Getting Back in the Saddle: Peloton and Torn Meniscus

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About a month ago, my daughter screamed from her bedroom. There was a bug! Get it out! I ran in with an envelope (a great way to catch spiders and other bugs to safely get them outside) and a rolled-up issue of Rolling Stone (in case it wasn't the kind I could or would want to get out of the house in an envelope), ran in, squatted down, and my left knee went pop.

It was a ladybug, in case you were wondering. A freaking ladybug.

Thanks to telehealth, from my living room couch I found I likely tore my meniscus, which had already been diagnosed by over 50 individuals that follow me on Instagram when I shared my knee pain on Stories. And because they told me that before my scheduled call and thanks to the power of Google, I was already researching how to heal a torn meniscus.

And you bet I googled, “Peloton and torn meniscus.” Because this cardio-hating gal who has never run in her entire life and hasn't properly ridden a bike since before she had her almost 12-year-old daughter, she loves her Peloton cycle.

We got our Peloton in March, right at the beginning of the ‘demic. I ordered the bike when things seemed a bit off; I took my poll worker training the day prior and we sat next to one another gathered in pairs to share a sample machine, but each armed with a bottle of hand sanitizer believing that would solve anything. It arrived on the last day that our kid had school.

You may also like: I bought a Peloton and I am neither rich nor thin

I didn't know if I would like it, but I hoped it would entertain me until I could go back to the gym. Ten months later I can't imagine life without it.

How the Peloton Has Helped me Physically and Mentally

I found my strength through weight lifting, which I started at the end of 2017, and with it, I came to respect my body for the first time in my post-puberty life. But the Peloton actually made me finally have a relationship with it. I began really listening and working on this relationship, it strengthened me physically and helped my all-over wellbeing.

Peloton and torn meniscus: how to get back in the saddle after an injury
Celebrating my Century ride on the Peloton in August 2020

But the Peloton also strengthened me mentally. This year I took meditation classes, downloaded apps, listened to playlists, consumed supplements, tried talk therapy, and nothing improved my sleep, my back pain, my anxiety, and my patience like the Peloton.

With the Peloton, I was forced to spend the length of the ride/s focusing on me and just me. I wasn't available to my family, they weren't touching me or asking me questions, and learned early on to not interrupt a ride. When stuck within four walls with a family, my Peloton gave me a sense of freedom and peace.

And now I squatted to save a ladybug and pop went my ability to ride the thing that was keeping me from falling apart these past several months.

You may also like: my Peloton experience after 100 classes

R.I.C.E. was prescribed. And no Peloton for at least two weeks. At two weeks I did a 20-minute recovery ride and felt good. I didn't watch the leaderboard, hid my metrics so I didn't try to push myself, I just moved and enjoyed it. So I did a 10-minute cool-down ride, and then a 5-minute ride after that. All was well, so I figured with my next time on the bike, I could do a 45-minute low impact ride. 30 minutes into the ride I felt a sharp pain in my bum knee.

I left the saddle sobbing and didn't get back on the bike for almost two weeks. I also didn't do any other kind of workout during that time including meditation. I felt so defeated.

My current Peloton Classes with a Torn Meniscus

I'm back to riding, but it's max every other day. I need a day in between to let my knee be elevated and iced and at rest. I like doing a 10-minute ride, then a 10-minute arm, and then end with a 10-minute cool-down. I have occasionally done a 15-minute ride, still with the leaderboard and metrics hidden, and it's okay but I know not to push myself farther.

I focus on low-impact and recovery rides on Peloton. There is a great variety, especially at the 10-minute length. I learned that the only real difference between a “regular” ride and a low-impact one is whether the instructor asks you to get out of the saddle. I have done some “regular” classes and just stay in the saddle for the duration.

Working out with a Torn Meniscus

It has been about five weeks since I tore my meniscus. The knee still twinges, it sometimes aches, and almost always I am aware of it. It makes me hesitant to work out.

Peloton and torn meniscus: what I am doing to heal my knee so I can get back on the bike
The summer when I felt strong and connected mentally and physically

Before I tore my meniscus, I did a lot of the stretching classes on the Peloton app and they helped me tremendously. I'd sleep better, I'd recover from rides better, I had fewer twinges in my back and saw my posture even improved. I haven't done a stretch class since my knee because I'm afraid to angle my knee weirdly. I stretch on my own, but I know I'm not as dedicated without a class.

I have gotten back to focusing on my core, for that can be done without using knees. Before the ‘demic, I had built a very strong core with my personal trainer and was really proud of it. Since riding the Peloton, I focused less on it and my strength workouts ended up being just a couple times and more focusing on arms, back, and shoulders.

