I've been involved in elite-level athletics for the past two decades and have seen many "cure everything" tools come and go. Having suffered through 12 (and counting) major surgeries I know the value of expedited recoveries.
Last December, I was contacted by a former athlete (Lindsey Vonn) and asked if I could help with preparations prior to the PyeongChang Olympics. Although I've been blessed to work with many world-class athletes over the years, it isn't every day that the G.O.A.T comes calling.
On our second day of pre-Olympic preparations, I was doing follow-cam in Vail to get a closer look at boot alignment. Much like the tuning of a race car, boot alignment and ski preparation is vital to the success of an alpine athlete. A quarter of a degree to the left or the right can mean the difference in singing the national anthem on the top step of the podium or watching from the sidelines.
Unfortunately, about three-quarters of the way down the run, a slalom gate ricocheted from the snow and speared me directly in the meniscus. With a high-pitched squeal, I went plummeting to the ground. It should be noted that I continued to work with Lindsey for the following week of preparations albeit on a knee the size of a watermelon.
At the end of January, I had reconstructive surgery on my left knee. Dr. Provencher and his staff at the Steadman Clinic reattached my meniscus with 14 sutures and sent me on my way. I was told post surgery that the procedure went well, but I had suffered the most severe bone bruising that they had ever seen.
Rehab started that afternoon, with regaining extension being of the utmost priority. I've experienced some pretty painful recoveries in my day (open fracture left tib/fib in 20 pieces) but this one took the cake.
Simply lifting my leg on and off the table proved to be more than I could handle sans pain killer. We have a motto in my family, NO TEARS. However, my first week of physical therapy constantly left me in physical and mental breakdown.
After day 6 of having shown little to no progress, my Dr. asked if I would be open to trying BFR (Blood Flow Restriction) during therapy. At this point, I was open to just about anything as long as it didn't involve a total knee replacement.
Blood Flow Restriction Training or Occlusion training are essentially one and the same. Blood Flow Restriction Training is where you block the blood flow to certain muscle groups during training. By restricting blood flow in the limbs there is a change in body chemistry and the signals being sent to the brain. The actual mechanisms are an increase in nitric oxide and an increase in lactate.
As my therapist started to inflate the cuff (Blood Flow Band) I had the sensation of the strongest pump that I had ever felt in my body. The pump is actually more than a feeling, it is when your blood starts to pool and it has a host of health benefits.
One of the main benefits of this pump is increased Growth Hormone levels. This is a result of the extreme accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle. I didn't realize at the time, but by boosting Growth Hormone levels you actually accelerate the body's natural healing response.
Other benefits of the pump from Blood Flow Restriction Training include recruitment of type 2 fast-twitch muscle fibers and an increased ability to build lean muscle mass, both of which came in handy after the massive muscle atrophy I experienced after having spent the first 6 weeks on crutches. It is easy to see why this type of exercise should be in everyone's training arsenal.
I am now eleventh months post surgery and feeling better than I have felt in years. I have regained all of the muscle mass that I had lost post surgery and the lingering effects of my massive bone bruising are almost none existent. I can't wait to incorporate BFR Training into my interval sessions this winter. If there is a will there is a way and B Strong Bands have restored my faith in the bodies ability to overcome the impossible.
If you are struggling with injury, feeling the effects of aging, or simply want to supercharge your training B Strong is for you.