Being active, as we all know, is great for your physical and mental health – improving cardiovascular fitness, reducing stress and so on, but I’ve never considered other health benefits until a few days ago when I unfortunately had a skiing accident.
I was at Glenshee with my son and on our last run down the tip of my ski caught in some deeper snow and I went down. The binding didn’t release, and my right leg twisted around 180 degrees.
The pain was excruciating, and I thought I would pass out. There was no one else on the slope, but my son skied down and got the British Association of Ski Patrollers volunteer to come up with a stretcher. I had tried to stand, but immediately collapsed in pain as my leg gave way.
As I lay there waiting I was sure I had torn a ligament in my knee and I considered all the guiding work I would now have to cancel – one of the perils of being self-employed.
Down at the medic hut the pain didn’t seem so bad, but my knee was swollen to twice the size of that of my left. The medic strapped me up and, I got transported to A&E in Perth.
There the doctor thought I had possibly torn my anterior cruciate ligament and dislocated my knee cap. Fortunately, an X-ray proved that prognosis was wrong, and I only had bleeding from muscle lesions and stretched tendons and ligaments.
The doctor surmised that the strength in my leg from cycling had prevented and protected my knee from more serious damage. I was relieved, and the prescribed treatment was rest and plenty of ibuprofen and paracetamol over the next three weeks. My season of cycle guiding looked like it was saved.
I knew that I had better-than-average flexibility in my legs and I was determined not to lose any of that, or have any reduction in strength, so I knew I had to keep mobile. A previous mountain bike accident that resulted in me breaking my wrist and a failure on my part to stretch and exercise after the cast was removed now means I have very limited movement in my wrist. I didn’t want that to happen in my leg.
Initially, the pain was excruciating and on several occasions I thought I would be sick, but the benefits started to show very quickly over the first few days.
My focus for the health benefits of cycling had always been on my heart and lungs and although I knew I was building strength too, I hadn’t related to that in terms of injury reduction and prevention.
It was one of those lightbulb moments where I realised that I should be focusing on flexibility and joint strength as much as cardiovascular fitness. Despite my flexibility I had never really done any kind of stretching – it was something that just came naturally and I never paid much heed to improving it.
Now I am making a plan for some weekly yoga sessions for improved joint mobility and strength, not just for injury reduction, but as I get older I figure it will be of great benefit to staying fit and active.
Cycling is a great activity to partake in, with the added benefits of getting out and enjoying the fresh air and its non-impact nature, but ultimately any regular activity is going to pay dividends to your joint strength and flexibility.
Where to ride: The Wee Triathlon – Fort William
When: March 14
Description: This event is an ideal introduction for those new to triathlons. Consisting of a 400 metre swim, a 10 mile bike ride on and off-road and a 3 mile run and no timed transition between the swim and cycle it is a fun format.
Enter at: nofussevents.co.uk/events/the-wee-triathlon-2020-march-14