If loin cloths could speak...

If loin cloths could speak...

Half Man, Half Couch

by / / 64 posts

I never used to get injured. I could ride all day on hardly any water or food, under the Australian sun with nary a squirt of sunscreen, drink four beers directly after and then go and DJ and dance til the wee hours of the next morning without stretching or any form of ‘warming down’. To me, warming up was the modus operandi.

This pattern, while not exactly the norm, got me through to at least my mid 40s. In fact, some of my best form on the bike (and on the dancefloor) occurred in the first five years of my fifth decade. The second half was not as concentrated on racing and consequently any training––and I use that term loosely––I would do would be haphazard in its structure and goals were something I’d see watching the football on the telly. Beer was still the hydrant of choice and the term “I really should start stretching” became a mantra, an of-repeated, more often ignored, horrible, desperate mantra.

Now in my early 50s, the time to put that mantra into service is hard to ignore. Just sitting here, in my ergonomic office chair, at my real proper desk with the keyboard at the right height and everything, my back aches like that of a 50 year old Cyclist. My shoulders are rolled forward and my neck is lost in a shrug that threatens to swallow my head whole. My right arm goes numb every few minutes, which of course elicits the darkest of thoughts; “Is this a heart attack?” “Am I having a stroke?” If so, I wish they’d just hurry up and get it over with.

Curiously, mountain biking seemed to be less painful on my back/arm in the time I’ve had this injury. Leaning over the bars on the road bike means the first twenty minutes are spent trying to stretch the arm, irony of ironies, and dangling it and shaking it to null the numbness. I look like a fucking tool. Something had to give, and two weeks ago I did what no man ever does: I went to the doctor. Thinking the heart attack scenario was the most likely, he quickly shut down that theory with an ECG and some X-Rays. Narrowing of the C6/7 discs and foraminal encroachment was the diagnosis. At least it had a name now, not just “fuck my shoulder hurts/my arm is numb” that I’m sure colleagues were getting sick of.

The upside is I get to go to the chiropractor twice a week. How is that an upside? Well, she’s French for a start. And after only a couple of visits, things are getting better. I haven’t been able to ride for a couple of weeks, compounded by a weekend riding some of the burliest trails in the country and crashing my brains out following a World Cup downhiller down a trail that he built and wasn’t really a trail. Result, a trip over the bars, a hug of a tree and a rack of toasted ribs, which served to take my attention off the arm at least.

While I don’t have the services of a team of masseurs, stretchers, manipulators and fluffers and plain weird dudes grabbing random bits like old mate on the rack in the lead photo, I’m more aware that as one gets on in years, especially these ones that start with a 5, there is a greater need to do the body maintenance that one should have been doing decades ago. Because if there are to be any more decades of riding, it just has to be. And I hear there may be some French women who do yoga…

// Musings from the V-Bunker

  1. After 50 you need to know your limits and slow down to smell the roses. When you get chicked, just suck on her wheels and enjoy the view.

  2. Familiar with a bunch of those symptoms having displaced a vertebrae when I was 24 (Rugby). Apparently you could see it sticking out of my back. Looking back I was fortunate not to damage any nerves. Visit the Chiropractor monthly or I seize. Near 40 years on I do wonder about the state of the discs around there. Some form of pain just a fact of life, weird where it can spring up.

  3. @Salsiccione

    Brett, I feel your pain. After suffering the same pain and subsequent loss of use of my arm plus loss of sensation in all appendages, I was diagnosed with severe disc issues. Just went through a full dual disc replacement on c-5 and c-6. Now riding again.

    Although my bikes are worth more than my car, the hardware in my neck is worth more than all my bikes put together. I wonder if there are any V rules that might apply to that particular set of circumstances. Recover well and recover strong.

    there should be!

  4. Interesting and well-written article, @brett. It has convinced me to get my shoulder pain / discomfort / numbness (which has been slowly creeping down my arm, side and leg) checked out once and for all. Cheers

  5. Just turned 48 and touch wood back and knees have been in great shape since I stopped playing in goal ten years ago. My VMH has recently gone back to yoga after a few years break and embarrassed me into a ‘mobility off’ the other night where she kicked my arse.

