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The Unraveling

The Unraveling

I'm still nursing a pinched nerve. I've now lost count of how long it's been since I rode. It was before Thanksgiving.

A couple days ago, I discovered a tender spot in my shoulder, and my Chiropractor confirmed yesterday that there's certainly some "shoulder involvement." Yippee. On the plus side, my neck is feeling good, and I'm sold on the value of periodic adjustments.

Whenever I can't ride for a while, either due to injury or time constraints, I (re)discover that biking kind of holds my daily routines together. Anticipating and recovering from rides motivates me to eat right. And the routines surrounding rides and workouts drive so much-- laundry cycles, showers, cleaning, putting gas in the car, meal times, trips to the bike shop for supplies.

And what's more, regular strenuous exercise helps regulate my moods, appetite, sleep cycle, motivation, and how I deal with stress. Working out is deeply woven into my life, and having it yanked out hurts.

I'm trying to make hiking work, but about the only thing that seems to get me going is carrying a heavy pack. I currently have 35 lbs. in the pack I got for my (aborted) Mt. Whitney trip last year. I throw that on my back and march up the steepest hill I can find until I feel human again. It's a sorry, sorry substitute for the sustained power output of pedaling a bike, but it'll have to do.

And I'm going to get my inline skates out of the garage and have a go. It'll be excellent for the legs, and hopefully not jarring enough to bother my shoulder.

Struggling to be Patient

Struggling to be Patient

Tried a test ride around the block yesterday. After two minutes was clear my neck isn't ready for a real ride, no matter now gentle.

So I gave up and decided to finally start lifting instead. Discovered that I can't deadlift or front squat without pain, and with my left arm as weak as it is, putting the bar overhead would be unwise. So lifting is out.

It's been three weeks since I've ridden a bike. It's been two weeks since I pinched my nerve, and started doing daily rehab work.

I am not making progress. I still can't lift more than 5 lbs. with my left triceps, and I'm still in constant pain from the pinched nerve. Can't ride, can't run, can't lift.

Hiking is okay as a stopgap, I suppose, but is a sorry substitute for an actual workout. At this rate I'm going to roll into January fatter and slower and more out of shape than I've been in years.

Conan, what is best in life?

Whatever You Don't Train Stays Weak

On hindsight, it's so perfectly simple. I don't have a pinched nerve because I slept wrong. I have a pinched nerve because I neglected and overworked my neck and then slept wrong.

It's common for trainers to advise their clients not to train the neck. I now think this is wrong for at least two important reasons.

Sheltering a body part or movement in training reduces the liklihood of injury in training, but it increases the likelihood of injury in real life. Effectively, I've been preventing training injuries to the neck by not training the neck.

We understand the importance of maintaining symmetry around hips, knees, shoulders, and even hands and ankles. The same applies to the neck. It's insane to build super-strong trapezius muscles and totally neglect the deeper, smaller muscles that support the head and neck.

Training strength and mobility in the neck should be approached with caution, certainly. But it should be approached.

So I'm taking an active role in charting my own path through the process of restoring pain-free mobility in my neck, and then continuing that work so that I can develop a stronger, more durable neck that won't do this to me again.

I'm not aiming for something out of the NFL or WWE. But I will take my model from MMA and BJJ. It's not about size, it's about slowly, safely building strength and durability.

A Premature End to the Season

A Premature End to the Season

I was hoping to get in one last solid week of riding before switching gears for December and January. The plan was to take one last shot at climbing Johnson Fire Rd, maybe attack Rock Store one last time, then start doing barbell work a couple days a week and riding if/when I have time.

Unfortunately, it's been raining pretty solid all week, which makes biking miserable, and quick trail rides impossible.

But I've been nursing a pinched nerve since Sunday. So even if the weather cleared, I'm in no condition to ride. I start treatment tomorrow, and expect it to take a week or two to fully resolve. And once I do that, I need to make sure I don't just do the same thing to myself all over again.

So that's going to be it for my 2014 cycling season, I think. I'll resume riding and begin barbell work once my doctor gives me the thumbs-up, and start laying the groundwork for a solid 2015.

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