By Alex Grant, pro mountain bike racer – Cannondale 360fly, Powered by SUGOI
Injuries are a part of sports, and most athletes will experience them at one time or another. They can be very hard to deal with no matter the degree, and can range from a small nagging issue that develops over time to a major trauma that takes us out entirely. No matter the cause or severity the same basic principles can be applied to ensure the best possible outcome and return to competition.
I am currently dealing with the most serious injury I have experienced to date, and it occurred right in the heart of the season. On April 24, I was racing the Mountain Bike World Cup in Australia and crashed on the first lap. I fractured my calcaneus (heel bone) in more than 30 pieces, and flattened out my heel. I flew back to the States for surgery, without it I would have been a half inch shorted in my right leg and never walked the same. I had surgery on May 3, and started a 12-week non-weight bearing (including pedaling) period. Needless to say, this will be an almost complete reset by the time I get back on the bike, and I have been doing everything I can to ensure proper healing.
There are a lot of great training principles to follow, but I have always adhered to a few key points:
– Hard work, when the time is right
Any successful training program takes patience. Fitness gains don’t come overnight, and sometimes may take years to be fully realized.
It takes a lot of patience to stick with it when we are not making the gains we want, but if we have the grit to stick it out through the good and the bad, long term gains are made. It is a lot more sustainable to build up a few percent per season than go for huge gains one year then burn out.
I have found that injuries also take an enormous amount of patience; improvement can be painstakingly slow, and pushing too hard too early can cause long term consequences. The most important thing is to rest and allow for proper healing, even though we just want to get back out there. It is only appropriate to apply rehab or training stress when the body or injury is recovered enough to handle it.
Recovery and Hard work
Recovery and hard work go hand in hand, and training is a constant balance of stress and rest. To improve we have to train hard and push ourselves, but we need to be well rested physically and mentally, so that we can be ready to get out there and punch the bag when we do. After hard training blocks we need to let the body rest, or fitness gains will never be realized, and we just get more and more tired.
Injury recovery is also a balance of stimulus and recovery. We need to stress the affected area and then let it rebuild and recover sufficiently before doing it again. Pushing too hard or too long too early can lead to major setbacks. Right now, for me, that means doing my theraband exercises and ankle circles, but once I feel it getting stiff or painful I stop and put it up. Once I start riding and walking again the same principles will apply: add stress, then let it rest, over and over again. With patience and perseverance, I hope to see long term gains and improvement, just like endurance training.
Alex Grant is a professional mountain biker who has raced on Cannondale pro teams since 2009, now a member of the Cannondale 360 FLY p/b Sugoi team for 2016 and 2017. Alex grew up in Vermont and his palmares include six consecutive Park City Point 2 Point titles, the 2015 Grand Junction Off Road Pro 40 Grand Championship, 2014 Breck Epic Overall victory, bronze medals at the 2015 Mountain Bike National Championships in both Cross-Country and Short Track where he earned a berth on the Team USA Worlds squad, and four 2nd Place Overall titles at La Ruta de los Conquistadores. In addition to his racing career, Alex is co-owner of Salt Lake City consignment company Gear Rush (gearrush.com) with Bart Gillespie, selling all types of cycling and outdoor sports gear. He and Bart put on mountain bike skills clinics as often as they can. Alex can be reached at [email protected]