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Frustrated - am I expecting too much after minor knee surgery?

Old 01-08-11, 07:42 PM
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KillerBeagle
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Frustrated - am I expecting too much after minor knee surgery?

I feel like I've got "cycling bipolar disease" - I go out and have a great ride, doing what I love most about cycling (seeing the countryside, enjoying the scenery and the exercise), feeling great about the ride. Then I get home and check the bike computer and I'm still averaging around 14mph, look at other people's rides of the day and/or the HTFU thread, and wonder "why am I so slow?". I'm trying to HTFU but it's just not working

I had a torn meniscus repaired last March and, unlike the mirror image surgery I had 6 years prior, recovery has been slow. Doc said best therapy was bike riding so I started on an exercise bike. By September that had become terribly boring, so decided to try a "real" bike. I haven't cycled on the road regularly since racing in college in the 70's. Looking at my records, when I started on the road I could do 7-10 miles at about 10mph. I couldn't stand on the pedals for even one revolution. By November I was around 15 miles at 12mph and could stand up for dozens of strokes. Now I seem to have hit a plateau at about 14mph going up to 25 miles.

My goal was to reach 16mph alone, which I hope would let me keep up with the "16-18mph" group rides of local clubs, and let me finish centuries in a reasonable amount of time. Am I just expecting too much to reach that level in 4 months on the road?

I guess my thinking was that with a background in racing, and being reasonably in shape at the start, I should have progressed more rapidly. The thing that's limiting my progress is the knee itself - I can't push too hard or it will hurt for a week after a ride. I know I could go faster, but I have to back off when I start to "push it" because I can feel the knee start to protest.

I'm going back to see the doc again, but I'm afraid he won't have much to offer - it's not an acute thing this time, just chronic. I'd be interested to hear others' experiences with recovery from knee issues, and if anyone has any exercises or joint supplements they found helpful.
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Old 01-08-11, 07:56 PM
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It takes time....Like 2 full years of riding much.
I rode 100 miles today in 20 mph winds. Averaged 10.8 mph.
Had headwinds going out and coming back...yuk.

Take care of that knee.
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Old 01-08-11, 09:45 PM
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Does the quality of a ride need to be measured in MPH? My wife tells me it is a "man thing", but I think it is a 50's thing. It seems to me that if it felt like a great ride, it was a great ride.
Take care of that knee, you won't lose your contract with Radio Shack if you are not back up to speed by next month

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Old 01-08-11, 10:12 PM
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I dream about being able to average 14 mph
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Old 01-09-11, 12:35 AM
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Ditto what everybody else said about measuring a ride only in mph and about taking a long time to get into cycling shape. I know lots of people who ride regularly and struggle to average 14mph.
If you're determined to get faster, though, it takes time. My "fitness" regimen for about 20 years has consisted of working as hard as I could for several months, then burning out and taking several months off. Every time I restart, improvement comes fast at first--but then it plateaus. The first, say, 25 percent or so is fairly easy, but then you're trying to improve from a higher level and the gains come harder.
I actually have more experience with competitive running than cycling, but in running, I found that it took a couple of years of solid effort to get in really good shape. After three or four months i could run as far as I wanted at 8 minutes a mile, but getting down to 6:45 took real work.
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Old 01-09-11, 01:56 AM
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I wholeheartedly agree with the above comments. The only thing I would add is a question. Are you keeping your cadence up high enough? Since you need to keep the peak load down, you can compensate by upping the cadence. When I am trying to improve my performance (not often anymore), this has been the most important tool in my tiny box. The second best tool has been leg extensions on a weight machine (high reps, low weight, no breaks, alternating legs).

Actually, I misspoke. The most important tool for improvement is having fun and being enthusiastic. YMMV.
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Old 01-09-11, 02:01 AM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
It takes time....Like 2 full years of riding much.
I rode 100 miles today in 20 mph winds. Averaged 10.8 mph.
Had headwinds going out and coming back...yuk.

