Monday, December 15, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

" WARM equals PERFORM!"

Can you imagine being fined in Swiss Francs for not putting a beanie on your teamate's head after a bike race?! Well, I'm here to tell you today that in the world of professional cycling, this kind of scenario is true! It is very common for athlete's to compete in sport in all kinds of inclimate weather, whether it be squall conditions at sea in the Volvo Ocean Race , unbearable heat with 100% humidity at the Australian Open Tennis, or freezing rain and gusting winds during the Tour de Flanders Cycling Classic. Hypothermia is not that common of an occurance in professional sport, but must be prevented at all costs. Athlete's that race the Tour de France will begin their season with as low as 7-9% body fat and will drop down to as low as 3-5% by the Tour de France's end in late July. Doesn't that cap on the old noggin make more sense now?! We lose our body heat through our extremities, and through our exposed head and neck. Wearing a cap or beanie helps keep your core body temp stable and is one way to help prevent hypothermia.

Regardless of what your sport is, having the right clothing is crucial. I am not going to discuss expedition climbing in Nepal, or other sports of extreme cold exposure,but I do want to go over the importance of warming up,working out, and cooling down. If it is cold enough for a thermal long-sleeve full-zip jersey, legwarmers, a wool beanie and thermal gloves to start your cycling training ride, by all means, start out correctly! You probably won't have a domestique' rider riding next to you who is going to shuttle your layers back and forth to your team car during the ride as they would if you were a team leader in Europe; what a luxury you might think.....for the leader, that is! As your core body temperature rises and the blood flows to your large muscle groups, you will begin to feel warmed-up and supple. At this point in your training, regardless of incliment weather you probably would want to remove some layers and tuck them into your pockets. As long as you stay warm you will perform at your peak. There are many liniments, embrocations, and thermal patches that can be used on the body to assist in increasing blood flow and keep you warm. There are even liniments we used in Europe that were derived from the feathers of ducks that were silicone-like in nature that we used on the Pro cyclists legs.We would top-coat the hot liniments with the 'duck feather product' to waterproof their legs from the rain during the Classics like the Paris-Roubaix, Tour de Flanders, etc. These products allowed the body to stay warm but kept the rain's cold/wet properties from getting in. It was amazing!

Back to keeping warm! So you see the importance: WARM EQUALS PERFORM!!

After training or racing:

  1. Cool down if you can. Get your heart rate down to resting/normal. If you just sprinted, get your system back to norm. Sometimes this is not possible to do on the bike if you have to go to the podium or to dope control. Slow down the jets. Stretch later.

  2. Put a hat or beanie on to keep your body heat in. You could lose up to 30% just through your head.

  3. Get out of your wet training or race clothes. If you are a cyclist, get out of that chamois as soon as you can. Get into your warm-ups or appropriate attire according to the weather

  4. You have 60 minutes to close your glycolic window after your training or racing...CLOSE IT IN 30 mins! Drink your recovery drink ASAP to increase your recovery rate.

  5. Cool down if you have the opportunity after you have changed into warm attire. Can you take a cool down run or ride? Can you get your stretches in? All this will help your muscles recover and remain supple.

  6. If you trained or competed in cold conditions get into a warm shower or bath. Drink warm beverages. Drink your favorite teas with honey or agave syrup. Stay WARM! You will recovery faster and feel fresh.

  7. Experiment with different clothing during training , never during competition. Try using arm warmers, knee warmers,and different fabric combinations in regard to underclothing. Try out different vests and raingear. Have you used shoe covers or thermal booties before? Have you finished a ride and later realized that you should have ridden in that one piece thermal suit and gotten it over with?! Try using other training partners caps, gloves and jackets if they are something you might be interested in.There might be a vest with a wind resistant front that might be the cat's meow for you on descents....then again you might be so hard core that you just shove that section of the sports page up your jersey front on top of your italian undershirt and between your long-sleeve,grit your teeth, jut out that numb jaw, get in the drops and let her rip on the rivets of your saddle......

Friday, November 14, 2008

Put Those Legs UP!!!

