How many of you heard your parents say “Money doesn’t grow on trees” when you were a kid? Well, my grandkids know, as apparently does Fisher Price, that money comes from a bank.
This particular banking machine is a toy made by Fisher Price that we received over 25 years ago, when our eldest son was a toddler. It looks like a two sided ATM, with plastic coins and “dollar” bills.
The coins go in a slot on the top left corner, something our two year old grandson loves to do, over and over. As he no longer puts everything in his mouth, when he is here he fishes the coins out of the “off limits for his one year old cousin” bag they are stored in.
One side of the machine also has a slot to stick the five green dollar bills in. Once the coins and dollar bills are inside the machine, there are separate (one red and one blue, see top picture) buttons to push to eject them.
The ATM also comes with two realistic looking plastic credit cards, although the orange one was missing when I searched for it to take a picture. Maybe I better report that to the bank, LOL.
This article by Nate Martins was originally published on HVMN, adapted for use here on Lorieb.
How do you know you’ve hit a plateau?
Have you trained for countless hours with sparse results? Strict dieting with little to show for it? Strength training without the ability to increase weight? When was the last time you hit a PR, anyway?
Plateauing happens to athletes at all levels. It’s good for training regimens to become a way of life, but doing those sessions over and over again can become like mindlessly checking a box. Inputs remain the same–which can be detrimental to increasing performance outputs.
Incorporating overload principle into training may be one of the steps you need to get off that plateau.
Building Muscle–How it Actually Works
Overload principle states that in order for muscle to increase in size, strength and endurance, it must be regularly challenged to produce an output that is as near as possible to maximum capacity. The technique pushes the body past its limits, further breaking it down to force adaptations that lead to performance gains.
Skeletal muscle is composed of fibers that contract when our muscles are put to work. During high intensity, challenging exercise, muscle fibers are broken down. These small breakdowns are called “microtrauma,” and cause the muscle to rebuild stronger, overcompensating to protect itself from other breakdowns with new muscle-building protein.
The rebuilt fibers increase in thickness and number, resulting in muscle growth. To support this, we need enough dietary protein to ensure the rate of muscle protein synthesis is greater than the rate of muscle protein breakdown; this is how our muscles grow.
The same process happens in all of the muscles of our body. The heart muscle also gets bigger with training, enabling more oxygen to be used by other muscles. An exercise-induced release of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) stimulates the formation of blood vessels, leading to the capillarization of the muscle, allowing increased blood flow, oxygen, and nutrient delivery (which is a critical factor in muscle growth).1 More enzymes are also produced that are utilized in energy production.
Interestingly, when it comes to muscular hypertrophy (the building of muscle), the exact mechanisms aren’t totally understood; there are likely many factors at play. Current hypotheses include some combination of mechanical tension, metabolic fatigue and muscular damage.
But with training adaptations like overload principle, there can be results like slower utilization of muscle glycogen, greater reliance on fat oxidation, less lactate production during exercise, and adaptations to skeletal muscle.2 To produce muscle growth, athletes must apply a load of stress greater than what those muscles have previously adapted to.3
The idea of overload principle is rooted in how muscles grow–and it begins immediately after exercise, but can take weeks or months to actually manifest.
Practice Before Overloading
Before introducing heavier weight or adding more miles to an exercise program, it’s essential to have the correct technique for those exercises cemented. Muscle memory and the repetition of techniques with proper form are crucial for executing an exercise flawlessly.
But once introduced on top of a good skill base, overload principle can be a powerful tool to reducing the overall risk of injury (as it did with this study on junior elite soccer players).4
Implementing Overload Principle
Without overload principle, fitness level is less likely to increase; training programs might not yield strength gains because the body adapts to static repetition.
There are two basic components of overload principle: the overloading, and the progression. Overloading is what we’ve discussed above, the adding of stress, weight, etc. to achieve greater fitness.
Progression is the way in which the overloading should be added to training. This can be achieved through an increase in frequency, intensity, time of exercise, or a combination of these. Workout smarter
Are You FITT?
The FITT principle is a way to approach overload training strategically and safely, by overloading these different aspects of exercise.
Frequency: How often physical activity is performed, which is normally about three to five times per week.
Intensity: How hard a person exercises during physical activity, which can be measured in different ways and is different for everyone. Heart rate is one way to monitor intensity during endurance, while weight can illustrate intensity of strength training; however, neither of these measures something like flexibility.
Time: The length of physical activity. Again, time varies depending on the person and fitness goal. Stretch-training for flexibility may take 15 minutes, but the minimum for aerobic activity is about 20 minutes of continuous exercise.
Type: The specific physical exercise one is training to improve. Someone trying to improve strength might overload weight and reps; a runner looking to improve endurance might overload distance and time.
By using the FITT principle to understand overloading, this may also help with burnout. Often, we seek performance gains, increasing intensity wildly in the hopes of achieving our goals. This can lead to overly-fatigued muscle and even injury.
Compartmentalizing overload training, and already knowing the movements on which you’ll overload, can help reduce some of the dangers of pushing your body past its limits.
How to Overload
You probably already have a training plan. It has days with long runs and short runs, rest days and strength training days.
A note: if you’re serious, it may be worth getting help from a coach. You can’t keep overloading the same thing over and over–that defeats the purpose of overload training in the first place. Always increasing the same element, like volume, may lead to another plateau. It’s important to mix it up, looking at your training plan like a journey: there will be peaks and troughs to keep the body guessing.
Running with overload principle in mind applies the same techniques as strength and resistance training: increase difficulty (in some way) systematically.
Adding intensity to your workouts is a good place to start. Speed workouts and hill training can help improve muscle strength, overall speed and eventually, race day performance. These intense workouts should come twice per week, incorporating things like interval training, tempo runs, hill workouts or lactate threshold training (which could serve a dual purpose as being both a difficult workout and help you improve your lactate threshold).
Adding duration to runs is also an essential way to overload. One long run per week should be added to a training plan. Many runners prefer to conduct these long runs on weekends (specifically Sunday), because Monday is a popular rest day. You can even add mileage to this run over the course of several weeks.
There are also tools that can help overload training. A weight vest can be added while running or walking to increase lower-body strength and endurance. And running with a training mask on can make your respiratory muscles work harder, which increases respiratory compensation threshold (RCT) and can improve endurance performance.5
Ample recovery time is also important; muscles need time to recover. Work in a rest day after a day of overload training. Since you’ve just pushed yourself further than you’re used to going, recovery will help encourage those gains. If resting isn’t an option, try alternating hard training days with easy training days.
When Weight Training
You probably already strength train or cross-train between regular workouts–these strengthen muscles and joints, decreasing the risk of injury.
The type of strength training varies by athlete depending on their goals. Many employ circuit training, weightlifting or plyometrics training. In general, overloading would include increasing the number of sets or increasing weight used in this training.
