Life Happened... How to come back from injury?

As the guys often say on the podcast “life happens” happened to me 7 weeks ago. I rolled my ankle on a trail run and haven’t really been able to do much since. I’ve watched my friends’ power go higher and higher as I sat idle. I feel I won’t be able to keep up with them on group rides any longer. I took about a 30-40W FTP hit in the 7 weeks off (242ish now), VO2 max decrease of 5 (according to garmin FR935), gained about 7 lbs (currently 5’9", 180lbs), and I’m curious what style of training is the most effective way to get it all back? Should I be focusing on volume, intensity, both? I’m suffering from a bit of lack of motivation due to the losses, and seeing my friends’ increases. Has anyone experienced the same and have any tips to overcome the psychological side of this?

Bummer. I’ve never had that sort of injury, so I have no specific advice. In general, do not rush healing up. Lots of people jump right back in at the first sign of feeling good, only to relapse.

Take the long view. When you are healthy, prior gains will come back with consistent training. Until then, find something to fill the time so you are still in the habit of exercise. Off to the gym! Can you swim? Maybe rowing.

Get your eating under control now before that hill becomes too hard to climb back up.

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Bummer. I hate when life happens. But it definitely happens.
The best way to recover from that is by starting from scratch - sweet spot! You need to build your foundation again before building up higher power. Unfortunately there is no quick and easy way to get there, you just have to be patient and work through the process. You could shorten each phase by a few weeks if you were really desperate. But I’d follow a TR program from the start. Use “outside” rides as much as you can.
The good news is that you’ll be getting stronger when your friends are starting to fade. And at least now you have an excuse to be slow!
Hang in there!

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First of all, stop looking at your friends data/strava/social media lol! You could look at this as an unplanned off season and start building up from there, how much base/sweet spot you do depends on when you plan to race (or peak for the group ride race). It’s also a good time to do some strength training if you are coming back from injury, esp as your ankle may still be a weak link. I just had an unplanned 5 weeks off due to travel and illness, I was able to jump back into the group rides after a couple of weeks of ez riding, really didn’t lose as much fitness as I feared and was super fresh compared to where I was after a summer of very high volume riding. Good luck, I’m sure you will be hanging with your buddies very soon!

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Stop thinking about it and get moving once you’re able to. Moving slow is better than not moving at all. 20min is better than 0min. Don’t force it! You’ll be back before you know it! :facepunch::v:

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I’d assume you have at least had your ankle checked out by a doctor/physio and x-rayed/scanned? Better to be safe than sorry, in case it’s something that needs some attention.

From the sound of it, you’re still not fully recovered? You should ease back into things gradually, because the last thing you want is to aggravate it with some intensity.

As for the psychological side of things, this is all down to how much you want things to get better. I had acl reconstruction on my knee a few years back and the recovery was a bit of a roller-coaster. There were some days when I thought I’m never going to fully recover.

There were other guys in my rehab class who had surgery earlier than I did and seeing them do shit that I couldn’t do was also demoralizing. Fortunately, I had a good physio and he helped keep me on the process. Eventually, those simple leg lifts progressed to hopping, then spinning and finally some running.

As others have said, don’t worry about what your buddies are doing, focus on what you’re doing. Anyway, how much how much ‘higher and higher’ can their power have gotten in 7 weeks?

Oh and your weight, 7lb in 7 weeks is no biggie, and as you start getting up to speed again, that should just melt away :+1:t2:

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7 weeks? I was out 8+ months after a car hit me. 6 weeks before my first Ironman. My 70.3 PR was 4:58, and then suddenly I was hoping to break 30 min on a 5k. Do what you can to try and keep some level of fitness, and just listen to your body. Give yourself time to recover and don’t put unrealistic coals or unneeded pressure on yourself. I had/have a bad foot and shoulder now. So I couldn’t really run or bike (foot) or even swim or do weights (shoulder). It sucked.

