First cycle since May, first cycle of July

IMG_9438There’s nothing like a tube strike to force one to get back on your bike.

Today I extracted mine from storage and cycled the 6.5 miles into work, leaving at 7.30am to avoid the worst of the traffic, and it felt as if I’d never been absent from the road. But the truth of the matter is that since my March wrap-up I have only cycled once. That was on Wednesday 27 May when I trundled into work only to realise my left leg* hadn’t fully healed: it throbbed and ached and I found myself limping again.

The upshot? I cycled home (slowly) and put my bike in our storage room, where it’s stayed ever since.

Despite this I’ve still been able to do lots of walking — I do a minimum of five miles a day and yesterday I wracked up 10 miles — so clearly it’s a cycling-related problem, which is why I was a bit nervous about getting on the bike this morning. But I’m pleased to say I needn’t have worried. While the knee itself felt a bit “tight” (almost as if there’s something not quite right inside it), my shin was fine — it didn’t ache or throb afterwards and there was no need for me to limp.

Who knows, perhaps I’ll get back on the bike again tomorrow and get back into the swing of regular commuter cycling once again. I could do with the exercise.


* Dr Google tells me it’s a haematoma on my shin, just below the knee.

March wrap-up: two leg injuries in a month (or why I haven’t cycled much)

March-wrap-upOkay, okay. I know it’s almost the middle of April, but everything’s been so crazy lately (including starting a new full-time job) that I haven’t had time to write my March wrap-up… so here goes.

After a really positive start to the month — a fantastic leisurely two-day trip cycling the Viking Coastal Trail in Kent — things went a little down hill…

On Sunday 22 March, I decided to go for a run — not my usual activity but having clocked up some 2,500 miles of walking in just a year (thanks to my fitbit), I thought it might be time to up my activity level and try a new challenge. I did a 1.5 mile run earlier in the month and loved it.

So, on this particular sunny but cold Sunday afternoon I took to the streets. Despite doing lots of warm-up exercises beforehand, something didn’t feel right  about one-third of the way through my 1.4 mile jog — the calf muscle in my right leg felt very tight, almost as if it had cramped and had got stuck in that position. I figured if I kept moving it would relax and I would run it off, so to speak. But it didn’t feel any better. It got worse. I stopped once to try to stretch it, but that didn’t help at all. By the time I got home my leg was in agony.

I took painkillers, applied a warm cloth to it (which I later found out was the wrong thing to do — ice is better) and kept it elevated.

It did not swell up but the next day I could barely walk on it. There was a tight twinge deep inside the my calf. I hobbled into work feeling rather foolish — I was clearly too old for this running malarkey.Bandaged-leg

On Tuesday, I booked an appointment to see a sports massage therapist for a deep tissue massage. After lots of painful prodding of my lower leg — “Feel free to yell if it hurts too much,” she told me — I was diagnosed  with a pulled muscle very deep within my calf. She massaged my leg, gave me a “prescription” for massage oil — a pleasant smelling combination of ginger, geranium and black pepper — told me to take ibuprofen regularly, strap my leg up with a compression bandage, keep it elevated as much as possible and seek further medical attention if it did not improve within a week.

I spent the next day lying on my bed  reading books.

It was still very sore on Thursday but by Friday it was feeling much better, but it took at least another week for me to comfortably bear weight on it and walk normally.

Then I injured my other leg.

PedalsI’m almost too embarrassed to confess how I did it here, seeing as it involved a bike — and some clip-in pedals. But basically, I was trying to teach myself how to use them — I was confident cycling with just one foot clipped in and was building up to clipping the other one in when it all went horribly wrong.

I did one revolution of the pedals and then wanted to stop, but instead of putting my unclipped foot on to the ground, I tried to use my clipped-in foot and forgot it was clipped in. So by the time I figured out that I needed to lift and twist it out, it was too late. I fell sideways with my foot still in position. Talk about uncoordinated!

Fortunately, I was practising on a private road, so there was no danger of traffic running over me, and I was wearing gloves, otherwise I would have shredded the palm of my right hand which took the brunt of my fall. My left knee hit a curb stone, and when I rolled up my trouser leg my shin bone was grazed and bleeding.

I hobbled home, put the bike away, and lay on the bed for the second time in less than a month, this time with a bag of frozen peas on my leg! It was very painful, although two ibuprofen washed down with a cup of tea helped.  A horrible bruise the colour of an overripe blackberry soon bloomed on my knee and I daren’t look at the hard shin bone immediately beneath the patella because it was throbbing like a heartbeat.

The next morning I hobbled into work once again, my leg all strapped up using the compression bandage I’d used for my other sore leg the week before. Of course, everyone in the office assumed my original calf injury had flared up. It was mortifying to explain it was the other leg and that I’d fallen off my bike!

