Matt Goerke season 2017
I help many athletes through many situations as they can tell you. Matt Goerke won the 2017 Canadian MX nationals by just 3 points and how he did it is a story worth telling.
Matt and I have been working together for over 5 years. I don’t have day to day contact with him like a mechanic or trainer would, but when things go wrong such as an injury or fatigue, I often get a call. This year was no different.
Start of the Season
At the start of the season I had Matt start working on new breathing techniques that have been popularized by people like Wim Hof and others. There are several reasons for the breathing exercises. As motocross is mostly an aerobic sport, but there are times when it becomes completely anaerobic. Good examples are when the rider is navigating through a set of supercross whoops, starts, or when they have to pick up the bike after falling and get going again. Other advantages of these breathing exercises are the calmness and clarity of mind one experiences after completing the breath hold. This can clear the mind before a start. Other things that daily breath exercise do are adapt the body to acute stress and relieve anxiety. If you ever want to see power of breathing exercises and cold adaptation prevent an infection, just watch this short video.
Matt sustained a leg hematoma from a crash in an Arena Cross race. He called me concerned, and it did not seem too bad in the moment. He decided to race the next night and managed to get 2nd. Two days later, Matt called me in a panic because his leg hematoma continued to swell to the point his foot was becoming numb. This is called compartment syndrome. I wrote about this in a previous blog. This of course is a sign that the hematoma is compressing on the nerves. A hematoma of this type can progress to very bad things and if not taken care of urgently, one can have permanent damage. I told Matt go directly to the emergency room to get it check out. It was determined by the emergency room doctor that the hematoma was resolving and not progressing, so this gave us the green light to start immediate rehabilitation. I instructed Matt do many things:
Sauna therapy – I had Matt sit in a sauna everyday for several reasons. As the red blood cells from the hematoma are breaking down along with other metabolites, they need to be excreted. Saunas help the body shift fluids by increasing sweat rates and are one way to eliminate certain toxins. Not to mention the hundreds of other benefits of saunas like heat adaptation and growth hormone release.
Marc Pro Muscle Stimulation – The Marc Pro utilizes a special kind of electrical pulse stimulation and it is different than a regular TENS muscle stimulation unit. By placing the stimulation pads of the Marc Pro device around the hematoma, my hope was that we could improve blood flow in and around the area to increase circulation and try to increase healing so Matt could get back to riding. Remember at this point, Matt could not even walk!
Turmeric – I had Matt take a curcumin supplement and add turmeric to all of his food. The goal here was increase anti-inflammatory aspects to his healing. When your body is dealing with the trauma of a hematoma, it is certainly overwhelmed with inflammation. So, everything helps. I also made sure Matt was eating a lot of omega fatty acids and taking good supplements. (Curcumin is simply the extract of the Tumeric plant).
Lymphatic massage – This was also key in helping to evacuate the hematoma. Matt had daily lymphatic massages for about a week. Lymphatic massage is a specialized type of massage that focuses on the lymphatic tracks of the body and promotes flow toward the heart. Lymphatic massage is different in that it uses a specific amount of pressure and rhythmic circular movements to stimulate lymph flow.
By combining these therapies, Matt was back to racing in a week and half after not being able to walk for 2 days!
Matt has always been known for his training acumen. He trains hard, perhaps harder than anyone I have ever worked with. As Matt felt that he was playing catch up after the hematoma deal, he of course trained harder trying to make up for lost fitness. There is a fine line to accomplishing fitness in these situations. Inevitably, Matt wound up with a bit of overtraining fatigue that took away his energy and made him feel like he was hitting a wall. Even though Matt was able to race each weekend and produce good results, he was wrecked the rest of the week.
Labs – The first thing I did with Matt is to draw a set of labs and see where his electrolytes and blood cells were sitting. His iron stores were a bit off, and they were low enough that we could be aggressive with the iron replacement. We accomplished this by taking quality iron supplements that included both heme (animal) and non-heme (plant) sources of iron. Matt took a supplement called Floradix, which is a liquid iron that is well absorbed. Matt also is probably my only athlete (besides Zach Osborne) that will eat liver. Liver is a wonderful source of iron. Not just because liver contains a lot of iron, but liver has all of the fat-soluble vitamins as well as vitamin C and other cofactors that help increase iron absorption. Anybody who deals with iron knows that it is very difficult to absorb.
Nutrition – Besides eating liver 3 times a week, I had Matt increase the amount high nutrient density foods. Foods like liver, bone marrow, bone broth, and multi colored vegetables were all part of Matts regimen. I also tried to increase his glucose sensitivity. Increasing glucose sensitivity means that the goal is to make the body more sensitive to glucose. What this does is to allow the body to respond better to a lower amount of glucose or sugar. During the week, I had Matt watch his carbohydrate calories and during the weekends we added specific types of carbohydrates called UCAN super starch. Basically, this is heat treated corn starch that is designed to replenish glycogen stores (it is used in certain medical conditions). I also had him eating whole foods like lots of sweet potatoes and told him to cut out processed pastas and other foods. I also had Matt go back to eating natural sugars like peanut butter, honey and bananas (instead of gels) between motos, which seemed to work very well. I also made sure his Vitamin D stores were optimized.
Salt intake – Anytime a person is dealing with any type of fatigue, salt levels are paramount. To accomplish this, Matt took several forms of salt. In particular, he took a ketone supplement called Ketofuels giving him about 8 grams of sodium and magnesium salts with each bottle. He likes to take Ketofuels during race weekends. I also had him take bicarbonate salts called Tri Salts with every workout and at races. By doing this, the volume inside of his blood vessels (intravascular) can be optimized, where it is most important.
Rest – Matt wanted to train or ride every time he felt better. I worked hard convincing him the best thing to do was to rest. And by rest, I don’t mean sitting on the couch. We agreed that he should not ride during the week until he really started feeling better. But I made he sure he optimized his sleep. He did this by not using any electronics or television 2 hours before bedtime. He made sure his room was completely blacked out with dark curtains. He used melatonin as needed. And I told him to limit his consumption of caffeine during this period. I also had Matt going out for walks and being sure he woke up with the sun to optimize his circadian rhythms. This time period was also about having Matt do some activities that he normally does not have time to do. Some of these activities were going to the beach, getting adequate sunlight, barefoot walks and yoga exercises.
HRV – I had Matt measure his heart rate variability (HRV) every day. His initial HRV was abnormally low for him. This was another confirmation that holding back his training was the right move. Week by week, his HRV improved and helped guide us to be more precise about when to really start training hard again. It was also a learning tool for Matt as he could see his HRV change over time and he really was able to understand the numbers better after this experience.
Vespa Wasp Extract – Matt started using the Vespa and he said that it helped his energy. We started Matt on a bug extract for a couple of reasons. One was to give his fat metabolism a boost and the other was to provide an energy source from something other than glucose. I basically told Matt to take a Vespa at the moment he felt like he needed a gel, and see what happens. He said it was one of the things that helped him through the fatigue. He used it throughout the rest of his season. As you know, eating bugs is in, just read my last article about it. Here is the website for Vespa Wasp Extract.
It took 5 weeks for Matt to feel better, but he was able to get results and stay in the points race. As he was feeling better each week, he was able to resume normal riding and training. And he ended up winning the CMRC National Championship! The most rewarding thing was the message I received from Matt:
“What a year! And thank you so much! Without all your help after round 1 of the series, there is no way I would have won.”