Planning for a Faster Recovery

October 18th, 2011

Planning for a Faster Recovery
Training and racing are a stress on the body. It takes time to recover from that stress. The harder the workout gives higher stress and therefore a longer recovery. What you do before, during and right after you complete your workout (or race) greatly affects how you will feel later on and the next day. Adopting a few simple practices can help you recover quicker and feel ready to tackle the next day’s workout with less tired muscles, more energy and motivation.  Here are some guidelines to consider.  

Grazing means eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. This usually means a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack.  If your training volume is high, I recommend you don’t go more than four hours without eating. Effective grazing or snacking should consist of nutrient rich foods. Snacks should be  planned and not left to chance.  Snack ideas include: granola with yogurt, bagel, trail mix, nut butter with apple or pear, etc.  If you follow a grazing diet it should mean you have enough fuel to get you through the first part of your workout.

During the workout
Eat and drink responsibly!  Don’t leave it until your fuel stores and fluids reach extreme low levels.  If you do, then you’ll need more recovery time to replenish them.

Hammer Perpetuem

Hammer Perpetuem

 What and how much you eat and drink during a workout depends on several factors:

-Intensity (how hard are you working)
-Volume (how long are you working)
-Temperature (working out in 90 degrees versus 40 degrees have very different fueling requirements)
-Individual differences (every athlete has different requirements)

There are lots of guidelines out there. And that is just what they are: guidelines. Don’t expect to find a fueling plan that is ideal for you. You will need to experiment and see how your body responds to different types and quantities of fuel.  Here are some ideas to start with:

1 hour ride: 1 bottle of water or electrolyte drink (like nuun)
2 hour ride: 1 bottle of water and 1 bottle of energy drink (Hammer Heed)
3 hour ride: 1 bottle of electrolyte drink, 1 bottle of energy drink, plus 1-2 gels and/or half a Hammer bar.
4 hour ride: 3 bottles electrolyte, water and energy drink. 2-3 gels and/or a Hammer Bar.

When you are doing LSD (Long Steady Distance) workouts,  make sure you use the food/drink you would during your long races. Not only are you working on improving your endurance, but also training the body to utilize fuel.  For these workouts aim to ingest 200-350 calories per hour. This can amount to a lot of gel packets; gel packets that can be easily fumbled. I recommend buying the gel in bulk (saves money) and putting it in a flask that contain 5-6 servings. Figure out how many gulps of gel from the flask equal one serving (one serving typically equals 100 calories).  Rather than rely totally on gel, consider using drink that contains more fat and protein (such as Hammer Perpetuem or Accelerade).

nuun's Electrolyte Drink

nuun's Electrolyte Drink

I think one of the biggest errors for many athletes is to wait too long into a workout before starting to eat and drink. 15 minutes into a LSD workout you should start to drink.  If you wait until you’re thirsty/hungry; it’s too late. To get on a fueling schedule, set the timer on your watch to beep every 15-20 minutes. This serves as a reminder to eat a gel and to drink a couple of gulps of drink. It is amazing how fast 20 minutes can go by and you may not feel ready to eat and drink again, but you need to in order to stay strong to the end of the workout.

Read the labels: There are so many gels, bars and sports drinks on the market. Make sure you read the labels. Stay away from electrolyte drinks that contain too much simple sugar. This will give you a quick burst of energy, and not a sustained energy. You want a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates.  Some gels contain electrolytes and some caffeine too. Experiment in training to see what your stomach can handle. Don’t leave it to race day to try something new. With the added stress of racing; adrenaline, nerves, and the intensity can wreak havoc on your digestive system, so don’t give it anything new to contend with. 

Note: Anaerobic efforts cause the digestive system to slow down because blood is being drawn away from the stomach to the working muscles. If you have been fueling then this can give you an upset stomach, make you feel bloated, nauseous, or cause diarrhea.  Anaerobic workouts tend to be short in duration (2 hours and this includes the warm up and cool down).  You really don’t need to eat anything during the workout; just afterwards. 

