We are blasted with nutritional advice in every aspect of media, mostly with titles like "eat this" and "don't eat this." As athletes, we need to remember that what is recommended and works for the average sedentary individual may not work for us.
The best way to dial in your nutritional needs and identify any deficiencies is to work with a registered dietitian or certified nutritionist. This can save you a lot of time and energy in the long run, and most importantly, keep you healthy. And of course, help us perform better!
Along the lines of differing needs for athletes is this great article from the TrainingPeaks Blog about sodium. Sodium has been taboo in much of the population, but as you'll read here it's a necessary component of our diet. Check it out, talk to your doctor and nutritionist about it, and you might see you need to make a change. Particularly during the bit of a heat wave that much of the country is experiencing now.
Enjoy the read and the wonderful summer riding!
Why Athletes Need Sodium
JUNE 21, 2019 · BY ANDY BLOW
Some of you are coming into your big events of the year, some are just beginning to throw down, and the 'cross specialists are working on their base. Either way, your intensity may be increasing, and for many, the volume is going up a bit, too. In order to get the most from your racing and training, make sure you take some extra steps to give yourself every advantage possible.
Do you ride inside? This video hits some great points for why it seems so "hard."
I definitely have germophobic tendencies, and I've found many endurance athletes share this trait. Why? We don't want to get sick! No one wants to get sick, but athletes don't want to miss out on valuable training time or be ill for an upcoming event. Endurance athletes are constantly beating down their immune systems and must take special care to avoid the illnesses that are passed around during this time of the year...and any time of the year for that matter.
Is it the end of the world? Most likely not.
Is it super frustrating? For sure.
Could it wreck your upcoming event? Definitely.
Can it be avoided? It's not fool-proof, but if you work hard you can really cut down your chances of getting ill.
Most would agree that the best tip is to simply frequently wash your hands and avoid touching your face, mouth, eyes, nose, ears, etc. And I doubt you would find an athlete or coach that would say that more sleep is a bad thing. Finally, recover HARD, eat well, and stay hydrated...always.
Here's a great article that I came across on TrainingPeaks that goes even further:
How Athletes Can Survive the Cold and Flu Season
I'm a fan of carrying around my own pen (habit developed during my 20 year teaching career), and make sure you hit the soap and water after using the credit-card key pads at the store. Not a bad idea to use a paper towel to open the door after using a public bathroom.
What's your best tip?
A little prevention can go a long way!
Stretching...who has time?
We ALL do! And yes, I say we because I could use to stretch more, too. As cyclists we have notoriously tight areas in our bodies which can develop into poor posture and range of motion. We pride ourselves on our quiet upper bodies with no wasted energy, and this is particularly true of the time trialists and triathletes out there. And then as result we stay locked into these unnatural positions for hours on end with the result being greater cycling fitness but also chronic tightness.
As I type this post during the 14th hour of my day, how can I say that we all have time to stretch? Realistically, if you were to end your rides 5-10 minutes early a couple of times a week you would have time to stretch. And this is the key time to perform the exercises: when your muscles are warm and loose.
Recent studies have shown that over stretching can be damaging and even lead to injury due to joints being loose, One article about this here. But most cyclists I know would have to change their behavior quite significantly to become an over-stretcher.
So, take a look at this great article from TrainingPeaks and make these easy exercises a part of your weekly routine!
TrainingPeaks: Best Stretches for Time Crunched Cyclists
As always, if you have questions you should consult a certified trainer for help.
Some of you are coming into your big events of the year, some are just beginning to throw down, and the 'cross specialists are working on their base. Either way, your intensity is increasing, and for many, the volume is going up a bit, too. In order to get the most from your racing and training, make sure you take some extra steps to give yourself every advantage possible.
1. Drink enough fluids during the day. When I was teaching, I would use a gallon jug of water at work to be sure that I'm taking in enough water. Sometimes trying to count bottles or glasses can be misleading, and it's better for the environment to refill. Everybody has different hydration requirements but it's widely agreed upon that athletes need more water during hotter temperatures.
See: How to Optimize Your Recovery by Hydrating Properly
2. Drink enough during training and racing. It's hot...you're going to sweat more. It's impossible to "stay ahead of it" as we often say, but you can minimize your losses.
3. Eat enough during the day and during rides. The hotter weather sometimes suppresses your appetite, so watch your intake.
Side note--check out this article:Lose Weight by Eating More
4. Take advantage of the neutral support in races and rides. Stop at the aid stations, top off your bottles and/or hydration pack, dose yourself with some cool water, and get some calories if the duration warrants. Just do watch your time if you're in a competitive event. It's not a smorgasbord...get in with a plan of what you're going to grab, grab it, and get out.
5. Don't hesitate to stop on a training ride to refill. You can often find delis and the like that will gladly refill your bottles with another purchase. If you live in super hot areas like Flagstaff, AZ, there will be coolers of ice cold water outside of each restaurant--it's the law apparently! No matter what, carry some cash (some small shops still have a minimum purchase for credit cards) and fill up. Again, you can be efficient and not lose too much time.
6. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. This should be the case year round, of course, but the summer offers us some great treats. Watermelon is very high in potassium, which is great to fend off muscle cramps. And the water content of most fruits and vegetables is very high and will serve your body well.
7. Cool yourself during and after workouts and after races. The recovery process is sped up the faster you can cool your core. It's also great for the joints and muscles. A cold shower, or a sit in a cold stream can do wonders. The stream idea can be used mid-ride, too. If you have access to a cold plunge, that's the DEAL! I've found these techniques to be VERY effective.
