They say in life two things are certain: death and taxes. In mountain biking, we can add a third certainty: injury. Now when I use this word I am referring to anything that keeps you off your bike, whether it be a minor sprain that has you down for a week to a major break or separation that has you out for six months or more. At some point in our cycling lives, we are going to have forced down time… sounds awful, right? I know because it’s my biggest fear. Because…well…what do you do when you can’t ride?
Depending on the severity of the injury you will probably go through all the stages of grief first. You know: shock, denial, pain, guilt, anger, denial, then finally acceptance. Once we get to this one we can look at keeping ourselves busy and let the healing happen. As someone who has been injured several times over the years, to varying degrees, I have learned there are plenty of things to do to keep yourself busy and healthy while you heal.
Being part of the cycling community, you might find other friends who are injured to commiserate with. Supporting each other through the up and downs of recovery can make you feel less alone and maybe provide you with a buddy to go and try some new activities.
Try new things
Some of us get so obsessed riding our bike that we forgot that there are actually other things we can do. Here are a few examples.
For the majority of my injuries, I have fallen back on hiking to help keep me sane. At least part of the appeal of mountain biking is to be out in nature, and I’ve found that with upper body injuries I can still go on short and long adventures in the woods. This also keeps you relatively fit so when you do return to your bike, that’s one less thing you have to worry about.
Now hiking is great, unless you have a leg injury. Luckily, there are still fun things you can do outdoors when walking is difficult. Now, obviously I’m not talking about whitewater kayaking right now, but ocean kayaking or even getting on a lake in kayak or canoe is a great way to enjoy yourself. Try something new and still be outside.
Fitness Training & Yoga
Keeping the rest of your body strong while you are injured is a great way to ensure a speedy recovery. A good trainer can set you up with a program that works the uninjured parts of your body and ensures you are strong when you get back on your bike. Same for yoga, we tend to sit around a lot more—probably feeling sorry for ourselves—so this helps keep you limber as well as potentially helping
All the things
I am sure this list is rather long, but a few examples would be reading a great book series; finding and enjoying a new TV series; Going to a gig; hanging on the beach; and just, you know, relaxing. Remember, taking care of your mental health is as important as your physical health.
Stay engaged in the community
One of the biggest things I hear from people who are injured is how they feel disengaged from the riding community. The first thing I do when I am injured is to find other ways to participate. You can be a shuttle driver. Sure you don’t get to ride, but you get to hear about every lap. You are engaging with your friends and being as close to the action as you can be. And at the end of the day, you shouldn’t have to buy your own beers!
Your local trail organization will love you. You can help out at your local grassroots races, depending on the injury. Trail associations are always looking for volunteers to help out with racer check in, timing, and generally being out on the trail supporting the racers. You can also help at trail days, maybe you can’t do hard labour, but you can make sure everyone stays hydrated, help feed the crew, or any other number of things that aren’t immediately apparent like helping with grant writing, organization, or social media.
Seriously, everyone loves having a great photo of themselves riding, and when better to take the time to become better at taking photos than when you are injured? You can pretty much guarantee if you put a call out on social media looking for friends to do a photo shoot, you’ll have some people eager to volunteer. It’s something that once learned will have you more excited to pull out a camera and take photos once you are back on your bike.
Learn how to do more of your own repairs. There are regular skills clinics being hosted on how to fix most things on your bike. Alternatively, everyone has that one friend who is super into it. Ask them, they will probably be happy to have someone to teach and talk about all the bike nerd stuff.
Do it as soon as you can and do it as often as you can. One thing I have learned from my injuries over the years is to be superpro-active with my rehab. The sooner you can work on rehab, the faster the injured area will be back at 100%. Sure, I get it, a bone takes 6-8 weeks to heal, but my goal is to be back at 100% as close to that same time frame as possible. I’ve seen plenty of examples where people sit in a cast for six weeks and then go to physio. I’m there after 72 hours setting a recovery plan in motion.
At the end of the day though, everything I have suggested above is just that, suggestions. You need to figure out what works best for you. Maybe sitting around feeling miserable and sorry for yourself is your thing! But if not, find out what helps you stay connected to the community. Chances are at least a few of your friends have been where you are, and they will take the time to support you. And most importantly, try and keep a positive attitude.
Special thanks to Linnette Gratton and Nancy MacLeod for your input.
Jaclyn Delacroix is a Professional Mountain Bike Coach, Internationally Certified Personal Trainer, and owner of Ozmosis Training. She is passionate about helping other people realize and achieve their goals. She holds skills clinics, teaches bike maintenance, and is involved in trail building and maintenance in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.