After the workout: Re-hydrate and Re-fuel
Typically fluid/nutrition intake during the workout won’t fully replace what was lost during the workout. Most athletes will find themselves in a bit of a deficit. Consuming the right nutrients shortly after exercise will help repair tissue damage and re-fuel muscles.   There are many post-exercise recovery drinks on the market that claim to have the correct ratios of electrolytes, carbs and protein to aid in recovery, such as: Hammer Recoverite, Endurox R4, Gu Brew Recovery. Their goal is to:

  1. Hydrate
  2. Replenish muscle glycogen stores
  3. Repair muscle and tissue damage

    Hammer Recoverite

    Hammer Recoverite

Timing is critical: After intense or long workouts, the body is very receptive to absorbing nutrients to replace those used, and to help repair any muscle damage.  This is referred to as the Glycogen Window. Typically it is thought that this window of opportunity is within the first 30 minutes post-exercise.  It is during this time that the body readily absorbs nutrients at a quicker rate. It is reported that carbohydrates eaten will be converted into muscle glycogen at 3 times the normal rate. This rate drops off dramatically after 30 minutes. So make sure you make the most of this glycogen window by drinking/eating 20-30 minutes post exercise.

Compression Garments
Research has shown that the use of compression recovery socks and tights help reduce leg fatigue and muscle soreness, thereby also reducing recovery time. This helps your legs feel fresh for the next time you exercise. How does it work? Graduated or progressive compression increases blood circulation back to the heart. Research has shown that this can be up a 138% increase with the correct compression (18mmHg at the ankles working up the leg to 8mmHg according to Sigel et al (1975)). This helps remove exercise induced by products (such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide) from the muscle tissue. This aids recovery.

The key is to have the right amount of compression for these garments to be effective. Too little compression, and circulation is not increased, and too much will actually inhibit circulation. It is key is to have graduated compression.

Compression Recovery Socks

Compression Recovery Socks


Ice bath
To help heal the muscles from the stresses of intense workouts (especially running) and reduce post-exercise muscle soreness consider taking an ice bath.  The stresses of exercise cause small tears in the actual muscle fibers. An ice bath prevents further break down of the muscles, constricts blood vessels that help flush out waster products, reduces swelling and stimulates the muscles cells to repair the muscles tears. 

Fill the tub with cold water and add a few cups of ice or ice packs. The goal temperature is 53-59 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill the tub enough to cover up to your waist. Don’t stay in the tub too long; 5 to 10 minutes is adequate. This is not a case where more is better. Too much can cause cold induced muscle damage. If you are like me and an ice bath makes you shiver just thinking about it you can sip a hot drink, wear a warm layer on your upper body, and try to distract yourself by reading or listening to music.  Take a warm shower/bath about 30-60 minutes later.




Stretching is the most overlooked component of most endurance athlete’s regimens.  It has big returns for a small time investment. I find that you really need to commit to a stretching routine to make it happen. Build it into your workout time. If you have 3 hours to workout, then ride for 2:40 hrs and spend 20 minutes on recovery practices including the stretching. I know that my best years of racing are the years I’ve committed to a stretching program.

During a workout your muscles contract and relax many times, especially performing a repetitive motion like cycling or running. Stretching has numerous benefits: reduces muscle soreness by improving circulation, reduces muscular imbalances, increases range of motion (and thereby decreasing injury potential).

There are a few different stretching techniques out there. I’ll save that for a future blog posting.  Static stretching is appropriate to do post-exercise. Hold the stretches for 30 seconds to 60 seconds. Don’t go too deep too soon; make sure you ease into the stretch.

Eat a healthy meal 2 hours after exercise.

Restricted blood flow to the muscles following exercise hinders muscle growth, muscle repair and glycogen replention. Massage increases blood and lymph circulation. The movement of blood and lymph may help clear the body and the tissues of metabolic waste products thereby increasing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. Massage helps relieve muscle spasms and cramps, and also decreases the recovery time by helping to flush the lactic acid produced while training/racing at high intensities.

Not everyone can afford the time and expense for a professional massage.  However, for a small investment you can be set up at home to do your own massage work.  I like the massage stick and the  foam roller

Foam Rollers

Foam Rollers

Put your feet up
Elevating the legs above the heart helps eliminate byproducts from the legs, which is one of the primary causes of swelling and extended fatigue. Elevate your legs so they are higher than your heart. Lie with you feet up the wall to have gravity assist with recovery by lengthening the muscles (hamstrings) that have been contracting for a long time, dilating blood vessels and speeding the removal of lactic acid and other waste-product buildup that can leave you stiff and sore the next day.

8 or more quality hours of deep sleep aids muscle repair and recovery. It’s a hormonal thing. The deeper and longer the sleep (REM sleep) the more testosterone you produce that aids in muscle repair.  Get as much sleep as you can.  Without adequate sleep, fitness can be lost. Throughout the year it is common for athletes to have trouble with sleep. Here are some guidelines to help promote a good night’s sleep:

-Reduce caffeine intake
-Exercise in the early morning rather than later in the evening.
-Take a hot shower/bath just before going to bed
-Take a short slow evening walk followed by some gentle stretching
-Go to bed the same time each night and get up the same time every morning.
-Try some calming, sleep promoting yoga poses.
-Breathing exercises
-Quieten the mind. If you have a lot on your mind write it down. Think of this exercise as purging it from your mind.
-If you are napping during the day, eliminate the naps.