The safest way to overload is first to increase reps or sets, getting as comfortable as possible with the exercise, then increase weight. For example: let’s say you’re doing three sets of eight reps of bicep curls with 10lb dumbbells. When overloading the following week, jumping to 15lb dumbbells would be a 50% jump in weight–which is too much to overload. Instead, overload by increasing the number of reps or sets. Try for three sets of ten reps or four sets of eight reps before increasing weight.
On the flip side, someone pushing 100lbs on a bench press would likely be able to increase weight to 105lbs–that’s only a 5% jump in weight. For exercises with larger muscles, the overload increment can also be larger. Still, it’s best to focus on increased reps or sets before jumping up in weight.
To approach overloading systematically, make sure you keep a training log to track each increase in weight for all your exercises.
Overloading Outside of Exercise
Even though overloading happens in the gym, building muscle happens outside of it. All that overloading might be for naught if you don’t recover properly.
BCAAs: These branched-chain amino acids provide the body with building blocks to maintain lean muscle mass.6 The body breaks down protein into these amino acids, which then are sent throughout the body to be used again in protein building–and thus, muscle building. One study even showcased they alleviated skeletal muscle damage.7
HVMN Ketone: Can be used before, during and after workouts. HVMN Ketone has been shown to increase the efficiency of working muscle by 28%,8 and in testing, athletes went ~2% further in a 30-minute time trial.9 For recovery, HVMN Ketone decreases the breakdown of intramuscular glycogen and protein when compared to carbs alone,9 while also expediting the resynthesis of glycogen by 60% and protein by 2x.10,11
Protein: Whey, casein and soy protein are the most popular choices here, and all should be taken post-workout. Whey is a great source of BCAA, and is absorbed the fastest by the body. It’s largely considered the most effective protein for building muscle.12 Casein protein is slower to absorb, so it can be taken before bed. One study showcased consuming it before bed led to a 34% reduction in whole body protein breakdown.13
Overloading to Measurable Gains
Overloading may be the best way to break the body out of its routine and spur the growth you’ve been looking for. By pushing the body past its limits, even for a set or an extra mile, your body will adapt to be able to handle that stress during the next training session.
It’s important not to over-overload. This can lead to injury and be detrimental for your overall training goals by putting you on the sidelines for a few weeks. Measured overloading is the best approach, tracking the increases to understand how they’re helping work toward your goals.
Take it one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be off that plateau and on your way to climbing a whole new mountain. You train, you work hard, you put in the hours–you should be seeing results.
It always amazes me at how controversial political announcements can be. The recent autism announcement (February 6th, 2019) by the Ontario PC party is such an example.
How can proactively addressing 14 of the 19 improvements suggested by the Ontario Autism Coalition be a bad thing? This announcement should be received as offered, instead of letting politics and rumors sway opinions.
The improvement at the top of the priority list is a vow to clear the waitlist within 18 months, as hinted at in election promises. The current wait list is excruciatingly long; here are some numbers to put things in perspective:
23,000 children are currently on the waitlist
8400 are currently in the program
2400 are still waiting for an assessment, that wait is an average of 31 months, after which they might get on the program waitlist.
Another suggested improvement will direct money to the parents of these children instead of a government agency so the parents can hire private therapists to come to the comfort of their own home at their own convenience. While increased flexibility is great, the catch (for many) is the strict money management required including records and timesheets.
This announcement was in response to a 2017 revision of the autism program by the Wynne government that gave parents the option between receiving therapy from government funded services or receiving funding directly to pay private therapists. This option did little however to reduce the wait lists within a year of implementation. Some parents also complained that the government funded service providers actually discouraged them from choosing the private therapist option. Hmmmmm, sounds self-serving to me!
The new rules will be more fair to all families, especially those in greatest need such as the ones with lower incomes. That’s because the income salary cap has been lowered, so high income families (more than 250K) will no longer be eligible, allowing more funding for lower income earners to offset their financial burdens.
That makes sense (to me) as higher salary earners generally have better health benefits that would cover some of the costs. They also have accrued pension income meaning they will not have to dip into their long term savings. These medical costs are also tax deductible, a bonus for both the wealthy and not so wealthy.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big supporter of working hard to achieve your status in life. Higher salaries, pension plans and health benefits require lots of sweat equity on the part of these higher paid employees. What I don’t support is letting children from lower income homes suffer through no fault of their own.
Families will now be eligible to receive a lifetime limit of $140,000 per child until the age of 18. Since most would agree that autistic children benefit most from therapy at a young age, the funds will be front-loaded. This means the annual limit is 20,000 for children aged two to six, and $5000 per year for those seven to eighteen. Regardless, available funding will cover only a portion of the costly therapy sessions required for autistic children.
No, funding for autistic children has not been reduced , but has been spread out, taken from the rich to help the poor. The PC government is trying to improve an increasingly essential program, geared to helping our youth. In fact, the current provincial government is also planning to double the (unchanged) $2.75 million annual investment in autism diagnostic hubs throughout the province.
The winner is………… not the Liberal or PC government, but more kids that suffer from autism.
Although lectins are proteins, they are not as good for us as one would think. They are beneficial in plants as they keep insects (kind of like a defence mechanism) away and contain nitrogen which is essential for plant growth. In the human body however, lectins can be toxic!I
The reason lectins cause us so much grief is because they are incredibly sticky and therefore cannot be digested properly. Instead, they adhere to the cells in our guts so that vitamins and minerals do not get absorbed. They also stick to insulin receptors, blocking the hormone called Leptin, so your brain never recognizes when you are full. I’m sure you can guess where this is going. Yes, lectins increase your appetite. Amongst other things.
Increased appetite means weight gain is at the top of the long list of bad things lectins cause. The rest of the list includes achy joints, indigestion, digestive damage, fatigue, brain fog, constipation, mood swings, immune system suppression, depression, and overall poor health.
Everyone has heard of gluten and how millions are avoiding it whether they need to or not. Gluten is a lectin, but there are many other lectins that cause just as much grief (or more) for people with food sensitivities. In fact, if you have been diagnosed with Celiac’s disease, you should avoid all lectins.
Well, people like myself that suffer from a wheat (but not gluten) allergy realize that it is a protein in wheat that triggers my reactions. I was never told however that it was a lectin or that I might be lectin intolerant. This probably explains why those without Celiac’s disease or a gluten allergy (like myself) who have eliminated wheat from their diets feel so much better.
Wheat germ lectin has been shown in research to impact the immune system by increasing inflammation within our bodies. Not just in our stomach or intestines, but all over our bodies. Have you heard of “leaky gut syndrome?” This happens because lectins punch holes in our intestines (hence the leaky gut) letting toxins and bacteria out of your gut to invade and cause inflammatory responses in many other organs.
This resulting long-term inflammation has been linked to many serious medical conditions including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, uterine fibroids, breast and ovarian cysts, auto immune diseases and small airway obstruction (asthma) in lungs. I was experiencing most of these health issues when I was first diagnosed with my wheat allergy. It took me persistence and quite a long time to figure this out.
