Take your ego out of recovery.
A pulled hamstring has put a damper on my return to mountain biking this season. I can spin quite nicely, but don’t have the push or power to keep up with my usual riding buddies.
Falling off the back of the pack is discouraging — and I don’t want to be slowing my friends down on a regular basis. So here are some coping strategies I’ve come up with to boost my morale and maintain my friendships as healing takes place.
#1 Keep it Long Term & Positive
Keeping a long term perspective is essential to recovery. It has to take priority over the desire to keep up.
When I’m in the back of the pack, my inner critic sometimes says, “I suck.” I combat the negativity by reminding myself that I don’t suck — I’m injured and lucky to be out on the trail, even in a diminished capacity. I ride slower but can still ride. Comparing this year’s abilities to last year’s isn’t helpful.
#2: Speak Up & Set an Expectation
I don’t belabor the point, but at the ride start I remind my friends that I’m recovering from injury and need to ride at my own pace. “If you guys need to ride faster, please feel free,” I say, and I mean it. I set an expectation for myself and the group.
Sometimes friends will take turns hanging out with me in the back, which is really kind. At other times they feel the need for speed and I simply have to live with the fact that we’re moving at different paces. I can soak up a little extra scenery at my slower pace. Sticking to my goal of long-term recovery has to be more important than my ego.
#3: Regroup As Needed
Being dropped right out the gate makes me feel pressured to keep up and I find it demoralizing. If I’m riding with really fast riders, I spare myself by asking them to take off ahead of me or on a different trail. If there are places we can meet up, share a snack and photo opportunities, that’s great. I ride at my own pace without physical or mental pressure, still feel included, and enjoy the socializing. Plus, I can still enjoy coffee or a beer with the gang after the ride.
On a recent outing, Al took off and rode up Ben’s Trail while I rode up Kent’s. He took a side trail over to Ben’s and met me after I’d spun up my own hill. We rode a rolling section of Voodoo together, then took separate downhill routes back to the trailhead. We regrouped in the parking lot and rode home — still married. Both of us enjoyed riding at our own pace and felt successful.
#4: Organize a Slower Ride
Rather than always trying to keep up with the fast kids, I organized a more moderately-paced ride with my favorite cycling club, The Bend Bellas. My friend, Kim, will lead the faster riders while I take up the rear with the Advanced Beginners and slower Intermediates. As it’s early in the season, we’ll have riders varying from fast and fit to those who will suffer on the hills.
I’ll have all kinds of company — plus the chance to encourage other riders who are having early-season startup issues. This sense of camaraderie will help me to shift the focus from what I can’t do, to celebrating what I can do. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Some years bring challenges we didn’t ask for. Finding ways to cope and still enjoy the process is part of the learning curve. Right now, I’m taking off to take a friend on her first ride of the season. I know just how she’s going to feel and am psyched to be there to encourage her.