I'm going to suggest that it's safe to say that winter, and winter indoor training, is behind us and the joys of cycling in our shorts and jerseys, as opposed to being dressed like a Michelin advert, are back with us. Deep joy!
Unfortunately for me my winter training plans didn't go as I'd expected.
As the winter term was approaching, I sorted out my Success Cycling training plan and DVDs, prepped the turbo trainer and was looking forward to getting stuck in.
Then, what turned out to be my final ride of the year ended in a minor disaster.
Returning from a normal Sunday ride, which was going really well, I took a ninety degree left hand turn, one that I must have taken hundreds if not thousands of times over the years, onto the home straight.
Coming round the bend the front wheel slid away from me and I went down like the proverbial sack of spuds, watching my bike slide across the road. Fortunately there were no cars coming, and with a bang I felt a burning sensation in my left side cheek, shoulder, elbow, hips and knee.
On picking myself up I was grateful that a couple driving on their way to a running event parked their car across the roadway to prevent any other traffic approaching and came out to see if I was OK. Once I'd retrieved my bike and given it the once over the gent that had stopped held onto my bike and insisted that I stayed there for a minute or two settling myself down before I set off on the final four miles home. Having been knocked off my bike on a previous occasion, when the driver chose to carry on without stopping, I was most grateful to this couple for taking the time to stop and make sure that I was capable of cycling the rest of the way.
The remaining miles weren't too strenuous but the grazes I'd collected were feeling a little warmer and my wrists were beginning to feel quite painful. By the time I got home I was more than a little concerned about my wrists, but, at the same time, a little hopeful that the damage might not be too serious because I had just ridden a few miles with them.
After a visit to the doc I was assured that they weren't broken, but that I had damaged my ligaments and or tendons, and the prognosis was that it could take three to six months to repair. The doctor also commented that by the time I'd get a physio's appointment the wrists would have repaired themselves, so just keep them strapped up and take it easy. All well and good, but my winter training was now in question.
Despite the words from the doc I did get on the turbo trainer to see how riding would be affected. I was unable to support my weight on the bars, and the excruciating pain in my wrist whilst trying to change up and down the gears made it quite clear that I was going to be off the bike for a while. It goes without saying that there are riders out there that have sustained worse injuries, but, nevertheless, I was quite miffed that I was now off the bike without any real understanding of how it all happened.
With wrists suitably strapped I continued with my day job, as you do, when I came across a small advert in a magazine for something called 'Powerball'. Not knowing what it was all about, I thought I'd waste a few minutes having a look at what it was. It must have been a sign from the cycling gods, because there before my very eyes was something that could, perhaps, help with my rehabilitation and get me back on my bike.
Having never heard of Powerball I was a little sceptical about what it could do for me, but reading through the site, the explanations, 'how to' videos, as well as customer reviews and comments from sports and physio professionals, I decided that attempting something was better than doing nothing.
All I had to do was choose which Powerball to buy from the seven options available. It has to be said that, even after reading through the very comprehensive comparison chart, my choice was made quite simple because there was a money-off offer on one of the options. So that was it, choice made: all I had to do was sit back and wait for my new gizmo to arrive, which took all of two days.
What is Powerball?
The Powerball itself is a seemingly simple device that uses the gyroscopic effects of the spinning sphere to create a centrifugal resistance that you have to overcome, or 'compete' against, to help rehabilitate and strengthen, in my case, the wrists.
The Powerball website is loaded with guidance on how to use the Powerball, along with suggested exercise programmes for rehabilitation.
To get started with the Powerball, first you have to wind the inner sphere up to its full range, release and do as per the programme. The ball I purchased is 'loaded' by pushing the inner sphere with the thumbs, and that proved to be the first part of my workouts because a fair bit of pressure was required to get the inner sphere fully wound up.
Once loaded, the next phase involves rotating the ball. In essence, the resistance that's created is proportional to the speed that the wrist is turned, i.e. the faster you rotate your wrist the faster the internal spinning sphere rotates. The faster the spinning sphere rotates the greater resistance from the ball and, as your wrist strength increases, the faster you can rotate your wrist, thereby increasing the resistance even more; and so the cycle continues, with the exercise becoming progressively harder as you regain strength. A better, more technical and qualified, description can be seen on the Powerball website.
The first phase was a thirty second exercise rotating the wrist; ball in hand with the sphere rotating, followed by a one minute rest. This had to be done for three efforts on both wrists every other day for a week.
At first this was quite painful, as per any type of physio recovery I would suggest, especially on my non-dominant wrist, but after the first session both wrists felt 'relaxed'.