Now for the good news! Lectins are not always bad. Recent research reveals that lectins have been shown to be beneficial in some revolutionary uses. I say revolutionary because the use of natural plant extracts instead of harmful and expensive chemical medication is just that. This is quite exciting, except perhaps to the mega-rich and powerful drug companies. Oops, sorry, I am digressing….Here are some of the revolutionary uses I spoke of:
Small amounts of lectins may help the good bacteria that live in human digestive systems.
Research suggests that lectins may be useful for helping to identify and diagnose cancer. Lectins are also being studied for their potential to slow down the rate that cancer cells multiply.
Researchers are even looking at lectins as potential treatments for illnesses caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
So, do you continue to consume foods containing lectins or eliminate them from your diet? Well, that depends on how badly they affect you. In my case I avoid wheat. Keeping a journal of foods (lectins) you eat and how they affect you can help decide which ones to eliminate from your diet.
These are the foods with the most lectins, in descending order:
legumes (peanuts, cashews, beans, soybeans, peas, chickpeas, lentils) with uncooked red kidney beans the worst, as well as butters from these (peanut butter, hummus)
wheat, corn, rice, oats and quinoa
nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers)
dairy products containing casein A1 (most North American cows)
corn, soybean and sunflower oils
squash family (zucchini, melons, cucumbers)
soy products (milk, beans, sprouts, tofu, oils)
many fruits, including bananas. See list below for lectin-free fruit
The answer for those of you without an obvious reaction is to simply reduce the lectins you eat. It is not necessary to completely eliminate them, and there are ways to reduce the amount of lectins you are putting into your body. Sprouting, fermenting, removing the seeds, or cooking the culprits well will severely diminish the lectins’ potency. Get your pressure cooker out and dust it off!
What foods are left to eat that are lectin free you ask? If you don’t have any of the above health issues to try to clear up, don’t worry about them, lectins obviously don’t affect you. If you do feel the pain (literally), eat the lectin rich foods (above) but ensure they are well-cooked and in moderation, and eat more of these lectin-free foods:
mushrooms, onions, garlic, celery, and carrots
broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus
leafy greens (spinach, kale etc)
sweet potatoes (cooked)
cherries, apples, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, and lemons
sheep, goat, and coconut milk as well as South European (A2) cow’s milk
almonds, almond butter
olives and olive oil
The moral of this story is to listen to your body. If you suffer from many or any of the health issues listed above, maybe you are lectin intolerant! I wish I had this information ten years ago when I was going through my personal battle to figure out what was wrong with me. My doctor wanted to put me on antidepressants, but I refused, believing it was more complicated than that. I’m sure glad I did. I feel better now pushing 60 than I did throughout most of my 40’s and early 50’s!
You can’t buy motivation. Most runners probably wish they could.
We hit walls. Life can seem to get in the way of running–so having a playbook of motivational techniques is important for runners at every level who are fighting the same battle to log miles.
Running motivation can come in different forms when the finish line isn’t in sight–new running shoes, a new training plan, or even joining a running club. But at its purest, motivation is the human desire to do something; unlocking that desire may be even more difficult than the task itself.
Joshua Sommers finds it within himself–the hedge fund VP is also a triathlete who has competed in over 100 races. When asked what motivates him, he keeps it simple.
“The pursuit of excellence and self-improvement.”
We aren’t all like Joshua, but we can learn from him. In this piece, we’ll explore what types of motivational tools different runners can use, and how they can impact your training–and your life outside of running.
Motivation for Beginner Runners
As a new runner, it can be daunting to look at the miles ahead and know the only way to get there is with your own two feet.
Set a Goal
Begin at the end. Setting a goal provides something a runner can work toward. It can be a number of different things: maybe it’s weight loss, or picking a 5k race, or a certain number of miles a week, or even a half marathon. Whatever that goal is, keep it in mind each time you lace up those sneakers for a jog.
This will also help track progress. Write the goal down and place it somewhere you’ll see it every day, keeping markers of the steps taken to achieve it. After a few weeks, look back at the work accomplished and you’ll be able to see it actualized. See yourself achieving those goals and surpassing them.
Get Social While Holding Yourself Accountable
Incorporating a training partner into your new life as a runner has layered benefits. Finding a running partner will provide an immediate desire to run, even if simply knowing that person is counting on you.
Executing on a training program together, with a shared goal, can increase the level of accountability. Joining a running club or finding a running partner removes the element of choice, the ability to reason with yourself and find ways not to run. Excuses are ever-present, and a good running partner won’t take “no” for an answer.
Even though running is an individual pursuit, clubs and teams are everywhere. Besides the motivational aspect, things like networking and safety and developing a sense of community are all extended benefits of making running social.
Make it Routine A morning run can ripple positively into the rest of your day. Acute aerobic exercise activates the prefrontal and occipital cortices in the brain, increasing “executive control.” This can help improve cognitive ability and can help control emotion.1 Morning runs can have effects that last into the night, like improving sleep quality.2 And it doesn’t stop there; studies suggest running can have overall health and cognitive benefits, especially later in life.3
Besides the mental and physical benefits, there are less social obligations in the morning. You won’t get stuck at work or be tempted by a happy hour at 6am. Even if you’re not a morning person, you can likely train to become one. Pack all your running gear the night before. Set an alarm and place it across the room, forcing you to skip the snooze button.
Developing a morning running routine provides a nice reset of the body’s clock; it can feel like adding hours to the day. Another benefit? A solid training schedule can positively impact your regular schedule.
Ted Bross is a newly-graduated medical student starting his residency. He has participated in almost 30 ultra marathons, and developing a running habit helped him with medical school.
“Part of what helps me get through several of the mental stressors of medical school is pushing my body physically and relieving that stress. It makes me more of a disciplined athlete and is something that has given me a lot in my life.”
Develop a Training Plan
Checking boxes on a training plan can feel really good. It also answers some of the mental questions runners ask themselves before setting out: Where should I go? How long should I run? What pace am I aiming for? Just look at the running program, where it’s all outlined. Remember to develop your training plan in alignment with those goals you’ve set. And try to incorporate one long run per week.
A comprehensive training plan should incorporate all aspects of your routine. Account for extra pre-run warm-ups and post-run stretches. Add in weekly or monthly goals. Budget some days off. Your training plan doesn’t have to be a bible, but should be a document frequently returned to, and one around which other aspects of life can be considered.
“I train on average for about ten sessions a week, for a total of ten hours a week,” Sommers said. “I’m spending all this time on it, so I want to get the most out of my workouts.”
Motivation for Experienced Runners
There’s a fine line between getting into a groove and finding yourself in a rut.
Buy Some New Gear
Sometimes you need to pick low-hanging fruit. Purchasing some new running clothes, like a new pair of running shoes or running shorts, can provide motivation to run and test all that new gear. Depending on what you buy, it may also improve your training (like a fitness tracker).
New gear can also serve as a reward; small goals can be treated as important steps to accomplishing larger goals.
There’s also the “gear guilt.” Shiny new toys should be used instead of sitting in the back of a closet. Some may think using money as a type of running motivation is shallow, but there are few drivers in life like cold hard cash.