Working on my core makes me feel less upset about this experience. I know with time and care my knee will get better and I will be able to ride harder and longer. I know I am especially upset because I am home-bound and already miss so many other aspects of everyday life. Being able to work my core at least makes me feel I am connecting with a pre-demic part of myself.

Torn Meniscus and the Peloton: My Current Care Routine

peloton not thin not athletic
Pretending to be one of the promo photos for Peloton

I try to ride every other day. I go to Classes on the Peloton screen, then choose low-impact, and then filter by length. The combination of a 10-minute ride, 10-minute arm, and then 10-minute ride seems to be perfect since I get a chance between the rides to let my knee rest while still working out.

I double-tap the screen so everything disappears – the leaderboard, as well as cadence and resistance. I regularly do these rides with my eyes closed so I don't get into competitive mode and push myself too far.

I use Equilibria Relief Cream on my knee just before a ride, after a ride, and just before bed. It helps with inflammation, and there is a noticeable difference after applying it.

You may also like: an honest Equilibria CBD review from a skeptic

peloton torn meniscus
Icing my knee at the end of the day

After dinner, my family and I watch TV for a bit; during that time I elevate my leg and ice my knee. I use the same bag of frozen veggies each time.

When I work, I switch up my location. When I am sitting in an armchair or at the couch, I use the coffee table and some books or else an ottoman and a shoe box to elevate my leg while I type.

At the end of the day I also perform a variety of exercises meant to strengthen the knee. My doctor said these were fine to do if I was also comfortable enough to do short rides.

I haven't done any form of compression. Braces can force the leg to be straight or bent too long; he said if I really want some sort of stability or compression to use KT tape. I felt the pain right down the center of my knee; my doctor said just to not do any activities that would twist or hyper-flex my knee. I don't even sit cross-legged when meditating because it puts pressure on the knee.

Did you also Google Peloton and Torn Meniscus?

If you are here because you also Googled Peloton and torn meniscus, don't use Google as your doctor. Contact your doctor. If you don't feel comfortable going to the doctor's office, this is an issue where it might be able to be diagnosed by your GP via telehealth. At least do that first, and then your doctor can tell you if it's necessary to visit an orthopedic surgeon, or will give you a schedule of how long you should R.I.C.E. before visiting a specialist.

A doctor will move your knee to feel for clicking, heat, and other indicators of a torn meniscus. Depending on the results, your doctor may prescribe an MRI.

Exercises to Heal a Torn Meniscus

There are exercises that you can do that will strengthen your legs and around the knee to help heal a torn meniscus. My doctor sent me a print-out and it seems to be the same one that many of your doctors gave you or your loved ones when dealing with a torn meniscus.

This article on Healthline has the same exact exercises for a torn meniscus and their website is desktop and mobile-friendly. I have found it easiest to just bookmark this for reference than have a paper document.

I know that this setback is hitting me harder because it's 2020 and this year sucks. I think we've all found those things that help us get through the tough parts of this year, and my Peloton has been the biggest one for me. I'm not stressed about losing muscle or not hitting metrics, I just miss the ritual of riding the Peloton.

arm workout peloton torn meniscus
When I do arm workouts on the bike, I make sure my legs are set so my hurt knee is always bent.

I learned to ride in the morning before my daughter has school, since she does distance learning in the same room as the Peloton. If I can get in 30 minutes each morning not worrying about output, I feel set for the day. I'd often do a strength workout at my lunch hour, and depending on how stressful the day or week, would do another ride in the evening or block out a whole hour on the bike on the weekend.

This is from someone who never liked working out. Who did go to the gym every morning, but knew it would be only 30 minutes and just strength training/weights. I've tried treadmills and ellipticals, morning walks, on-demand and in-person classes, and other forms of cardio and hated them all. But there's something about the Peloton that works for me. I look forward to when I am back to my routine!

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  1. I have been having lateral right knee and ITB pain. I saw sports medicine and he said it was “just arthritis” and I got a steroid injection. It helped a little but not much. Finally got an MRI this week and have a lateral torn meniscus. I’m so bummed because I haven’t been able to ride my Peloton in a long time and it was my life! I have a PT/friend who is looking into the possibility of non-surgical treatment. I am 55 years old, and otherwise healthy and in good shape. I’m not sure what to do–try to ride a little after I get a bike fit from my PT or sell the darn thing. So sad.

