Preventing Rashes on the Trail

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Heat rash, chub rub, and wardrobe malfunctions are all things that inspire rashes, as well as things that athletes are allergic to, like ground cover.

Here are some real basic tips to keep in mind.

Heat rash – The number one cause of heat rash is overdressing. The number two cause is wearing cloth that keeps heat in and doesn’t wick away moisture. A simple wardrobe change can help heat rash immediately from getting worse. Synthetic fibers are also a tool in that rash area because it will help keep the rash dry.

Chub rub – The thing about chub rub is that meaty skin (thighs) are irritated and need more friction in that area, not less. Look for wardrobe items that will keep any smooshy parts of you available to have lots of smooth friction on them, that’s why great exercises pants have lots of spandex! Having high performance gear is not just about having high-quality, it’s about having functional materials on a body in movement.

Lube it homestyle – Put preventative salve on areas that are problematic before you dress. Things that stick out, rub. So nipples, bone areas, and areas that fold, (like a groin) are all areas that are available to have preventative petroleum products rubbed on them.

Nip it – There is a reason also why so many people use Band-Aids over their nipples – it’s to keep them protected and smooth, but it is also to keep that area free from friction and encourage movement. Bleeding nipples can happen on every single athlete year round.

Scrub protection – If you are going to have areas of your body that are exposed to the elements that may include brush, rocks, or other things that can graze the skin to open it, you may want to put protective socks or a light covering in that area. Tall socks can be stylish.

Plan ahead – Knowing the terrain that the athlete will be performing in allows the Trail Driver to keep items in stock that will help the performance of that athlete. That knowledge also helps the athlete preplan their wardrobe.

I do want to just sign off for all of you who have ever gone out of your way to help those athletes become superstars, you are the key to help them get to the finish line!

Trail well.

Burn Baby Burn – Rashes

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All rashes have three things in common – they burn, they are painful, they are super annoying – and the majority of them are preventable. I’ll do prevention information in a different post, but here is what to do when you already have a rash.

When you have rashes from exercise, you should really start thinking like a momma, because the fastest way to manage skin that is irritated, red and painful, is actually diaper rash cream. Zinc oxide is a rash’s worst enemy. Many athletes suffer from rashes in armpits, groins, and thighs, and diaper cream works in all of those areas. Plus, we love it for rash relief more than just slathering it in Vaseline.

Here are a few other tips for those of you dealing with rashes on the trail:

Start early – Of course you want to stop whatever is irritating it, but you want to get that area covered with healing creams ASAP.

Use Synthetic fibers – Also if the area is going to continue to rub, you want to throw away the idea that you want cotton on top of it because of how soft cotton can feel. What you want is something synthetic that will keep that area moving without friction.

Cube it – If you are on the trail and don’t have diaper cream in your medic kit, the sure-fire trick to give immediate relief is an ice cold compress. It will stop the immediate pain and burn, and reduce the swelling.

Stay cool – When the athlete leaves to go home, do remind them that hot water will really make it burn, so a hot tub would actually be pure misery.

Rest – Rashes really respond to just having time to be NOT irritated and will heal in just a day.

Trail well.

Bruises That Worry

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Mountains are dirty and full of rocks. That makes them hard on people who are moving at great speeds to complete a course because any misstep can cause a fall.

When you have athletes that are training in mountainous regions, I always remind people that mountains are made of ROCKS.

Yes ROCKS, and rocks can kill people, even nice, cute people. Depending on if you are in a volcanic mountain or other type of mountain, let’s just agree that all mountains are full of rock.

Rocks get caught up in stuff, they also really hurt and always break skin when you fall on them.  Rocks can cause crazy bruises. Bruises are like a scab on the inside, and you will know instantly when you’re about to bruise the living crap out of your leg, because it will turn color quickly.

If it looks like the bruise on a large muscle group is going to be under the size of a fist, as the Trail Driver I really don’t worry that much. But, if it looks like it is more like the size of my hand if it were open (with all fingers) or larger, I’m definitely going to start to worry.

Bruising that instantly turns black is also not a good sign. Bumps that immediately show a raised “nugget” like a head bump means I will pull the athlete from the course.