So much of success when running comes before (and after) feet hit the pavement. Nutrition should be looked at holistically, because supplements can provide a boost during the run and also help with recovery.
“Especially in the longer races, figuring out nutrition is something most people don’t spend enough time on.”
Pre-run supplements include caffeine for energy, calcium for bone health and even creatine to reduce muscle inflammation. Post-run, focus on protein for muscle recovery and fish oil to reduce muscle soreness.
HVMN Ketone, a ketone ester drink, can be used both as a pre-run supplement and a recovery mechanism. By elevating ketone levels in the blood, HVMN Ketone unlocks a fuel source the body produces naturally, one fundamentally different from carbohydrates or fats. Post-workout, taking HVMN Ketone can expedite the resynthesis of glycogen (by 60%) and protein (by 2x), which enable faster recovery.4,5
Varying training can provide easy motivation to try a new sport–one you know can improve your running–and it’ll also keep you active on days you’re not running. It can also supplement during rehabilitation periods from physical injury, and improve overall physical performance.6
Specifically, cross training can improve VO2 Max capacity (the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen utilized during intense exercise).6 Swimming and cycling are great choices, but things like yoga can also increase flexibility and balance.7
By introducing strength workouts or cross training into your regimen, motivation can be found in presenting new challenges and accomplishing new goals.
Switch Up Locations
Don’t become a running rodent. Running on a treadmill can feel like a hamster on a wheel, just like running the same path multiple times a week can feel Groundhog Day-esque. The essence of running harkens back to being outside, and in a more spiritual sense, connecting with the space in which you’re traversing.
It’s easy to feel invigorated by discovering a new place or hitting a new distance, so trail running or cross country running are always good motivators for the simple fact that they place you out of your element. The simple feeling of dirt under the feet and soaking up the essence of the trail provides an immediate lift and motivation.
We’ve also heard from runners that there’s something special about running in the rain (even if it’s the last thing you want to do). It presents a new challenge, and almost a primal sense of motivation; you’re miles away from home, and the only way to return is to run back. Your heart is pounding, you smell the rain, each wet step is experienced in a totally new way–it’s an hour that can feel different than all the other hours in the day.
Motivation for Advanced Runners
Advanced runners can have the most difficult time finding motivation because running is such a part of their life that it becomes an unquestioned obligation.
Remember (and Embrace) the Pain and Vulnerability
Stop and ask yourself: Why do I run? If running has become numbly intrinsic, this question can serve as a reinvigorating reminder to look within and remember why you fell in love with running in the first place.
Because running is hard; it hurts; it requires time; it takes mental fortitude. Some might think this is admitting defeat–but reminding yourself that you’re accomplishing something difficult can inspire you to keep going.
In a physical sense, powerful running comes from your core. So, in essence, you’re running from the gut. There’s something vulnerable about exposing yourself in that way, and showcasing the ability to be broken down (and thus built back up).
It can all come to a head at the end of a race. Ted Bross has been there.
“You share some really special moments. You’re pretty raw emotionally, when you get broken down physically there’s less barrier to connect with people.”
Ditch the Tech (This Includes Music)
Technological tools have forever changed running, giving anyone the opportunity to track pace and miles and calories burned. These also changed training by providing actionable targets to hit and measure performance.
Select one day to run untethered by technology. It can serve as a great way to reconnect with the simple joy of running, ditching the gadgets to escape the metrics. Sometimes you have to operate on feel, and it can be motivating to find that energy within yourself instead of hitting a number on your wrist. Some of your best runs aren’t necessarily your fastest.
Many of us train with music, but that can act as a barrier between you and the world in which you’re running. If you’re participating in a race that doesn’t allow music, it’s especially beneficial to train without tunes and run to the beat of your own pace.
Improve Your Diet
Seeing results provides motivation to continue working. The results garnered from eating healthy show themselves in training. While carb-loading has been a staple of many runners’ race day routines, growing evidence suggests that a periodized approach to nutrition is optimal, especially for long distance races. For example, a marathon runner might undertake periods of training with a low carb, high fat diet to boost fat burning followed by maximizing carb fueling for a race.
Exercise after an overnight fast can also increase fat oxidation, which can help with weight loss and, when the body gets better at burning fat, it can also help increase endurance.
“My diet isn’t as good as I would like it to be,” admitted Sommers. “But that’s more a function of time and other stress factors, like if I’m traveling or if I don’t have time to cook what I want.”
Even the most elite triathletes struggle to incorporate diet into life.
Trying a new diet can have results both in training and recovery, and noticing the difference provides a motivation to continue pushing your personal best with newfound fuel. But that happens on an even smaller level. Incorporate a new fruit or vegetable into your diet.
Haven’t had Brussel sprouts since your grandma served them boiled? Give them another try (and maybe try roasting them) and fold in more vegetables over the course of your training.
Even for those unwilling to make extreme dietary changes, there are incremental benefits to be had by cutting back on refined sugars, avoiding seed oils and getting plenty of omega 3s.
Enjoy the Small Wins
Advanced runners arrive at a point where they can only improve so much. It’s a point of fear for many–that they’ll plateau, and eventually decline.
So the small wins are important to celebrate. Seconds off your mile pace, or increased weight while strength training or even a feeling of energy after a run–individually these are small, but together they can make a big impact. The world’s elite athletes understand the power in recognizing small successes.
Accomplishing small wins while training provides a motivation to keep achieving them, and the confidence they’ll translate to race day.
Motivation is an Endless Cycle
Remember: motivation comes and goes. But recognizing when you’ve lost motivation is almost as important as getting it back.
The struggle challenges all different levels–from beginner to expert runners. On the running journey, goals will be accomplished, routines will become stale, good habits will wane. This is all part of the process.
Finding the ability to motivate yourself won’t just improve your running. It’ll improve your life overall, and some of these strategies should translate to life off the running road.
Go forth. Run. And maybe find a bit of yourself in the process.
If you live in the Ottawa area you will know just how much snow we have received recently. Tuesday morning we woke up to an additional 8 cm pushing us over the top for a January record of 97cm of snow in total.
That’s 38 Imperial inches, over 3 feet, for you non-metric folks that still measure in inches and feet. A bit off topic here, but did you know the USA is one of only three countries still (predominantly) using Imperial measurements instead of metric? The other two are Myanmar and Liberia. Americans do however run 5Ks and drink from 1L wine bottles and the such.
Regardless of how you measure it, that’s a lot of snow! Other cities across the nation have also received more than their share of snow, as have many (more than usual) locations in the USA.
Now for some good news. All this snow is good for something and someone. The ski resorts must be thrilled, as would be the snow removal companies. Although those that get paid by the season, (do they still do that, or have they evolved?) instead of the number of times they have to plow, are probably cursing the snow right now. Like most of the rest of us.
I do admit to enjoy shovelling as it is pretty much the only exercise I get during my garden business offseason. Of course, that enjoyment disappears quickly when the snow falls faster than I can keep it shovelled. Now the snowbanks are so high at the edges of my driveway it is very difficult to throw the snow up that high.