Get into a nightly routine so your body and mind knows what to expect and falls into a pattern that prepares it for sleep.

Lots of ideas. Try implementing one or two to see if it makes a difference. Happy recovering!


Indoor Cycling Class

September 28th, 2011

For the last 8 years I’ve taught an indoor cycling class that focuses on body awareness on the bike, body alignment, pedaling efficiency, muscle recruitment, fitness and of course, fun.  I’d hate to break a habit, so this Fall I’ll be yet again offering two classes.

Both classes will be on Monday evenings starting Oct 17th.  Class 1 is from 5:30-6:30pm and Class 2 from 7-8pm.  This year I’ll be teaching at Upper Echelon Fitness which is located at 1420 Northwest 17th Avenue #388.  Registration is now open. I hope you can join us.

Please email me if you would like more information or visit the website.


August 15th, 2011
Summer Bike Time
Summer Bike Time

Ahhh summer time.  This time of year I ride quite a bit. I have my usual training rides, but I also enjoy using my bike for transportation more so than during the winter. I love riding into work, riding with my daughter to her art class, riding down to the grocery store for the forgotten ingredient for that night’s dinner, riding to the library, riding down to the park to meet friends, etc.  Lots of good bike time.  All this riding means more time on the road with cars. I naturally tend to ride very defensively.  Despite this, I had a near miss with a motorist last week.  She came out of nowhere. Luckily we made eye contact and both reacted before it was too late.  It was a good reminder to take bike safety seriously. Here is a list of things to consider:

Planet Bike Light Set

Planet Bike Light Set

Be visible day and night: Light it up.
During the day wear bright/light colored clothing and be seen. If you ride at night or in fading day use a front and rear light (flashing red lights).  A bright yellow jacket at night looks grey. Look for jackets with reflective detail, or better yet wear a reflective vest.  I read that motorists tend to notice moving parts – think pedaling legs. I sewed some reflective tape on the back and sides of my shoe covers/ booties. This really is effective. You can buy reflective tape at most sewing stores.  A few years ago I was at a stop light in downtown Portland and I actually had a motorist wind down their window to comment on how visible I was. His exact words that I looked like a landing strip….

Metro's Bike Map

Metro's Bike Map

Choose your route wisely:
Opt for low traffic streets, wide streets, roads with bike lanes, or bike paths. Living in Portland there are a few good resources available for maps. One of my favorite maps uses a color coded system to show you which roads are low traffic, have a bike lane, etc. And here is another great map for Washington County.

Know what is behind you:
 Knowing what is behind you allows you to make turns and change lanes with confidence. Get comfortable with looking over your left shoulder while being able to hold your line (ride straight). If this is a challenge, invest in a handy bike mirror. I haven’t used one, but I’ve had clients and friends who like the Bar end mounted mirror; it’s smaller, out of the way, but still accessible, and inexpensive.

Obey Traffic Laws, including stop signs.

Obey Traffic Laws, including stop signs.

Obey the rules of the road:
Don’t run red lights or stop signs, don’t ride on the wrong side of the road, and don’t make illegal turns. Obey the traffic laws. Don’t do anything sudden and communicate (use your hand signals). Make your intentions known.

Make sure your bike is in good working order. Once a year I change the chain, replace the tires and brake pads and get a general tune-up.

Ride defensively:
Expect motorists to not see you. Expect them to pull in front of you, not use their turn signals, or swerve into the bike lane. Make eye contact with motorists to make sure they have seen you. This is huge. It means riding alert, thinking ahead, and being on your brakes constantly.

Put your lid on

Put your lid on

Protect yourself:
Wear a helmet. Parents riding with children, even if it is just down to the park– set the example. Gloves are great for reducing the chance of getting blisters, but they also provide much needed protection if you take a tumble. Wear glasses with clear lenses or dark ones to protect your eyes from bugs, dirt and grit from the road.

Be prepared:
Carry equipment to take care of a flat tire (a saddle bag with tire levers and spare tube and a frame pump at a minimum). Carry ID. Consider getting a Road ID bracelet.  Carry some cash. Have food/water with you.  

Let me know what you would add to this list. I’d love to see it develop into something more comprehensive. Leave me a comment.

