fitness · injury · Zwift

Regaining speed and trying not to care

Let’s recap last week’s ups and downs while recovering from knee replacement surgery (12 weeks ago).

I began last week declaring that I was back to training again and not just doing physio. Life could be about more than range of movement and balance. What this means is that I started riding in Zwift again, watching my avatar and the related metrics, not just watching My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Never Have I Ever. But then I managed to hurt another muscle. See Sam discovers another weird and painful muscle .

So I spent part of the week back on crutches and back to all the physio. Bah.

But that setback didn’t last long and now I’m riding again in Zwift actually watching the screen, which means that I can see I’m gradually getting faster.

Here’s my time on the Fuego Flats spring three times since surgery:

But just as it’s nice to see I’m getting faster, I’m nowhere near as fast as I was. That’s to be expected but I am trying not to care! I’ve ridden that particular sprint segment 171 times and my fastest time was 41 seconds.

The fastest time ever for a woman is 27 seconds. My fastest time puts me in the 16,479th spot of the 127,073 women who’ve ridden it.

I’m trying to take pleasure in getting faster in my recovery from surgery while not caring too much about not being as fast as I used to be and not being as fast as some of the women out there Zwifting,

Wish me luck in the return to bike training and wish me luck finding comparison useful and motivational in some contexts and ignoring comparisons when they’re neither of those things.

cycling · fitness · strength training · weight lifting · Zwift

Sam starts training from scratch, sort of

It’s been 11 weeks since knee replacement surgery. There’s a lot of rehab focused movement and physio under the bridge. So much hard physio.

Some things are going very well. But at this stage the gains are slow and it can feel pretty frustrating. It’s a lot of hard work for what feels like not very much improvement. At the same time, I can still easily overdo it and then need to take some time to recover. Three steps forward, one step back, as they say.

But the good news is that it’s not all rehab, all the time now. Starting this week I am going to try to get my cycling fitness back for its own sake, not just because cycling helps my knee. Up until now, when riding my bike, I’ve turned Zwift on but I haven’t watched. I haven’t paid much attention at all to the metrics. Watts per kilo? Who knows? Speed? Ditto. I note the distance when I hit save but I’ve been trying not to look really. Instead, I’ve been running Zwift but watching Netflix. (That’s not entirely true. Since I have the companion app open on my phone I have noted and appreciated all of your ride-ons!)

From the “count the workouts” group here’s what my Zwift entries have looked like:

This week I’ve decided to Zwift for real again, paying attention to numbers, as I begin my climb back to bike fitness. Obviously I’ll need to change my FTP to something closer to my current reality.

What’s FTP? “FTP, or Functional Threshold Power, is the wattage you can stay below and sustain for longer durations, while going above it causes fatigue to occur very quickly. It is one of the key training metrics used in cycling, and Zwift has built-in tests to measure it.” See here for more.

I’ve also changed my weekly distance goal from 150 km a week on Zwift to 50 km. Gradually I will build back up.

Here’s one of the tiny rides that will be my starting point. So tiny! So slow! But lots of room to build and grow.

I’m also doing this in the gym with strength training. Yes, there’s some rehab there too. But not all and my focus isn’t just recovery, it’s rebuilding for its own sake. Meg, the world’s best personal trainer, is there to help once a week.

What’s my overall movement plan right now?

  • I’m doing physio every day, twice a week in the clinic at Defy Physiotherapy with the wonderful knee fixer upper Estee.
  • On the weekends, once or twice I’m doing Aquafit at Movati.
  • I do strength training at the gym twice a week, once with Meg and once solo.
  • I’m back to walking Cheddar the dog, the yellow blur in all the cycling photos above.
  • And I’m Zwifting three or four times a week.
Cheddar, Chase, and Charlie hoping it’s dog walk time not Zwift time

It’s not quite from scratch but I do have a long way to climb back to where I was, both on the strength side and the bike fitness side. Everyone reassures me that having been there before my return will be easier than if I’d never done it.

It’s work but it’s also nice to have not everything, all the time be about knee rehab.

Wish me luck and I’ll see you at the gym!

fitness · Zwift

Eight weeks after total knee replacement Sam’s life is returning to something closer to normal

It’s been eight weeks now since I had total knee replacement surgery on my left knee. The incision has healed nicely. The swelling is down and my knee sort of looks normal.

What’s up on the movement front?

