You will get injured.
In my case, you will hit the pavement head first going 22 mph and end up looking like this:
Now that I’ve caught your attention with a graphic pic, I’ll start by saying this: injuries suck, but there are certain parts that I love about them. I was blessed with a black eye and a HUGE growth opportunity – let me elaborate.
On Thanksgiving, my boyfriend and I set out early in hopes of riding a century before turkey & gravy. We were cruising for the first 20ish miles of the ride. “Okay, this feels fast, but nothing I can’t handle”, I thought. It was a sharp 40 degrees out, maybe even colder in the valleys. My hands were so cold that all I could focus on was trying to ride harder to distract myself from my fingers going numb. Note to self: riding faster will not make your hands warm up.
After a long descent we reached a flat section – the scene of the accident. This was going towards Nicasio after the “Golf Course Hill”, for all you Bay Area friends. I was drafting really close to Cassidy’s wheel at that point; something I had been working on becoming more comfortable with. Suddenly, my front tire hit his back tire, ever so slightly. Such a minor mistake came with a huge consequence. Before I could even correct my wheel, I had flown off my bike and hit the hard concrete head first, shoulder second. It hurt so freaking bad. I didn’t know I could scream like I did, but wow I’m sure I woke up a few neighbors.
The road I was on was definitely not highly trafficked, so it could have been a while until help arrived. Luckily, someone called 911. I don’t know you, but huge thank you! A cop car came first, then an ambulance. Key takeaway here- if you are not about to die, get in the cop car over the ambulance to save thousands of dollars! The cop drove me and my (un-damaged, somehow) bike home.
There is a fine line in my mind between “you’re fine” and “you’re f*cked”. Later in the day I went to the hospital to get checked out. Come to find out I had fractured my collar-bone, my thumb, and got a concussion. Could have been a ton worse, could have been better. The classic cyclist injury.
Anyways, this blog is not meant to focus on how I hit the ground, but instead, about what I’m learning on my way back up! My favorite part about injuries is how much I end up learning about the body and mind from them. One of my favorite areas to study is the workings of the body. It is the most complex, amazing system ever- don’t you agree?!
So, I want to share what were, in my opinion, some of the most interesting and useful tidbits that I learned about healing concussions and fractures.
Depression linked to concussions
In the first two weeks post-concussion, it was really difficult for me to sit with the fact that I did not feel like my usual self. I couldn’t do simple tasks like putting my socks on, washing my hair, or lifting anything. I felt so frustrated and useless.
Furthermore, I felt this overwhelming sadness for seemingly no reason. I felt like I couldn’t control my emotions to the extent that I usually can. Looking back on that time, a few weeks removed now, it makes complete sense why I was feeling so depressed, even though in the moment those feelings were miserable.
I learned that there are a few things about concussions that can trigger depression. Broadly, hitting your head hard causes a change in neurotransmission. Your serotonin levels decrease, and on top of that, not working out lowered my usual level of serotonin even more.
Also, concussions cause growth hormone production to shut down, which can lead to depression. I first heard about that one on a Rich Roll podcast featuring Mike Mahler (highly recommended if you want to learn more).
Lastly, having a concussion and not being able to do many of the things that bring me happiness is downright depressing, no justifications needed. Extra compassion and self love goes a long way when dealing with head injuries.
Laser therapy in concussions
Shine a laser into your head and zap away the concussion. Skeptical? I was too at first, but when you’re injured you’ll do anything for the cure.
My PT/Chiro/medical guru, Kane, is one of the most incredibly knowledgable people that I know. He seems to have a sixth sense of knowing exactly the root of bodily ailments and how to fix them. He was the one who introduced me to red laser therapy.
As pictured, I shined this 5 Watt laser on the front/back/sides of my head for 30 seconds at a go. 5% of the laser’s wattage is absorbed through the skull.
From Kane’s explanation, boiled down to my understanding, here’s how red laser therapy works:
After a concussion, your brain’s goal is to get back into homeostasis. Homeostatis is maintained largely by the sodium potassium pump. This pump needs ATP in order to operate. The red laser excites electrons – which is a critical step in APT production. When you have a concussion, electron excitation can be hindered by nitric oxide build-up. The laser’s role in recovery is to break up these nitric oxide bonds, so that the electrons can be stimulated, and ultimately, so that the brain can return to homeostasis quicker!
Ideally, I would have used this laser more frequently in treatment. But I didn’t have one at my disposal every day. Might be a worthwhile investment though – the 5W lasers are sold for just under $100.
Fascia’s affect on recovery
I don’t think I have ever seen Kane without him mentioning Fascia Fuzz. Let me explain.
