Riding Back to Fitness: Part 3

Riding Back to Fitness: Part 3 – The All Clear is given and it’s time to get going!

It’s now October, just over four months since my extensive bilateral pneumonia. While not a massively dangerous illness – as long as you catch it in time and aren’t suffering from a compromised immune system – it was pretty scary for me and mine. I was given the official all-clear to carry on in August and had a look at the images – x-ray and CT scans – taken before, during and after my illness. These were really interesting, you could see the spidery white pneumonia spreading through my lungs at the beginning, then after my check up, gloriously clear lungs. Now it’s time to start Riding Back to Fitness!

These are the recommended recovery periods for pneumonia

Since then I’ve been slowly building back up to general fitness, in preparation to start training again. The pneumonia had been caused by one of the many bacteria that we are constantly living with. However, whereas normally my immune system would have batted the pesky bacterium away, it had become a little depleted. Looking back over my Strava data and I can clearly see the fatigue building from April to June, when I finally succumbed.

During that period I rode three tough races, Limburg 150, a round of the national Mtb series and the Gralloch. On top of this I was throwing in a load of unstructured training; basically just riding long and hard! While you do need hard efforts, what I’ve come to accept is you also need recovery. Piling hard efforts on, one after another, without giving my body time to recover was always going to end badly.

So now I know what I did wrong, what am I going to do to rectify it and do I need to?

I’m 57 now and have been riding and racing since I was a junior; with periods off to enjoy the finer/funner things in life! Do I need to carry on racing? Should I just hang up my wheels, buy a cardigan and start watching football? It seems to work for a lot of guys my age, but honestly, I don’t think I could do it.

Cycling has always been a huge part of my life. My father used to race in the 60s and 70s, in the UK and Australia. I still remember watching him racing in a stage race in Western Australia, following him and his mates in an old bus with my older brother and mum. Later my brother started racing and like most little brothers, I tagged along. I enjoyed the riding, but was terrible at the races. Time passed and the bike became a mode of transport and employment – working as a courier while at college – but always riding for fun and sport.

It’s in the genes! My father in flight back in the ’60s

So the bike has always been part of my life, I’ve had some great experiences and met some lovely people along the way. Time on the bike, whether training, racing or just riding always leaves me on a high. I don’t think I could stop riding without it having a negative effect on my mental well-being. So that’s good, I don’t have to stop!

Do I need a coach?

Looking back at those Strava files I realised that if I’m going to race again, I’m going to have to be organised. I tried some of the training apps that are out there, but they left me bewildered. They are so full of detail, stats and graphs that I’m just left wondering what to do. So I got in contact with Ric Stern, the founder of CycleCoach

I had worked with Ric previously, using his Membership Coaching service to keep me motivated and on-track. Ric has been coaching for over 25 years, he’s authored research articles, coached World Champions, writes for the cycling press and still finds time to race himself. While the Membership Coaching isn’t a one-to-one service, there is still plenty of input from Ric if you need it. The fact that it’s also a lot cheaper helps as well! Look out for a more detailed article about CycleCoach soon.

Ric Stern of CycleCoach will be helping me on my road back to fitness
Ric Stern of CycleCoach will be helping me on my road back to fitness

Mixed in with all the on the bike workouts, I have at least two strength workouts a week. Ric is a strong believer in us weedy cyclists doing strength work. These come via an app called Volt, which I’ve found very easy to use. There are short videos showing you what you need to do and you can change individual exercises if you need to; which I need to. I’ve picked up a couple of issues which needed the attention of a physiotherapist. These are a Mild Anterior Hip Health Change and a Mild Disc Bulge. So I have to avoid squats, lunges and any ‘long-lever’ exercises; that last one means exercises like leg raises.

Ride slow to get fast

So I have a plan in place – currently an off-season one – as I want to be fit for racing in spring ’24. This means a fair amount of zone one and two riding. Have you tried riding at zone one for three hours? It’s tough! I think one way round it would be to drag one of the kids out. Thankfully there’s also plenty of zone 2 riding in there as well. Zone 2 is the buzzword nowadays, there’s plenty of articles explaining what it is, why you need to do it and how Pojacar does loads! In brief, it’s riding at the pace you could keep up all day if you needed to. Some say it’s at a ‘conversational pace’, but not long monologues, more short and to the point; read the article in the link, it explains it a lot better.

The Gralloch is another race on my hit list

Being coached means listening to what your coach is telling you to do and then doing it. That’s what I need, someone telling me what to do; stopping me over training again. It’s fine to have a little deviation now and then, but if I’m paying for a coach’s advice, then I’m going to follow it. Even if it does mean riding slower on the weekend, when you want to blast around with your mates. What’s the old saying? “Winter miles, summer smiles”. Looks like I’ll be putting that to the test!


At the moment the training is fairly low level, plenty of long rides mixed in with some shorter efforts, foundation building. I’m desperate to get out and do some ‘cross races, especially as I missed last season due to covid. You can see the dip on the Strava file around Nov/December. Could this have been to blame for weakening my immune system, allowing the pneumonia to take hold?

At the moment my Riding Back to Fitness plan looks like this

I have checked in with Ric and he says yes, I can do the odd ‘cross race; yippee! This will help break up the long winter season. We all know you need to have a strong foundation before you start racing, it’s so tempting to rush this part, but I’m going to be good and do what Ric says.

I came 7th at a UCI race, honest!
“Never mind dad, there’s always next year!” Me after the Gravel Fondo Limburg

What’s the plan?

I’m aiming to be fit for my first target of the year, the Gavel Fondo Limburg. This was a gravel race I did and thoroughly enjoyed, although I suffered. I’m intending that this time I will arrive fit and ready to race. Minimum result is to qualify for the Worlds; best result? Well equalling or improving on my 7th place at the Houffa race would be awesome. Maybe it’s a case of aiming for the stars and hitting the moon; either result would leave me with a smile. I’ll be back with another report in a couple of weeks, thanks for reading and stay healthy!

I’ve put up some, brief videos about this journey here.

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