A 20-kilometer bike ride for a cyclist is like putting chewing gum in your mouth and spitting it out. It’s
nothing. A 20-kilometer bike ride for me when I’m fit isn’t as easy as spitting out chewing gum but it’s a nice morning’s ride. Today’s 20-kilometer bike ride was a really big deal.
Today was the first time for me to be on my bike since I got frozen shoulder sometime in November 2015 and subsequently did an operation mid-January 2016. It’s the second time I’ve been on my bike since I fell and dislocated my shoulder in October 2015.
My husband sort of cajoled me into it. We’d cycle into the nearby village and have a nice lunch, he said. He knows that food is my weak point. I knew I had to get back on my bike sometime and I knew my shoulder could handle the 20-kilometer round trip. I also knew my real challenge would be mental.
Once you’ve been through the mind games a couple of times you know what to expect and you know you can handle them.
Today, cycling downhill felt like I was about to summersault down the hill. Every pothole and drain looked exactly like a Nadia-eating woman trap, designed specifically (of course) for Nadia. Building up speed felt like an invitation to a horrible slip. And cars passing by were all the enemy.
But I recognized every single one of those thoughts from previous experiences. When I first started cycling as an adult about three or four years ago, those were the thoughts that went through my head. When I started challenging myself with my cycling, those were the thoughts that went through my head. When I fell off my bike the first and second times and got back up again, those were the thoughts that went through my head. And when I went out on my bike for the first time after my shoulder dislocation, those were the thoughts that went through my head.
I recognized every single thought and knew how to dampen them out. I needed to focus on the road, do only what I was comfortable and confident doing, while pushing myself through those thoughts ever so slightly to pick up speed when I knew I was just being a wimp.
Today, more than any other day, I appreciate the falls and the failures that I picked myself back up from. They taught me that it’s all right to fall. And that I had what it takes to get back up.
Today I celebrate six weeks after my shoulder operation. I’m not really celebrating. I hadn’t even realized it
was six weeks until I got back home from the ride. But I’m feeling so grateful that the pain is now less, I’m off most of my medications (all I take now is some paracetamol twice or three times a day), and I’m managing short slow runs and swims. I can SWIM! I’ve only done it twice. It’s not the most comfortable thing to do in the world, but I can manage a slow, short front crawl. That is an incredibly big deal. Heck. It’s an incredibly big deal that I can put my hair up in a ponytail again and that I can sort of sleep on my right side for a short period of time each night.
The past six weeks were the biggest mind-fuck of all. The pain was excruciating even though I was heavily drugged on lots of painkillers. I had to do arm exercises three times a day, working slowly through the pain. There was always the risk that my shoulder would become rigid again after the operation. I wasn’t going to let that happen. So no matter how I felt, no matter how pained, no matter how tired, no matter how down, I got up three times a day and did my incredibly boring and incredibly painful arm exercises. I’m still doing them. But they aren’t as painful as they used to be.
I still have quite a long road ahead of me to regain my physical fitness. Much of it is dealing with the mind games. But once you’ve been through those mind games a couple of times, you know what to expect and you know how to get yourself through them.