    Im in the same boat as many on this thread where I fear starting something that I won’t be able to ride without doing. I’m probably in denial but right now I feel like I’m getting away with it.

  6. I’m very motivated to stretch/roll/get sports massages/do strength work as often as I can because I get niggly pains in my knees if I don’t. I haven’t been cycling that long, relatively, so I wonder if in some way they are ‘growing pains’ as my joints get used to the amount of cycling I’m doing.

    I’ve always been really paranoid about knees since I developed a chronic knee problem in my early 20’s. I used to do a lot of running and mountain biking and it got so severe that if I went biking I couldn’t drive the next day because I couldn’t bend and straighten my knee to press the clutch without agonising pain.

    The solution? A huge number of one legged-squats with a weighted rucksack, morning and night, for three months. It was hard but it worked a miracle and that problem went away for good.

  7. 50 is the new 30!

  8. @wilburrox

    50 is the new 30!

    …and 60 the new 20 or is it just a case of “You can’t help getting old but you can stay immature forever”?

  9. @RayG

    …rolling out of bed onto the floor, pulling on my pants while lying on the floor and crawling up the walls in order to stand up…

    My lower back isn’t always on message first thing in the morning during periods of cycling inactivity (years of rugby abuse and a lack of core strength work) and there’ve been occasions when I haven’t been able to reach my feet; the kids are getting bored of putting my socks on. The more I ride the better it gets which is strong motivation in itself.

    @brett great article (unless you’ve just been spending too much time lying on your arm to numb it and your hand), inspiration to go and get my knees sorted out.

  10. At 68 years young and now confronting my inevitable demise sooner rather than later, I am seriously thinking of donating my body to medical research as a catalogue of sporting injuries (far too many to list here). There are numerous lumps, scars and distorted limbs that attest to the pursuit of rugby at a high (international) level, not to mention the internal damage. If I were ever to meet my liver, face-to-face, I wouldn’t know quite where to start to explain . . .

    I got back into cycling in my mid-50s as a way of maintaining some fitness without load bearing and avoiding contact – physical that is. I now treasure the banter that goes along with it, so long as my hearing holds out.

  11. @Teocalli

    @wilburrox

    50 is the new 30!

    …and 60 the new 20 or is it just a case of “You can’t help getting old but you can stay immature forever”?

    Indeed, I like that thinking! Now, going one step further and 70 being the new 10… that might imply something less than desirable yes? But, one day, many moons from now, reverting to my indestructible no worries in the world self at 20 ? Not a bad thing. I can imagine would be fun.

  12. Hitting my early 40’s and am learning that self care is key. Chiro, massage therapy, accupuncture, and physio are all keeping me on the road – too much time playing rugby in my younger days took its’ toll. As for the picture above – I had no idea Dr. Frank N Furter was so tanned.

  13. Damn this is a timely article. I’ll hit 53 this year. Other than some ongoing back issues (helped immensely by winter core work and stretching that I stupidly abandon when the season starts) I’m in pretty decent shape. That being said, something has just started happening with my left hip area. Not sure if it’s the joint or a muscle issue. I’ll keep an eye on it. It only bugs me when I get up from sitting and for the first few strides. So far no issues on the bike.

    That being said, compared to most guys my age, I’m in very good shape. I think doing a sport with great cardio and little to no impact is the winning way. Being a 53 year old shooting hoops or soccer or something else is just asking for trouble.

    That lead pic is a hoot. It looks like the rider is in a mortuary and is being dressed for burial. Late 40s/early 50s by the look of things. Do we have an id on the rider? Oli?

  14. My VMH is the one with nagging injuries (neck, shoulder, knee) due to various bike crashes (the most serious one being hit from behind by a car). Knock on wood, despite five motorcycle crashes (two at the track and three on the road — two where I totalled my motorcycles but walked away injury free), I’m not feeling the ill effects of “old age” at 56. And I just stretched out and lowered my stem 10mm both directions. Most of my contemporaries are trying to figure out at least higher, if not shorter.

