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Backs, eh? I'm back though. Time to set some goals.

I blame Chris Hoy.

It wasn't his fault though. The consultant likened it to a rope going over a pulley. "It starts to fray, in time", he said. "One day it snaps. It might be under one pound of load, or 100. It's not the final load that's the issue, it's the years of wear". Those years of wear culminated in a lovely ride round the back of Bath with Sir Chris, before which my back had already been playing up for most of the year. And after which things went rapidly downhill.

He shows me a picture of my back. It looks a bit like the one up top. These discs are fine, "like a teenager's". That one's a bit bulgy. That one's popped. There's the nerve. See how that nerve has a nice white space around it? See how that one doesn't? That's why you were chewing your pillow for a week on Tramadol, and why your leg still hurts, and why you still can't go up on tippy-toes on your left leg, six weeks later. Your brain thinks your leg is messed up, because that's where that nerve goes.

I've learnt a bit about discs. They're tough little buggers, and they're filled with hydraulic fluid under huge pressure, 300psi and more. If your back is a bike, they're your back's tyres. I've got a puncture. Tyres wear out. Once the gunk comes out, you can't push it back in. You can dig into the spine and suck it out to give the nerve some room, but that's a last resort. You can have an injection to calm things down, which helps some people all the time, and some people some of the time, and some people none of the time. I'll wait a bit to see if I need to go there. But mostly it's just a case of waiting it out.

So it was 40 days off the bike. But the good doctor encouraged me to get back on, so that ended today with a slow, painful crawl to the office. The weeks of inactivity have not been kind to my fitness. Or my bathroom scales. But it feels like a new start. So it's time to make some new goals. Here they are:

1: Lose the weight I've put on, and then some more weight. I'm a big guy. The lightest I've been in my cycling life is 96kg, but I'm 10kg over that right now thanks to months of fairly complacent living followed by six weeks of enforced inactivity. The first goal is to be back in double figures, then that all-time low. Then I need to keep going. 90kg is more my race weight. And I need a race weight, because...

2: I'm going to start racing. Specifically, I'm going to start Cat 4 racing on the circuit British Cycling have so kindly constructed right round the corner from my house, and which Sir Chris was in town to check out on his bike launch tour. Realistically any kind of racing is months down the line for me, which probably means starting next year. But that gives me a decent window to get myself into shape, and a winter to do some proper conditioning work. My goal for next year's racing season? A point. One point. Small steps and all that.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted.

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.

9 comments

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othello [394 posts] 4 years ago
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Good luck Dave  1

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Gkam84 [9100 posts] 4 years ago
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Hope things are slowly getting better, at your time of life  19 you have to be careful with things like backs.

You should set up a Cat 4 Road.cc team to support you in your quest to be a racer again, you never know, you could be the next Hannah Barnes  26

*goes off to hide*

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TeamCC [146 posts] 4 years ago
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Ouch, had a bad back for a while and it is such a drag on everything you want to do, sit, stand, pick something up, exercise, sleep... definitely feel for you. I've been having a good run with a once a week yoga session, not sure if thats helping but my whole back feels stronger and more aligned.

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Furry Mommy [32 posts] 4 years ago
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Join the club...two crushed discs between L4 and L5...though when it does all go pete tong, I get the "hard ware" reset and end up kissing the floor!!  20

Not nice but livable when care is applied, though the only way I can actually get to the doctors surgery when it does all go horribly wrong, is to remarkable enough cycle...'cause I can't actually walk that distance!  1

I would recommend taking any and all physio that you get offered and DO really do the exercises that they advise you to do, which strengthen the muscles of the back and DOES help in prevent further damage and pain...in the longer term!  39

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stuke [335 posts] 4 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

You should set up a Cat 4 Road.cc team to support you in your quest to be a racer again

Let's go for it Dave. I'm planning a venture into 4th cat racing at Odd Down for next season as well

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billyman [148 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm a taramadol pillow chewer also, have been for three years, was walking through Liverpool town center with wife and kids and....oooooo, that hurts,

been for massages etc and after 3 months was told I would just have to manage my pain, never got given the opportunity to have scans or anything though,

I have never allowed it to prevent me from cycling, just chew some more codeine or tramadol.

in my 2nd year of cycling and looking to four the first time next spring to do some racing, at 42 and weighing in at 84k I have speed and stamina....( well will find out for sure next spring)

I await for your updates in the future on your " condition" and wish you the very best of luck ( unless you race against me, then you can get stuffed lol)

billy r

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jezzzer [329 posts] 4 years ago
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stuke wrote:
Gkam84 wrote:

You should set up a Cat 4 Road.cc team to support you in your quest to be a racer again

Let's go for it Dave. I'm planning a venture into 4th cat racing at Odd Down for next season as well

Yeah, still waiting for my lead out train...

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Colin Peyresourde [1815 posts] 4 years ago
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Join the club. I'm sure the Doc said that your situation was not unusual. I have to basically balance my activities not too much sitting, no playing football and minimal running.

But that is not the all of it. A physio will have a better understanding of your issues. As you suggest your disc going is the sign of repeated wear and tear, and this is likely from having poor lifestyle habits - whether it be from poor technique in the gym, to long hours seated in the office. Or both. The good thing is that your body is a self-repairing machine. You'll never get back your disc integrity, but you can do things to stem the issues that led to the problem in the first place.

Given its your lower back I will hedge my bets and say that the physio will find a pelvic
tilt which means excessive curvature of the lumbar spine. Ultimately this means recouping your core strength, organising your trunk and activating your glutes. It also means baby steps.

As we develop we cue out actions through our neuromuscular pathways. If we get used to bypassing safe postures by rounding our backs etc. You have to undo these faulty pathways and begin with the basics of ensuring you engage the right muscles at the right time.

Working with the physio he will be able to tell you of your shortfalls. Check with him about your feet too. If you have collapsed arches, or you turn your feet out, it could cause problems right down the chain of your body (the same goes for your head - it has been found that having an over bite can seriously affect your posture, giving rise to long-term back problems).

My top tip for you though is stretching. Do yoga if you want, but get yourself a good routine to untie your body. Check out sanfrancisocrossfit on YouTube. He's quite intense, but there's a lot of good information there (it's also on Mobilitywod.com - though he now charges for some content). Anyway, it is up to you to take charge of your body and make sure you maintain it as well as your bike (you do maintain your bike right? Well a poorly maintained bike falls apart much more than a well maintained one - go figure?! And it's the same with your body).

NOTE: incidences of back disease/back pain are lowest in the parts of the world where they eat and sit on the floor, or squat - these people usually spend a lot more time either standing or squatting - effectively sitting is a 'cancer' and you should seek to minimise that for a healthy back.

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Nick T [1074 posts] 3 years ago
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Chewing the pillow for a week...

Is that not a euphemism for something else entirely?