Another silver lining (that must be hidden within all those snow clouds) is that lots of snow is good for insulating plants that might suffer from any freeze/thaw cyclesover the winter months. So, if you forgot or never got around to covering your tender plants last fall, you can thank the January record for snowfall.
Originally posted on HVMN by Nate Martins, this article on cross training was adapted for use here on Lorieb.
Dedicated training is something to be admired. Many athletes strive for the ability to get up and get out every single day whether it’s for a specific race or event or even, simply driven by a goal. Often that can mean adhering to a training plan based on both repetition and incrementally increased difficulty–monotony and overuse be damned.
But you may get hurt. Or plateau. Or experience a disruption in your training schedule. These can all be detrimental to accomplishing a goal. Then there’s also that inevitable boredom of doing the same training day in and day out. You swear that footprint on the trail was yours from yesterday.
Enter cross training, an exercise program usually employed outside of these intense training blocks to add some variance (physically and mentally) to workouts. It keeps the body guessing, and has many athletes reap the benefits for their main sport: decreased injury potential, and added strength to the most-used muscles.
Here, we’ll detail the science behind cross training, how to work it into your schedule, and some new exercises to try. Your main sport will thank us.
This is Your Body on Cross Training
Simply put, cross training is training in another discipline in improve your main sport. The options are almost limitless–runners can strength train, swimmers can paddle board, cyclists can do yoga. The goal is to supplement your main sport with training that’s beneficial for certain muscles, movements, or even, your brain and mood.
For most athletes, the inclusion of cross training into a workout plan is triggered by an injury sidelining them from regular training. I was no different–hours of basketball and running led to knee pain (from patellar tendonitis, known as “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee”) . But I was stubborn. When I should have stopped the joint-pounding activities, I continued to beat them like a drum. It got to a point where the pain wasn’t worth the workout; but I couldn’t give up working out all together. So I started swimming and incorporating yoga into my routine, which delivered positive and painless results.
Turns out, I’m not alone. Up to 56% of recreational runners experience injuries, with most of those relating to the knee.1 Supplements can help (like glucosamine, which promotes the development of cartilage), but up to 75% of those are overuse injuries.1
Since a majority of injuries happen due to time dedicated to a single sport, cross training can help prevent injuries for the simple fact that it forces athletes to spend less time training singularly. Cross training doesn’t just maintain activity by reducing the risk for injury–it also can increase performance.
A study of 27 male runners were assigned one of three different resistance training regimens (in addition to their normal endurance training): heavy resistance, explosive resistance or muscle endurance training. In all three groups, running endurance performance increased.2 The heavy-lifting group in particular saw improvements to high-intensity running characteristics, like sprinting at the end of the race.2
The benefits of cross training aren’t just physical; there’s also a potential mental benefit of switching it up. Mental fatigue can impact physical workouts–you may be less likely to workout knowing that you’re facing the exact same exercise every day. Especially if an athlete is in-season or training for a specific event, cross-training can provide an exciting challenge. It’s easy to be training heads-down; cross training can help you see the forest between the trees.
Implementing Cross Training
Divorce yourself from the idea that cross training takes away from your regular training schedule. While you’ll inevitably be spending time away from your sweetheart sport, absence makes the muscles grow stronger.
There are three main groups of cross training for endurance athletes: strength training, aerobic low-impact work and aerobic impact work, and each can be part of a cross training program.
Touching upon all major muscle groups is important for effective strength training.
Incorporating strength training into an endurance regimen can enhance physical fitness, as it did in this meta-analysis of distance runners.3 Even just 30 minutes per week, once or twice a week, can suffice. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be done in a gym; you can take the at-home approach to incorporating plyometrics or things like push ups.
Regardless of where you strength train, a full body workout will maximize the time you spend training. Consider hitting all the major muscle groups such as arms, chest, shoulders, back, core and legs (more on this later).
Aerobic Low-Impact Work
Probably the reason many athletes experiment with cross training: take stress off those weary joints and reduce injury risk.
Low-impact activities or no-impact workouts can be done two or three times as week. It’s easily implemented, as it can replace an active recovery day or even a harder workout day depending on the exercise; so for those who think they’re losing gains because of cross training, you may actually find yourself enjoying the cross training more than your main exercise.
Cycling, swimming and rowing are some of the most popular low-impact workouts. For flexibility and core exercises, yoga and pilates are go-tos. And you may even be able to workout longer and more frequently using these types of workouts due to the lack of stress they cause the body (swimmers can work out every day, and they’re hitting all the major muscle groups). For example, if you planned on running 45 minutes, you could easily spend 70 minutes cycling.
Aerobic Impact Work
Maybe the reason you’re reading this article is because of too much aerobic impact work.
If you’re training, the amount of aerobic impact work will likely be higher (and may be your only focus during that training block). But in the off-season, or times when you’d like to give your body a break, aerobic impact work should be done once or twice a week. As a general rule, cross-training is meant to limit the impact on the body.
Typically, cross training is meant to offer your body a break from the impact it faces during regular training. You can play team games, train run, circuit train or do CrossFit as a cross training method, as the impact is likely different from your normal routine. But be mindful: any impact work still puts strain on the body.
The Importance of Rest
Before getting into the specific exercises to try, remember the need for rest. Your muscles are asking for it.
The goal of every training session is to break down muscle and without recovery, a portion of that work might be wasted. During recovery, the body begins the process of rebuilding what has been broken down.
Muscle protein synthesis can increase by as much as 50% in the hours after a workout, helping encourage muscle growth.4 Concurrently, muscle fibers are rebuilt. These processes are a normal part of exercise, and recovery allows the muscles to become stronger. Fluid restoration is also key, as it helps deliver nutrients to organs and muscles through the bloodstream. And acids (via that hydrogen proton associated with lactate) accumulate during workouts–so recovery provides time for the body to restore intramuscular pH and blood flow for oxygen delivery.
In-season, professional triathlete, Kelsey Withrow, is laser-focused on training. When she’s not training, it’s all about recovery.
“As a professional triathlete, I focus all my time on swimming, running and biking. The rest of the time is for recovery.“
Kelsey Withrow, professional triathlete
Even though cross training is meant to give the body a break from regular training, it’s still is a source of stress and requires recovery time (or you might burnout). For most athletes, it’s difficult to slow down. Many of us are goal-oriented, hardworking and ultimately–a bit stubborn. Budgeting recovery time is essential, as is providing your body with the necessary fuel to recover properly.
Doing the same exercise can be mentally exhausting, leading to a mental fatigue that wears down on your desire to even do the workout. Research has shown that the mind is usually a good gauge of the body,7 with a mental strain reported by a questionnaire being closely related to stress signals in the hormones of the body. By switching it up with cross training, and also ensuring rest days, the mind will get a chance to recharge too.
Cross Training Exercises
Now is the time to incorporate cross training workouts. The exercises below touch on several different areas of exercise, from strength training to both low-impact and impact aerobic activities.