  15. I stretch and do light exercises for ~30 minutes every morning. Visit my chiropractor once a month for an adjustment. My VMH just bought the both of us some sports massage sessions, but those are definitely a luxury/treat. As I’m a desk jockey during the week, I try to get up and walk around whenever I can. Just remember what Fausto Coppi said: Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.

  16. Landed in the same scenario last summer. PT, injections, adjustment of my position on the bike, ergonomics in the workplace, and I feel like I’m ready to get back to some semblance of V

  17. I’ll see your Half Man Half Couch and raise you a Half Man Half Biscuit:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XNgS2VBuVM

    And I never had an issue with Nerys Hughes either.

  18. I am very new to this great sport, only about 5,000 miles in since February of last year. Not really qualified to comment, but I will say that at 56 is astonishing how much stretching matters. You would think that 20 easy minutes on your bike just spinning around at the start of the ride would be enough, considering the lack of impact, but there must be some physiological effect of age which simply makes the muscle fibers less supple. Then, those tight muscles lead straight to more tension on connective tissue (which is probably not as supple either), and that’s it.

  19. “While I don’t have the services of a team of masseurs, stretchers, manipulators and fluffers and plain weird dudes grabbing random bits like old mate on the rack in the lead photo ….” Jesus man, this killed me. Well done!

    And I’ll 23rd (or whatever number we are on) the notion that it sucks to get old, esp if you did not take care of yourself when you were younger. I have a few compression fractures in my back from being on Airborne status for four years (glad it was only four years) and I get numb legs and arms when in one position for too long. And my taekwondo over the last 23 years has both helped and hurt me: I stretch regularly twice a week when I go to class but I also have been knocked out cold 3 times in my tournament history so all the dementia that seems to be starting can be laid at that door, right???

    Anyways, well written and hopefully you can get out on your beautiful Jaegher soon!!!

  20. For the first time in too long, I went out for a full 2 hours on the road bike on Saturday. Happy to report no foot pain, which I used to get, and no neck pain, which I always had. Chipped/crushed a neck vertebrae playing college sports. I’ve been promising myself I’ll start stretching regularly for years now. Same with light weight training. I need to!

    As for right now…been laid up since yesterday with a stomach bug. Can’t remember the last time I’ve had this. Fever and multiple trips to the bathroom, with both ends seeing action. Yikes, this is not fun. Good thing is that it has provided a SERIOUS jump on winter dieting to get ready for MSR.

    Brett – heal up! I’m always impressed by those of you who are older and have been at it longer and can still ride like mad. You’ll be back!

  21. I wonder what percentage of us played competitive sports from a very young age? Seems like a lot of us played impact/contact sports for years.

    I blame 4 years of running on college turf for a lot of my aches and pains.

  22. @Ron

    I wonder what percentage of us played competitive sports from a very young age? Seems like a lot of us played impact/contact sports for years.

    I blame 4 years of running on college turf for a lot of my aches and pains.

    yup, have been on a first name basis with a few local physios since my early teens thanks the physical rigours playing school, club & state cricket place on a body going through growth spurts. Stress fractures in your spine at 14 will teach you a thing or two about core work.

    Nearly 15 years of playing this until my mid 20’s probably hasn’t helped matters much…

  23. @brett

    @salsiccione

    Actually they entered the spine through my throat and literally pulled out the old worn discs and replaced with 2 artificial ones. Amazing what can be done with a little titanium and some duct tape. I would hope and would bet you are nowhere near that level. My case was pretty severe and even injections or PT was no longer an option.

    I will say my recovery consisted of a heavy helping of motiVation from the Velominati site. Which got me back to doing my first race within 6 months. As much as it pains you to do so, I think a good bit of rest may sometimes be the best solution. I tried quite a few options before had to go for the surgery. Glad to share any of my experiences if it helps.

    That’s some heavy stuff! Pulling your spine out through your throat, sounds like a David Lynch film. Glad you are back to full Vitness, I shouldn’t be out too long I hope. Definitely no cobbles this Spring I think.

    Same situation here, except my was C6/C7 – morphine/endone for months etc etc etc.