💟 I’m doing aquafit twice a week

💟 I’m riding my bike on the trainer most days

💟 I’m also doing physio most days, seeing the physiotherapist, Estee at Defy, twice a week.

💟 There are also short dog walks.

But beyond that, things are seeming more like normal. What do I mean by that?

💟 I mean, I’m sleeping through the night without a constant waking and rearranging of pillows.

💟 I’m back at work, walking around campus, enjoying seeing people and finding the work challenging and satisfying in the usual ways.

💟 Some days I forget to take painkillers.

💟 I’m using the cane but I keep leaving it places!

💟 I can easily put on socks and shoes, but perhaps even more importantly I can sit with one knee crossed over the other.

💟 And maybe most strikingly sometimes hours go by in which I don’t think about my knee.

Goals for the next 4 weeks?

💟 No big distances and very much weather permitting, I’d like to ride outside on an actual bike just once before winter hits. Likely it will be my Brompton with the step through frame.

💟 I’d like to start regular spin classes. Don’t worry I’ll tell the teacher I’m recovering from knee surgery and I’ll take it at my pace.

💟 My gym has hot yoga and I want to get back on the yoga studio. Again, I’ll be reasonable about going at my own pace.

💟 I’m starting personal training at the university again (hi Meg!) this month and I’m looking forward to doing more physical activity that’s not all about rehab.

Wish me luck!

Here’s me checking in after Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week Four, Week Five and Week 6 and Week 7.

cycling · fitness · injury · Zwift

Welcome back to Strava Sam!

My last ride on Strava was my birthday ride. I blogged about it here.

Sam’s birthday ride on Strava, 58 km

And today, I’m back!

It was not 58 km, and not multiple hours.

It was on Zwift, not outside. But I did it! I rode my bike on the trainer.

Strava

Twenty minutes and 4.6 km might not seem like much but it’s a start. I wore my cycling shoes and I even lowered the seat to something more reasonable.

My goals from here on in? Keep lowering the seat until it’s back where it was, add time and distance, and start adding back some resistance….

See you out there!

fitness · season transitions · Seasonal sadness · winter · Zwift

Preparing for winter in different ways

My friend Todd and I have been chatting and blogging back and forth about preparing for winter. Here’s his latest, a Week 1 post. Todd’s focus is on fitness, a shared passion, and spending time outside. I’m usually in agreement with that too. I feel better when I’m outside even in the winter months. Outdoor physical activity that combines those two things is the best.

This past week I shared my list of resources for coping with fall dread.

One thing I noted is that this year will be different for me. With my newly replaced knee I won’t be doing very much outside riding once winter gets here. It may be that winter gets here before I even get to ride a real bike. Normally I ride bikes outside year round but not this year.

So what’s my fall/winter fitness plan look like?

🍁Zwift is an obvious thing. I miss riding in Watopia.

🍁 I’ve also joined a fancy gym for aquafit, hot yoga, and some time in the weight room, possibly also the hot tub. As I noted in my September check in gyms with wood paneling and juice bars aren’t usually places I call home, I’m going to try to enjoy the luxury while I rehab my knee.

🍁 I’m going to try to gradually up my walking game. It’s been a few years. The success of that plan will depend on how well and quickly my left knee recovers from surgery and how well my right knee holds up while waiting for round two of knee replacement. If I succeed Cheddar will be a happy dog!

🍁Warm weather riding remains a possibility. It will depend on how quickly I can get back on the bike and ride.

🍁I’m going to try and keep our living space warm and cozy and inviting for floor physio and for home yoga.

I’m going to miss riding outside between now and spring but rehabbing my left knee and getting my right knee ready for surgery (prehab!) has got to be a priority.

What’s your winter fitness plan?

Cheddar basking in a sunbeam
cycling · fitness · inclusiveness · Zwift

Celebrating diversity on Zwift

Great news for the paracycling community and for those of us who see opportunities for greater inclusion in the world of virtual cycling. The latest Zwift update includes handcycles.

A handcycle in Zwift

To be clear people at home having been using handcycles to ride in Zwift but the virtual bike options didn’t match. And that matters.

Says Zwift in its announcement of the handcycle option, “Zwift is a platform for everyone and our goal is to represent all members of our community within the worlds of Zwift. We hope that the Zwift Handcycle will allow adaptive athletes to have more fun in-game and better represent themselves on the roads of Watopia.”

