Help! How do I Fuel and Hydrate my Workouts?

You may have noticed that you probably need something a little more than just a swig of water to make it through the longer workouts. Although there is no real hard and fast rules about fuelling and hydration, there are some good general rules of thumb I’ll share with you here.

If the workout lasts less than 60 minutes, water alone should get you through it. However, you should have had a pre-workout snack beforehand if your last meals was more than three hours earlier. But in the case of pre-workout snacks, less is almost always more. When you exercise, blood is diverted away from your digestive tract and too much food doesn’t break down properly… usually trying to claw it’s way out mid burpee. 100 calories less than an hour out or 200 calories 2 hours out generally works.

If the workout lasts 60 – 90 minutes, you might add a little something to your water or have a wee bit of calories. You can make your own energy drink or have a handful of raisins. I advise against most packaged drinks as they are a terrifying mix of chemicals. Seriously, what in nature is that colour? Once in a while in a race situation, OK… but in training it should be reserved to trials to ensure it’s works for you. We are doing this to be healthy right? I personally use NorthStar Organic Sportdrink because it’s made of food yet it’s still convenient. Although, I’d still say that most people don’t need anything but water.

If the workout lasts 90 minutes or more, you’ll want to at least bring something to eat or a drink high in calories. You should aim to take in 150 – 250 calories per hour of easily digested carbohydrate. That becomes increasingly important for efforts longer than three hours, like a Spartan Beast or Tough Mudder for most folks. In this case, you want to start 30 minutes in (even if you’re not hungry) to keep your blood sugar level. I advise you break your caloric intake up into 2/3 times per hour. I literally will “sip” on a gel.

I’m a big dude. Should I eat more?

Unfortunately for big dudes, the limits of human digestion are as such no matter your size. Although, since you expend heaps more calories than us small folk, you have to be way more on top of your fuelling and hydration…. perhaps adding a pre-race gel or energy drink. Your fluid needs and capacity will likely also be higher as you have less skin area for heat to dissipate and a bigger body to power.

What are some ideas for easy pre-workout snacks?

It’s almost always a matter of personal preference combined with general rules. No excessive fibres, spice, fat or protein. Easily digested but healthy sources of carbohydrate include oatmeal, bananas, oranges, rice and the like. Keep in mind again that you should still be eating healthy food since pre-workout snacks still comprise a big portion of your diet.

Is there any value in trying my race day fuelling and hydration strategy before race day?

Yes. Never eat or drink anything that you have not tested in training. Long days make the perfect laboratory to test how your body reacts to everything you plan to race with from gear to nutrition. Keep in mind that weather (and a boat load of other things) also effect your hydration needs so with fluid intake, get to know your body… instead of creating a set in stone drinking schedule.

What should I eat and drink after I run?

On an easy day, you can probably just get away with fuelling and hydrating normally depending on weather. However, if the session was particularly long or taxing, you need to start reloading your muscles right away… both to reap the most benefit from that workout and to ensure the success of the next one. It doesn’t have to be complicated… an apple with almond butter and a big glass of water would suffice. You don’t need to chug 2 litres of chocolate milk after every easy 5k run… but if you’re spent, it’s crucial to recovery (which is where you actually grow stronger).

Does your nutrition strategy change for a two race weekend?

Yes. You need to be extra diligent on taking in a solid carbohydrate based snack with some protein and lots of water. Water is necessary to help you digest the carbs. I also started taking in a gel on the second day regardless of distance since glycogen stores are so depleted, and felt it made a huge difference.

I’m not remotely thirsty, should I drink?

Probably not. The research is pretty clear at this point that thirst is actually a good indicator if you pay attention to it. Your performance will drop dramatically though if you are thirsty. So I like to have athletes check-in with their thirst and get familiar with their fluid needs rather than get used to drinking on a schedule. What is key is that you have access to water and sip at it before you get thirsty enough to chug it (at which point it will slosh around in your tummy instead of quench your thirst). During really hot long duration races, you’ll likely want to add some electrolytes.