You can begin by folding in some additional exercises to your existing workouts. Runners may try hills or cyclists may try 30 second sprints–this isn’t cross training exactly, it’s just extra training. The benefits of cross training come with learning something new and focusing on different areas of the body that regular training can neglect.
Try working some of these exercises into your routine. It’s important to pick which is best for your personal needs.
A great whole body workout, swimming is one of the low-impact exercises most often used for recovery or cross training. Interestingly, reports show many people enjoy water-based exercise more than land-based exercise.8
Swimming works the whole body; it increases heart rate without the joint-pounding stress of running, it builds endurance and can also build and tone muscle. Because of these benefits, it’s a great option for recovery–a study showed that patients with osteoarthritis showed reduced stiffness, joint pain and overall less physical limitation.9
It also torches calories. Swimming has shown improved body weight and body fat distribution when compared to walking.10 An average person can burn almost 450 calories when swimming at a low or moderate pace for one hour. At increased pase, that could go north of 700 calories. For comparison, running for one hour at a leisurely pace burns about 400 calories.
Outside of the aerobic benefits, swimming (and water training, like deep-water running) has shown to improve cardiovascular health and lung capacity.11,12,13
To incorporate swimming into your cross training routine, first find a place to swim. Then gather the necessary tools (like goggles, swim cap, fins, etc.), and brush up on form before jumping in the pool. Try it one to three times a week for 30 minutes to start.
Another low impact workout, cycling is a great way to reduce stress on those joint while still clocking in the aerobic hours.
Similar to swimming, cycling burns calories at an impressive clip, anywhere from 400 – 1,000 per hour depending on the intensity of the ride. And since cycling is also a resistance exercise, it’s not just burning fat–it also builds muscle.
A systematic review analyzed the benefits of cycling, showcasing a myriad of results. There was a positive relationship between cycling and cardiorespiratory fitness, cardiovascular fitness and general fitness.14 Whether on the road, the track, or in the gym on a stationary bike, the benefits of cycling as a cross training mechanism stem from the fact it’s a low impact, muscle building, aerobic workout. It can help athletes train if they have experienced an injury.
There are several ways to train on a bicycle. You can ride hills to build muscle and strength, or do shorter sprints to build speed. There’s also an option for endurance, with riders cycling hundreds or thousands of miles over the course of a long session. For beginners, get a feel for the workout on a stationary bike. As you advance, visit a local bike shop to get your bike properly fitted.
Many endurance athletes don’t consider strength training as part of their workout routine, but it can help prevent injury while improving strength for your main sport. For runners, maybe that’s improved core strength for economy. For cyclists, maybe the outcome is a higher power output. Regardless of your sport, strength training is imperative to improving endurance for runners15 and cyclists.
In a study of postmenopausal women, high-intensity strength training exercises showed preserved bone density while improving muscle mass, strength and balance.16 It can also help prevent injury. In a study of soccer players who strength trained in the offseason, hamstring strains were lower (and that group also saw increases in strength and speed).17
“You spend so much time beating your body down in-season, but I find that I’m healthier and stronger when I lift. With long distance, being strong helps. I try to put on a lot of muscle during a short period of time.”
Kelsey Withrow, professional triathlete
The mental benefits of resistance training have also been documented; studies have shown it improves anxiety and depression.18,19
A good strength training regimen will focus separately on different muscle groups. There are several options for lifters of all different levels, but starting with some simple bodyweight exercises (like push-ups or pull-ups) can allow you to build toward free weight training, weight machines, or rubber tubing. A meta analysis of periodized training–varying your strength training workouts–has shown results for greater changes in strength, motor performance and lean body mass.20 So don’t get stuck doing the same routine over and over again. A good way to push yourself is to incorporate overload training into some of that strength work.
If you’re strapped for time, a full-body workout once or twice a week (with dedicated recovery time) should suffice. Make sure to also spend some time nailing down form in the weight room, as improper form and too much weight can lead to injury.
An ancient practice designed to create a union between the body and mind, many athletes seek out yoga for its ability to increase strength and flexibility while also promoting mental health benefits.
Yoga can improve performance by targeting specific aspects of flexibility and balance–one study, which took place over the course of 10 weeks in male collegiate athletes, saw improvements in both balance and flexibility.21 In older adults, studies have shown improved balance and mobility.22 Strength is also a target of many yoga programs, especially in the core. Even a study in which a specific pose (sun salutation) was used six days per week for 24 weeks, participants saw increased upper body strength, weight loss and endurance.23
But with yoga, the body is only half the game. It has been shown to decrease cortisol levels (the stress hormone),24 along with the ability to lower levels of depression, stress and anxiety.25 There have even been studies which showed overall quality of life improvements in seniors.26 Maybe part of these mental benefits are linked to better sleep quality. One study illustrated that a group participating in yoga fell asleep faster, slept longer and felt more well-rested in the morning.27
Yoga isn’t an aerobic workout, but it stretches muscles, builds strength and has been shown to improve mood. Because it’s low-impact, yoga can be done every day. Typically gyms or studios have beginner classes, and they will typically last between 60 and 90 minutes. Athletes can use yoga as recovery days, so between one and three sessions per week would be perfect.
Remember: listen to your body. Athletes always want to push the limit, and many may scoff that yoga is difficult (compared, say, to running). But extending a stretch too far, or practicing yoga without learning form, can lead to injury.
There are different activities that may be considered cross training, outside of the usual suspects we detailed above.
Hiking, for example, is a great way to build strength and get outside during a recovery day. Same goes with exercises like kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding28–these can help build upper body strength while encouraging an athlete to get out of their comfort zone (literally, and figuratively).
“I spend a lot of time training indoors, so getting outside is a lot of fun. I’ll do one long run per week outside, and I’ll bring my dog. It’s a reset for me.”
Kelsey Withrow, professional triathlete
We wouldn’t recommend team sports because there’s a risk of injury. But tennis might be an exception. While there are of course injury concerns with every sport and exercise, tennis has shown to improve aerobic fitness, lower body fat percentage, reduce risk for developing cardiovascular disease and improve bone health.29
For more passive cross training, think about everyday things you can do to improve strength and balance. Even investing in a standing desk, or sitting on a medicine ball at work can encourage better posture and more movement overall.
Cross Training for Athletes
During peak training season, athletes feel the grind. You’re putting in the hours with a race or event or goal in mind, laboring over the same path, the same laps, the same routine, with little variance.
Cross training is meant to serve as a break, but one that’s productive. It can be a break from your normal routine, both physically and mentally. But it can also invigorate the mind, providing it with a new task to learn, a new challenge to face. And of course, the physical benefits of testing the body in new ways are evident.
To incorporate cross training, try one or more of these exercises a couple times a week. See how you feel. You’ll likely find one you enjoy more than others, one that maybe provides better results than the rest. It’ll take some time to find a balance.
Recently we had the privilege and joy of having our youngest granddaughter stay at our home while her parents were away for a few days. Talk about deja vu! I had forgotten just how busy a (soon to be) one year old can be.