Environmental Working Group (EWG)

June 13th, 2011

How do you know if a product is free of toxins and safe to use?

100% Natural

100% Natural

Just because something has “Natural”, or even “Organic” on the packaging doesn’t mean to say it is good for us.  It can be hard to make sense of all the information out there on the web. One resource I regularly turn to is the Environmental Working Group’s website . It’s a great resource that I use to help me make better purchasing decisions. 

Cosmetics and Toiletries

Cosmetics and Toiletries

Their Skindeep website provides a wealth of information on cosmetics (this includes sun screens, toothpastes, shampoos, shower gels, lotions, etc.). The depth of products is quite impressive (they claim 65,000 to be exact). And they also review a lot of children’s products.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and Vegetables

Foodnews is another section of their website that I visit. They issue a list of “dirty” fruits and vegetables.  The following fruits and vegetables tested high for pesticide residue:

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Imported Nectarines
7. Imported Grapes
8. Sweet Bell Peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries

I always try to buy organic fruits and vegetables. For various reasons, this is sometimes not always possible.  That’s when I use this list to help me decide what products to buy and what not to buy.

Take a look and bookmark this site. It’s a great resource.

CLEAN: Remove, Restore, Rejuvenate. Part 3

June 2nd, 2011

A little over due;  here is my final update on our 21 day clean diet. We made it to day 19.75.  Not quite the full 21 days.

Clean by Alejandro Junger

Clean by Alejandro Junger

In summary:

– The breakfast smoothies were great.

– The snacks of Larabars (I started to make my own), apple/pear with almond butter, and homemade lentil humus with veggies were all great.

– The bigger main meal lunches were great.

– The evening raw pureed soups were not so great. I normally love soups. Half way through this diet, I was getting pretty bored of the soups.  I didn’t like having one big bowl of the same flavor and nothing to chew. I wanted to sink my teeth into something. It got to the point that we were not enjoying the evening soup at all. It was making us pretty cranky.  So we called it quits at day 19.75.

I really didn’t feel any different on this diet at all. My energy level was about the same. Although by the third week I was pretty hungry.  I lost about 5 pounds in total. John a little more than that. He found that he had serious low energy (even though I was doubling up on the recipe portions). He did sleep better and had really vivid dreams (something the book did talk about). 

Back to Normal:
The transition back to eating our “normal” food wasn’t as gradual as I hoped. I had every intention to just phase certain foods back into our diet. That didn’t happen.  I was so craving certain foods, in particular cheese and yogurt. 

I’m glad we did this. I’d do it again,  or at least a slightly different iteration.  There were some useful things that I got out of the experience:

  1. How hard it is to make changes to the way we eat. We are creatures of habit.
  2. How time consuming it can be to learn how to follow new recipes, use new foods, or new food preparation techniques. It took a lot of planning and thinking ahead.
  3. Once you make the commitment to make the changes and learn how to shop and prepare foods, it becomes easier after that first initial week.  

Some clean diet habits I hope we can continue:

  1. Less grains.  I plan to keep up the green smoothies for breakfast. On the days I know I’m going to workout; I add a scoop of rice protein powder and glob of almond butter to the smoothie.  Eat leftovers for lunch rather than have a sandwich.
  2. Healthy homemade snacks. I really enjoyed the homemade Larabars and the homemade Lentil humus.
  3. Bigger lunch portions, and smaller dinner portions.
  4. Drinking more lemon water
  5. Eat Fruit to satisfy any sweet tooth cravings.

Raw Bar Recipe

May 26th, 2011

My neighbor lent me her food processor.  I’m having fun experimenting with it. I especially like the slicer, shredder, grater tool. I grated up more carrots and zucchini than I know what to do with.  I hope she doesn’t want it back anytime soon….Anyway, in a search for ways to use this gadget, I thought about making some raw “Larabars”. I love Larabars. I love that they are all natural, raw and made from very few ingredients.  Here is what I came up with. With the food processor they are so quick and easy to make.



Raw Bar Recipe:

2 cup of nuts (almonds / cashews / peanuts / walnuts / pecans)
1 cup of (unsweetened) coconut
1 -1 ½ cup of Medjool dates (with pits removed!)
1 cup of dried apricots
½ -1cup of dried berries (cherries, cranberries or goji berries)
½-1 cup of seeds (sesame / sunflower / pumpkin)

Optional ingredients for flavor variations: Lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla, peppermint extract, Organic cocoa powder, ginger, carob.

 Proportions do matter! Too much of the dry ingredients and the bars easily crumble.