8. Apply lotion and sun screen. If your body's resources are being used to heal damaged skin, it's less energy that you can spend on repairing the damage done by racing and training. This is in addition to the obvious life-threatening side effects of getting burned. Or, on a lesser note, having uncomfortable and restless nights of sleep.
9. Eat foods that agree with you. Find those trigger foods and avoid them when in the height of training and racing. Again, if your body doesn't digest well, it can't use those resources and nutrients for your cycling goals.
10. Take time for yourself. Try to eliminate stress as much as possible and take a little time for yourself each day. You can't add hours in the day, and stressing over not being able to train like you would to won't change anything.
11. Keep smiling and have fun! Remember why we ultimately all do our great sport!
Work hard and enjoy!
This past weekend, I led a super mountain bike clinic for beginners. Although the ability levels varied, most had limited trail and even cycling experience. As an avid racer and race supporter, I would like to hope that some would dip their toe into the world of competitive cycling, I understand that pinning on a number is not for everyone.
Thinking about this made me reflect on a post that I wrote last summer, and it's worth revisiting. In my opinion, even the die-hard racer should take a step back from time and recognize their small victories and take time to enjoy the journey. As Ferris Bueller said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
My original post from 7/19/17
Keep on keepin' on!
There is no doubt that winter is here in the Northeast. In NJ, we recently had 14 consecutive days where the temps did not break 32 degrees F. Rough.
But riding through the winter doesn't need to be miserable! By putting in time over the winter, you can set yourself up for a really great season. I switched to riding year 'round when I upgrade to Expert (Cat 1) on the mountain bike race course, knowing it would be the only way I could be competitive. It was a learning process with some uncomfortable rides, but I adapted quickly and never would have though I would be venturing out in single digits some twenty years late.
Here's an article post on the TrainingPeaks Blog that gives some great tips:
8 Tips for Better Winter Riding
Tip number one, dress properly, is so important. With this said, an initial investment in good quality winter clothing will pay off in huge dividends. I remember my first pair of booties lasted almost 8 years, and my heave gloves were awesome for many seasons, with lobsters to back me up on the super cold days. I'm also a huge fan of layers, with an easy zip on the outer layer for temperature control.
Staying warm is obviously the goal. On the coldest days, I'll do a short trainer ride inside to get completely warmed up, then towel off if necessary and get immediately into my winter clothing, all staged and ready to go. Then right out the door and into my ride. I find it cuts down, if not eliminates, that often painful first 15-20 minutes.
Although the weathermen often get the forecast less than perfect, the current wind speed and direction is usually dead on. Take a quick look at this and plan your ride accordingly. You'll thank yourself, and so will your riding partners. But beware.: if you look at the weather on your phone or computer, don't get sucked into social media or e-mails.
And yes, having a planned group ride or even a riding partner is great. I always say, riding partners makes it just that much warmer.
Trainer Session Info
If you're local, come down to our trainer sessions for a great workout and an additional meaningful two hours of riding during the week. Combine that with some off the bike training and solid weekend rides, and you'll be styling when the warm weather rolls around.
Until then, stay warm and ride on!
Much like any profession that is a combination of science and art, cycling training principles and philosophies are constantly evolving and revolving. One component of winter training that has stood the test of time fairly well was long, steady, low intensity rides. Did this survive because so many of us absolutely enjoy riding our bikes that it was a great excuse to go out for 3-6 hours on a freezing cold day? Perhaps. But it also seems to really work. One of the questions that does arise is do amateur athletes have enough time to put together a true base building period?
Recently, more and more research is coming out downplaying the idea of low intensity during the winter and instead incorporating more and more shorter, high intensity workouts. Much like above, is this a push out of convenience for an aging demographic with more responsibilities and less time to train? Maybe.
And then there's the idea of mixing it together. I came across this article in Velonews which cites several studies and gives a bit of a different view on base training while still hitting the long rides.
Six ways to make your base training better
by Trevor Connor
Not sure how this all fits in with your cycling goals, training schedule, and life? Give me a shout and I can work with you to create a training program for your best season ever!
Happy New Year!
With 'cross starting in late August in many places, we have the opporuntity to experience dry and fast courses, relative to what they would be like later in the season. You preparation for these races can and should be different than for the later season cold, muddy, and possibly snowy events.
This article presented by CX Magazine discusses ways to help you make the most of these dry and fast courses, as well as how to use them as a springboard for the rest of your season. And although it's no longer September, we've been experiencing dry and fast courses well into October. I certainly don't mind the ease of bike cleaning!
I particularly like the paragraph:
"Feel free to give yourself some space on these courses too. There’s no sense in letting someone else take out your front wheel in a corner because you were following too closely. You can conserve a lot of energy leaving a small gap into the corner and then coasting through it to close the gap rather than having to brake and sprint hard. This is assuming, of course, you can keep the riders behind you from trying to jump into the gap."
Far too often I've watched racers in all fields follow too closely in these fast races and get taken out by the rider in front because they had no time to react due to the speeds. Or, they try to force a pass and end up taking out the rider in front, themselves, and many times a rider or two behind. When the speed is up, a little space is ok. Keeping in mind the idea also presented above that you don't want to create a gap so large others will want to close it, or one too big to close down yourself.
Enjoy the article!
TRAINING TUESDAY: USING RACING TACTICS ON FAST SEPTEMBER COURSES TO JUMP START YOUR SEASON
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.