And how busy their caregivers are! Her grandfather and uncle were in and out of the house at work and university respectively, so I was the primary responsible adult in charge of most of the feeding, playing, singing, cuddling and generally watching like a hawk.
The two men were delegated to cleaning up the messes in her adventures around our house. She was like a little tornado, leaving a path of destruction behind her as she travelled from room to room.
As much as I enjoyed the deja vu experience, I was reminded just how far from my 30’s I am. And how difficult it is to sneak in bathroom breaks and a shower when a one year old is following your every move.
Hats off to all you young parents out there. And a word of encouragement: They will grow up, sooner than you think, and then you will be the one cherishing the deja vu.
This article about muscle recovery was written by Nate Martins on November 9, 2018. Originally published on HVMN, adapted for use here on Lorieb
The moment every athlete wants to avoid.
A muscle gives at the gym or on the track, leading to weeks of rehab. Sometimes it’s not even a single moment, but rather, countless hours of overuse that leads a muscle to strain or tear.
To avoid rehab, athletes need to be thinking about pre-hab. Get ahead of an injury before it happens.
Muscle recovery should be part of every training plan (specifically post-workout). But there are multiple strategies athletes can employ that lead to muscle health–even things like diet can impact how your muscles recover. Knowing what to do, and when to do it, can help avoid the injuries that’ll set you back weeks.
Why is Recovery Important?
An important goal of every training session is to break down muscle. Without recovery, a significant portion of that work might be a waste of time. So, what exactly happens during recovery? That’ll depend on the person and activity, but generally, four different things are happening while you’re resting.
Synthesis of protein: This is what leads to muscle growth. During recovery is when most muscle is built, because muscle protein synthesis increases by 50% four hours after a workout (like resistance training).1
Rebuilding of muscle fibers: Microtears in muscle fibers are a normal part of exercise, happening when we put strain on our muscles. Recovery allows these fibers to heal and become stronger during that process.
Fluid restoration: We sweat (and lose a lot of fluid through exhaled air).2 Hydrating before, during and after a workout is important, because these fluids help deliver nutrients to organs and muscle through the bloodstream.
Removal of metabolic waste products: Acids (via that pesky little proton associated with lactate) accumulate during a workout, and recovery gives the body time to restore intramuscular pH and reestablish intramuscular blood flow for oxygen delivery (among other things).
While you’re resting, your muscles kick into overdrive.
Recovery can be attacked several ways–some may be surprising, because they don’t directly target the muscles themselves. By approaching recovery through a few different avenues, it can be optimized.Results-driven training guides
Consuming Your Way to Recovery
It may not seem obvious, but a combination of hydration, diet, and supplements can do wonders for the muscles.
Hydration, before and after exercise
Drinking fluids is a mantra repeated by coaches everywhere for good reason: muscles are 75% water.
Before and during exercise, hydration is key to maintaining fluid balance and can even improve endurance (it’s equally important to not over-consume water as well).3,4 But post-workout, consuming enough water is vital to helping digest essential nutrients and repairing damaged muscle.
The sought after protein resynthesis requires muscles be well-hydrated. And coupled with post-workout eating, saliva–which is comprised mostly of water–is necessary to help break down food, digest, and absorb all the nutrients you’re hoping to receive. In one study, adequate hydration after a 90-minute run on a treadmill showed significantly faster heart rate recovery;5 this illustrates that hydrated bodies recover from exercise-induced stress faster.
Don’t rely on the age-old test of urine to determine if you’re hydrated; that has been debunked.6
A good rule of thumb is to weigh yourself before and after a workout, drinking 1.5x the amount of weight lost.
Diet: Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat All Work Together
Nailing the right nutrition strategy post-workout can encourage quicker recovery, reduce soreness, build muscle, improve immunity and replenish glycogen.
Your next workout starts within the hour your last workout ended.
Since exercise triggers the breakdown of muscle protein,7 it’s beneficial to consume an adequate amount of protein after a workout. Protein provides the body with necessary amino acids needed to repair and rebuild, while also promoting the development of new muscle tissue.8
Good sources of protein include: whey protein, whole eggs, cheese and smoked salmon.
Carbohydrates have a similarly important effect–they replenish glycogen stores. The type of exercise will depend on how much carbohydrate is needed. Consuming about 0.5 – 0.7 grams of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight within 30 minutes of training can result in adequate glycogen resynthesis.7 Insulin secretion promotes glycogen synthesis, and is more stimulated when carbs and protein are consumed simultaneously.9
Carb sources are everywhere; but look to slow-release sources such as sweet potatoes, fruit, pasta and rice.
Fat shouldn’t be the main focus of an after workout meal, but should be part of it. Good fat sources include avocados and nuts. Milk is also a popular choice; one study found whole milk was more effective at promoting muscle growth than skim milk.10
Supplements: Protein, BCAAs and Omega-3s Build Muscle and Reduce Inflammation
While most athletes think protein is best left to bodybuilders, protein can repair the muscle damage that occurs during a workout, reduce the response from the “stress hormone” cortisol, and speed up glycogen replacement. Protein also accelerates the resolution of muscle inflammation.11,12
Whey, casein and soy are some of the most popular proteins. Whey is absorbed the fastest by the body, and is largely considered the most effective protein for muscle protein synthesis.13 Casein protein is geared more toward long-term recovery because it takes hours to absorb. Try introducing whey immediately post-workout, while using casein protein before bed; protein ingestion before sleep has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.14
Serious athletes should be taking about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
If someone doesn’t consume enough protein, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) can be a useful supplement.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. During exercise, the body breaks down protein into amino acids; those are absorbed and transported through the body to create new proteins that encourage building muscle. BCAAs help enhance muscle protein recovery by introducing more amino acids into the body. They preserve muscle glycogen stores, which fuel the muscles and minimize protein breakdown. Studies show BCAAs as effective for muscle recovery (as well as immune system regulation).15
Omega-3s, found in fish oils, have anti-inflammatory properties that help sore muscles.16 Astaxanthin oil (a powerful antioxidant) fights against the buildup of free radicals, and Vitamins K and D to protect bone health.17,18,19
Resting Your Way to Recovery
Rest should be accounted for in any training program. On its face, sleep should be the easiest way to recover. One study found that lack of sleep can lead to muscle degradation.23 But many find it difficult to get the ideal seven-to-nine hours per night.
Sleep improves other facets of health that tangentially affect muscle recovery; the central nervous system (CNS) also recuperates during sleep, which is important for muscles, because the CNS triggers muscle contractions and reaction time. Hormones like cortisol and testosterone, which produce protein synthesis, are also working while we sleep.
To help optimize sleep, it’s important to set a routine.
Our screens can negatively impact sleep,24 so 60 – 90 minutes of screenless time before bed can do wonders. The blue light emitted from our devices tricks the brain into thinking it’s daytime and we need to be awake, decreasing our natural melatonin.
It’s also important to create an optimal environment for sleep. Things like blackout curtains, a cooler temperature setting in the bedroom, or a quality mattress can all encourage better, more restful sleep.
