Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Post-workout or recovery nutrition?

Post-workout or recovery nutrition? The terms have been somewhat interchangeable among athletes and there is a distinct difference which is important to know.

Recovery nutrition, often thought of as the “window of opportunity” in the first 30-60 minutes following a workout includes everything but this time period. “Recovery nutrition begins before a training session starts”. Think about that and it will make complete sense. The goal is to be well-hydrated and nourished before a training session in order to maximize the training session quality. It will be extremely difficult to maintain a certain power output, pace or heart rate if the body is not properly fueled beforehand. Thus, recovery nutrition is actually comprised of your daily nutrition along with the before and during training session nutrition. Remember again, “recovery nutrition begins before a training session starts”.

Enter the term post-workout nutrition, which is a much more accurate description of recovering nutritionally following a tough training session. There are a number of nutrition tips that will maximize your ability to completely replenish the carbohydrates that you use during your workout which I will list shortly. First, it is important to understand that, coupled with proper recovery nutrition as I described above, a well-executed post-workout nutrition plan can fully replenish glycogen stores in 12-16 hours. While this may seem long, not going into a workout with a full “gas tank” (fluid and carbohydrate) and not implementing the following post-workout nutrition guidelines will push your recovery time to up to 24 hours! I haven’t met an athlete yet who would choose the latter option.

Thus, the following post-workout nutrition principles should be followed in addition to a good recovery nutrition plan:

Carbohydrate 50-100 grams of carbs is sufficient for most athletes. Choose higher glycemic sugars such as glucose (aka-dextrose) to speed absorption. In addition, liquids can be quicker to absorb than solids. If time is of the essence, have a recovery drink.

Protein Consume between 10-20 grams of protein. Single, essential amino acids, especially branched chain amino acids and glutamine, versus whole proteins such as whey, casein or soy are quicker to absorb and should be your top choice.

Fluid This is the tricky one. It is recommended to drink 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight that you lost during your workout. For some athletes, this could add up quickly and it is unrealistic to drink more than 48 ounces after a workout. Thus, it is extremely important to minimize your fluid loss as much as possible by focusing on good nutrition during your workout.

Sodium Sodium is an extremely beneficial mineral to include in your post-workout nutrition plan. Whether it is in a sports drink or in food such as pretzels or crackers, aim for at least 500 milligrams (this is on the low end and can be increased quite a bit depending on how much you sweat and how salty your sweat is).

Fat Forget about it within the “window of opportunity”. While it may be beneficial to replenish some of your intramuscular triglycerides that may have been used in the workout, the research is still inconclusive as if this is really needed and beneficial.

Note: the 30-60 minute “window of opportunity” is valid; however, I use the 10-15 minute window with athletes to ensure that the nutrients are consumed within the hour of completing the training session. Let’s face it, life happens and sometimes things come up that will take your focus off your post-workout nutrition (ie: family, showers, playing with the dog, posting on facebook :), etc.) so it is best to utilize these tips sooner than later.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Improving Cycling Performance

I'm not sure where I got this. It was quite a while ago. I'd give props to the person who put it together if I knew who they were. I think it is a valuable list of tips and drills, concise and ... why reinvent the wheel if it isn't necessary - that's why I am posting it. I know it seems geared more to those planning on becoming serious roadies. However, this posting has great relevance to anyone riding a road bike, even if you don't plan on road racing. Becoming a more efficient and skillful rider is to everyone's advantage. And since one of my greatest pet peeves as an athlete is people who cannot control their bikes, I think mastering your riding skills is of the utmost importance for safe training and racing, whether you're a triathlete, new to riding or have been racing crits your whole life. Here's wishing everyone happy and safe riding!!

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, julie@flssports.com


Form and Technique Pedaling

Smooth pedal stroke

  • One-Leg Pedaling
One-leg pedaling is another approach to adding strength (and variety to your indoor training at the same time). Normally, when you pedal with both legs, the leg that pulls the foot through the bottom of the stroke and back up to the top of the 360 degree "cycle" is under used (as the other leg, when pushing the crank through the downstroke has significantly more power and thus allows a bit of slacking). Learning to pedal a complete, 360-degree circle with both legs working together will make you a better rider. Practicing with one legged drills will embed this idea into your pedaling style.