" Put those legs up!" That's one of my greatest pieces of advice for all athletes. Your arteries carry your blood away from your heart and your veins pump the blood back up to your heart, against gravity." Draining your legs " by placing them higher than your heart after you train hard is a technique used to increase recovery rate by serious sportsmen. This will enhance the venous return of your blood to your heart which is a muscle too! In the world of professional cycling where I worked in Europe," the cream-of-the-crop" put their legs up on the wall daily, in their hotel rooms while resting on their beds after each day's stage. I am talking about a very small percentage of the 1000 ranked professionals in the world. Of that 1000, only 220 race the Tour de France each July, and of that 220, only about 11% regularly drain their legs. Those are usually the boys who you see up on the podium at the Champs-Élysées in Paris!! Now what does that tell you?! Working as a Soigneur for years has taught me priceless things that I could talk about for a lifetime. Bike racers are supposed to train/race/recover.....that's it, pedal! Anything else would make their legs bloat. It is common to see the boys shuffling their feet in their cycling sandals 'post-race' in the hotels and even 'stalling' while climbing the stairwells to their rooms after talking to the mechanics about what gears they want on their bikes for the next day's stage. Their legs are 'stalling' because they are climbing stairs and not mountains! They are used to pedaling, not stair climbing, or shopping in malls or being on their feet at a concert for three hours. They are used to being in a hard saddle pedaling in the Pyrennes or in the Alpes for 4-7 hours. The most elite cyclists in the world DRAIN THEIR LEGS so they can PUMP THEIR PISTON LEGS like animals day in and day out!!! This gets rid of that bloaty, lymph accumulation. They can do 'other ' activities after the season......a little bit! But I'm tellin' ya, the legs up thang.......You can do it after a race, a training ride, while you are watching TV, or on the phone. You can do it after you shopped til you dropped, or after you travelled and have swollen 'jet-legs'. You can do it with your legs up on your wall or up on pillows on your couch. Put 'em up on the table, on the dashboard, on someone's lap! Just PUT THOSE GAMS UP, MAN!!! You,ll never stop once you start......and shake those quads with your hands while their up there. Shake the meat on that bone!! Your legs will feel fresher and so will you.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The "Pro Soak": Recovery Bath Therapy

Have you ever wondered why you feel better after you swim in the ocean, take a dip in a high altitude glacial lake, or relax in a hot thermal spring? They all have something in common: high mineral content. When we go to the beach we always feel better because we're taking time to relax and enjoy ourselves. The other reason why we feel good after we get out of the water is because the ocean drew the soreness out of our body and the sunshine "assuming we didn't stay out too long" increased our vitamin-D stores and our feel-good neurotransmitters. Taking a bath in Epsom Salts can do the same thing.

I worked in Europe on the Men's Cycling Pro Tour for many years. In races like the Tour de France I would help my riders increase their recovery rate by soaking "the soreness out of their legs" with products like Magnesium Sulfate, commonly known as Epsom Salts. There is a reverse osmotic effect taking place where the concentration of salt in the tub is greater than the deposits causing soreness in your muscles. As you soak, these deposits are being drawn toward the water, and on their way hit your blood stream and are metabolized. In a warmer bath this happens faster by increasing the circulatory effect.

The Pro Soak is a benefit, not only to a professional athlete trying to recover, but also to someone that has taken a hike or an exercise class. If you are coming down with a cold or are already sick, soaking in Epsom Salts will help you feel better faster! It draws things out! Yeaahhh Baby!!!!! I have listed instructions and a very important list of Do's and Don'ts below:

Instructions for Pro Soak:
  1. Seven "running" handfuls Epsom Salts into regular sized tub. ("running" means countinuously pouring salts while emptying each handful
  2. If your tub is oversized add 2-3 more "running" handfuls
  3. You may add bubble bath or foaming soap to your salts or 5 drops of an essential oil like lavender.
  4. Soak in bath for 10 minutes minimum - 20 minutes maximum. More is not better!
  5. After 20 minutes, rinse salt off

Pro Soak Do's:
  1. Do imagine your body healing as the salts draw you toward wellness & peak performance
  2. Do add warmer water to your bath as needed
  3. Do create a relaxing environment for your bath by lighting candles or playing music
  4. Do allow your body to return to normal temperature before applying any lotions, creams, oils, or deodorants. Your pores are open and must close naturally.
  5. Do put your legs up

Pro Soak Don'ts:
  1. Don't shave before or after your soak.
  2. Don't scrub or exfolliate before or after your soak
  3. Don't apply lotions, creams, oils, or deodorants after your soak. Your body temperature has been elevated; allow it to return to normal and your pores to close naturally.