As the winter months waned I kept thinking about riding my bike. I put it away when the snow started to pile up in December, it was safer to walk to work than risk falling hard on a patch of ice. Finally in March the temperature was above 40, clear skies and the roads were relatively clear of ice too. I did two, one hour rides over a weekend. It felt great to breathe deeply the cold air, riding past snow banks, frozen lakes and sugar bushes (stands of maple trees tapped for sap to make maple syrup). In the back of my mind I knew I should take it easy: stick to flatter roads, keep my pedal cadence smooth and light, no out of saddle efforts. BUT I did push it a little on a few small hills, it felt too good not to. In the evening after the second ride I noticed the familiar ache in my right knee: a diffuse, non specific joint pain and stiffness I’ve had on/off for many years.
“Too much, too soon” is a saying in the sports medicine field that pertains to athletes who suffer an overuse injury when they increase their training/exercise routine too quickly. The rapid accelleration in soft tissue tissue and joint stress without adequate recovery leads to tissue over load and breakdown.
There are three common variables in an exercise routine. 1. Frequency – how often does one train: once a week, every day etc. 2. Duration – how long is the training effort: half hour or three hours. 3. Intensity – are you lifting heavy weights, doing sprints or easy riding on flat roads. Ideally an athlete needs to balance these variables so that the desired training effect (stronger, faster, more endurance etc) occurs without over training or causing tissue damage. Considering I hadn’t ridden my bike in five months I think I over did it riding two days in a row – too much too soon.
After a day or two of rest the ache has diminished. Now I need to refocus on a progressive return to cycling by varying the frequency, duration and intensity of my rides – easy effort, short sessions w/ a few days rest in between. The lesson learned this Spring is to focus on the fundamentals of training to avoid injury: be patient, go slow, build endurance and the capacity to handle the stress of cycling.