    1. Laurie I am 56 and I am an avid hiker. Been doing the advanced HIT on peleton app past three years. -just so I can go on my intense hikes last March after hikin in Feb I started feeling burning in my knees . Went to ortho who did x ray and said slight arthritis . Refereed to PT and in two months i was fine and restarted the HIT . By Sept again the burning in knees started . Did some essentric workout after seeing Miranda Esmondes on public tv. This time developed slightly more pain . Went back to PT. Did that for two months got better and stupit me again did the essentric knee strengthening . Developed severe pain and couldn’t walk up the stairs !! Went back to ortho he said arthritis and gave me no hope. . At this point I couldn’t walk upstairs without pain. Grabbing stair railing gave me pain in shoulder . Did have the minscus tear in 2006 . Goin to another ortho who did recommend more PT . Hiking is my deepest passion . Fallen into depression thinking I can’t hike anymore . I am seein another ortho In a few days. . And in meantime once my stomach issues get better will start the glucosamine chondrition again .

    1. My knee is not 100% but I would say it’s 90%. I am back to doing any sort of physical activity from being out of the seat on the Peloton to hiking, road biking, sculling, etc. What seems to cause the most issue is wearing heeled shoes, that can set me back where my knee hurts the day after.

  2. I love my Peloton and typically ride 4-5x/week. I have had mild knee pain from arthritis for years, but have recently developed, and diagnosed with multiple meniscal tears. I have arthroscopic surgery scheduled in 2 weeks. I can definitely adjust to shorter rides and other classes (yoga/strength/stretching/etc) but my question is, do you think unclipping plays any part in the recurrence of meniscal tears down the road? Thanks for the post.

    1. I just read about uncoiling. It’s hard on the knees and the hip region. I have learned to leave my shoes on the bike. Nobody else uses it but me, someone suggested this and it works out very well.

  3. Balloons for riding a stationary bike 100 times?! Smh. Cringe.

    Get an mri. A real diagnosis, more than likely, just get the surgery to snip it. And chill on the drama. It’s very common and not a big deal. Down for a few weeks, but you’ll make a full recovery. Being injured is no fun. The worst part is not having good info to make a real recovery plan. Get the MRI and find out the real damage. Otherwise you are just guessing and hoping.

    1. Wow, JNeuy – you seem like a really happy, fun person to be around. I wish your friends (do you have those?) and family the best to be around you.

  4. Disclaimer: I searched torn meniscus and Peloton. I tore my left meniscus in two places and the surgeon found a cyst on my ACL, back in Dec 2019 and had surgery in Feb of 2020, I was back to riding my Peloton by April. It healed very fast. I had lost almost 30lbs watching my diet along with very hard workouts. Now it turns out that I tore my right meniscus a month ago, similarly to how you did, essentially a deep squat only body weight. My comment is a meniscus will not heal on its own it needs to be surgically repaired at least according to my surgeon. I am having surgery to repair this knee in a few weeks and I will miss my Peloton. I wish you good luck on your healing process and journey.

  5. Getting injured when you’re in your exercise groove is so frustrating, even at the best of times. Right now… oy. Sorry.

    I wanted to suggest that you might want to give the “freeze sleeve” a try for icing. It is a form of compression, but I feel like it’s been the best way to ice my elbow (my trainer is the one who originally suggested I get one, when I first developed tennis elbow…).

    I hope you’re healed quickly!

  6. I hope you heal quickly and easily! I have the app but don’t have the bike and I can’t believe I love it. I’m a size 4x and I do everything heavily modified. I like the HIIT workouts, which I make low impact, and love the meditation classes, which I do in a chair.. I have a deskcycle that I use with the cycling classes, which makes me laugh just thinking about how it looks. I appreciate you talking about it–I probably wouldn’t have downloaded it without reading about it here. Oh, and I have to put in a plug for Joyn.co which is a very plus size accepting, very diverse exercise app/channel. If I really need to do a seated workout, that’s where I go.

  7. I’m so sorry to hear about your torn meniscus. The things we do for our kids! I hop you are able to heal quickly. I love my Peloton and say a little thank you to you everyday when I get on it! It’s the best thing I have done for myself maybe ever! I just love it and it’s been such a godsend during this crazy year. Feel better and stronger each day!

  8. I totally hear you – I hope you heal quickly! I’ve been using the Peloton app a lot too – rides and strength and stretching in the morning, then meditation and yoga in the evenings. I don’t have the official bike – I did some research and got a Schwinn that pretty easily can work with it the app for under $1K. Like you, I’ve gotten addicted pretty quickly and really look forward to it. I’ve not been injured but come down with some bad colds lately (driven largely by some bad insomnia from work stress) that derailed me for a few days here and there and I really missed it. I’m glad you found a way to get some riding back in. FWIW, I never watch the leaderboard and basically do all my rides on demand, not live, so none of that stuff matters to me anyway, it’s just me against myself, and when I feel like it. BTW – they just dropped a bunch of Pilates classes earlier this week – maybe you can do some of those safely while you recover?