We’ve written before about inclusion in cycling both in the virtual and in the real world. See In favour of April Fools’ Day Trikes and Inclusive Representation and Not all bikes are pedaled by foot, Sam finds out. I’m happy that the Zwift developers made this a priority and I’m looking forward to seeing some handcycles out there this winter.

Zwift Handcycle

aging · body image · cycling · fitness · Zwift

The MAMILs have met their match, the OWLs!

The OWLs

I’ve written a lot here on the blog about men and body image. See here and here and here. There’s more too, if you search around.

I hate all the teasing men in lycra get, so many MAMIL jokes.

What’s MAMIL stand for? Middle aged men in lycra. And lots of the jokes are about men’s bodies in fitted cycling clothes. I hate them.

Here’s a light hearted one, less mean than most.

Goodbye Kevin. I could look the other way with the boozing and the skirt chasing but I didn’t sign up for bicycle clothes.

But on the other hand, at least older men in bike clothes are recognized to be a phenomena. There aren’t as many older women. See Sam is racing with the guys and wondering, where are the women her age?

However, I came across a Facebook group recently for OWLS! That’s Older Women in Lycra. Here’s the group’s description: “Designed to EMPOWEROWL.bike (Older Women in Lycra) made with ❤️ for women cyclists UCA age 55 and older. OWLs are changing societal messages on aging…one ride at a time!”

There’s also this article: Say hello to the ‘owls’ – older women in Lycra

From the article, “Such men have acquired their own acronym, and it’s entered the language. Mamils – middle-aged men in Lycra – are a recognised demographic who are a target market for advertisers, with considerable buying power and much to enjoy spending their money on, from beautiful carbon-frame bikes to stylish cycle-wear. But the Mamil only tells half the story. There are also what I call Owls – older women in Lycra – and we enjoy all those things just as much. And if that makes us objects of satire as much as the Mamils are… then fine.

British Cycling, the sport’s umbrella organisation, confirms that women ­cyclists – including a significant number of older women – are rapidly on the increase. BC’s women-only Breeze Rides – its scheme to encourage women to take up cycling – have attracted more than 13,000 women since the beginning of 2015. Of these, 59 per cent are aged 35 to 54 and 29 per cent are 55-plus. In the 50 to 59 age group in last week’s Ride London 100 – the biggest sportive in Britain – an impressive 26 per cent of entrants were women. Next month no less a 51-year-old than the Countess of Wessex is taking part in a charity bike ride from Edinburgh to London. A few years ago I cycled from London to Edinburgh myself, and it’s a hell of an undertaking.”

The OWLS race on Zwift and while I can’t join them yet–they race in the afternoon spot for the TTTs–I do appreciate that they’re there.

Might also be nice to just have a mature riders group for all people, including those who don’t identify as men or women.

cycling · fitness · Zwift

The HERD of Thundering Turtles might just be the best behaved group ride on Zwift

Newborn turtles heading for the water. Photo by Pedro Novales on Unsplash.
What is it?

A slower, longer Saturday morning group ride on Zwift. It starts at 930 AM ET and goes for 90 minutes.

event-snapshot

Here’s the event description, “Building up your endurance but holding a lower pace? This is the group ride for you! Join Paul as he leads The Herd on Elizabeth’s iconic endurance ride. Respect the leader’s pace and ride with the yellow beacon. This is NOT A RACE! Stronger riders are encouraged to fall back and help sweep the riders struggling in the back. Join us on Discord during the ride: https://discord.gg/Dr7ZtPV (Please use Push-To-Talk) Check us out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/zHerd/.”

What’s to love?

They do what they say they are going to do. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against smash fests or rides where people who can’t keep up get dropped, as long as that’s what they say they are. That’s true IRL and in virtual cycling. The Thundering Turtles is a slow, steady, 90 minute ride where people stick together. There’s a veritable army of sweeps, more than 6 I think on the ride I was on recently.

They also wait and regroup. It’s the only Zwift group ride I’ve known to do that. In France the other week we all got the castle–at about the halfway mark–and waited for the rest of the bunch to catch up. This week we waited at the top of the leg snapper in Innsbruck. It was fun to race up and then wait, without falling off and down the other side. It got pretty crowded up there.

The group also sprints and you can join in if you want. Or not, again because they regroup.

The banter is friendly and supportive. There are lots of different reasons people are on a slower paced ride. For some it’s a recovery ride after a tough week of racing. Others are just starting out. Some people are coming back from injury. And for others that’s just the speed they roll.