    Easily see how one becomes addicted to drugs, I was down to looking for an endone hit more frequently as time went by.

    Surgeon wanted to cut me open straight away ( he actually looked quite excited at cutting me open through the throat and ripping out a disc ).

    Option 2 was taken with a dirty great big cortisone needle jammed into disc area. CT Scans look like a scene from CSI whereby someone had been impaled with a long screwdriver.

    5 years later, still get the pain and left arm felling like it belongs to someone else ( that has it’s benefits sometime ) but it’s manageable with pain meds.

    Chiro who is a wizard down these parts has kept me from the operating table thus far. But I fear it’s only a matter of time.

    Moral of the story, stretch, drink water, stretch then repeat.

    We are not bullet proof anymore.

  24. I Feel your pain, at 61 years of age I too have the same symptoms and just today went thru the ECG and some other test’s . they say I need an MRI of the cervical spine now so it looks like I may be in your same boat :)

    We will see …

  25. Wow, it’s surprising to see how many of you are in the same age bracket, and have similar issues. Kinda heartening too, that most have recovered and are still laying down V. After my third chiro session I can feel some improvement, which has the double-edged sword of making me want to get out and ride, despite the advice of my French therapist (I’m sure she just wants to keep seeing me for the sparkling conversation).

  26. @sowtondevil

    There are numerous lumps, scars and distorted limbs that attest to the pursuit of rugby at a high (international) level, not to mention the internal damage. If I were ever to meet my liver, face-to-face, I wouldn’t know quite where to start to explain . . .

    Intriguing! What nation? Rugby union?

  27. @Ron

    I wonder what percentage of us played competitive sports from a very young age? Seems like a lot of us played impact/contact sports for years.

    I started playing prop aged 11 in full-contact rugby. Not great for the back or shoulders. Since then I’ve been variously a runner, a rock climber, a rugby player again, a cricketer and it’s only as a cyclist I’ve started feeling the exercise is good for me! And also, cycling is the only sport which has really forced me to lose weight. Nearly down to 84kgs now!

  28. @RobSandy

    @Ron

    I wonder what percentage of us played competitive sports from a very young age? Seems like a lot of us played impact/contact sports for years.

    I started playing prop aged 11 in full-contact rugby. Not great for the back or shoulders. Since then I’ve been variously a runner, a rock climber, a rugby player again, a cricketer and it’s only as a cyclist I’ve started feeling the exercise is good for me! And also, cycling is the only sport which has really forced me to lose weight. Nearly down to 84kgs now!

    I did the rugby thing in HS too. Tight-head, second row and occasional #8. Played a few games for the bank I worked for after college but by then I was getting seriously into cycling. I also went from one of the big guys to not so much and I was feart of getting hurt. Gave up the rugby and never regretted it since. Oh, and I was pretty crap at it too.

  29. Yet another reason I’m a Follower…seems like the majority of us have played other sports at quite high levels. As much as I love cycling these days, and dislike most mainstream ball sports, I still enjoyed playing them when growing up.

    A lot of proof around here that cyclists aren’t just skinny mathematicians who were too scared to play sports as kids and mocked the “jocks” in high school.

    Also, aVVwesome to read how many of you are going strong in your 50s and 60s. Not that I’m being an ageist, it just gives me hope that I’ll still be riding and sporting for many more years to come. Cheers, lads! Take your rehab and rest seriously.

  30. @Ron

    I wonder what percentage of us played competitive sports from a very young age? Seems like a lot of us played impact/contact sports for years.

    I blame 4 years of running on college turf for a lot of my aches and pains.

    As a kid (pre-teenage years), I played all three “American” sports, i.e., football, baseball, and basketball, as playground sports. Starting in junior high school, I was a tennis player throughout high school and college, and into my mid-20s. Took up running, which eventually led to cycling.

  31. @Ron

    Yet another reason I’m a Follower…seems like the majority of us have played other sports at quite high levels. As much as I love cycling these days, and dislike most mainstream ball sports, I still enjoyed playing them when growing up.

