Tuesday, October 21, 2003 - Perspective
Haywood NST Report - The Road to Recovery

- By: Chris Jeffries


Approaching race season is always a nerve-racking time of year. I have always thought that the first few races of the year are the hardest to prepare for. Youíre always nervous as to how your body will have handled that year's training. Other questions are: what kind of form does everyone else have? How is my body going to respond to all the early snow kilometers? Will this be the year I bomb?

These are all questions that donít ordinarily go through my mind until the night before the first time trial and the first few races that follow. This year, however, as I complete my final full week of dry land training before stepping on snow, I find these sorts of thoughts creeping into my mind as I train. For the last two and a half months, I have been hampered by a stress fracture suffered from overuse earlier this summer, and as I resume more conventional forms of training, I find myself analyzing my form and technique to death. Until now, Iíve been very fortunate to stay as healthy as I have in my racing career. Aside from a broken foot or the odd sprained ankle and shin splints (exceptionally skinny ankles), the longest period an injury has kept me from my regular training schedule has been a month. By comparison to one of my best friends, Gordon Jewett, who has spent the better part of his senior career battling back problems and a host of other injuries, I feel embarrassed writing about such an issue. But I think that this has been a good learning experience.

My first mistake was not listening to my body. This is a classic occurrence among elite athletes, as the thought of taking time off and thus falling behind in training is preposterous. Iíve even known people to stock up on hours early in the training season in case of illness or injury further down the road. Throughout the month of July, my two best friends were my ice packs, as I rotated them between my knees, shins and ankles. I was constantly dismissing it as shin splints, as my idea of resting was to avoid running except for intensity. Even after I injured the tibia so badly I couldnít walk, I proceeded to take a couple of days off before roller skiing again. Had it not been for a ďtimelyĒ cold, I would have done the uphill time trial a week later. Being more cautious both before and after the injury, I could have drastically reduced my recovery time. Justin Wadsworth (former US ski team member) recently told me that it takes two full weeks of inactivity before you begin to lose your aerobic base. I donít know how accurate physiologically that is, but it would have been much more productive than trying to train around a non-weight bearing injury.

Trying to continue training while recovering from an injury is also a very delicate situation. Obviously the surest and quickest road to recovery is rest and rehab. But sometimes itís just not convenient to do so. If you take the right approach, you can sometimes come out better off. At the beginning of any training year, a plan is put together with emphasis on various components that are deemed valuable. The same is necessary after an injury. The main objective is to try and maintain your fitness. After that, you do the best you can with what is available to you. A couple of falls ago, I severely sprained my ankle, keeping me off my feet for a few weeks. During that time, I was able to work a lot on my double poling while at the same time giving my legs a needed rest before the start of race season. In that particular situation, I think I came out of my injury with better all-around form than had I not injured my ankle in the first place.

As with any problem affecting your training, be it equipment related, weather or anything else, you have to make do. In most cases, these set backs allow you to work on weaknesses otherwise ignored, since you are forced to deviate from your ordinary training methods. In my case this summer, I focused a lot on upper body strength and core. Also, spending a lot of time on the bike and in the pool, stuff Iíve used in the past primarily for recovery, forced me to do tough workouts that I wasnít in the best shape for. After doing a half hour up-hill time trial on the bike, Iíve come away with a newfound respect for those who spend hours and hours racing road bikes day in, day out. After one small time trial, I was so happy I was a ski racer and not a bike racer!

Coming back after injury is also a cautious period. The last thing you want to do is come back to soon and risk further damage. I recently received an email from Dave Wood regarding my running rehab program. It consisted of†three days of†one minute running,†three minutes walking, progressing to three and one - a workout more common with beginner classes at the Running Room than the National Ski Team. A one-minute Zone 1 interval is painful. Painfully short. I kind have tweaked the program a little, and instead started with a couple of rounds of golf in a cart, working my way up to a full round walking. I think Iím now ready to hit the pavement, although the doctors might think otherwise.

Although reacting properly to an injury is important, injury prevention is crucial. Regular core training, stretching and other forms of recovery are key in maintaining your health. What do you know -†all of my biggest weaknesses!

Haywood WC Report is powered by Haywood Securities Inc., proud sponsor of the†Senior†National Cross Country Ski Team

Source: Cross Country Canada

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