Zwift agrees. Here’s their take on the state of affairs, GREAT GROUP RIDES: THE HERD THUNDERING TURTLES.

cycling · racing · Zwift

Do you Zwift? Want to give racing a try?

Team TFC

There’s space on my team which is competing in the Zwift Racing League’s Tuesday night series. We’re a D team. The races are at 730 pm and you don’t need to commit to every week. Indeed if our roster is full we might need to have some people sit out some weeks. Don’t worry. We’re a ways to go from that.

The team takes virtual riding seriously but we’re also about having fun. The goal is to learn and get better in a supportive environment.

I think it’s fun. Message me if you’re into Zwifting, think you might like to give racing a try, and you’re a Category D rider.

Here are some steps for getting started.

competition · fitness · racing · Zwift

When is a race not a race? When it’s a ride. But don’t worry Zwift has lots of room for non racing, competitive impulses…

I’m riding the Tour of Watopia right now–having finished the Tour de Zwift last month, and in each event–in the chat waiting for the event to start, along with all of the cheers from various locations around the world–someone inevitably asks, “Is this a race?”

Answers appear fast and furious in the chat. On the one hand, it’s a tour, not a race. On the other hand, many people like to treat it as a race and think of themselves as racing. But thinking of yourself as racing doesn’t make an event a race and inevitably there’s conflict between those on the official line–it’s a tour, not a race–and those who like to treat the tours as races.

Some people think that any time there are two or more people riding bikes, it can be treated like a race. Now that’s obviously false because group rides are definitely not races. It’s rude to treat a co-operative group ride like a race. That’s bad form both in the real world and in Zwift. Group rides are not races. In Zwift, there are ride leads, with a yellow beacon, who ride at the front, and sweeps, with a red beacon, who ride at the back. In the real world, it’s also dangerous to treat a ride like a race.

Some events are clearly not races, see group rides above, and other events are clearly races. Events organized as races and as advertised as races–are definitely races. In Zwift, races use Zwiftpower for official results. There are rules that need to be followed, such as riding in the right category, sharing correct weight information, having a verifiable power source, or you risk disqualification. There are also rules for that particular race such as points for fastest through a segment, or first to the top of a KOM. For my guide to beginning racing on Zwift, see here.

Zwift’s Tours are not the usual group rides–no leads, sweeps, or advertised pace–and they also are not races.

Here’s the description, “The Tour of Watopia is a multi-stage journey on Zwift. All 5 stages will earn you double XP, shorthand for Experience Points. Collect enough XP and you’ll level up in the game. With new levels, come new in-game routes, products, and/or clothes.”

Q: Will there be races during the Tour?

A: No, but you are welcome to run/ride as fast as you like. These are group events and event results won’t be displayed at the end.

There’s actually a philosophical point here about the meaning of terms, and ‘race’ is ambiguous between meaning something that individuals do and an ‘event.’ Some people want to say that you can’t individually race unless the other person, or persons, you’re racing against agree to race. One way for sure to know they’ve all agreed is that you are taking part in a racing event.

You might know the frustration of not racing when others think you are. I used to be amused by guys passing me on the bike path and occasionally making comments about my go-fast bike going slowly, when I thought what I was doing was obeying the bike path speed limit of 20 km/hr. They thought we were racing and I thought I was riding inside the rules of the road.

On my former bike club’s weekend social rides we didn’t race–except for town sign sprints–and people who treated our club ride like a race, pushing the pace past our advertised speed were invited to come out for weeknight races. If you want to race, we have races, but this isn’t it.

Back to the Zwift tours, I think they are a bit like Grand Fondos–mass participation cycling events with the motto, let the racers race and let the riders ride. I blogged about the MEC one here, the Niagara Falls one here, and the County one here.

Zwift has a fair bit of activity that falls in the middle, things that aren’t official races and aren’t group rides either. For example, the leaderboards for KOMs and sprints when you’re just riding in the world, compare your time to everybody else’s. You might be trying to get the fastest sprint time while others are riding through the segment as part of their recovery ride. You’re racing in the sense that we might say we ‘race for the bus’ if we’re late in the morning. You’re racing but the bus isn’t.

Like Gran Fondos they provide for competitive opportunities for people with a competitive streak who don’t want, for whatever reason, to take part in organized races.

A screenshot of a Zwift ride.