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05-04-2023 | Hadassah Groenewold

How to deal with an injury?

Every athlete experiences it at some point: you're training nicely, feel the power coming on, set goals and then boom, injury. Let's start by saying that one injury is not like another and thus the course of each injury is always different. For example, you have acute injuries with a clear beginning and a fairly clear end (including scrapes and broken bones) and dormant injuries with a not so clear beginning and unknown end (such as overuse injuries and illness). I'm not a doctor, so I'm not going to comment on what to do, but one thing all injuries have in common: they never come at a good time and they need recovery time (usually too long to everyone's liking).

Injury time

At one point I felt my knee after cycling. I didn't pay much attention to it, after which it only got worse. Within a few weeks, my knee was bothering me so much that I couldn't ride pain-free at all and I felt my knee all day long. And now?

What I have experienced myself (and hear a lot from my fellow cyclists) is that taking adequate recovery time is difficult. Of course, there are exceptions, cyclists who just love not "having" to ride for a while. Cyclists who delight in enjoying their favorite series or picking up another hobby during injury time. I can be jealous of those riders, because all I do in injury time is being fed up. I'm fed up that I have to interrupt my training and thereby lose my accumulated progression (did I train all that time for nothing?). I'm fed up that I can't "just" get on my bike and train what and when I want. I hate the fact that I am in pain (because, oh yes, that is also very annoying). I got all sad because I didn't know when I could just start training and enjoying cycling pain-free again. I started trying to bike too early, which I started to force my knee with. I lost confidence and with it the joy of cycling. When could I "just" ride again? In addition, I worried myself: How is it possible that I have this injury? What have I done wrong? How can I prevent this injury?

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Tips for preventing acute (fall) injuries

Yes, it's an open door, but prevention is better than cure. What should you pay attention to if you want to prevent an injury? First, the tips for the acute (fall) injury:

  • Take part in a cycling clinic, for more control. Actually, everyone who starts cycling should first take a cycling clinic for their own safety and that of fellow road users. You won't be the first to suffer a nasty injury from not being able to brake in time or from insufficient cornering technique. Or crash the entire cycling group due to a steering error. In addition, you feel safer and more confident while cycling if you have a good control of the bike. Win-win!
  • Wear brightly colored and eye-catching clothing for increased visibility in traffic (30% fewer accidents happen in traffic with cyclists wearing eye-catching clothing!). Easy win.
  • Plan your route on low-traffic roads, always ride in the bike lane if there is one, and don't blindly take the right of way even if you have it (you won't win over a car).
  • Mount a rear light with radar, which detects traffic coming from behind. Wind makes it easy to miss the sound of cars, with huge consequences.
  • Make sure your bike is well taken care of. It's kind of sad when you want to brake but your brakes don't work. I once crashed because my chain broke during a sprint.
  • On (serious) descents always descend in the drop bars!
  • Use your mind.


Silent injuries

Then, second, the latent and therefore not so obvious injuries. These are those injuries that have no clear beginning or end.

  • Take pains during and after cycling seriously and stop immediately if the pain score is higher than 6. Don't think "it's not too bad" or "it will go away by itself". It won't, if you don't change anything about your bike and/or training load.
  • Make sure your bike is properly set up, especially when the training load is increased. Cycling three hours a week on a wrongly adjusted bike will probably get you away with it. This becomes different when you start to expand and build up the workload.
  • Build up the training load slowly, using a training schedule or app such as JOIN.cc. In addition, do a serious warm-up and cool-down before and after each workout (ten minutes of cycling in and out of the recovery zone/zone 1).
  • Balance, strength, stretching and core exercises in addition to cycling are advisable. Or just combine cycling with different sports. For example, go swimming or running for variety. This is good for your training progression and helps against keeping things vivid.

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Recovery

When you know what caused your injury, you can work more specifically on your recovery. My injury probably occurred because the saddle of my road bike slowly but surely sagged (I only found this out after measuring it many times). In addition, I had bought a new MTB that I had adjusted "more or less" like my previous MTB (adjusting your bike "more or less" is asking for trouble). So I stepped up my training load on misadjusted bikes.

As I said, I am no doctor, but I would venture to say that there is usually no such thing as a quick fix in finding the solution. I knew this, of course, yet I tried all sorts of things. I went to the physio, did a bike fitting (I should have done this earlier anyway), tried to rest, did exercises (I should have done this earlier as well), massaged, applied (too) expensive ointment, searched the internet for "what to do?" like there was no tomowwor, put a warm hot water bottle on my knee, but in the end all this only made me more restless. I bit my tongue all over "recover as soon as possible!" and went crazy with uncertainty because I didn't know what the course would be.

Naturally, it all helped, or at least didn't make it worse. But looking back on my injury time, I really should have given myself rest more than anything else. Rest to enjoy doing nothing for a while, rest to write blogs, rest to recover. In addition, I should have given myself confidence. Confidence that not all progress and progress would disappear like snow in the sun. Trust that things would work out. Trust in a natural recovery process. Because looking back at my injury time: an injury and not being able to ride a bike is not the end of the world.

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