Practise what you preach


So this month I have had the fantastic opportunity to experience what it’s like to be the patient.

Recently I was training one of our professional motocross riders up at the Sandpit MX Park north of Auckland.  This is one of the roughest, most difficult tracks in New Zealand, so of course I just had to throw my leg over the bike and have a go. In hindsight; that decision is where things started to go wrong!  This is a story of what happens when you forget to practise what you preach.

Our team meeting went late and Hadleigh was keen to hit the track and cut some laps. We had driven for two hours and jumped out of the van, chucked our gear on and straight onto the track.  No warm-up, no Oov core activation, just straight from the van to the roughest track in New Zealand.

Now Hadleigh is 19 years old and trains 15 hours a week; his body is in prime form.  Mine on the other hand is 40+, I’m lucky to train once a week and my MX skills leave much to be desired.

I actually had a blast; took it slow on the first lap, the holes in the track are bigger than my bike and the sand was soft and knee deep. Trying to keep the bike upright and on a semi-straight line was taking 100 percent effort straight away. We did two 30-minute motos with me doing one lap to Hadleigh’s three laps.

I never crashed but had plenty of close calls and had an absolute blast. From a fitness perspective it is the perfect workout; every muscle works 100 percent and I reckon I did the equivalent of more than 100 body weight squats per lap!  By the end of the second ride I could barely hang on and ended up going bush as I missed a corner, saved the crash but knew I was done for the day.

Back to the van, with Caitlyn (my daughter) waiting for me to go mountain biking at Woodhill forest.  Quickly chucked the bike in and took my gear off.  As I quickly bent over to pull my socks off I felt a sudden stabbing pain like a knife driven to its hilt right into my lower back.  I literally fell over backwards into my camp chair grimacing in pain. I honestly thought that Hadleigh had snuck up behind me and thrown a log or rock into my back.

The pain was both stabbing and searing at the same time and I thought I was going to vomit with it.  I was cast in the chair and literally couldn’t move.

Caitlyn was like; “come on dad, let’s get going so we can hit the bike park!”.  I tried to lift my legs to get my socks the rest of the way off, but to no avail.  Poor Caitlyn had to pull her dad’s dirty sweaty MX socks off, I have never been so grateful.

Okay so this is where my physio mind kicks into gear.  Time to figure out what I did, how I’m going to drive two hours’ home and whether I can keep my promise and take Caitlyn to the bike park for a ride.

Questions to ask when you do your back:
– Can I stand up?  Yes, but very carefully.
– Can I cough or sneeze without pain?  Yes, no pain in back with hard cough, this clears the disc.
– Do I have any shooting pain or numbness down the legs?  No, this rules out a nerve pinch.
– Can I bend forward?  No way in hell!  Must be a muscle strain then.
– Can I get on my stomach and do a half press-up putting my back into full extension?  Yes, this is not painful at all.  Rules out a joint injury.
– Can I lie on by back with knees up and rotate stretch side to side?  Yes, but is very tight to the right.

john Appeal workouting outSo I was confident that I had strained a deep muscle in my lower back, had not injured the disc and the joint was okay. Since I had not taken a crash and there was no direct trauma injury I knew that if I followed some basic principles I would be fine.

This is where my Oov core conditioning comes into play. I found that by holding my back in neutral spine and letting my deep core muscles do the work I was able to ride the MTB with Caitlyn for a good hour.  I was still in some pain and felt really weak but that just made Caitlyn happy because she could easily beat her dad up the climbs.

The worst part was the drive home, van seats are not meant for backs. I had to put the seat in full upright and a rolled up towel to support the back. When I got home I was able to clean the gear and unload very carefully.  Night one was the worst, but Panadol and anti-inflammatory together gave me a decent sleep.

Physio treatment first thing Monday and SpiderTech taping made a huge difference and allowed me to work.  I saw the physio again on Wednesday and Friday. By Tuesday I no longer needed pain relief and by Friday my back was 80 percent.  A week later and I still have some tightness into stretching but is not really painful.

So what lessons have I learned:
Follow the rule of proper dynamic warm-up and Oov Core activation before I ride.  This will get the body warmed up and the core switched on which will limit this type of injury from occurring.

Taking pain relief and anti-inflammatory helps but getting early treatment was the best help of all.

Doing the Oov Core stability is so critical. I couldn’t believe how weak my core was on the Wednesday following the injury.  I could hardly balance and felt like I could only do 50 percent of what I could normally do on the Oov.

Pain turns the core muscles off and if you don’t switch them back on you will take longer to recover and the likelihood of doing the back again is much higher.

Don’t try and keep up with a 19-year-old MX rider.

Below are a couple of pictures of exercise I do on a daily basis to keep my core switched on.  Also if you are looking for a high intensity motocross-specific training system, feel free to join me at 5pm on Monday nights as I try and get some fitness back into this old body.

Have a great month and I’ll see you out there having fun in the dirt.


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