Rest Days: Muscles Don’t Take Breaks, But You Should
On a much smaller scale, what’s happening during sleep is also happening on rest days. Work rest days into your training program because they give the body time to repair tissues that have been broken down.25
Depleted muscle energy stores, micro-tears, fluid loss–all the things that happen during a workout need time to recuperate and grow stronger.Recovery time depends on your specific routine. Runners can have an especially difficult time doing this. For highly active runners who log miles six days per week, they should also incorporate recovery runs. About half of these runs should be at recovery pace, a slower less-strenuous pace that allows the body to recycle lactate as it’s produced. By increasing blood flow, recovery runs may actually accelerate the recovery process.
Also try to avoid intense workouts or hard runs on back-to-back days. Complete rest days vary by person, but a good goal is one or two rest days every week or ten days. Injury-prone athletes may increase the number of complete rest days during this period.
Techniques & Exercises for Recovery
Let’s get into the specifics of what you can do to help the body recover faster. By using exercises targeted at certain muscles, not only will those muscles recover faster–they’ll also get stronger in the process.
Active Recovery: Getting Stronger and Building Muscle
This type of recovery focuses on exercise intensity at low-to-moderate levels. Studies have shown that it’s best for the performance of endurance athletes.26 Active recovery is successful mostly due to its ability to more rapidly remove blood lactate, facilitating blood flow and giving the body the ability to process excess lactate produced during periods of intense exercise.27
Cross training is also a great way to engage in active recovery while enhancing aerobic fitness without putting the body through the same stress as your normal workouts. Try:
Cycling: The motion is similar to running without the joint impact. Ride at an easy pace in the low-intensity zone (around 120 – 140 heart rate)
Yoga: A beginner’s class should do just fine. Practicing basic yoga through online videos is sufficient, using poses such as sun salutation (to boost circulation and release tightness) and warriors one and two (to activate thigh and calf muscles while helping stretch hips)
Plyometrics: Even 15 – 30 minutes of bodyweight exercises can help boost circulation while stretching muscles. They’ve even been shown to increase sprint performance.28 Try exercises like planks, calf raises and lunges
Ice Baths: Taking the Plunge
Some athletes and coaches swear by ice baths, with trainers mandating post-practice cold water immersion (CWI). They consider ice baths essential to helping tired muscles, and feeling better for the next intense training sessions.
The idea here is that cold therapy constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, reducing swelling and tissue breakdown, flushing metabolic debris from the muscle.
But one study showcased that the “hypothesized physiological benefits surrounding CWI are at least partly placebo related.”29 This suggests that if you think ice baths help, then they may have a beneficial impact on recovery and subsequent training.
If you’d like to try an ice bath, fill a tub or large container with water, enough to submerge your hips. Add enough ice so the temperature of the water drops to about 55 degrees. Then sit in the bath for about 15 minutes.
Stretching & Foam Rolling: Increase Range of Motion
Stretching is important both before and after a workout because exercise can shorten muscles, decreasing mobility. Stretching helps flexibility, allowing muscles and joints to work in their full range of motion.30 One study found that hamstring flexibility led to increased muscle performance.31
Post-workout stretches are often forgotten by athletes in a rush, but it’s essential to account for these stretches in a training schedule. Generally, it’s best to hold stretches for about 30 seconds and repeat each once or twice. Target these muscles, which usually take a beating from a variety of workouts:
Chest and Anterior Deltoids
Complementary to stretching, foam rollers help sore muscles,32 and they can be used on almost every muscle in the body.
Our muscles go through a constant state of breakdown, then repair. Fascia, the connective tissue surrounding our muscles, gets thick and short over time because the body is attempting to protect itself from more damage. Sometimes, trigger points form–sore spots, caused by fascia contraction, need release.
Ultimately, this affects range of movement and causes soreness.
Foam rolling (called myofascial release) can help release those muscular trigger points, and as one study found, can lead to overall improvement in athletic performance.33 The result is decreased muscle and joint pain, and increased mobility.
Selecting a foam roller depends on your needs; a larger roller can allow you fuller sessions (meaning, if it’s large enough, you can lie on the foam roller and do some great shoulder / upper back workouts). A denser roller will also mean a more intense massage.
Target these often overused areas: glutes, iliotibial band (IT band), lower back, shoulders and sides.
Technology: All the Data You Need
While technology and wearables can’t directly help with recovery, they’re able to gather important data that may inform recovery techniques. Being able to track aspects of training, sleep, heart rate and hydration can provide insight into how the best tackle specificities of recovery.
Hydration: Wearables help monitor hydration through different means, but mostly through sensors. Watches can be mounted to the wrist or calf, and other sensors
placed in a urinal or toilet to monitor hydration through urine. However, many of these types of devices haven’t been independently validated for accuracy.
Training: It seems there are countless devices to measure training. Most use motion data to track training. Similar to hydration wearables though, there isn’t clinical validation for this technology.
Heart Rate and Breathing: A smart t-shirt with electrocardiogram (ECG) and breathing sensors, along with an accelerometer is also available. This measures heart rate, heart rate variability, breathing rate, steps, etc.
Sleep: Many training devices also can monitor sleep. These devices can illuminate what we don’t know happens during our sleep, and can also showcase our sleeping patterns to help us understand why we may be waking up so tired. Some are especially responsive to monitoring sleep, and have been validated through a third-party study.34
Understanding our inputs with data provides us with a way to maximize our outputs and reach peak performance–even in recovery.
Recovery is the First Step to Better Training
Recovery takes time and dedication; it often gets overlooked in workout schedules because it isn’t accounted for.
Active recovery, sleep, diet, and supplements can be used to kickstart the recovery process and make training more effective.
The best training starts with mindful recovery to help muscles rebuild for the next training session. This, ultimately, can improve training by putting your body in the best position to perform. The process of muscle breakdown happens during exercise; immediately after, the process of muscle restoration and strengthening begins–you could be compromising gainful training by skipping these all-important techniques to help the body rebuild.
Have you heard of the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs Program? This sticker to promote the program was designed by my talented niece Jillian Sliter, just one of many artistic accomplishments displayed in her expanding graphic design portfolio.
The St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs Program was initiated over twenty years ago to help bring immeasurable happiness, joy, comfort and even stress relief to the sick, elderly and/or lonely. With the first pilot project a success in Peterborough, Ontario the program has grown tremendously since then, now in operation within Canadian communities from coast to coast.
The sweet faces and antics of these well-trained therapy dogs are popular in seniors’ homes, schools, community centers, hospitals and more. The dogs can be cuddled, petted and played with, all low impact activities that can offer a healthy distraction from sadness, pain and loneliness.
Police officers, social workers and firemen alike recognize the contributions to communities that these dogs can also offer in times of crisis. These four legged, friendly volunteers are unique. If you think your dog might qualify to meet the needs of designated patients in the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs program, check out the website and apply. My brother’s dog Jackson loves his new job, and his new friends cannot resist his adorable personality and face.
If you or someone you know might benefit from the services of a therapy dog, contact your local branch of St. John Ambulance to submit your request.