In just over a week I’ll be heading off on my dream adventure, a six day cycling tour through California Wine Country. Yet if you would have told me four months ago that I’d be ready for something like this, I would have laugh-cried you out of the room.
You see, like a lot of moms, my back has this annoying habit of “going out” every few months. Bending down to pick up a pacifier. Wrestling a toddler who doesn’t want to have her diaper changed. Putting on (clean) yoga pants. Typical day to day activities like these usually do me in.
But going on this trip has been a dream of mine for years and I’m far too stubborn to give up easily.
That’s why, for the past few months, with the help of some friends, I’ve been busting my ass to strengthen my body and overcome my chronic back issues.
Here’s what I’m doing to overcome physical pain so I can fulfill my dream adventure. You can apply these same activities towards overcoming your own physical limitations and achieving your dream goals, however odd they might be.
1. Balanced Training Schedule—As I mentioned in the first post of this series, I haven’t been on a road bike in almost five years, since making the dipshitty mistake of joining a local racing team. So I have a lot of catching up to do. My training schedule includes time on my road bike, spin classes at the gym and strength training. I’m also giving myself at least one day off per week to allow my body time to recover. Some days are more intense with shorter bursts of intervals and other days I don’t exert myself as much but I workout longer. Try to keep your training balanced so you don’t burn out.
2. Stretch Yourself—While cycling is low impact, when you’re riding over 200 miles through hilly terrain, it adds up pretty fast. Cycling puts miles on your bike and body. You’re in a hunched position with your neck craned for hours on end. Not exactly ideal for someone who has back problems! In order to counteract the awkward position, as soon as I get off the bike I perform stretches, like bridges and the cobra pose, to elongate my spine. I also do preventative stretches whenever my back kinks up, like cat/cow and child’s pose. Whatever your preferred activity, stretching is an important part of the process.
3. Epsom Salt Baths—As soon as you’re done with your post workout stretches, draw yourself a nice warm bath and throw a cup of Epsom salt in the tub. It helps to ease pain and relieve inflammation from sore muscles. Don’t forget to hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. Something like my kid’s last one will do: “NOTICE: KEEP OUT! FIRE BREATHING LION AND ACID SPITTING FLESH EATING LION GOT MARRIED AND ARE HAVING A FIRE BREATHING, FLESH EATING, ACID SPITTING TWO HEADED BABY. I’M SERIOUS!” That ought to keep people away for a while.
4. Deep Tissue Therapeutic Massage—Every two weeks I go to my Massage Therapist so he can work on my back, neck and hips. Let me be clear, this is not the relaxing kind of massage. He really digs into all the sore places in a way that could easily qualify for the 25 Most Brutal Torture Techniques Ever Devised in History list. But, still, despite the pain, it’s worthwhile because it effectively releases tension and keeps my muscles nice and loose.
5. Soft Tissue Treatment—I routinely go to Kinetic Sports Rehab for soft tissue and chiropractic treatment. My doctor uses a specialized technique called Active Release (ART) which focuses on increasing muscle movement and range of motion. It’s been super effective for me so far. There’s no rough manipulation either. Instead treatment consists of combining light pressure with very specific doctor directed patient movements. In fact, it’s so gentle, you can even have ART performed with a 38 pound toddler sitting on top of you. Ask me how I know that.
6. Rehabilitative Exercises—The folks at Kinetic have created a whole rehabilitative performance exercise plan to help strengthen my back and core. Every couple of weeks I go in to meet my Rehab Specialist, get assessed and then learn some new exercises. Then it’s up to me to come home and get it done. The more I keep up with my foam rolling, dead lifting and hip hinging, the better I feel. I’d give myself a solid C+ for keeping up with the program. I’d like to blame the kids for my average performance but really it’s the dog’s fault.
7. Protect Your Parts—Certain activities expose certain body parts to more wear and tear so you need to protect those areas. When cycling, there’s an enormous amount of friction that your crotch has to contend with. I mentioned before the importance of having proper fitting cycling shorts to reduce movement and avoid chafing. Aside from that, the next best thing you can do is make sure you have the right saddle. That’s where my friends at Gregg’s Cycles and their trusty Assometer comes into play. Yup, you read that correctly.The Assometer is a convenient tool a lot of bike shops use to properly measure customers for saddles. You simply sit on a pad and they measure the indentations made by your sit bones to determine the ideal saddle width. Turns out that my sit bones are fairly far apart – around 135mm. No wonder the tiny little men’s seat I’d been riding around on was causing me such grief. Now that I have a brand new seat, I’m more comfortably logging miles. For the record, the junk in your trunk doesn’t correlate to the width of your sit bones. So you can have a big assometer reading and actually have a very little ass. She says with no defensiveness whatsoever.
8. Dial In Your Equipment—The single most important thing you can do to eliminate the chance of placing additional strain on your body is to make sure your gear is properly fitted. Gregg’s has an awesome tool called the GURU Dynamic Fit Unit, a completely-motorized bike that allows you to feel adjustments to your riding position in real-time.As part of the process, Sam, the Bike Fit Whiz, used the GURU preferences to adjust my bike for optimal comfort and performance. He then replaced my stem and handlebars with shorter versions to accommodate my measurements. Sam also emailed me the specifications for the rental bike I’ll be using while on the trip. Now, not only do I have a totally dialed in bike, I can be confident that my rental will fit just as well.
9. Heat Therapy—Oh my god! If ever there was confusion in the world, it’s around the whole “Should I apply ice or heat?” question. Different people have different schools of thought on this. As for me … I like it hot. Heat helps take the edge off of any pain I might be experiencing, relaxes my sore muscles and generally just soothes and comforts me. Hence the reason I like to hop right in the tub after a long ride. The bottom line is that if you’re exerting yourself, a little heat therapy can go a long way towards helping speed your recovery time.
10. Beg for a Back Scratch—Ahhhhhhhhh. It feels good and you’ve earned it. According to my best friend, Google, there aren’t professional back scratchers out there … WHICH IS TOTALLY RIDICULOUS! So that means you have to beg someone you know to do it for free. Or bribe them with M&M’s. That’s what I do with my kids. One M&M for every minute they scratch my back. They’re happy. I’m happy. Everyone wins.
If I can kick physical pain where it counts and fulfill my dream adventure, so can you.
Now go get ‘em! I hear the sport of “shin kicking” is looking for a few good women.
This is the third post in a six part humor series called 40 Ways To Get Back in the Saddle. Follow the madness and get inspired to chase your own dreams! To start from the beginning, go here. To read the next post, go here.