I’m not hungry, should I eat?

It depends. Do you plan to be out for more than three hours or is this your longest run to date? I’d say yes. Especially if you are racing. You will be running on the limits of your energetic capacities and your digestive system is very limited in terms of processing power so you really don’t want to go down that hole. If, however, you can run easily for two hours without getting hungry or seeing a decline in your mood or performance, why the heck not? I have seen people who have routinely taken one or two gels over the course of a marathon and see unimaginable leaps in performance once they took in the required amount of fuel. I have also seen people run very well on very little.

Girl Power

OK so this is going to be a bit cheese balls.

But I just have to say it: lately I’ve felt like there has been a shift in female sport towards more fierce fitness.

And I mean fierce and fast at any speed.

A couple weeks ago at run club, I ran 400s with the fast ladies at the track. That’s right… ladIES. For so long, it’s been the other lady – or just me. But now. Now we had a wolf pack. A lady wolf pack. Right in there. Running hard and loving it.

We were all having a great time pumping out 400s … and I didn’t even fully realize our combined estrogen output until someone yelled, “girl power!” as we huffed past.

So cool.

Ten years ago, before GU existed and when I owned a discman waist belt, I ran college cross country with the guys. Not because there weren’t females on the team… but because most of them weren’t interested in vomiting on themselves to shave 30 seconds off their 5k. There is pretty much nothing I wouldn’t have done to shave 10 seconds off… so I’d set my claws into the back of the men’s pack and hang on for dear life like Zellers.

That’s probably where I’ve spent most of my time running… in my bubble, just behind the boys.

I like it there. Don’t get me wrong. You can spit and snot rocket and talk trash freely. It’s probably also been super good training to always be in chase mode (and way more fun.)

But I feel like I see more ladies running in what was once a weird little void… just a few meters off the guys. And with those ladies come community, healthy rivalry: comrades in sport.

I ran a 5k race that Saturday.

There was a strong female pack and I ended up feeling good and pushing off about one mile in. Three of us broke the course record (19:04) and another two just barely missed it.

Would anyone have broken the course record if we weren’t there pushing each other? Probably not. Was anyone thinking about thigh gap or visible abs? Not a chance.

As we approached the finish line I overheard someone from the crowd say, “Wow… the women are coming through already.”

Yeah. You betcha. We’re coming through.

westvan

#ExpressYourStrong

alli reebok talk

OK, so being a part of a major ad campaign for a major fitness apparel company is pretty darn cool in and of itself.

The fact that this brand represents my sport makes it doubly cool. But the message behind the campaign itself is truly the coolest part.

The Express your Strong campaign is based on the idea that people are born with innate strength that is fed in the wake of the challenges and rigours of training. The message obviously resonated profoundly with me since I overcame a serious accident with the same attributes I had forged in training after many years of being sedentary.

Strength is expressed in many areas of our lives: illness, injury, career, family. Hence, training your body really does change you, inside and out.

The kicker for me is that the campaign focuses on women… which I feel is especially important. Those who know me, know I have an inner feminist drilling away at my core values.

Years ago, I fought my way into a dead-end, only to be publicly ridiculed for suggesting that women race the same distances as men in collegiate cross country. How absurd that women be made to run as far as men… even though they are clearly biologically better-suited to longer distance events.

I cringe at the campaigns that suggest fit women are just as sexy at any weight. It’s not that I disagree with the message. And a part of me loves the premise. Every one of those women are sexy. I just feel like we missed the point. Every one of those women are capable and strong. Their bodies and minds are able to express that in different and yet equally amazing ways. I want “sexy” to loose it’s place as the central issue for us ladies so that we can truly transcend the barriers of valuing a body for it’s ascetics alone.

Fitness is just so much more than that.

Part way into my fitness journey, I realized that I was really discovering that I was strong. I wasn’t fast, I couldn’t lift heavy things, I couldn’t throw or catch. I couldn’t express my strong on Track and Field day. But it was there… as soon as I had an outlet, I found it and it made me who I am today.

