Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Taking My New Hip for a Bike Ride

Last week I took my new hip for a quick bike ride to the gym. That’s only half a mile from my house. No biggie. Biking was less work than walking there.

Yesterday I decided to take the hip for a real ride – one of the reasons I got it – a ride to the grocery store. The grocery is about a mile and a half from my house, or 3 miles round trip, plus walking around the store to pick up my groceries.  I hate thinking like that.  I used to put the saddle bags on the bike, wheel it down my front steps and zoom off to the grocery, or anywhere else, without a second thought.

I’ve been practicing. I’ve been riding the stationary bike at the gym every day for 3 weeks. I bike 4 miles in 20 minutes.  I’m not tired at 20 minutes. The gym bikes have timers. You have to get off after 20 minutes so somebody else can have a turn.

I asked my PT – “Is biking 4 miles on a stationery bike anything like biking 4 miles on the road?”
He said, “It’s much harder. You have to balance. It’s like the difference between doing leg lifts on a chair and doing leg lifts on a balance ball.”  He suggested I not bike more than 7 or 8 minutes, take a rest, and then go home.

I told him there aren’t stop signs to deal with on the gym bike.  He agreed I could have a few more minutes.  I pushed it.  It takes about 10 minutes to bike to the grocery store, when traffic is light. 15 minutes in normal traffic. And I’m not as fast as I used to be.  That 4 miles in 20 minutes works out to only 12 miles an hour. That’s a leisurely ride on normal legs – but I do not yet have normal legs.

I live in a neighborly neighborhood.  Everybody knows I have a new hip. Everybody knows I’m in rehab.  And everybody knows I’m an exercise junky.  No sooner had I wheeled my bike down the stairs than a neighbor came up to me. “Does your doctor know you’re doing this?”
“My doctor told me I can ride my bike, go swimming, and use the eliptical at the gym.”
“Can’t you do something else?”
“I could ride the stationary bike at the gym, but that wouldn’t bring groceries home.”

“The gym bike is boring,” said my neighbor.  I totally agree with her.  The neighborhood gym does not have the dragon chasing program like my old gym.  All I get to look at are miles per hour, revolutions per minute, difficulty level, and estimates as to how many calories I’ve burned.
Finally my neighbor agreed that it was okay for me to get groceries.  Now the only remaining approval I needed was from my new hip and the accompanying leg muscles.

Gentle hills fill the distance between my home and the grocery store.  I’ve been setting the stationary bike on the hills program, level 8.  The hills were not difficult. Until I got to the 21st street underpass.  I LOVE that underpass.  I love zooming down it. I love feeling my muscles work as I pedal up it.  But my legs were already tired. If I zoomed down, I would be dismounting and walking up. Not what I wanted. And it could be avoided. 

I made a right turn and went the long way around, adding about a quarter mile to my route.  All the easy parking spaces for bikes were taken – the ones at the ends of the racks.  I had to lift my bike into one of the middle spaces.  Again, this is balance work! I unhitched the saddle bags, carried them to a cart and hoisted my bike onto the rack. Then I locked it in place.

In the store, I was grateful for that cart. It works like a walker and takes the weight off my hips.  I got the groceries. I unlocked my bike and lifted it out of the rack. I rehitched the saddle bags.  Then I had to bike home.  It is slightly more uphill to go home than to go downtown.  Normally, this is no big deal, but my legs were already tired.  Both of them.  Neither has had to ride a bike to the grocery for 2 months.  You’d think I’d told them they could retire to pasture.  They made me crank the bike down to its easiest gear. They grouched. But they kept on pedaling.

The only major complaint they made was carrying my bike up my 3 front stairs to my livingroom.  I took the saddle bags off before lifting the bike. I made 2 separate trips to bring the saddle bags inside.  I put the frozen stuff in the freezer, and the stuff, like juice, that must be kept cool, in the fridge. And I left the rest of it. I went upstairs and took a nap.

Yes, riding a bike for 3 real miles is harder than riding a stationary bike for 4 miles.  Just to be sure, I went to the gym this morning and rode the stationary bike for 20 minutes. I wasn’t tired. It wasn’t difficult. My hip did not grouch. Neither did my leg muscles.  Now to get them strong enough for the real world.  That’s the real reason I got the new hip.

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