This excellent article appeared in the Newsletter for the Mundabiddi Trail and is reprinted here with permission from the author.
AVOIDING AND TREATING MOUNTAIN BIKE INJURIES
By Stuart Gray, Munda Biddi Trail Foundation Member
THAT EXTRA 10%.....or SHOULD BLOKES WEAR TIGHTS??
Anyone with even the most remote interest in cycling would have been glued to the TV during coverage of the Tour de France. Who could fail to be impressed by the examples of extreme endurance and bravery of the athletes pushing the pedals for hundreds of kilometres each day, up mountains, down mountains at 90 kph, in heat, cold, wet, and then picking themselves up only to cycle on after horrific prangs.
Can you imagine picking the scabs off your wounds each day to allow for more joint and muscle extensibility? Can you visualise cycling eight stages of the tour with a fractured coccyx, or completing the entire distance with broken ribs or clavicle? Some might say that is giving 110%!! How awe-inspiring is Lance Armstrong? Winning seven Tours and overcoming metastatic cancer twice must be a good example of 110% effort.
It is Armstrong’s brush with cancer that provides the clue to another extra 10% that is rarely mentioned by name. Cancer usually spreads through the lymphatic vessels. The lymphatics tend to get the same consideration as our roof gutters and down-pipes, that is, we tend to forget them until water starts seeping through the ceiling. Armstrong’s cardiac output, which is twice the volume of the average male, pumps blood to his working muscles and after giving up oxygen and nutrients, 90% of blood and fluid is drained from the limbs by the veins whilst the other important 10% of high protein fluid is drained by the lymphatics. The lymphatic vessels filter the fluid (lymph) and return it to the blood to become plasma again. Without this occurring, blood pressure and blood volume would rapidly decrease, leading to serious health threats.
After a day in the saddle, fluid tends to pool in the lower limbs and even Armstrong’s exceptional physiology needs some assistance in order to recover enough to do the same riding the next day. This assistance comes in the form of a warm down on the wind trainer, rehydration by drinking water and electrolyte drinks, a shower, a high carbohydrate meal, manual lymph drainage massage (gentle effleurage and pettrisage) in elevation, and a compression garment. The latter could be in the form of stretch material cycling long-johns or Sport Skins which were initially made popular by Steve Waugh who was guarding against Deep Vein Thrombosis. Today most league football teams and our national cricket team wear these garments to assist venous and lymphatic return and thereby hasten recovery from competition and training.
For the rest of us mere mortals it would be beneficial to wear some compression during and after exercise. Those of us with some deficiency of the veins or lymphatics could suffer swelling (oedema) without this support.
When cycling the Munda Biddi Trail end-to-end with full panniers and having to push a heavily laden bike up numerous rocky hills, the legs will often feel tired, heavy and congested. The campsites do not have the luxury of showers or a resident masseur so the recovery routine should be to rehydrate, have a wash while your pasta is cooking, put on your compressions skins and elevate your legs while doing some gentle pumping and stretching exercises.
After a week in the saddle you might be happy to wear tights!