Concussion Making Me Better

I learned a lot while battling through a lengthy concussion recently that will make me stronger and faster for the 2023 season. Well, that is my plan anyway…lots of work ahead. Here I share what happened and how I’m coming out the other side.

At the end of July, I took a fall on my bike and after about 15 minutes I knew I was in trouble resulting in a concussion. The last one I had was over four years ago. The initial symptoms were similar with a bit more intensity this go around. I gave my head a few days, thought I was clear, and tested an effort that went poorly prompting the symptoms to come back. After another several days and thinking I was clear again, I attempted another hard effort and the symptoms came back and this time they stayed.

I went to a concussion center to see a specialist and began treatment following while also shutting running and cycling down completely. The headaches persisted daily for the next five weeks. They were moderate to severe and came in three different types. It was miserable. Pictured above is Dr. Mike Abenoja who I’ve seen for a few years treating me for all kinds of things to make me go. This time he was treating my neck, head, and back with fabulous results. He is also very brave as you can see him working on Michael Myers here. He had Michael ready for Halloween for sure.

What kept me sane through this period was coaching, riding a bike next to teammates and Lauren while they were running, and learning my butt off to be better when I was ready to resume again. With the extra time on my hands I took a deep dive into strength and stretch training. This served two benefits. I am incorporate into my own routine as an athlete and also in my athlete’s plans whom I coach.

I have learned a lot over the years and this opportunity to look at various perspectives and approaches for runners, triathletes, and duathletes was fantastic. Like everything I have implemented for me as a coach and athlete, it’s taking the best of what I learn and experience from different inputs and put into a secret sauce. What I was looking for in outcomes was to become stronger in cycling and run endurance while also building elasticity for my run stride. Strength and Speed!

As I’m aging, I’m doing everything I can to keep the muscle I have and increase the elastic ability to move quickly. I have a few goals already for 2023 with one of them being the fastest ME since I started this nine years ago. I’m smarter and more experienced. Now to see if I can beat the aging clock and younger ME.

The Elastrength plan (I’m calling it) was implemented about halfway through my concussion departure from running and cycling. When I was able to start running again I was pleasantly surprised how well my legs were taking the mileage build up. The cardio has lagged which was completely normal after a shutdown but it’s coming back.

Speaking of cardio, one of the interesting results of shutting down and starting up again was to see the difference in my resting heart rate throughout the eight weeks of not working it to my recent build up in mileage, effort, and working my heart. During the year when I’m approaching my biggest races I eat very clean and I’m pushing the limits. When I do this my resting heart rate average is 42. When I am in my off-season or doing less important races I eat a little more junk, still vegan, but not as health promoting and my resting heart rate average will hover around 46-47.

Well, about six weeks into my concussion without working my heart and not eating like I was preparing for a big race, my resting heart rate bulged to an average of 51, my worst since going plant-based over six years ago…and I felt it. At that point I didn’t know when my head was going to get better and I could begin running and biking again so I decided I better clean up my nutrition so I ate similar to preparing for a big race…eating lots of whole foods.

Another two weeks went by, my head improved, and I was clear to run again. It took a couple weeks to get to a point where I could introduce tempo and then full speed. I cleared with no side effects and this past week after putting in some good mileage and busting out some great heart beat pushes, my resting heart rate dropped 16% to an average of 43 beats per minute.

I always say, work the heart and it will work for you! I wish I would have taken my blood pressure from the peak to now as I’m sure I would have seen a similar drop. It feels good to feel good again and headache free. I can feel my body in a much calmer state at 43 beats per minute than when I was feeling a bit rough at 51.

My cardio and endurance is nowhere near where I need it to be but I’m working at it and hoping to have my first benchmark test (race) in less than three weeks.

Always seek to learn. I try to use my time wisely when I’ve been injured and I’m happy with my effort away from the physical work I missed greatly. I never take this for granted. I appreciate going out for every workout as you never know when it can be taken away. I learned and I know I’m going to be better for it.

– Add Health to Your Life

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