If you're relatively new to cycling, you are probably riding at a cadence that is below your optimum. Most new riders think they are getting a better workout if every pedal stoke is a strain and the quads are burning. Although there's a place for low-cadence workouts, during a normal ride, aim for a smooth spin at between 85-100 rpm (pedal revolutions per minute) which is much more efficient -- and easier on the legs, especially the knees. Lance Armstrong has popularized high-cadence pedaling. He spins at about 90 rpm on even the steepest climbs, and he's regularly over 100 rpm in time trials. Does this mean you should be pedaling at a high cadence as well? Although your cadence can be increased through training, it may not fit with your personal physiology and biomechanics. The make-up of your leg muscles (the ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch fibers), combined with your fitness, will self-select your cadence. For most experienced riders, ideal cadence is in the range of 80-100 rpm - and most tend to automatically pedal at around 90 rpm in normal condition. Non-cyclists tend to spin a bit lower at around 60-70 rpm. Try this to see what cadence may be the best target for you.
  1. Locate a protected 2-mile stretch of road (without significant cross streets or traffic). Ideally slightly rolling.
  2. After you warm up for 15 minutes, ride the route hard in your biggest gear. Note your finish time and your heart rate if you have a monitor.
  3. Recover for 15 to 20 minutes with easy spinning.
  4. Ride the course again at the same heart rate (or perceived exertion if you don't have a monitor). But this time choose a rear cog that's one or two steps larger and allows you to keep your cadence about 100 rpm. Note your time for the same course.
  5. After a day or two of rest, do the test in reverse - larger rear cog (lower gear ratio) first.
  6. Compare your times. For most riders, the lower gear and higher cadence will produce faster times for less perceived effort.

Here are two drills that may be helpful in increasing your cadence and maintaining the smooth spin of a veteran.

  • Use a down hill to practice. Spin in a small gear on a slight descent, then gradually increase your cadence until your pelvis begins bouncing on the saddle. Back off about 5 rpm so (the bouncing stops). Hold that cadence and concentrate on a smooth pedal stroke for one minute. Cruise back up the hill and do it again. Relaxation is the key to pedaling at a high cadence without bouncing. Keep your elbows, shoulders and hips loose.
  • Use a that tailwind that you have stumbled across. Shift into a moderate gear and gradually increase your cadence until you're at 100-110 rpm. Hold it there for 30 seconds, then gradually ease back to 80 rpm. Repeat several times.

How do you estimate your cadence if you don't have a cadence function on your computer? Set your computer display to show seconds show. Using your right foot, count how many times it is at the bottom of the stroke during a 15 (or 30) second interval. Then multiply by 4 (or 2). That will help you develop a sense of what 90-100 rpm feels like. Shifting The secret to smooth shifting, especially on hills, lies in planning. Anticipate you'll need an easier gear and shift a few seconds ahead of time - including shifting to an easier gear at the bottom of the hill while you still have momentum. Just as you move the lever, ease up pedal pressure. The shift will occur during one crank revolution. If you time it right, you won't lose significant speed. And if you are worried, push a bit harder for several strokes before lightening the pressure on the shift stroke. Bottom line: Any time you shift either derailleur, be conscious of your pedal pressure. Shifts made during a moderate application of power have the best chance of being smooth and quick. Paceline Training

Paceline Skills

A great way to improve paceline skills while limiting risks. Excerpted from www.roadbikerider.com. "With a few friends, find a hill several hundred yards long. It doesn't have to be steep. Ride up in a paceline. Work on pedaling smoothly and maintaining 12-18 > inches between bikes. Here's the key to this drill: Keep the speed low. Around 5-7 mph is perfect. Everyone should be pedaling with the same cadence. No one should be struggling to keep the pace. Low speed ingrains smooth technique. In a normal paceline, if you speed up, you quickly overrun the next wheel. If you let a gap open, it takes effort to close and this messes up riders behind. But at slow speed on a gradual hill, there's less penalty for mistakes -- and you can simply put a foot down if you make one. Trade the front position after short pulls. Just 20-30 minutes of this slow-motion drill will make you and your friends noticeably better when you're in a paceline that's traveling 3 times faster." "Catch a draft! The best way to learn good drafting technique is to pair up with an experienced rider. So if you're an old hand, help a new rider learn. If you're a newbie, find a grizzled vet who's willing to help. In this example, we'll assume you're the rookie.

  • Ride at a moderate pace on a low-traffic road. Put your front wheel about 3 feet behind your guru's rear wheel. As you feel comfortable and confident, get a bit closer -- maybe 2 feet, then 18 inches.
  • Good drafting depends on smooth, even pedaling. If you pedal and coast, pedal and coast, you'll find yourself getting too close to your partner or too far back. Keep the crank turning and use slightly more or less pedaling force to maintain a constant gap.
  • Now practice rotating the lead.

Cornering There are two challenges in cornering technique. The first is avoiding a loss of momentum when you are in a competitive situation and the other is just the opposite with too mush speed going into the corner and the edge of the road rapidly approaching.

Slowing too much

The secret here is to keep your momentum during turns. Novice riders will waste their momentum when cornering, while the more experienced will sweep through the curve and open a gap that costs others precious energy to close. Corner after corner, this efficiency really adds up. A few tips:

  • Shift down before the turn. If the corner is tight (which will naturally make you slow), shift into a lower gear before you enter the corner, stop pedaling, and start leaning the bike. If you are in too large a gear, it will take more time to get back your momentum.
  • Practice standing versus sitting when exiting the curve. Cornering soaks up your speed, so you may choose to stand and sprint to regain momentum. However, standing uses more energy so in wide, sweeping corners you may opt to stay seated, and work a little harder to keep contact with the group (especially in a downhill turn). There are additional benefits of standing out of corners.

