Mike Day getting stylish at the Olympic Training Center track Justin Kosman/Red Bull Photofiles

Pro BMX rider Mike Day possesses an alarming amount of natural talent, but even he admits that won’t take you all the way in the highly competitive world of racing. His love for the sport puts him on his bike every day, and his commitment to it drives him to do all the training and preparation necessary to leave fools in the dust when the gate drops.

In Part One of Mike’s interview, he talked about what he does between races to build speed and agility; here in Part Two, he talks about the major back surgery that sidelined him for the 2010 season, and how he’s taking careful steps to recover in the best way possible and return to racing at full output.

Mike Day Q&A - Part Two

You had serious back surgery in 2010; what have been the elements of your physical recovery?
I had surgery on May 10th and there was rehab from the start, like I had to walk a certain amount of time every day. At about 15 days I could pedal a stationary bike for 15 minutes a day. Then at a month and a half I was going down to the center where I got the surgery and getting crazy deep-tissue massages just to try to loosen my body up, I was so tight from the procedure.

null Justin Kosman/Red Bull Photofiles

About three months in I started doing actual walking exercises, arm-rows and ab stuff, but all super-light, body-weight-type stuff. I got cleared in the middle of December to really start riding and sprinting and training. I’m still not back to where I feel anything like I did in the past. I feel really good right now pain-wise; the pain’s gone, I’m just not strong. I haven’t really trained in a year, just doing light stuff to get back into it. I definitely have a long way to go.

Have you simply been working on core strength since the surgery, or have you been able to return to a BMX-specific workout?
The only BMX stuff I’ve been doing is actually riding my bike and doing sprints. I haven’t been working my legs or anything like that. The doctors have said that for me to really come back from this and have it work for the long haul, I have to get my core rock-solid; that’s what’s going to protect my back, so I’ve been concentrating on that. I haven’t really been doing any bike stuff, besides actually riding, which is fun enough for me. I’m psyched to just be able to go out and ride and not be in pain.

How hard is it to take the time to come back properly and not just jump back to where you were?
I had to go to a lot of races for my sponsors last year, and watching them sucked, but I think I’ll thank myself for doing it right and not rushing back into it. I’ve seen a lot of people come back too soon, and they get hurt again or never get back to where they were. I want to make sure I heal right. There will be a million more races…

I know I’m getting better and that what I’m doing is working.

I want to be racing and getting back in the mix, but at the same time, I can see that I need to live a lot of life past riding my little bike [competitively]. There’s going to be a time when I’m walking around at 40 and feeling 60 if I don’t take this very seriously.

Back injuries are gnarly, and I had a full disc replaced. It’s not fused, it’s an artificial disc. I think the therapy isn’t just going to go until I’m back up to racing speed, it’s going to be a life-long thing, keeping my body fit and really making it work.

What are some of the core or back-strengthening exercises you do?
I do a lot of hyper-extensions on the ball, like a reverse sit-up. When you’re on the ball, your core is also working to stay balanced. I do some work on a back machine that just targets the muscles in your back.

How has the surgery changed the way you train?
Everything I do now revolves around how my back is going to react to it. I have to go to Utah this weekend, and would I like to go snowboarding? Yeah, I would, but it’s probably not the best idea. I try to keep tabs on everything I’m doing to make sure I’m not prolonging the injury or going backwards. I know I’m getting better and that what I’m doing is working. 

null Justin Kosman/Red Bull Photofiles

How important have Red Bull’s athlete performance resources been to you?
It’s a night-and-day difference. Every BMXer was looking at our program [leading up to Beijing in 2008]. We looked into everything. I had a coach, but Red Bull gave me tools to help us – a starting gate, timers, video cameras, overlay systems to watch myself on the computer and dissect everything – it was pretty first-class.

Per [Lundstam, Red Bull’s US Athlete Performance Manager] is an animal. Just the body-weight stuff he has me doing in the gym is brutal. I’ll roll out of here and be sore for a couple of days. It’s not like you’re moving a lot of weight, though - it’s just doing it the right way, the way I should have been doing it before I got hurt.

A lot of people list “getting in shape” as their New Year’s resolution. Do you have any NY resolutions?
I haven’t made any, but I want to be going fast by the end of April. That’s been my goal.

How are you feeling about that right now?
My doctor had said it’d be a full year until I felt 100% again. The first time I rode my bike I didn’t know if it was going to be possible, but the more work I put in as time passes, I don’t think it’s off-pace.

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Mike returned to the track on January 15th for the ABA season opener in Reno, Nevada, to judge how his recovery was going. He hopes to be back in top form in the spring so he can start battling for a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic BMX team later in the year. Wish him luck in the comments below...

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