It is best to remind all athletes of the rules around safety in advance, so they know IN ADVANCE what accidents will pull them off the course. “Please avoid head injuries” is not enough information…

If your athlete gets injured, ask the person to tell you about the fall and the type of impact. Was it jagged or smooth, was it a deeper punch or just a pancake splat?  Weight falls at 2 ½ times its weight, so a 200-pound male is falling at 500 pounds of force and 500 pounds of force on a spleen is never a good plan.

If you are sending them back, have a medic check them in route and make a back-up plan if the pain gets worse. If they puke after a pancake splat, they need to go right to medical, because this is now a trauma sign.

Best option, pay attention to rocks, tell your team to pay attention to rocks, and NEVER, NEVER trust rocks to stay in place. Nothing outsmarts gravity.

Trail well.

 

The Trail Driver – The Spiritually Driven Athlete – Part 2

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Trail Drivers are those who support athletes so that they can do great things. Trail Drivers allow athletes to be better by helping them have resources while they’re doing things that are incredibly physical. Sometimes that’s logistics, a supply vehicle, or encouragement.

This is a two-part post reviewing how to support those athletes that I call “spiritually driven athletes,” those unique athletes that are called by some special circumstances to do something BIG, like doing a long event to raise awareness for a cause.

These are not the average athletes that are just training to do a specific distance. These are athletes that will be on the road over a series of days doing parts of their challenge over a long part of road. The majority of the time they will be their own support, MacGyver to medic, and they are going to have a ton of time in their own mind. Having a ton of time in your own mind can be great for the first 3 to 5 days, but after 30 days it gets a little dreary and weary.

The role of a Trail Driver, even if they are across the country, is also to make sure that they can help that person manage all of the details that it will take to keep them safe on their journey, supported with the items that they need, and pick them up if there is need. A great Trail Driver can help remove obstacles and put resources to that athlete very quickly.

Mapping is your number one tool. Physical maps are needed on journeys over 50 miles. You will need to see, on one piece of paper, the beginning and the end of that journey, and to be able, long-term, to see how far you’ve traveled. You will need to utilize every form of mapping, Geo location, with a smart phone, and Google maps to identify the physical building that they may need to find. “I’ll meet you at the old post office that’s on the corner of Main and First, and it’s right next to a service station so you “I’ll meet you in the small town.” Mapping does something magical, it allows someone to find out where they are, where they’re going and how much time it will take them, especially when their brain isn’t working right.

Put a map printout at the bottom of their rucksack, and one that they can pull out and use all the time. Losing a single piece of paper is probable. Another tip is to set up the “Find My Phone” application so you can actually Geo locate the phone and you don’t have to call that athlete to be able to find them.

Let someone in that town know you’re coming. Call ahead to either an organization that matches the cause, or a city official. They are going to want to know information; the cause, the name and the information about the person, and approximate times to look out for them. Sometimes I do this so when that day comes, people don’t think this is a crazy vagrant that they have to be fearful of, and sometimes it’s just so they can keep an extra eye out to make sure they don’t get hit on a country road. In small towns across America I have found that having something exciting happen, seeing someone with a dream or that is taking on a challenge to do something greater, is worth coming out for!

Texting is still a tool that allows for people to connect. There will be many times where that person may not be eligible to get that text because of cell service, but at some point they will, and will be glad they have it. If it’s been particularly long and lonely on the road, they’ll gladly interface with it.

Food and types of food matter. You are going to need to have that person focus on anti-inflammatory foods. They, over a series of days will have aches in places they never knew could ache. Orange juice or pineapple juice are foods that they should get to know. There are plenty of menus online that will give you simple items that you can add into their food groups to keep the inflammation down.

Protein is a tool, not just a trend. Having protein to keep muscles building and repairing themselves is going to be critical. A protein-based final meal is going to be a critical tool and how they will recover over the 10-12 hours of being on the road. Their body will want foods that sustain it during the peak hours of exertion, but in their resting state it is going to need all of the energy can get to repair all of the parts of the body that were stressed during the day.