Chopped Nuts

Chopped Nuts

  1. Process the nuts, seeds and coconut together. Add to a bowl.

    Medjool Dates

    Medjool Dates

  2. Process dates and dried fruit until pureed.
  3. Add the pureed fruit to the nuts/seeds and mix well. It should be a sticky mess.
  4. Line a casserole dish with plastic wrap and press the mixture into a casserole dish, and place in the refrigerator.  After a couple of hours, I cut the bars up, put them into snack baggies to store back in the refrigerator. They should keep for a week (if they don’t get eaten before then).

CLEAN: Remove, Restore, Rejuvenate. Part 2

May 12th, 2011

We are at day 12 of the 21 days of the detox. So how have the first 12 days been?

I started this program sick. I had the start of a sinus infection that got worse over the first 6 days. This meant that I wasn’t exercising at all, I had super low energy, and very little appetite. So I don’t think my initial evaluation of the detox program is valid. Instead I’ll talk about John’s (my husband’s) experience. It’s more interesting.

No Coffee

No Coffee

 He had a couple of days suffering from caffeine withdrawal. That was to be expected. He likes his morning chemicals. Then he had some classic (according to the Clean book) symptoms that are best described as flu-like symptoms: chills, body aches, and low energy. This lasted for about 3 days. Then each day he has felt better. John has continued to ride his bike to work, and race his bike on Tuesday nights. The first Tuesday night race while on the detox program was during the 3 days of flu-like symptoms. It wasn’t pretty. This week however, was much better.

For John there is a calorie deficit. Even though I am making bigger portions than the recipes state, he is feeling hungry quite a bit of the time. As a result he has lost about 5-6 pounds so far. For me, when I was sick, I had no appetite so felt no hunger. However, this week as I start to ride again, I have started to feel hungrier. But not in a low energy-bonking way. I’ve lost about 3 pounds. I’m convinced it is all muscle from my weak legs after not exercising / riding for 16 days. That’s what happens to me. Muscle just drips off of me. Yesterday when I was out riding, I was going up a small hill, and I went to shift to an easier gear…and there wasn’t one. Ah, the road back to fitness.

The best way for me to describe how my stomach feels on this diet is that I never really feel full, and I never really feel hungry. You know when you want to go run and you need to wait a couple of hours after eating to let the food move through our stomach? Well that’s how I feel; I could go run at any time. My stomach is never full. It’s kind of a good feeling. For now.

Usually when I eat a bigger meal at lunch time I sink into a food coma mid-afternoon. But not so on this diet. I feel fine. That ready to go run or do anything fine.

The first week of the diet there was a learning curve. I felt like I was spending a lot of time in the kitchen preparing food. And I was. When you are following recipes that you are not familiar with, it takes time. It’s not as quick as whipping up a meal you’ve made countless times before. In the evenings I’d make Indie’s meal, I’d make our soup, then I’d make the breakfast smoothies, then the big meal for the next day’s lunch, and finally Indie’s lunch. Pheeew! Like I said a lot of kitchen time.

The breakfast smoothies have been great. We continue to do the energy smoothie recipe I included in the previous blog post. They are quite good. The lunch meals are great: I’ve been doing stir fry type veggies with black beans for me, and chicken for John, along with either wild rice, quinoa or buckwheat noodles (man, they are expensive!). And the evening soups…not so great. I miss chewing my evening meal. Pureed semi-raw soups are not cutting it for me. Especially when you have one big bowl of just the same flavor. I made one that was hard to finish. So the next night I made two different soups for some variety. I’m not making them 100% raw, maybe about 40-50% raw. The top 3 so far are: Butternut squash and apple, cauliflower and leek, and finally broccoli.

I am finding the Clean book to be not that well laid out or explained. Half way through the book, it starts to talk about an elimination diet. I think there are two diets: the clean diet and the elimination diet. The detox/21 day effort is the elimination diet, whereas the clean diet is more of something to adopt for every day. I think. There is an online community forum. This frustrated me. Lots of recipe ideas. Some though were for the clean diet and some for the elimination diet. I’d find a recipe, get all excited to try it, then realize it had some of the ingredients on the “do not eat” list. Still not sure which list agave is on now. I read online that it was switched from the “OK” list to the “do not eat” list. And then in the book there are some recipes that contain raw honey, but I thought honey was on the “do not eat” list….some mild confusion.

All-in-all, I’m enjoying the experience and challenge. It has definitely made me really appreciate how hard it is to make changes in the way you prepare food and the types of food you eat. Signing off for now. It’s lunch time. Quinoa and veggies.