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Recovering from Muscle Fatigue: Get me to the ski fields part four

 

 

Last weekend was my first trip up to the mountain and boy-oh-boy it did not fail to disappoint, I went down late Thursday night to stay with a group of mates near Turangi. Let’s cut to the chase I did not sleep a wink at all that night, it felt like Christmas, and Santa was about to drop off all of my gifts (clearly I’m not on Santa’s naughty list). I was excited, super-excited, completely over eager to get out there and get amongst it – the anxiety/excitement had my heart racing.


I awoke at 5 am and the anticipation kept on building, it had been about eight months since my last boarding session on the mountain and I was PUMPED (it was a long time between runs <cough cough>). I had a bacon sarnie and loaded the car up as quickly as possible – did the food even touch the sides? – nope!


Excitement is one of those things that is amazing to feel, but I really have to be careful as I can often forget the simplest things … like packing my socks … luckily I had another pair handy! 


When you’re dealing with the mountain you are dealing with Mother Nature and you are never really sure what you’re going to get. We must have checked the reports about ten times prior to heading up the mountain, we had to make a decision, were we going to head to Whakapapa or Turoa? Both have their benefits. The decision was made to head to Turoa and as we drove I wished we were on the German autobahn and could arrive at warp speed.


Now this is when things start to get interesting, and it’s at this point that all the training and rehabilitation work was about to be tested. 
We rode the mountain top to bottom throughout the entire day and it was epic!


So what did I do to my body? I put it under a load of physical and mental stress from 9am until 4pm – that’s about 1000 times more boarding than I had done in the previous eight months. As you could imagine my body was not used to this type of activity, even as-good-as my preparation was my legs were shattered as I walked off the mountain, completely beaten. For me this is a feeling that I generally like (the feeling of a hard day’s effort), but let’s talk about a wee problem I was facing.


Snowboarding for hours can cause muscular fatigue/spasm, energy depletion and general neurological fatigue - #fatigue #imsotired.


Let’s talk about what occurs within your muscles. As you board, you stretch and strain your muscles, often you injure or make small micro tears within the muscles - as they haven’t been used to this type of activity. Locally the muscles are trying to do a few things, one is to prevent further damage occurring; this can make your muscles tight and you may feel muscular pain – that will of course stop you performing! Your muscles will become slightly inflamed, this allows for the healing process to start where your body will start to bring itself back to its equilibrium, and in time it will build muscles that are capable of handling more muscular stress. Here’s the issue – my muscles were smashed, and I had another full day of riding to do, now with sore muscles, a decreased range of motion within my muscles and a sense of general fatigue – this would make riding the next day a large barrier to overcome, let alone the effect it would have on my riding ability. I needed a recovery strategy and I needed it fast. 

 

How was I going to be able to get back to the mountain and ride well the next day?

Well here’s the secret that I wish I had followed, its common place to see athletes use cold-water immersion (CWI) as a recovery strategy after serious high-intensity exercise. CWI-what???? It’s when you hop into a bath full of cold water for about 15mins. Of course you have been on the mountain all day that is cold and the last thing that you want to do is jump right back into the cold … brrr. 


Here’s the science behind cold water immersion. A number of physiological processes occur as the body is immersed in cold water; there is an increase in blood flow throughout the body which increases the delivery of nutrients and other goodies (energy and protein) back to the sites within the body where they are needed, removes waste products that can lead to fatigue, and alleviates muscle pain known as delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS).


Cold water immersion also relieves force on the body. Due to being surrounded by water, your muscular/bones (skeletal) system is relieved of its duty and kicks itself into returning your tired body back to its normal self – which can potentially remove the feeling of fatigue. CWI has been scientifically proven to help recovery after a range of sports/physical activities. 


So what did I do wrong? I jumped into a hot pool for about 30mins and boy did it feel great. However as good as it felt being immersed in hot water, this does not help kick start the recovery process, and it’s now three days after I’ve been snowboarding and I am still feeling pain in my legs (DOMS).


Here’s the strategy for next time – I am going to aim for 14-15mins of cold water immersion (CWI) with a temperature of 10-15 degrees. Ice may be needed here! And I am going to do this every night after riding until the pain goes away, as this is proven to aid recovery and reduce fatigue.


My future conditioning sessions will more closely replicate the muscular stress that takes place during snowboarding so that there is less shock to the system next time I take to the slopes.

 

Demonstrating CWI (Cold Water Immersion). Brrr ...

 

Read parts onetwo and three of 'Get me to the ski fields'.

 

References:

Barrantes-Brais, K., Calleja-González , J ., Ostojic, S., Sánchez-Ureña, B., & Ureña-Bonilla, P. (2015). Effect of water immersion on recovery from fatigue: A meta-analysis. European Journal of Human Movement, 34, 1-14. Retrieved from SPORTDiscus

Brisswalter, J., Hausswirth, C., Hays, A., Marquet, L., & Vettoretti, F. (2015). Comparison of between-training-sessions recovery strategies for world-class BMX pilots. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 10, 219-223.

Elias, G.P. (2014). A review of the effects of cold water immersion and contrast water therapy on enhancing athletic performance and reducing perceived fatigue following team sport activity. Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning, 22 (2), 85-90.

Jarawka, N., Kaczmarek, M., & Mucha, D. (2013). Cold water immersion as a post-exercise recovery strategy. Medicine Sportiva, 17 (1), 35-39.

About the author

Kaz Thompson (PgDip SpExSc, BSPExSc) is a lecturer at Wintec’s Centre for Sport and Human Performance. Kaz is a specialist at injury prevention, rehabilitating injuries and strength and conditioning. He has 15 years of experience working alongside athletes and the general population facilitating and creating individual training plans that achieves goals. Kaz has played competitive sports across many codes, with touch rugby and rugby sevens being his favorites.