Many of us women put ourselves last. We let others lead us, make our choices. We lead others down their own paths. We do it all for the ones we love. But in so, we lose ourselves.

I’ve seen it happen. The eyes that flash, “Oh my god. I can do this.” There is no feeling like it. That strength that surges through your body at the top of a rope climb or at the peak of a mountain. That strength that surges through you just the same when you follow your own heart, overcome your demons or come sliding through the other side of a tragedy.

Sure, there’s room for every fit body to feel sexy. But there’s room for every fit body to feel accomplished, powerful… strong. Isn’t that so much more amazing?

In case you missed the ad…

 

 

 

 

We ALL Have Obstacles

Yesterday afternoon we had our first official obstacle course training camp.

John and I have been coaching OCR since 2012 – but in a weekly class format – so we were excited to be able to offer it in a more condensed way. AND in one of the best Crossfit boxes in Canada, Crossfit New West.

spartan training vancouver

We could not have asked for a better group of enthusiastic and determined people… and got everyone from first timers to those who had completed the World’s Toughest Mudder and UltraBeast.

Yet, everyone had something to work on.

We ALL have obstacles that challenge us.

It’s funny. I think of myself as someone who is generally terrible at everything. Especially anything new.

I saw in their eyes what I have felt in mine. At times, insurmountable challenge – at times, staggering accomplishment.

After I had Seren (AKA the baby), I had lost so much grip and arm strength that I couldn’t even hold myself up on the monkey bars, never mind traverse them. I wondered if I should bother trying to get it back.

The other end of the monkey bars was too far literally and metaphorically for someone who couldn’t make it to the next rung.

Fall, fall, fall, fall. Try again, and again, and again. And again.

I had also gained weight, which made running hard. But I kept on picking my feet up and moving forward.

For the first few years in this sport I could not make it two steps across the balance beam. I couldn’t help but wonder how falling repeatedly off the beam was making me any better staying on it.

Walls were always too high to grab and I couldn’t coordinate using the toe kicks.

Things slowly, imperceptibly, started to get easier. And I started doing harder things. In my head, I’m still the same person who can’t hold themselves up on the monkey bars. In fact, more often than not I am surprised by the things consistent training has allowed me to do.

I wanted to put down the top three things I did to get from puttering along and repeatedly falling off a pull-up bar to standing on a podium with super heroes.

1.) Hang every day. EVERY day. Just hanging for as long as you can is a good start. But it’s boring as hell. I have always been a big fan of mixing things up: holding onto one or two towels, changing grip, bending my arms, hanging for different durations. I started back just hanging as much as a could every time I passed by my pull-up bar with no baby in my arms and I tried to make my forearms numb 5 days a week.

2.) Run, hike, walk and loco-mote. Here it is: running sucks when you start out. But it gets SO much better. Just keep doing it and one day you’ll get it. If you lost it, good for you, you’ll have way more faith because you know it’s still there inside you. If you ask me, you cannot spend too much time moving – just switch up the mode so as to not overtrain. Every little bit, like taking the stairs or walking your groceries home, helps.

sandbag training

All aboard…

3.) Play. Go try a new fitness class, take aerial gymnastics, buy a pass to a bouldering gym, chase your kids around the park. Just get moving and get out of your comfort zone. You’ll be ready for anything life throws at you… or obstacle course racing.

Most of all, be patient and trust in the process. It’s cliche but it’s true. Believe.

For April and May I’m going to be launching different challenges on my Yo Mama So Fit Facebook Page to get you ready for anything this summer throws at you.

They won’t take much out of your day but hopefully they’ll make all the difference in terms of what you can do with it,

10 Fun Squat Variations

squat

To carry on with the last two week’s burpee variation theme, I am going to talk squats this week.

