Right next door to my office a new niche recovery lounge has opened up (RechargeSportSF.com) attending to the most under-emphasized aspect of training: Recovery. There are several types of recovery: the acute phase (the minutes to hours after training or racing), the day to day/week to week recovery, and, as we saw in the TdF, the recovery from traumatic crashes and broken bodies offered up by the precariousness of the peloton. In this article, I will focus on the acute recovery from a crash or surgery and exercise-induced muscle damage. (Part 2 will explore different modalities and optimal timing).
One of the biggest risks of our sport is crashing; the injuries ensuing -from broken collarbones to muscle crush injuries- are coupled with a long, arduous recovery process. It is well known (and most of us have experienced, at some point in our cycling careers) that the first week or two post injury is the hardest, with regard to regaining range of motion/movement and regaining muscle strength-firing patterns.
Injuries and consequent surgery are associated with hormonal and inflammatory stress responses that trigger a rapid muscle loss. In the first two weeks of disuse from injury, 150-400g of muscle mass can be lost from a single immobilized limb; coupled with metabolic changes that reduce the body’s ability to build muscle. Of additional concern is the functional strength loss from disuse; in general, this strength decline is approximately three times the rate of muscle mass loss. This functional strength loss is attributed to alterations in motor unit recruitment and the loss of skeletal calcium and magnesium stores (necessary for muscle contractions).