The second week sees the efforts go to one minute with thirty seconds rest, but I didn't feel I was ready for that so continued with the week one effort until happy. As the weeks move on and the wrists feel stronger the efforts increase, and by the end of my slightly amended programme I could tell that my wrists were stronger, the 'at rest' pain was vastly reduced, and I felt some normality was returning. The major test, of course, would be on the bike.
Back on the bike: putting the rehab to the test
By this time I had gone three months without getting on the bike, so it made sense to have a try out on the turbo, the theory being if it hurt too much I could get off and walk back into the house whereas if I was ten miles out on the road I'd still have ten painful miles to get back.
Good planning really, because I had quite a problem putting enough effort onto my left hand to change up onto the big ring: drat! Never mind, the pain wasn't enough to make me get off: just select a gear and pedal away. Suffice to say, I wasn't ready for a road trip just yet.
Interestingly enough, after subjecting myself to more wrist pain, it was just a case of going through an exercise phase of using the Powerball again and the pain was reduced.
Eventually, by sticking to the plan, I'm happy to say that, with the aid of the Powerball programme, I am now back on the bike. Having worked up to a forty-five mile trip, I'm getting back to where I was and looking forward to increasing the mileage in preparation for a future sportive, maybe by the end of April.
Whilst I have concentrated on what Powerball has done for me my wrist rehabilitation, I should add that there are similar Powerball exercises for fingers, hands, arms and shoulders - and not just rehabilitation, but also strengthening exercises. As I have not progressed onto those, yet, I'll not comment on them, but there is plenty of advice and details on the Powerball site.
Next: the Powerspin
During my enforced break another aspect of exercise that I couldn't indulge in was the bit of upper body work that I try to commit to. At first it felt a bit of a relief, but, as we are often told a bit of upper body work is useful to riding long distances, i.e. sportives, I needed to do something.
Once my wrists were up to strength for riding, and having confidence inthe benefits of the Powerball, I revisited the site to look at another product that the Powerball company produce called the Powerspin.
According to the site, Powerspin '"quickly and easily tones and strengthens arms, shoulders, upper body and core'" - and may I add, that this appears to be done without any press-ups or floor work. If it strengthens core muscles, I thought, it's got to be worth investigating.
I described the Powerball as a seemingly simple device, but Powerspin looks even more simple. It's a rubber-covered ball inside a polycarbonate circular tube, with a hand grip across the centre, and that's it: a ball in a tube.
How does it work? Get the ball spinning around the tube, keep it spinning and work 'against' the rotation of the ball; as easy as that....not!
Viewing the videos online of some athletes using it will certainly raise a titter, I think some of them are actually trying to stifle a smile - or is it a grimace? But despite that, the thought of making my upper body and core exercises easier without putting extra stress on my wrists appealed.
Once again, fortunately, there was a special offer on when I chose to buy so the deal looked even better and, once again, I had my new toy with me a couple of days after placing my order.
My wife was a little perplexed when she saw the Powerspin, and wasn't really sure what it could do - but when she read a review suggesting that it can help get rid of bingo wings she was instantly onboard.
I'm rather glad that I watched the Powerspin video about getting the ball spinning inside the tube, because it's not as straightforward as it might look. My first few attempts at getting it started raised more than a titter from my good lady, but I was able to get my own back when she gave it a go. It is an unusual concept but, as the man on the video says, it's a bit like riding a bike - once you get the hang of it you can get it going straight away. Please do not be put off!
I'm only just starting with the Powerspin programme, a true beginner, but what I will say is it's certainly a more powerful device than a first viewing might lead you to believe.
As part of the package there is a DVD with a six-minute exercise routine using the Powerspin, demonstrated by a young lady who can be considered to be an expert. I managed to keep up with her, even if I did stall the ball a couple of times, and when I finished I was truly out of breath, panting indeed, and I could feel that exercise had taken place.
Although I have only managed a couple of run throughs of the exercise, I have felt the burn and feel sure that as I increase the exercise levels some good will come of the extra effort. There are further exercises on YouTube to help progress further, and if it's going to help me improve my upper body strength and core it's worth a little bit of time and effort in my book.
I'm no physiotherapist, and was a little concerned about whether starting with Powerball, something I'd never heard of before, was going to do more harm than good, but all I can say is it's worked for me.
I'm back on the bike, hopefully functioning correctly, and despite the fact that I missed out on my winter training efforts I'm now ready to start looking at some sportives to take part in and enjoy.
Thank you, Powerball.
The Powerball 280 Pro is currently priced £28.79 from powerballs.com/shop/powerball-280-pro
The Powerball Spin is on sale priced £19.99 from powerballs.com/shop/powerspin-isometric-exerciser