Take care of that knee.
So 4 months of riding and you are not as good as you were 30 odd years ago. Sounds about right.

4 months ago you may have had some fitness but you were not bike fit. That takes time to regain but the stage you are at now is above average for riders of your age. Improvements from now on will not come in leaps and bounds but will be gradual over the next few years.

So the thing to do is get out as often as you can-without overstraining things and gradually increase milage and distance till mid summer when the Metric 100 can be entered with a target time of "XX" hours.And get a few "Miles for smiles" rides in to keep the enjoyment up.
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Old 01-09-11, 08:33 AM
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Congratulations on the great progress you have made in just four months of riding. Keep doing what you are doing (except the worrying about whether you measure up) and the progress will continue. There are things you can do to improve specific aspects of your riding as your overall fitness and endurance builds. Just keep gradually increasing the time in the saddle and the level of effort and the improvements will come. Take care of that knee.
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Old 01-09-11, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
I wholeheartedly agree with the above comments. The only thing I would add is a question. Are you keeping your cadence up high enough? Since you need to keep the peak load down, you can compensate by upping the cadence. When I am trying to improve my performance (not often anymore), this has been the most important tool in my tiny box. The second best tool has been leg extensions on a weight machine (high reps, low weight, no breaks, alternating legs).

Actually, I misspoke. The most important tool for improvement is having fun and being enthusiastic. YMMV.
+1 Solid advice.

If I stay in lower gears (keep the cadence high), I can eliminate knee pain entirely. When approaching a hill, I shift down early.

Some people swear by Glucosamine Chondroitin supplements. I would definitely take them, especially if you had any articular cartilage damage.

You've come along way in a relatively short time. I say, give yourself a lot more credit! Congratulations! You're doing great
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Old 01-09-11, 09:43 AM
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I recommend masking tape.

Put a strip over your cycling computer. Save the mileage if you must. Ignore the average speed.

If you want to work on speed (along with bike handling skills and some bike etiquette) go on group rides.

If the group is too slow, find a faster group.

In my fair city, there are groups that are thrilled to do a 14 MPH average, which is considered a solid speed for distance riding, by the way.

There are group rides where I was hauling at 17 MPH average and got dropped within the first 5 miles.

But unless you're working up to TTs, I wouldn't fixate on your solo average speed.
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Old 01-09-11, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by KillerBeagle View Post
I feel like I've got "cycling bipolar disease" - I go out and have a great ride, doing what I love most about cycling (seeing the countryside, enjoying the scenery and the exercise), feeling great about the ride. Then I get home and check the bike computer and I'm still averaging around 14mph, look at other people's rides of the day and/or the HTFU thread, and wonder "why am I so slow?". I'm trying to HTFU but it's just not working

I had a torn meniscus repaired last March and, unlike the mirror image surgery I had 6 years prior, recovery has been slow. Doc said best therapy was bike riding so I started on an exercise bike. By September that had become terribly boring, so decided to try a "real" bike. I haven't cycled on the road regularly since racing in college in the 70's. Looking at my records, when I started on the road I could do 7-10 miles at about 10mph. I couldn't stand on the pedals for even one revolution. By November I was around 15 miles at 12mph and could stand up for dozens of strokes. Now I seem to have hit a plateau at about 14mph going up to 25 miles.

My goal was to reach 16mph alone, which I hope would let me keep up with the "16-18mph" group rides of local clubs, and let me finish centuries in a reasonable amount of time. Am I just expecting too much to reach that level in 4 months on the road?


I guess my thinking was that with a background in racing, and being reasonably in shape at the start, I should have progressed more rapidly. The thing that's limiting my progress is the knee itself - I can't push too hard or it will hurt for a week after a ride. I know I could go faster, but I have to back off when I start to "push it" because I can feel the knee start to protest.

