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Riding on caution (51 days till “The Ride”)

May 3, 2012

Training TakingARest spring 2012

Taking a rest during training. (Photo by Patrick McPartland)

   I learned to turn today. Well, it was more like “turn, stop, go, stop, turn, go,” but it’s a start. And I only fell once. Luckily, the latest crash didn’t leave a mark. My right leg has begun to turn interesting shades of yellow as the bruised knee and calf begin to heal.

   Now that I think of it, I really only learned how to turn left. It was easier practicing as I approached the dead end on my street, but for some reason, I approached that end from the right-hand side of the road each time I headed in that direction. It’s probably because I’m used to driving a vehicle and having to stay on that side; otherwise, I would be charged with driving in the wrong lane. I’ll have to schedule some right-hand turn time next session.

   Yesterday was a wash, yet again. Patrick and I had the bike in the driveway, and as soon as I placed my helmet on my head and mounted the bike, raindrops began to fall. I looked toward the sky and back at Patrick, and I must have had that look of, “do we really need to do this today?” in my eyes because he promptly encouraged me to head inside. Ten minutes later, the sun came back out, and we thought for a few seconds about trying again. That’s when the clouds exploded, turning the street into a river.

   I didn’t mind being inside for the evening, especially after the spill I took a few days ago. While the body was mending, the pain and worry still lingered in my mind. I thought back to about a month ago and realized that I had come far, but I didn’t want to do anything to put myself back on bed rest. The morning of April 5, I woke up with horrific lower back pain and couldn’t get up or walk on my own. It was the scariest feeling in the world, not being able to fend for myself. Thank goodness Patrick was there to pull me up and act as my legs as I attempted basic daily chores – washing, dressing, going to the bathroom – while arranging a doctor appointment. The pain in my back had been building for a few days, but I didn’t expect it to get to the point where I would have to rely on others. It’s a feeling I never want to have to experience again.

   Diagnosed with sciatica, I was ordered to rest and seek physical therapy if the pain didn’t ease. It doesn’t sound lucky, but it was a good thing I had already planned to take that next week off work and hadn’t planned a trip. At that point, I had only three weeks to go until Stick it to Cancer 2012 and about three months until Ride for Roswell, so my thoughts were dominated with ways to heal myself, even if it meant doing something I rarely do: Sit and do as little as possible.

   I healed in time for Stick it to Cancer, but I still couldn’t take anything for granted. The possibility for injury is always present, so I take precautions, such as wearing a helmet and knee pads. I’ve also been excited this week because I’ve been able to start up my regular exercise routine again. For the past 10 years, I’ve followed a plan that incorporates various crunches and leg and arm exercises using light dumbbells. I had been using two 8-pound weights around the time of the back injury, but after being forced to skip the routine for three weeks, I decided to go back down to 5-pounders in order to take it easy and to get used to the routine again. I have followed a four-day-a-week, 20-minutes-per-session regimen that begins with 310 various crunches each day. I then alternated days on which I worked out my arms and legs. The different types of exercises result in 840 reps for the arms and 300 for the legs by the time I am done. Patrick once asked me to teach him my routine, and he ended up dubbing it “Lisa’s Torture Chamber.”

   I began exercising regularly in 2002 because I was approaching the age of 30 and had a strong desire to be able to move well when I reached my 60s and 70s. Then in 2010, prompted by a weight loss challenge at work, I also began to pay better attention to my food intake and decided that the government’s recommended daily allowances for fat and calories were too high, even for someone who was modestly exercising. Realizing I didn’t have to eat as much food as A.J., who was a few inches taller than me and built like a linebacker, I decreased my portion sizes and incorporated more fruits and vegetables. It seems to be working. I can round my age up to 40, but I still feel as good as – and sometimes better than – I did when I was in my 20s.

   Perhaps this is another reason I found learning to ride intriguing this late in life. I was looking to enhance my routine, and this exercise is not only great for the body, but it has the potential to free my mind when I find myself trapped by negativity. I can see myself hopping onto Greeny to pedal away some aggression and finding myself five miles out before I realize how far I’ve gone.

   I’ll just have to learn how to turn around soon so I can find my way back.

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