If you get in the habit of standing for a few strokes after most turns, even if it isn't necessary to stay with the group, you'll ride more comfortably.

  • Be prepared to sprint. Be ready to invest a sudden burst of energy after each turn. But if you can stay seated, and still stay with the bunch, it will save you energy to use on that final sprint at the end of the day or in the hillier sections.

Going too fast

  • Lean into the curve. It's better to increase your cornering angle even though you may lose traction and fall to the inside. Consider the alternative - slide down or ride off the outside of the road and hit things like guardrails or trees with more than just road rash to deal with.
  • Stand. Give your tires more grip by standing and putting most of your weight on your outside pedal. Virtually all of your weight should be on it. Push your bike into the turn. The bike should always be angled more than your body.
  • Brake early, then not. Take off as much speed as you can before the turn, then release the levers. This goes against instinct, but braking in a turn makes a bike want to straighten, the opposite of what you need it to do. You can also feather the rear brake, but be ready to let up if the wheel grabs and threatens your control. Don't even think about using the front brake while turning. It is a sure way to send the bike where you're aren't aiming or cause the front wheel to slide out abruptly.

Eye On Your Line

Use your eyes to corner better. The next time you take a corner at speed, concentrate on eying your line. Don't stare directly in front of your wheel, watching for debris, cracks or potholes. You won't notice even more dangerous obstacles farther ahead. Instead, "sweep" the whole corner with your eyes before you enter.

  • Check your entry This is the section of pavement where you enter the turn and begin to lean the bike. Look for gravel, oil, potholes, slippery leaves, anything that could loosen your tires' grip.
  • Check the apex of your arc. Cracked pavement where the concrete curb meets the blacktop is a common danger. So is water -- from sprinklers or puddles on the roadside. In winter, this might be ice.
  • Check the exit. Sweep your eyes ahead, through the turn and up the road on the line you're riding. Don't let yourself spy the trouble as you are coming out of a successful corner.

Then, just before you begin the turn, look through it to visualize the correct line. The trick is to visualize your line just before you begin to lean the bike. Then you can spot hazards and make adjustments without risking control. Remember, the bike goes where you look. Focus on the best line all the way through the turn and that's the path your wheels will take. Precision Steering (look where you want to go) Ever want to ride on a narrow strip - white line at the edge of the road or a surface with the grooves running the direction you are going? For example a bridge with a surface of flat timbers going the direction of the road? Or avoid a pothole or wet manhole cover (which can be as slippery as ice)? Here are two secrets that might help:

  • The first is to keep your eyes focused 20 - 30 feet ahead.
Don't look down at the front wheel. It's tempting to look just ahead of the front wheel to make sure it's going where you want it to. But this results in frequent steering corrections that translate into wobbles that make you lose your line. You can practice on the road by riding on the white line along the edge of the road. Remember to keep your focus 20 or 30 feet ahead.
  • The second is to look where you want to head, not at the obstacle you want to avoid.
The common factor is to look where you want to go as staring at an obstacle makes you track to it. Your body (and bike) follows your eyes. First look at the obstacle to remember where it is, but then train your eyes on the best line around it. Let your peripheral vision, keep tabs on what you want to miss.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Join the Discussion: Running Shoes ... are stability shoes killing our run?

I feel like I'm living my own Cinderella story ... I'm not talking about a rags to riches (although, I'm open to that). I am talking about the seemingly never ending search for the shoe that fits (rather than looking for the foot that fits the shoe.) Is that too much to ask? I think not. But ...

I've tried 6 different style of shoes this year. First was the replacement version to the Nike shoe that I loved for years. I developed knee and IT pain. Then a different Nike shoe. Too stiff. With the help of some friendly and knowledgeable running store folks, I got a pair of Asics Kayano Structured Cushion shoes and within two weeks, my knee pain was gone, but I gained a new foot injury which took me out of running for 6 weeks. I traded in those shoes for a pair of Brooks Stability shoes and ran two miles in them, knowing from the get-go that they were very wrong for me. I went to the track, thinking that the discomfort was due to that initial breaking in process, and made it about 300 yards before the discomfort set in again. They felt like constricting bricks, super stiff which prevented me from ever getting to a normal stride. I took the shoes off and ran barefoot and low-and-behold ... no pain or discomfort.

I've was told that, because of the type foot injury I had, that I pronate. I didn't think this to be true. I'm a coach. I've had my run analyzed many times and pronate was never mentioned. But I did take over two years off from training and competition. Perhaps my stride had changed. I had someone video my run and I still don't pronate. I am a fairly neutral runner with a forefoot strike. However, reaffirming this knowledge hasn't made the search for shoes any easier. Am I destined to roam this world shoeless?!!

I have now set out on a new search for the perfect running shoe ... and will be trying out a pair of barefoot shoes in a few minutes.

I know everyone is different and has had different experiences. However, I would love to know what you think. Stability shoes? Neutral shoes? Barefoot shoes? Let's start a discussion.

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