I'm going back to see the doc again, but I'm afraid he won't have much to offer - it's not an acute thing this time, just chronic. I'd be interested to hear others' experiences with recovery from knee issues, and if anyone has any exercises or joint supplements they found helpful.
I have not had your particular problem but as an athlete, I have had many injuries. IMO, the key to recovery or faster recovery is having a good diagnosis and plan to recovery. The recovery plan should have other metrics than time. Time may heal all wounds but when one is limited or in pain, time seems to stand still.

If you have not been to physical therapy and even if you have, ask the doc for a prescription to go. Then ask around local cycling circles and see if you can find PT that has a track record with cyclists.

We have a racing club sponsor that is a PT company. Most of our guys go to them - knees, backs, hips and etc. Sometimes we have a club meeting at the PT location and one of the therapists gives a lecture.

Cycling is a great sport but it over develops certain muscles at the expense of others. For example, since the cycling motion is in one plane, the hip starts to lose its ability to control the leg. The IT bands get very tight. Both of these conditions can cause knee pain even if one has not had an intervention.

So.... a good PT person who treats cycling related overuse injuries may help get you on a faster recovery trajectory. Good luck.
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Old 01-09-11, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
I have not had your particular problem but as an athlete, I have had many injuries. IMO, the key to recovery or faster recovery is having a good diagnosis and plan to recovery. The recovery plan should have other metrics than time. Time may heal all wounds but when one is limited or in pain, time seems to stand still.

If you have not been to physical therapy and even if you have, ask the doc for a prescription to go. Then ask around local cycling circles and see if you can find PT that has a track record with cyclists.

We have a racing club sponsor that is a PT company. Most of our guys go to them - knees, backs, hips and etc. Sometimes we have a club meeting at the PT location and one of the therapists gives a lecture.

Cycling is a great sport but it over develops certain muscles at the expense of others. For example, since the cycling motion is in one plane, the hip starts to lose its ability to control the leg. The IT bands get very tight. Both of these conditions can cause knee pain even if one has not had an intervention.

So.... a good PT person who treats cycling related overuse injuries may help get you on a faster recovery trajectory. Good luck.
Not a racer but as a fairly active person I echo this. When trying to rehab from any injury there just is no subsitute for a PT who has knowledge and experience in your specific activity. It is worth what it takes to seek out and hire such a PT. If you can add a good Personal Trainer all the better.

Just as important is to make sure your mind set is not on metrics. Doing that is a sure recipe for disaster. Instead learn to understand the meaning of each different kind of pain you experience. Then let pain tell you what and how much to do.

This works in everything else. No reason why it won't work for you.
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Old 01-09-11, 05:17 PM
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In my experience going to PT and recovering from injury is about following the routine, keeping accurate metrics and enduring the pain. Most of the PT I have done has been painful but under the supervision of the therapist. This is going to hurt in this routine but other things should not. I cannot be objective on my own PT and how hard to do it. IMO, that is the key of a fast, complete recovery. Doing the rights things and feeling the proper response in a calibrated way.
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Old 01-09-11, 10:00 PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions and encouragement!
  • One point that struck a chord was that being "fit" does not equal being "bike fit". Then, if I consider that it probably took me 4 years to get "bike fit" in my teens (3 years of delivering newspapers on a 3-speed English bike in a hilly neighborhood, 5 miles per day, 365 days per year, followed by a year riding with a team), it's unrealistic to expect too much in just 4 months after surgery at age 54.
  • As far as higher cadence and lower gears, I've been trying to do that as much as possible, but thanks for the emphasis. I'm glad I picked up the Trek 2100 with a triple because I could never get low enough gears on my old 10&12 speed bikes.
  • I resolve to not look at the average speed on the bike computer - instead if I feel the need for numbers (being an engineer) I'll look at the calories consumed (~1350 last ride, woohoo!).
  • I'm going to give glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM/HA a try - after all, we give it to our horses, why not try it myself?
  • I'm thinking of switching from 4 riding days per week to 3, while using the fourth day for core strength and other weight work - or just walking a dog or two!
Finally, much as I dislike visiting medical facilities, it sounds like physical therapy has really helped a lot of folks, so I'll give it a try after I see my ortho surgeon next.
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