  9. I had to have double knee replacement surgery that became infected last November 2019. It was like learning how to walk all over again. Previously I had only one done at a time, this was totally different. I do not own a Peloton, but physical therapy was an enormous help in getting back my strength. It has taken just about a year since October of 2019 for me to really feel like I had my knee strength back. So yeah, the pandemic did not help at all, and I had to stop PT in February 2020. I continued my PT at home, and now I’m all good. Using the Equilibria relief cream has been a godsend! I’d tried other CBD products, some were good, but Equilibria is the bomb! I am so happy that you tried this product and then recommended it. I massage my knees with it once during the day and then at night before bed. I HIGHLY recommend this brand, along with the daily soft gels that I take at night to help me sleep. I am subscribed to it, and look forward to each delivery, making sure I never run out. Thank you so much for honestly keeping your followers up to speed on quality products, and by the way I am loving your workout outfit!! Merry Christmas!

  10. Love your blog, and so sorry to hear about your meniscus. I tore my meniscus running a few years ago, and I remember how much I missed my runs while I was healing! I opted for the conservative rehab route out of a concern that surgery to remove the cartilage would lead to more arthritis down the road. (Even though I’m very active, I was diagnosed in my 40’s with hereditary osteoarthritis.) PT, patience and lots of cross-training really helped – and I ended up being stronger and more “balanced” than before. It’s good sign that you are already back on the bike. Hang in there and feel better soon!

  11. I hope your knee will heal on its own and you are soon pain free. I highly recommend seeing the best Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon you can find. He or She will be the first to tell you if you do not need surgery. I had an amazing surgeon who gave me back my life after decades of suffering. I walked out of the operating room and never stopped. Post surgery Physical Therapy made all the difference in the world. No meds, no pain and a return to an active life came quickly. It doesn’t hurt to get an opinion from a Professional!

  12. It stinks to have your exercise routine interrupted by an injury – particularly when it is one of the few fun parts of your day in the last few months. I hope your knee keeps improving!

  13. I had a three day migraine last week and felt lousy the rest of the week, so no Peloton for me except Monday. I have felt horrible mentally and physically since, so I kind of understand where you are coming from. I had worked up to 45 minute cycling classes, and all I had the energy for yesterday was a 20 minute ride. I thought of your injury, and decided to be grateful for having a peloton and being able to ride it. That helped me a lot. I also figured out that while I was on migraine medication for several days, I stopped taking my usual supplements for a week. I think that also played a significant role in how I felt last week. So this week – back on the supplements and back on the peloton! Hope you continue to heal so you’re back to full strength soon, Allie!

  14. Great article, Allie. I’m sorry you tore your meniscus, though. From my own experience, having had knee issues for years and trying all the various approaches mentioned, I think RICE worked as well as more aggressive approaches. Please consider, though, never, EVER having your leg in the position shown in the frozen veggie picture — extended, with no support under the knee. My physical therapist would kill you if you saw you doing that, LOL.

  15. I have had a peloton since Feb 2018 and rode religiously at least 3-5 times per week. I hate exercise and it is hard for me to stay in a routine but I loved this. Last December, I developed pain in my R butt cheek and going down my leg. It was diagnosed as piriformis syndrome and for a while, I just kept on going until I was in so much pain. I went to physical therapy and was almost better before the pandemic stopped that. It is bad again. I’ve had an injection from pain dr. and taken different meds. I have been months without riding. Did a 20 min ride last week and seemed ok but then within a few days, I couldn’t sleep, the pain was so bad. I’m so frustrated. Every time I see the bike I feel guilty…I am really considering selling it.

  16. You are definitely on the right track consulting with your MD/PT about this.
    The sad part of getting into your 40s, when you’ve suddenly got a bit more time for yourself, and the skill to manage your life so you can put that time to good use, is that injuries don’t just go away with a couple of Advil and a few nights rest.
    A strong cross-training plan will help and it seems that you’ve put that into place.

    1. Oh, Allie, I’m so sorry to hear about your torn miniscus! I have personally felt you’re pain. I tore my miniscus back in 2011 cycling with my hubby through a bike path were had ridden many times. Unfortunately, it had rained the day before, So the path has residual mud on it. First, my husband had an accident and we thought he broke his collarbone. He was taken away in an ambulance. The police also arrived and one of the officers was kind enough to offer to walk my husband’s bike back to our parked car. I raced back on the path with my bike to meet him there. On the way, I skidded on a turn and flipped over. I landed on my left side, scraped my shoulder and worse, landed on my left knee. I was able to finish the ride, but knew some damage had occurred. Not long after that, following therapy and several other alternate treatments, I ended up having arthroscopic surgery. It’s much better now, but I’ve not risked cycling on the path or road again. My husband bought a stand that keeps my bike stationery so that I can ride in place; but, I prefer using my elliptical machine instead. Try to take it slow and get well soon.

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