How to recover from a bike crash
Two ribs went for a motorcycle ride; after a while, one said "Let's have a break..." But falling off a bike isn't a joke. Especially as you start to recuperate. How long does it take to recover from a bike crash? Everyone's different, just as every crash is different, but the short answer is: always longer than you think. Or that’s how I’m finding it, anyway…
I’m back home after a 48-hour journey and a week of being looked after by my girlfriend and then my parents. I spent my whole time with them insisting I was fine, no problems, good as new… then going for a little lie down to stop my back aching or just to recharge my batteries.
This is the bit nobody warns you about: the fact that falling off a bike doesn’t just hurt when you do it; but it keeps aching for bloomin’ ages afterwards. Clearly, all accidents are different and, yes, mine was a bad one (though I'm lucky it wasn't much worse) but if I’d thought I was going to be gambolling around like a spring lamb by now, five weeks after the accident, I’d be going spare by now. But I remembered that all recuperation is a slow process and I feel I’ve learnt a lot from this crash – not least that I really do need to stop having a go at off-roading and just stick to nice, safe tarmac.
What have I learnt about the process of recovery? The main thing is that attitude is everything and if you meet it positively, it's easier. But more than that, I’d say there are five things you need to bounce back from any accident. If you’re ever unfortunate enough to be in the same boat, I hope you’ll find these observations useful. So before falling off a motorbike, make sure you have the following:
Good intentions count for nothing. Getting better relies on doing the (sometimes painful) physiotherapy exercises… and skipping them is the easiest thing in the world. Especially as you begin to get better and kid yourself you don't need them. So you need a routine that makes it easy to include the exercises. In fact, you need a routine that makes it foolish to skip them.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. It wasn’t sacked, rebuilt and stuffed with crazy drivers in Fiat 500s in a weekend, either. There’s no point rushing, doing too much and setting yourself back. So make sure your routine is realistic – listen to the physio’s instructions about how often to do the exercises. If they say three times a day, maybe try doing them four times a day… but not six. Push yourself by all means, but not off the edge of a cliff.
Progress without goals isn’t progress – it’s just treading water and hoping you float somewhere. But targets don’t have to be ambitious. As long as you do just a little more each day than you did the day before, that’s great. If you have some bigger, longer-term goals (by the end of the week, I’ll be able to do this; after a fortnight, I’ll be able to do that; etc) you can stay in the routine without getting impatient.
A sense of humour
You fell off a motorbike? Of course it hurts… what did you expect – fountains of cherry blossom? If you take yourself too seriously, you’ll end up setting goals that are too ambitious and you’ll pursue them impatiently. Plus you’ll be terrible company. Obviously, getting injured is no laughing matter – especially if it’s serious – but a bit of gallows humour will soften the blow and helps keep it in perspective. Laughing at yourself if you struggle to do things is far more positive than raging at your incapacity.
This isn’t the same as patience – it’s not about being ready to wait for results. It’s about never giving up. A stubborn streak is a two-edged sword, because too much leads to impatience and humourlessness (which will make you awful to those around you). But a little stubbornness will help you keep going, sticking to your routine, inching forward to that next small goal, trying to smile at your frailties as you get better. Stubbornness is knowing that you can get there, one day at a time, and making yourself do it. It’s the fuel for your recovery – just use is sparingly, so it doesn’t burn out. Because if you run out of stubbornness, that’s when you don’t stick to the routine, you don’t hit your goals, you lose your sense of humour and you just wallow in self-pity, without the hope of getting better. So it's good to be a little bit stubborn… but not too much.
On which note, my routine says it’s time for my afternoon walk. The slow, slightly limping walk of shame of the recently crashed biker. I’m not going too far – just a little further than I went yesterday. I’ll do my back/shoulder exercises before I go, too. If I stick to my routine, I’ll be fully fit in no time. Well, eventually. If I’m not hit by a bus as I hobble across the road, that is…