Think of this fuzz as thick cob-webs built up in your body. Stretching, and moving your body (as well as massage) melts the fascia “fuzz” that builds up between the sliding surfaces of your musculature. You can have weeks worth of fuzz built up – like I did in my shoulder.
Breaking up fascia fuzz in my shoulder and thumb by movement, massage, and even scraping the affected area, significantly helped me return to normal range of motion.
What I find really interesting here is that there is a fine line of when to immobilize and when to mobilize injuries. Once the bone is healed, mobilization is key to breaking up fascia. I am by no means a doctor, but I think that its very common to immobilize an injury for more time than necessary. This may be because there is still pain in the area with even slight movement. Pain can be coming from tightness from fascia buildup, and stretching it when moved in a way that it hasn’t in a while, not from the actual bone, so in this case the pain isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Glutathione’s role in concussion healing
Glutathione is a naturally occurring antioxidant that combats free radicals. A concussion creates A LOT of free radicals in your body.
Understanding what free radicals are involves getting into the chemical properties of an atom’s electron layers. From a non-chemical stand-point, how I understand it is that free radicals create stress in the body that can damage cells and lead to diseases and degeneration.
So, it was important to do all that I could to increase glutathione levels post-concussion when my body needed it the most.
I learned that getting enough sleep maintains or increases glutathione levels, whereas sleep deprivation can decrease such levels. EXCELLENT- I thought, sleep is literally my super power; I can sleep anywhere anytime, a gift that I can attribute quick recovery to.
Sulfur is required for the synthesis of glutathione. I made sure I was eating sulfur rich foods such as beef, fish, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale.
I can not stress enough the power of food as medicine!
While I was healing (and always, really) I focused on eating foods that were anti-inflammatory. I already had enough inflammation going on. That meant, I didn’t eat a lot of foods high in processed sugar (inflammatory) unless of course there was a certain desert that made me really happy.
One of my favorite recipes to help decrease inflammation is a mineral broth from the Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook. If you don’t have this cookbook, what are you waiting for?This broth is rich in magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese- all essential for speeding up recovery time. It’s basically a bunch of veggies simmered in a pot for a few hours. Bonus points- this broth has a beautiful pink color to it- from the beets.
When it comes to being injured, it’s so important to know your own level of what you can and can’t handle. Everyone’s going to tell you “rest, rest, rest” which is great, don’t get me wrong. However, your version of rest differs from the next person’s. What I’m saying is, rest enough, but also, get on with your life. (Advice from a 24 year old, with the healing powers of youth on tap)
For the first couple of days after the concussion I barely looked at screens. The bright light took a toll on my eyes and head- as anyone who’s had a concussion can relate to. I literally couldn’t do anything but sit and sleep.
That week, I listened to podcasts, and just zoned out, because that was all I could do. I tried to be more like my cat, Tofu. He seems to have this relaxation thing down.
I also would close my eyes and envision the inner-workings of my body healing up. Now, I have no idea what this really looks like, but just think of millions of little red blood-cells with smiling faces all floating to my head, shoulder and thumb where they were needed most. There were proteins, amino-acids, enzymes of all sizes and colors doing their job so diligently. I have no clue if this type of visualization actually helped me physically recover, but it was definitely a form of meditation, which no doubt helped me mentally.
I had over 5 in-person interviews for various software sales roles within a week or two after I hit the pavement. Those opportunities were not going to wait. If they did not go to me they would go to someone else, so I did all that was in my power to make sure that I prepared for those interviews and brought my A-game. End result- I learned a ton and nailed a new job with Twilio woooo!
Now, some may say it’s not the best idea to be interviewing right after having a concussion, but I knew what I could handle, and I worked with my limitations. Google Chrome text narrator, as well as my boyfriend helped limit time spent looking at a screen. Lots of short breaks when studying helped too. It wasn’t easy, during some of the interviews I felt like the room was spinning, but I still had to talk about “why I’m a great fit for the role”. When there’s a will there’s a way.
Flash forward 4 weeks from the accident. It’s Christmas, and I’m back at it. All I really wanted for Christmas was to run again and BOOM thank you Santa for the best gift ever! I can definitely say that I recovered quicker than expected because of what I ate, how I rested, how I moved, and how I thought.
I’ve been scheming some big schemes for 2020! My next goal race is American River 50 mile in April LETSGOOO!!!!!! But seriously, if you’re looking for a 50mi (or even a 25mi option) on part of the Western States course, in Sacramento, this race is your race!!
Keep your dreamz alive, my friends!! And protect your noggin 🙂