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Broken leg (Tibial plateau) surgery Jan '18… 7 weeks completely off with a lot of bedrest so lost a lot of fitness.

When I could ride the trainer again, a week of easy spinning - quite quickly building to 60-90m a day. Rather than re-testing FTP (which was rising really fast and would involve a hard effort I couldn’t risk) ), added 20-30m blocks at tempo-S/S measured by RPE/HR over the next ~3-4 weeks. Reckon my FTP was around 320-330 when I was injured, more like 200-240 (judging by my RPE/HR at lower power) when I got back on the bike. 7 weeks after starting to ride again I did 312W for 48m, so most of the way back to where I had been, and really close to my best from the previous year. That’s all from trainer work, was back riding outside in mid-late April, and was fine in group rides etc straight away. The only thing I still held back on was sprinting - waited another few weeks before I brought in anything really strenuous out of the saddle.

That was on 7-8 hours a week of trainer only… as opposed to 10-12 when healthy.

Take it easy, but be consistent - 5, 6, 7 days a week of doing a little bit is the best way to start, but do stop if there’s even the slightest niggle. You’d notice improvement almost daily at times if you don’t overdo it.
Focus more than ever on diet - eat to heal, and eat diligently so that you don’t gain weight excessively - even when you start riding again, you won’t be putting out as much power as before so won’t need as much fuel.
Do your physio work, and resist the temptation to go too hard too soon and you’ll be back near 100% before you know it.

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Hmm. I’ve rolled my ankle many times when fell running (mountain running), have broken my ankle slipping on ice; been hit by a car and broken the tibial plateau; had one hip replaced. That’s just the lower half of my body!

The good news is you get over it. It takes time, but if you want to get back to doing things you will. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, it’s you that’s important. Get physio and do the prescribed exercises religiously. Then once the ankle has settled down start to exercise on it but don’t go beyond mild discomfort.

The worst of my injuries was the car accident - I was in a full length cast on my leg for three months. Even so I’d be doing ten mile walks by the time it got to the time for it to be removed, let’s just say I’m an impatient patient! I was on the turbo six weeks after my hip replacement but that was only because my wife wouldn’t let me until I got the go-ahead from the surgeon. Basically the only thing that will hold you back is yourself.

Good luck.

Thank you all for your responses! The insight, encouragement, and experiences you’ve all shared was great and just what I needed. It’s often too easy to forget that things could be much, much worse than they are. I think I do need to stop paying attention to what my friends are doing, or what my physiological monitoring is telling me, and focus more on the enjoyment I get from riding. And who knows, maybe the diversity I’ve added from swimming/weight training now will make me come back stronger than ever!

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Press the reset button and take a step back and re evaluate your short and medium term goals.

An over arching aim, tighten the nut on your diet, quality calories in, the good thing is while your body is repairing itself it will consume calories so ensuring due diligence in this respect will help you manage the short term shortfall in your fitness levels.

Focus on repairing fully without rushing back or you’ll elongate your recovery which is a rabbit hole you want to avoid.

Accept that in the scheme of things a couple of months really isn’t that bad, it’s a temporary set back which you will overcome and return stronger and quicker from. Another plus is you’ll build your mental resilience and future set backs, which as we know, there will be, will be easily set aside as you focus your longer term aims.

Nothing is written in stone, you define your future, don’t let events derail or define you, life is too short.

Heal well and quickly.

That’s a good attitude. I’d love to follow you along on your journey back, so feel free to post updates periodically with what you’ve been doing, results you’re seeing, etc. Maybe it’ll help with motivation.:smile:

Thanks Erik! Yeah, I’ve come to terms with the fact I should just start from scratch. I’ve been doing a lot of Z1 and Z2 work over the last 2 weeks. The good thing is the idea of sweet spot 2 weeks ago was soul crushing, and now after 2 weeks, I’ve got a tempo ride and a few sweet spot 2 minute intervals tonight that don’t seem to scare me. I’ve also stopped paying attention to HR and social strava, which has let me just enjoy being me. I think the synopsis is that I didn’t lose a ton of fitness, just mental fortitude that needs to be built back up!

