Summer Environment and Sport

The environment can wreak havoc on performance this time of year. The combination of heat and pollen can really throw your system out of whack. The cardiovascular, digestive, and respiratory systems have to go into overdrive to handle the different stimulus. It's critical that you work to mitigate the factors before, during, and after exercise.

When it's really hot outside, your body diverts blood and water from the stomach to the skin in an effort cool the body. Beyond simply dehydrating you, it makes it more difficult to digest anything in your stomach. Often you'll see much higher heart rates than normal, also.

Some simple ways to attack the heat:

  1. Lots of small sips of water with electrolytes starting [at least] the day before working out in the heat.

  2. Don't bombard your system with lots of food at once.

  3. Avoid overloading with sugars leading into the event.

  4. Keep cool as long as you can. Maximizing your use of air conditioning, shade, ice, and even tools like ice socks (nylons filled with ice, and placed on your upper back or in jersey pockets).  

  5. Make ice bottles. Fill up your water bottles half way before an event, and freeze them on their side in the freezer. Fill them the rest of the way with sports drink the morning of, and transport them in a cooler. Having the solid block of ice makes the ice last longer.

In addition to the heat, pollen counts have been on the rise consistently for the last 20 years. Longer, and more intense pollen seasons are a reality we're unlikely to be able to avoid. Itchy eyes, a runny nose, sore throat, and wheezing are all common reactions to environmental allergens. Post nasal drip can even cause an upset stomach in the morning because of draining that happens when you're asleep.  

There are a number of strategies you can employ to combat allergies:

  1. See your doctor to try to determine what you're allergic to.

  2. Try over-the-counter antihistamine medications like Zyrtec or Claritin. 

  3. Keep the windows closed in your home.

  4. Change clothes when you get home to limit your pollen exposure.

  5. Shower before bed.

  6. Wash your sheets more frequently.

  7. Consider other common home remedies (like neti pots and eating local honey).

Athletes work really hard for months and months to prime their bodies for performance, only to be attacked by the environment once the season begins. While the suggestions above may only have a small impact, they are all relatively easy to accomplish and will add up to a significant advantage over your competitors.  

Spring Cleaning for Athletes

Spring Cleaning for the Athlete

Spring is here, the weather is turning, days are growing longer, and for most folks that means more time outside and more time to get in some training. But it also is a good idea to use spring to focus attention on a few other areas. Here is a quick list to think about.

Nutrition

Spring clean your nutrition, which can mean a lot of things.

  • Clean out the fridge and pantry of expired/past due items, and use it as an opportunity to restock with healthy choices

  • Cut out sugar, especially in hidden things like salad dressings and condiments

  • Drink more water

  • East more vegetables

  • Look into healthy food delivery plans to take your lunch to work, like Trifecta Nutrition that can save you time and make it easy to stick to healthy fuel. 


Recovery

  • Try and get a little more sleep (shoot for a consistent 8 hours or more)

  • Consider meditation each daily, using easy to use apps like Calm and Headspace

  • Foam roll every night if you are watching TV

  • Track metrics like resting HR and mood when you wake up, or consider a device like Whoop. The new subscription model makes it more affordable.

  • Don’t be afraid of rest days!


Equipment

  • Tune up that bike (get some new cables and maybe housing, and fresh bar tape can make any bike feel showroom fresh).

  • Wash your helmet and shoes 

  • Donate any old cycling kit to a good charity



Spring is a great time to de-clutter both physical objects and habits. Get things on track for a great summer!

Balancing Training and Racing

Balancing Racing and Training

As much as the weather disagrees, we have now entered the part of year when many riders start kicking off the race season with weekend racing nearly every week. With that comes the question: how to best show off the hard work you did training in races while continuing to train and progress?

This isn't easy, and require balance and taking into consideration:

  • Current levels of fitness.

  • Ability to recover and how you’ve trained to improve over winter.

  • What your ‘A’ event and ultimate goals are for the coming season.

  • How much you have improved on weaknesses prior to the race season.

  • Illness/injury that might inhibit your racing once started.

  • Race program leading up to ‘A’ event.

What we don't want to see is athletes head into the season with good legs and improved fitness from the previous year only to see these gains and form disappear by April.  

A drop in form can actually be part of a cycle of de-training once the race season gets underway.  When the race season starts, often all your physical and mental energy is placed into the weekend of racing, the focus is on results in races.  Of course this is not a bad thing, but mid-week training must remain a clear focus.

This de-training slump often comes from too much rest pre- and post- race which involves greatly reduced physical training stimulus than our bodies have experienced over the winter months.  Take for example a typical Sunday race weekend, with the lead up and subsequent recovery:

  • Friday is an easy day or rest.

  • Saturday is an easy pre race spin of a couple of hours.

  • Sunday is a race (2-3hrs).

  • Monday is another rest day.

So out of 4 days, there is really only 1 day of training stress. If something happened race day (flat tire, etc) then that drops even more,


IMPACT ON UNDER TRAINED RIDERS

The flip side of this balance are those riders on the opposite end of the fitness spectrum who are under trained or lack ‘race form’ going into the start of the season.  You often hear these riders want to ‘race themselves fit and into form’.

The ability to recover from a weekend of racing has a significant impact on how qualitative your training is going to be the following week.  There can often be an onset of muscle fatigue 24-48hrs after a race which may require taking an extra rest day or sub-standard training day.  

Your body needs to repair damaged muscles from the previous strenuous race effort. The nervous system is working to repair muscles and your cells are working overtime to rebuild damaged tissue.  The good news is this leads to increased muscle strength and fitness but with a lower level of fitness your body’s ability to recover from that race effort takes longer.  This in turn leaves you unable to train effectively as your muscles ‘heal’ from the race. 

Along with the cellular and nervous system’s reaction in the days after a race effort, this strenuous weekend effort can also lead to a lowering of the immune system which can in turn result in illness or injury which will inhibit your training.  This arises not only because you are putting your body under a level of stress you have not trained for, but also because of possible poor post-race care and nutrition.

Consistency is key in everything you do from training, nutrition on and off the bike and appropriate recovery to make the most of race day performance and mid week training.  You want to hit those key target goals you have set yourself this year.  Keep the above in mind and you are well on your way.