Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ultimate Recovery - Hot and Cold Showers

One thing that every athlete should know is that the only time you get fitter in your recovery. After your workout, your body needs to rebuild, regenerate and resupply it's energy stores which will result in stronger and fitter muscles. One method to speed recovery and improve the effect of your workout is through the use of hot and cold showers, otherwise known as hydrotherapy. This ancient healing method works by sending a blast of fresh blood (full of oxygen and nutrients) to rebuild and replenish your muscles while clearing out nasties like lactic acid, greatly speeding and improving recovery. The hot water dilates or expands your veins and the cold water constricts the veins, working by pumping fresh oxygen and nutrents through your body. Hot and cold treatment or hydrotherapy has also been successfully used in the cure of many illnesses and conditions as improved circulation is crucial for the cure of many physical problems.

Using Hot and Cold Showers
To get the best effect from hot and cold showers, aim for 20-60 second intervals of hot and cold water. In the cold interval, the colder, the better and for the hot part, you want the temperature hot without scalding the skin. I usually go back to a comfortable showering temperature to warm back up. For best results, you want to go through the cycle of hot and cold 3-4 times (6-8 total temperature changes), always finishing on hot so that your core temperature doesn't drop too low.

The order of your recovery after a workout/race should be as follows: Warm down, then put on some warm clothing, then do some stretching. Within about 30 minutes have some carbohydrates such as fruit, muesli bars etc. and also begin your re hydration with water and a sports drink if you want. Your hot and cold showers should be done after all of these things to create the best recovery effect.

Hot and Cold showers can also be used as a great pick-me-up if you are feeling flat before a ride or race. It's a much better wake up than your morning coffee!

Include hot and cold showers into your recovery routine and you will be recovering faster and better in no time!

Photo by Dan Shirley. gallery

Monday, June 16, 2008

Injury Prevention For the Mountain biker

Prevention is always better than a cure. We've heard this saying time and time again but it never seems to sink in until an incident happens. Mountain biking is a sport full of unpredictable situations where one wrong move can sometimes cause a disaster, and that's why we love it! When the time comes for a stack, injury or mechanical failure, there are usually measures that can be taken to prevent or reduce the effects of such incidents. This has been an interesting year for me as there have been a few problems where prevention has been overlooked due to it never happening to me before. For example, I am currently sidelined due to a grade 2 ligament tear to my right ankle. This isn't an injury derived from mountain biking but from basketball. I usually strap my ankles for injury prevention, despite not ever having any problems with my ankle. At a recent interstate tournament, I neglected to strap for one game and that was the game I went over. It is hard to persist with preventative measures when an incident has never occurred to you but trust me, prevention is always better than a cure.

injury prevention
  • Wear a helmet! If you are currently riding without one, you are an accident waiting to happen. prevent cracking your scull and inducing brain damage by strapping one on every time you ride, even if your just out the front of the house.

  • The cheapest and best injury prevention mechanism you can get is stretching. Better muscle flexibility greatly reduces the risk of a muscle tear/strain and is going to improve your body's performance at the same time. Try to include a couple of flexibility sessions each week.

  • Get a bike fit done. Prevent chronic injuries by getting your local bike shop to conduct a bike fit where they will set you up in your prime riding position.

  • Ensure your bike is in a trail-worthy state. There's nothing worse than landing a jump with your rear wheel crumpling under you because half of your spokes were broken or having your rims rip out of your tyre casing on a high speed corner because your tyres were too flat. Regularly check the condition of your wheels, tyre tread/tyre pressure and brakes/brake pads to prevent a serious stack.

  • Prevent serious eye damage from flying debris and UV radiation by wearing sunglasses; preferably ones with a UV filter.

  • Don't ride outside of your abilities. There is a fine line between pushing your limits to improve your riding and riding outside of your abilities. If you are feeling out-of-control at any stage of a ride, it's time to stop and settle for a bit.

Preventative Maintenance For Your Bike

  • Wash your bike. You can greatly reduce the wear and increase the life of your moving parts by keeping it clean. When washing, always be careful to not use high-pressure water as it can force past the water seals, causing damage. With that said, most modern mountain bikes these days have good seals that can handle low pressure water. More tips on washing your bike here.

  • Replace your chain on a regular basis. Prevent having to do an expensive drive train overhaul by replacing your chain on a regular basis. Buy a chain wear gauge to monitor the wear on your chain as the standard life for a chain is about 6 months (this will obviously vary between riding conditions and ride frequency).

  • Prevent flat tyres by ensuring that they are in good condition and they have adequate pressure. You may also look into a tubeless tyre system as the sealant inside prevents punctures while the lack of tubes eliminate pinch flats.

  • Learn how to true your wheels as this will enable you to easily prevent breaking spokes and maintain a durable, responsive wheel.

General Health

  • After a dusty or muddy ride, ensure you clean yourself thoroughly to prevent any illnesses or infections. Pay close attention to any cuts you may have received on the trail and be sure to use disinfectant.

  • Eat a nutritious and balanced diet to prevent any metabolic brake downs and to keep you at your physical best.

  • Get plenty of sleep to keep your concentration and body in proper working order. Normal adults should be aiming for at least 8-10 hours per night while normal adolescents should be sleeping at least 9-11 hours. If you train a lot, you aren't considered a "normal" person and will need to tack on another couple of hours to the recommended.

As you can see, there are a number of measures that can be taken in preventing bad things in and out of the single track. The more you ride, the greater your risk of having a problem so I'd recommend that you start looking at some of these points ASAP!

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Image courtesy of Alex Dalmau