complete my work out. The afternoon pedal is unstructured, like me. It's freedom to express myself, howl like a wolf as I corner downhill.
My point is that, even if you are a wild savage, a stationary trainer can help you. Stationary trainers feed the numbers, riding outside feeds the soul. Take your pick, or balance both. I still hate the trainer and trainer still hates me. But, two negatives do make a positive.