    A lot of proof around here that cyclists aren’t just skinny mathematicians who were too scared to play sports as kids and mocked the “jocks” in high school.

    Also, aVVwesome to read how many of you are going strong in your 50s and 60s. Not that I’m being an ageist, it just gives me hope that I’ll still be riding and sporting for many more years to come. Cheers, lads! Take your rehab and rest seriously.

    I think one of the reasons some of us “mature” guys are still riding is that cycling simply doesn’t beat up/fuck up your body the way a lot of other sports do. We’re older and wiser and know that while we can’t go head-to-head with 20 somethings at a lot of sports, when it comes to the bike we can still kick ass.

  32. A little off topic for this string of old age and full contact sports, but… is it just me, or is everyone else getting a little paranoid about people in the office / home / cafe wondering what the hell kind of website I keep pulling up?

    “No wait! It’s not what it looks like! I can explain!”

    “Yeah, what’s it about then?”

    “This is just one of a whole bunch of articles. Look, this one here from the other day is about shaving your legs. Shit. Wait… hold on. I can explain!”

  33. @brett

    After years of working with Josh, you decide you might try yoga now?

    FFS if you wanna dance, you gotta pay the band, right, if you want to ride and be comfortable, you gotta stretch, do some conditioning off the bike, manage injuries. Just the facts of life, not rocket surgery.

  34. @wiscot

    I’ll see your Half Man Half Couch and raise you a Half Man Half Biscuit:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XNgS2VBuVM

    And I never had an issue with Nerys Hughes either.

    All I ever wanted for Christmas was a Dukla Prague away kit…

  35. @litvi

    A little off topic for this string of old age and full contact sports, but… is it just me, or is everyone else getting a little paranoid about people in the office / home / cafe wondering what the hell kind of website I keep pulling up?

    “No wait! It’s not what it looks like! I can explain!”

    “Yeah, what’s it about then?”

    “This is just one of a whole bunch of articles. Look, this one here from the other day is about shaving your legs. Shit. Wait… hold on. I can explain!”

    Thank You Thank You Thank You!!!!

    I thought I was the only one who had this experience!!!!!

    It’s bad enough explaining the new wheel set leaning on my desk—and lets not mention the time I walked into the office a bit late in my “shorts outfit”——“hey whats that in the back of your shorts”—-(yeah yeah I know ‘kit”— but my colleagues dubbed it a shorts “outfit”)——————— but this!!!!

  36. @Ron

    I wonder what percentage of us played competitive sports..?

    I blame 4 years of running on college turf for a lot of my aches and pains.

    I threw my back out hunched over a typewriter in college and didn’t make the connection until later in life. We’re not designed to sit in chairs we’re made to squat and stand (and cycle too by Merckx). I now hang upside down on a $100 inverter in my work out room. It does wonders and saves me payments to any physical terrorists. Though if they were French …

  37. If you have lived your life in athletic sport, you have experienced injury. Many minor injuries and some much more serious. I have required surgeries to repair something that has broken or torn, and they have all been painful. But, for me, the most debilitating of injuries involves the spine. If you have experienced or lived with spinal nerve pain, you know of what I speak. My injury occurred while wrestling in college, but it was likely cumulative from years of overuse. L4 and L5 degenerative and bulging discs. I’ll spare you the story of MRIs, spinal taps, days lying on the floor, and two years of twice a week PT sessions just to become functional again. Today, my lower back is generally healthy, but at Christmas time, it went out. Took five weeks for the spasms to slow and the disc to go back into place. I began training again two weeks ago and now I am hit with a chest cold. (I)njury and (I)llness – this is the life of an athlete. But knowing that the double I’s hover close by, we still pursue our sport because quitting is worse than falling apart.

  38. @Duntov

    @litvi

    A little off topic for this string of old age and full contact sports, but… is it just me, or is everyone else getting a little paranoid about people in the office / home / cafe wondering what the hell kind of website I keep pulling up?

    “No wait! It’s not what it looks like! I can explain!”

    “Yeah, what’s it about then?”

    “This is just one of a whole bunch of articles. Look, this one here from the other day is about shaving your legs. Shit. Wait… hold on. I can explain!”