Focus only on the goal for the day. Be the voice of reason. Every day actually has a goal, and every goal has a time that it is completed. When things are feeling boring, overwhelming, or just plain too much, let them know how far they’ve come, how much further they will get in the day, or give them information that will help them locate and find where they’re supposed to be and when in the days going forward.

Editing the rucksack. If they are on a long journey that is over months, you will need to edit the rucksack, and change out any gear that is no longer functional. If that person is a solo athlete, you can actually send gear to a hotel along the way and have it ready for them. I have found that hotels are incredibly helpful, if the athlete is camping and sleeping outside, even the campsite can traditionally get deliveries.

Invite others to the task. If your athlete is covering a lot of physical terrain it is incredibly helpful to invite people to meet them on that terrain at various times and give those people a task. Can you bring extra water? Pack something and meet them there. Those athletes don’t have to have someone with them all the time, but having someone check in with them daily for even as little as 20 minutes will help them keep their sanity on the journey.

In order for people to do great things, they don’t need just courage, they need thoughtful, consistent and persistent support. For those of you who are that support, I personally thank you for making the world a better place.

Trail Well.

Stress Fractures Are Annoying and Preventable!

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Over the years I have met a ton of endurance athletes, and one thing that they all have in common is their own personal list of annoying injuries. Many people have a war story to go with each injury on that list.

All you have to do is say to an endurance athlete “pulled hammie” and you will watch their whole body scrunch in reaction to how painful that is in real life and how annoying it is to manage the recovery.

Stress fractures not only hurt, but they are traditionally really annoying because it takes so long to heal bones. Hobbling around on crutches, keeping legs elevated, or having an inability to put weight on that region for any athlete is super-duper, big sigh, frustrated kind of annoying.

Taking steps in advance of an endurance event to avoid stress fractures is the “pay attention” advice for the athletes reading this article. This blog series is really focused on the things that happen on the trail and how a support team is going to react to those events, so I will focus on what to do after the injury has occurred.

The chances of a stress fracture for endurance athletes is high, especially for athletes that are pushing their muscles to the very limit. A normal athlete has between a two and 20% chance of having a stress fracture. An endurance athlete will most likely have one at least one in their personal list.

The reason a stress fracture happens is the muscles themselves become too tired to do the work. In order to pick up the impact of the work being performed that the muscles can’t manage, it directs that stress to the bones.

The majority of stress fractures that I have seen on the road really happen in the areas of the feet and the legs.

The athlete will know that they have a fracture because they have a pain that is traditionally getting worse, it will have a lot of swelling, and it may end up with a slight bit of bruising, but it will be first noticeable by pain. You’ll also know it’s a fracture when the pain is reduced as soon as any weight is lifted from the area or it will  immediately start to feel better from rest, and then spurs back as soon as motion or weight is applied to that area.

The hop test- have the athlete hop on the one side where the pain is. A stress fracture will deliver a pinpoint sharp pain.

Your best option is always to STOP-REST-ICE. If you are a trail driver, 100% of the time my advice is to have the athlete pulled off the course, and I will tell you very few athletes want to be pulled from the course. They will endure huge amounts of pain to not leave the course.

My advice to the athlete in a situation like this is to give them as much information as you can about where you think their injury is or where it is heading. Invite them to discontinue what they’re doing if it is causing them pain. In this case if it is a fracture they could actually double the amount of time that they will be unable to perform and be recovering.

Because this type of pain can often look like many other things that are not as critical, like shin splints, you really need to pay attention to the swelling, and how the pain changes when the area has weight taken off of it. When you have pain that is in the muscle tissues, it will start off REALLY screaming. If it is a bone pain, it will get progressively more painful as they move.

There are many athletes that will choose to continue on and bull their way through a stress fracture just to meet those goals. For those crazies, try to wrap the area tightly, give ibuprofen and a sturdy warning. That is all I can offer that will be accepted.

I will leave you with an odd fact, and that is if your athlete was also an athlete as a child, orthopedically they are less likely to get a stress fracture as an adult. And that has to do with the placement of the hip being different in athletic development of children.

Here is that random fact link.

Trail well.