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Top 3 Mistakes When Recovering From an Injury and How to Avoid Them – Part 1

Nobody enjoys becoming injured due to overuse or an unforseeable impact that happens in less than a second.  However, as the old saying goes, as an athlete, if you haven’t already been injured, most likely you will be at some point. Once you cross that fine line, there are three areas – physical, mental and nutrition – that tend to get handled incorrectly making the healing process both difficult and slow.

Physical

First and foremost, follow your doctor’s and physical therapist rehab protocols and complete the entire duration outlined.  Coming back too early will only result in less strength, endurance and long-term ramifications like limited range of motion, joint stiffness and unwanted scar tissue.  As an athlete this will also result in less speed, agility, strength and endurance.

Unless you have a high impact injury that affects more than one area of your body, you are normally dealing with one area of injury.  With this being said, you still have 90-95% of your body left to strengthen and expose to cardiovascular improvement. This usually requires becoming creative with your cardio.  If you have broken an elbow or wrist, you can use a recumbent bike, walk in the pool with a pair of sneakers, or use a zero-gravity treadmill.  If you have broken an ankle or torn an ACL or MCL you can get a vacuum sleeve to cover the injured area and swim.  If you are in a wheel chair because of a leg injury, you can use a Concept 2 Ski Erg.

Despite being injured, your strength can be maintained and even enhanced with a variety of options: stretch cords, TRX systems, free weights, kettle bells and medicine balls.  If you let pain be your dictator and you are not masking the true pain with pain killer medicine, you will keep yourself from doing too much and slowing down the healing process.

With regards to pain medicine, it is imperative that you mask the pain and discomfort with over the counter pain medicines, but ONLY while you sleep.  The key is to reduce the chances of your body being woken up due to pain.  The deeper your sleep, the longer you are asleep, and the more sleep cycles you can complete per night will ensure that your body is repairing itself as quickly as possible.  To maximize the probability of quality, pain-free sleep, eat a high-quality snack or smoothie that is rich in protein and good fats to satisfy appetite and then consume your pain medicine.  The fat and protein will satisfy your hierarchy of need of hunger and the ibuprofen will mask the pain allowing you to sleep deeper and with less interruptions.

When discussing the physical side of an injury, the concept of non-sweating physical elements is frequently overlooked.  Soft tissue maintenance such as foam rolling and trigger point therapy changes the consistency of the soft tissue meaning that it will respond to pressure by opening the blood vessels bringing nutrients and oxygen-rich blood into the tissue. Fresh blood flow will speed up the healing process.

Another soft tissue modality is contrast therapy where you use cold and hot water to stimulate and change the consistency of the muscle tissue.  One of the main reasons why contrast therapy is often discarded is due to the mindset that it has to be so extreme: extremely hot or extremely cold.   This is not the case.  Think about contrast therapy this way, the bigger the temperate difference, the more effective the therapy is to the tissue.  For example, if you have the cold water at 70 degrees and the warm water and 110 the difference is 40 degrees.  You can create the same difference if you lowered the cold to 65 and the warm water to 105.  Your body doesn’t know the difference in temperature highs and lows, just the difference.  If you don’t like extreme colds and you believe that you must be in nearly freezing water and/or it is so cold you feel like your skin is going to burn off your body, you are more prone to avoid contrast therapy.  This all or nothing mindset has to be changed.

In addition to foam rolling, trigger point therapy and contrast therapy, you can always schedule a therapeutic massage.  A qualified massage therapist that works on your muscles, tendons and ligaments can identify muscle patterns associated with pain and limited range of motion.  For example, if you have injured your shoulder, a massage therapist can help you identify what muscles in your chest or your shoulder blades are excessively tight and causing unwanted “pulling” on the head of your humerus (the top of your arm in your shoulder) resulting in additional pain and limited range of motion.  The same applies to each joint in your body.

The irony of these non-sweating components: creative cardio, sleep quality, contrast therapy, massage therapy, etc., should be part of every athlete’s daily routine; however, these are the components that are frequently left out resulting in being mentally bored, physically stale, reduced range of motion, increased nagging injuries and ultimate frustration.

By staying focused on these specific physical components, you will come back from your injury stronger, with enhanced range of motion allowing for better sport specific biomechanics, improved speed, strength and endurance with the areas of your body that are not inured and healing.  Once you get clearance from your doctor to resume normal activity with your injured body part, you only have to improve that one area, versus the entire body.

Dealing With An Illness and How to Avoid Getting Sick

The body provides you many indicators that it is fatigued and susceptible to illness: elevated heart rate, high body temperature, suppressed appetite, declines in athletic performance, poor sleeping patterns and more.

Though these indicators may seem obvious as you read them, most athletes will not acknowledge that if the body doesn’t get the elements necessary to recover and overcome fatigue, sleep and food, it is inevitable that an illness is right around the corner.

Here are 7 Rules for a speedy recovery from an illness:

Rule #1: Listen to your body

The body is an efficient machine. A fever or elevated heart rate are clear signs that you should back off on both your intensity and duration of riding and cross training. Please email me if you would like a free copy of my Body Analysis Spreadsheet to easily track this data on a weekly basis.