A week has now passed and the leg is healing slowly. My shin is a bloom of yellow, as if I have jaundice, and the knee cap is black with a bloodied wound just beneath it (it never seems to form a scab, probably because that part of the anatomy doesn’t stay still long enough), which I swab and disinfect every day. I’m hoping that by next weekend it will be completely healed,  because I’m itching to get back on the bike again — but not with those pedals!

In total, I cycled a measly 89 miles in March, but I think I have a good excuse. If I was a horse, they would have shot me long ago…

February wrap-up: a disappointing month for cycling

February-calendarI’m not sure what happened to February. I feel like I blinked once and then it was gone.

Sadly, I didn’t do much cycling. As predicted in my January round-up post, I knew it wasn’t going to be a particularly active month as I had a lot of evening social engagements planned, which meant leaving the bike at home…

But I didn’t expect it to be quite so inactive. It didn’t help that I hurt my neck and right shoulder on the 15th of February — I cycled to work the next day, but I shouldn’t have. The riding position was very uncomfortable (I could barely turn my head to check for traffic) and I think I probably made things worse. The stiffness persisted for about 10 days. If I was a car and had to go in for a MOT, I’m pretty sure I would have failed it.

In the end, I cycled a lowly five times across the month, notching up just 66.19 miles in total. My Garmin says I burned 2,832 calories, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

Here’s to a much more active March.

January wrap-up: 196 miles in a month

January-calendarJanuary is over, so how did the month go in terms of commuter cycling?

Out of a possible 20 days, I cycled 15 (that’s what the black marks on the calendar, pictured left, represent), which isn’t too bad given I hadn’t cycled properly since last summer.

I cycled a total of 196 miles, though my Garmin says I only cycled 183, but that’s because it failed to record two morning’s worth of pedal power.

My Garmin also says I burned 7,260 calories, which may partly explain the 3kg weight loss — though I have been walking 5 miles a day on top of this and following a 750 calorie deficit diet using my FitBit Flex.

All in all, I’d say quite a good month given the horrible cold, dark conditions with which I’ve had to contend. I suspect February won’t be quite as active — my calendar is full of evening social engagements, which means I need to leave the bicycle at home, but I’ll see how it goes…

Good morning, Albert

Albert memorial

Yesterday morning I succumbed to temptation, stayed in bed longer than I should have and ended up catching the tube to work. It was horrendous. By the time I got to work — 15 minutes late because of delays to my journey — I had my grumpy head on. It certainly did not set me up in the right frame of mind for the day ahead.

Today I was determined to cycle in. Forget the warmth of the duvet, just get on the bike and and DO IT.

And I did.

In the icy wind.

But the sun was out and the sky was blue — and it felt good to be out and about, making my way to work on my own terms under my own steam.

The traffic was quiet, as it usually is on a Friday, so my cycle in was pleasant and quick. I even had time to stop by the Albert Memorial for a quick snap (see above). I missed saying hello to my old friend, Albert, yesterday — and I’ll look forward to waving at him again on my way home tonight…

Getting my motivation on

Cycling at this time of year is difficult. It’s cold, often wet, occasionally windy, and always dark. The last thing I feel like doing at 7am is getting on the back of my bike, exposed to the elements, when there’s a lovely warm duvet I could be snuggled under for another hour.

The trick, I’ve discovered, is to not check the weather forecast in advance. And it’s better if I simply get out of bed when the alarm goes off and get myself dressed for cycling WITHOUT LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW TO SEE WHAT THE WEATHER MIGHT BE DOING. If I know it’s raining (or going to rain) I’m less inclined to want to cycle.

And anyway, once I’m dressed up warm and (relatively) water-proof in my cycling kit, it doesn’t really matter what the conditions are like.

It also helps to remember that when I’m finally out on the road — with my headlight and tail lights flashing, and my bike bag toting my breakfast and a change of clothes  — I’m going to feel like this:

What cycling feels like

Image tweeted by @Patsykins_X

And when I  get to work super early, feeling motivated and keen to tackle anything that might come my way, I know it’s all been worth it.

Start the year as you mean to go on

Victoria monument

Victoria Monument, out the front of Buckingham Palace, which I cycle past twice a day

After not having ridden my bike for several months, I dragged my trusty hybrid out of storage and cycled into work every single day last week. I loved it.

Admittedly, when the alarm went off at 7am on Monday morning I really just wanted to snuggle back under the duvet. I’d had 15 days off over Christmas and New Year, and had spent my time masquerading as a sloth. I’d gone for a 5-mile walk every day, but I’d rarely gotten out of bed before noon.

But despite the shock of having to get up in the dark — and cycle in the dark — it didn’t take long to get back into the swing of it.

By week’s end I’d cycled 65 miles in total and burned more than 2,700 calories; I’d survived torrential rain (on Wednesday morning), the most beautiful sunrise that bathed everything in gold (on Thursday morning) and crosswinds (on Friday evening); my thigh muscles were very sore and my tummy muscles were killing me, but the sense of achievement was wonderful. Now, let’s hope I can keep it up…