I feel honored. I submitted this question to the podcast and the guys answer it 45 minutes in on their most recent episode 233. It was full of insight, a lot of which you guys already provided here.

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Just an update for anyone who cares, or future people searching for similar answers. I’m back to what I had peaked at before injury. Took about 8 weeks. I did a lot of Z2 work for a while, and kept adding in intervals of higher zones and longer durations once I could psychologically bear them. I found a lot of the comeback to be mostly psychological. Like I could always do the intervals, I just didn’t want to, so I had to do a lot of low zone intervals to build myself up psychologically. I think this was mostly due to knowing where I had once been. Not only did I come back, but the FTP doesn’t tell the entire story. This time, I can maintain more consistent wattage for longer periods. I think this was due to ERG mode. I’ve never really done workouts with ERG mode, but it helped train my legs to not have so many spikes in power and cause premature fatigue. I feel like I’m much closer to being able to actually peddle an hour at my FTP than I was last time. Anyway, hope this helps anyone in the future who may be struggling psychologically with a come back. You can come back, and you’ll be stronger in a different way.

Not coming back from injury but recently recovered from a lung problem that led to just over three months off the bike.

During that time I had put on weight and fallen in to all the bad habits that come with sitting idly feeling sorry for yourself. The biggest thing I had to work through was the frustration of knowing I had to train at a lower level than previously and I had ‘wasted’ all that time. I actually put off doing the ramp test as I wanted to avoid the reality of a much reduced FTP and overall ability.

Taken me about 2-3 weeks to get through that and accept where I am, seeing small gains already so using those as a motivation.

I think you also need a bit of time to mentally re-acclimatise to training, especially at higher levels such as threshold where you are deeply uncomfortable but able to perform, I found my first set of over/unders particularly hard to mentally survive!

Great infos in that post.
It got me wondering what eating to heal would look like?

I’m currently unable to move/train for 8wks (from an artery surgery).
I’ll definitely lower my carb intake because of reduce activity levels.
But I wonder if going toward keto could be a good idea?
(keep low body fat, keep/improve fat burning adaptations, use that off-period for something useful)

Making sure I had enough protein with more regular intake than usual, and increasing intake of nutrients that would be in more demand due to the injury - in my case with a fracture it was calcium and a few others, plus staying really hydrated. Started taking Glucosamine for the damage in my knee joint. Google should give you some ideas for your personal situation.

Definitely cut carbs if you’re going to be sedentary but sure if Keto is a good idea, you’ll be feeling bad enough from missing your exercise endorphins and I hear the initial stages can be a bit grim. Your brain runs on carbs! Plus surely you’ll want to start using carbs again once you’re back at it?

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don’t get discouraged; this is a part of sport sometimes. I can relate.

Start back with medium intensity, tempo and endurance, only one day of hard efforts, for about two weeks.

your fitness will come back quickly. When you think you can handle some vo2max, throw some in, to get the sharpness back, but really get that aerobic engine purring with sweet spot.

you will catch back up to your pals in no time, give it 4-8w depending on how your body adapts.

It’s january, you’re fine, WHOLE YEAR AHEAD!!!

best of luck!!

Brendan

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I had my first accident with a motorist on 12 March 2020. Been off the bike since.

Fractured my ulna bone in my left wrist, luckily no surgery needed - thank goodness! Doc said 6-weeks no cycling.

Link to the incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrIEkOudaTQ

I went through a whole emotional roller coaster, evening debating to sell all my cycling gear and move back to PC gaming. Luckily I have good friends.

Hopefully, the splint can come off the 23rd of April.

During this lockdown and after the accident, I have lost so much discipline and just plainly become lazy. Like in super lazy, so I hope to get back on the bike and to regain my fitness and the discipline I need in my daily routine.

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