Getting injured is part of the job when you’re an athlete. For many athletes the hardest part to mentally take is not the injury or pain from the injury, but the long road to recovery. Athletes have to forgo future and basically start from scratch. After a tough block of spring racing, Nigel Ellsay was coming into form during the UCI 2.2 classified Joe Martin Stage Race in Arkansas. He was sitting 3rd in the Young Rider Classification after a solid ride in the uphill prologue. On stage 3 he crashed – instead of starting stage 4, Nigel was in the Fayetteville hospital with a broken collarbone that put him out of competition for nearly two months. This is Nigel’s story about navigating the arduous road to recovery, starring his ED3C Compression Socks.
by Nigel Ellsay
Athletes in all sports will experience at one point or another injury. With this comes the road to recovery. Even though injury is practically a given in sport, this knowledge does not make navigating it any easier. Time must be spent to devise a recovery plan. However, this is the easy part. Admitting to yourself that you must forgo your near-future goals and focus on recovery; is difficult to grasp. Additionally, athletes become addicted to hurting themselves in training and racing. So when athletes cannot ride, they are left in a bit of a depressed state.
Fortunately (!), I have been injured a few times. With this previous knowledge (and a kind email from Svein Tuft) I set out to devise my master recovery plan! I set no timelines in my recovery program. Instead, took things day by day. I saw my friend and chiropractor Dr. Derek Vinge on a bi-weekly basis, ate loads of protein, visited with friends and tried to enjoy myself. Within six days of crashing and breaking my collarbone I was on the turbo trainer.
My first few days on the trainer were by no means pretty. With help, I hooked up a trapeze from the rafters in our garage with ropes attached to my body. I used these to hold up my arm and core weight. Any sudden movements though, and a shooting pain was felt in the break. I could only spin easy for the first few days, but was smashing out some solid double days in no time. After a couple weeks, I was able to ride without the supports on the trainer.
Then day 19 rolled around! 19 is a great number and has been worn by many hockey players like Markus Naslund and Joe Sakic. But for me it represented my first day back on the road! I managed to put in an epic 30 minute ride, just to be safe. This day felt AMAZING for me.
From this point on I was able to ride somewhat normal. I started with a seven day volume block then transitioned into a three week build to maximize my performance for the Canadian National Time Trial and Road Race Championships.
Returning to top form is not easy. During rest periods, we must control our caloric intake. Our bodies are efficient at burning loads of calories in long or intense days, however, it is equally efficient at not needing calories when it is not being worked. To make this easier, I consumed heaps of low-calorie foods like whole grains, low-fat proteins, vegetables and fruit. Rice cakes are a team favorite and are eaten day-to-day by some of my fellow teammates. Coffee can also be an important tool. It is often used as a carrot for tired cyclists on recovery day rides. But coffee is also a great tool for the calorie deprived because it gives energy that might be lacking.
Currently, I am staying with my teammate Michael Le Rossignol at his family’s cottage in the Quebec countryside. His cottage is in a great location for our training. More importantly, it allows me to get over the three hour time zone difference and jet leg experienced in a five-plus hour flight.
To make my travel process easier I also opted to fly wearing my EC3D compression socks. There is a lot of science backing the use of the tight spandex. Before wearing the socks while traveling and especially flying, I would experience swelling in my feet and lower calves. However, the socks keep everything compressed (duh) and the blood circulating. This prevents blood from pooling in those stationary limbs and makes me a much happier traveller!
Additionally, I will wear the tights or compression socks immediately post-race. I am not sure how much science is supports this concept. However, I find they decrease some swelling from my tired legs. So I do not imagine it is a bad thing to wear them post race!