    Thank You Thank You Thank You!!!!

    I thought I was the only one who had this experience!!!!!

    It’s bad enough explaining the new wheel set leaning on my desk—and lets not mention the time I walked into the office a bit late in my “shorts outfit”——“hey whats that in the back of your shorts”—-(yeah yeah I know ‘kit”— but my colleagues dubbed it a shorts “outfit”)——————— but this!!!!

    Exactly the same thing happened to me yesterday. I clicked on Velominati and the photo at the top of this article popped up. Colleague “What the fuck are you looking at?!”

  39. @Sparty

    If you have lived your life in athletic sport, you have experienced injury.

    My physio says very much the same thing. Unless you do nothing, you’re going to get injured. You just have to philosophical when it happens and also driven to get back to where you were.

    As an aside, I have a sports massage tonight to try and break down an old scar on my hamstring. That’ll be fun. In an agonising pain sort of way.

  40. @RobSandy

    You know he’s going to laugh at your hair shorts, right? If he’s not trying to avoid barfing, that is.

  41. @Oli

    @RobSandy

    You know he’s going to laugh at your hair shorts, right? If he’s not trying to avoid barfing, that is.

    I think ‘I’m a cyclist’ is an extremely useful phrase in these situations to pass off any range of strange behaviour.

    I’m sure he’s seen worse. I could be a she, also.

  42. chuckp – I’ll forgive the running. Tennis is awesome and I need to start playing more.

    wiscot – cycling 7 days a week, soccer twice a week. Ages from 30-73. It’s competitive, but a gentleman’s game where there is no hard fouling, hard tackling, and we do the best to at least play creatively. All types of ability levels too. I played non-stop growing up, then got burned out. Didn’t play from age 14-28 at all. Now I love it again. Funny how that can work. Took up cycling in my early 20s after I finished up college sports. No I don’t know what I’d do without the two of them. I have a solid, fulfilling life, but I really can’t imagine it without sports and/or daily exercise. I’d go bonkers.

    So, as much as injuries are not fun, I’ll take them as part of the overall package. Oh…and ice baths are about the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.

  43. @RobSandy

    “I’m a cyclist” doesn’t cut it until you’ve shaved the lot – stop pussying around, FFS.

  44. @Oli

    @RobSandy

    “I’m a cyclist” doesn’t cut it until you’ve shaved the lot – stop pussying around, FFS.

    also, if you’re having on old scar broken up via massage, you aren’t going to want any hair on that skin!

  45. Plus it’s just gross!

  46. @Oli

    we both know this, but I sense @RobSandy is looking for a more practical reason to justify moving the deforestation line north.

  47. @Mikael Liddy

    @Oli

    we both know this, but I sense @RobSandy is looking for a more practical reason to justify moving the deforestation line north.

    Practical … logical … reasonable??? For FUCKS Sake, this is the V site, man! Dammit, Frank’s a cyclist, not a Vulcan. Just shave your ENTIRE fucking guns, Mate! (besides, Oli has spoken so this should be a dead issue)

  48. Great article Brett. Glad to hear that I’ve got a few more years till I will be forced to consider stretching. My hip has been bugging me a bit lately but I’m pretty sure if I ignore it it will go away. At the bike store today the fella helping me asked how flexible I was…

    “not very”, says I.

    “can you touch your toes?”, he says.

    “oh, well yes. I can do that.”

    “oh, you’re fine then. Better than most I see.”

  49. @Oli

    @RobSandy

    “I’m a cyclist” doesn’t cut it until you’ve shaved the lot – stop pussying around, FFS.

    *Hangs head*

  50. Loved the article Brett. I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis a few years back, and took up cycling to keep active. My position on the bike looks terrible, and it used to bother me that I couldn’t adopt a perfect cyclist’s posture (I look like I’m sticking my arse out) but over time I came to realise it was only an issue to me. Nobody has ever said I look “wrong”. Cycling has definitely made me stronger, I rarely have the crippling spasms I suffered at regular intervals. At 49 years old I still see improvements, and it’s good to read of older riders still going strong.

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