Rule #2: Get more rest

Resting does not mean working out “easy” for an hour thinking it will make you feel better, it will only make you more fatigued. Your only have one tank of energy, let all of that energy be directed towards getting healthy. Let your goal is to get 8-10 hours of deep, high quality sleep each day.

Rule #3: Pay attention to diet and proper hydration

Make it easy on your body to go about its job of fighting off the infection or virus. Regarding hydration, every day consume half of your body weight in ounces of water (160 pounds/2=80 ounces of water per day).

Proper nutrition would involve eating every two hours and eating fruits, vegetables and lean protein at every meal or snack. Please email me if you would like a free copy of my Body Analysis Spreadsheet to easily track this data on a weekly basis.

Rule #4: Return to training gently

As you start to feel a little better, resist the urge to jump back into training full-throttle. As a general rule of thumb, if your resting heart rate is up by more than 5 beats over your weekly average, then don’t train at all for that day. If your heart rate is within 3 beats of your weekly average, then exercise at a very easy effort level for 45 minutes or less.

Rule #5: Don’t ignore the obvious signs from your body

If your heart rate spikes straight up getting out of your car, then following your training program does not make sense. This physical experience will correlate with your resting heart rate (see #4 above).

Rule #6: Don’t expect someone else to be able to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do

Unfortunately you’re training partner, riding coach or family member doesn’t actually know how you are feeling, so it’s up to you to make that judgment in the end.

Rule #7: Don’t become an internet doctor

Eat for Recovery

Google can be a wonderful tool, but even the most rational among us can turn into raging hypochondriacs if let loose on the Internet when feeling unwell. Before you know it, your bout of strep throat has escalated to some rare form of infectious disease. So make an appointment with a legit medical doctor.

Training is intended to improve your strength and endurance; however, this improvement only happens when you eat correctly immediately after your workouts and races. Immediately after a hard day of racing, your immune system is suppressed and your overall body is fatigued, this makes you vulnerable to an airborne virus.

To improve your immunity, eat green fruits and vegetables at every meal. The main ingredient found in fruits and vegetables are phytonutrients. These are substances that plants produce naturally to protect themselves. Additionally, they provide the plant’s color, aroma, texture, and flavor.

Oxidative stress and inflammation, a byproduct of high intensity or long bouts of prolonged exercise, increase the production of free radicals, which can cause further cell damage. Antioxidants act to combat these free radicals. Therefore, recovery nutrition must entail much more than simply consuming post-workout carbohydrates and protein. Consuming foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids also speed the recovery process.

While it’s necessary to supplement your diet with over-the-counter multivitamins and fish oils, consuming whole foods that are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids need to be the foundation of your nutrition. Food is intended to provide macro- and micronutrients, including fiber that you just can’t get in a pill.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the top 50-antioxidant rich foods included 13 spices, eight fruits and vegetables, five types of berries, and four different nuts and seeds. So why not include some of the following antioxidant-rich foods in your daily diet?

Ginger, cloves, cinnamon, curry, and garlic –  Each of these boast anti-inflammatory properties and bold flavors to go with any type of meal, be it sweet or savory. Saute your favorite vegetables with a bit of garlic and curry powder, or add a dash of cinnamon to your oatmeal.

Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, and red raspberries –  These berries are packed with vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene. They’re also rich in the minerals potassium and magnesium. They can be tossed into salads for a taste of something sweet, or as a topping for your favorite yogurt. Got berries? Snack away!

Artichokes, sweet potatoes, spinach, red bell peppers, asparagus, and red cabbage – These veggies are jam packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and flavor. Cooking them only enhances their antioxidant properties. In fact, researchers found that a cooked sweet potato has 413 percent more antioxidant properties than when raw.

Quinoa –  Though considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. Its low glycemic, and the only “grain” that contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein (7 grams per half-cup cooked). It’s also rich in manganese and copper, two minerals required as cofactors for the production of antioxidants. What’s more? It’s ready to eat in just 10 minutes.

Walnuts –  Are an excellent source of micro- and macronutrients like protein, fiber, and omega-3 fat. In fact, just one ounce of walnuts (that’s a shot glass or small handful) contains the recommended daily value, or 2.5 grams, of the essential amino acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). As if that wasn’t enough, once ingested, ALA is metabolized and converted to EPA and DHA (the kind of omega-3’s found in fish). The walnut is a rock star in the world of antioxidants. Add it to salads, yogurt, and protein/vegetable dishes.

Training and racing is demanding and places the body under a great deal of metabolic stress. A daily diet rooted (no pun intended) in nutrient dense foods will play an integral role in both your recovery and enhanced immunity. While a post-workout recovery drink is vitally important in replenishing muscle glycogen and aiding in muscle repair, a diet that focuses on antioxidants will help to minimize the cellular damage that can be caused by the oxidative stress of free radicals. Allowed to roam freely, free radicals can very subtly damage muscle tissue and negatively affect your speed & endurance.