In my opinion, squats should almost always be butt to heels. SHOULD. Truth be told, most people can’t get there. In fact, the United States military once required the deep squat as part of their sniper training… so few recruits could do it that they removed the requirement.

Love or hate Crossfit, it has really brought the deep squat (and olympic lifting) into view and has dispelled the whole bad for your knees myth.

Things do go wrong though. The two big wrongs that I see most often are the heels coming up or the back rounding.

If your heels come up you likely lack enough mobility or balance to take it low. The good news is that increasing the depth of your squat incrementally is the easiest fix. That and in the case of mobility restriction, stretching your soleus.

So it also is with the rounded back. The hamstrings are usually the limiting mobility factor and cause the butt to tuck under or “wink”. However, the problem often lies in not engaging the hip flexors (think of pinching the front of the hip together) and/or lumbar extensors (keeping the tailbone lifted slightly as the butt drops). Often the entire back rounding in a hunched style is a balance thing, but it can also be tightness or just lack of body awareness.

All things considered, if you are over age 5 and haven’t had your squat assessed by a professional, chances are good that you’re doing it wrong.

So perfect your technique and then get creative.

1. Squat Jumps. You can go for height or speed, jump forward, jump sideways, jump backwards, kick your butt, tuck your knees. The sky is the limit. Just make sure to land softly (your feet should not make any noise and you should land low).

2. Single Leg Squats. The easiest way is to keep one leg reaching behind the other for counter balance, harder is keeping the ankles inline, harder still is reaching one leg out front as in a piston squat (grabbing your foot makes it easier but it’s still a big challenge – keep your weight forward and press through your heel).

3. Narrow Squat. This one’s otherwise known as a chair squat. Ensure your knees stay behind your toes.

4. Wide Squat. You can do it sumo style with your feet straight or plie style with your feet turned out. Make sure though that your feet and knees go in the same direction.

5. Back Squat. The bar goes on the shelf created by pulling your shoulders back, below your neck (not touching). It gets complicated when you talk high bar or low bar but a good rule is not on bones. It should not be uncomfortable.

6. Front Squat. You can go genie style with your arms crossed on your shoulders or on the same shoulders. You can use a bar or dumbbells. Keep your elbows up at the bottom, chest proud.

7. Squat to Side Leg Raise. You can add a straight leg raise at the top to get some extra booty work.

8. Squat Holds and Pulses. Try adding them in at different heights to work on a sticky spot or offer a challenge.

9. Wall Squat. You can usually hold these for much longer than an air squat. Keep your knees at 90 degrees if you can. They make a good option for folks with anterior knee pain.

10. Add Dumbbells. You can add a bicep curl, overhead triceps press, overhead press, lateral or front raise, or rear deltoid raise. Not only will your workout be cut in half but your core will need to work to harmonize the two. One caveat, although compound exercises are more functional, you won’t be able to lift as heavy.

Burpee variations you probably haven’t tried… and a quick history lesson of the magnificent burpee

The burpee. Such a simple movement with such endless possibility for variations.

So much possibility, I needed a second installment!

I also thought it was right to touch a little bit on the history of the burpee. Many people think it’s some sun salutation power yoga move gone wild. But the true credit really belongs to the movements name sake, Royal H. Burpee. He was a psychologist who worked for the greater New York YMCA. I believe that probably makes him Dr. Burpee – best name ever. I’d change my name and get a doctorate to make that happen.

Anyway, he developed the burpee test to challenge stamina, agility and coordination. 

The burpee developed as one of the few exercises that had no real consistency. Sometimes people did a push-up, sometimes they clapped at the top, sometimes they didn’t even hop. I think Crossfit has done a great job standardizing the move: elbows in, chest to deck, feet leave the floor.

And now for ten more variations, in case you’re already bored of last weeks. 

1. Single Arm Burpee – The whole movement with one arm. Make sure you have a solid single arm push-up and even more solid wrist before you take this one on.

2. Fence Under Burpee – Add a fence under instead of a push-up from the plank position… dragging your nose on the floor from down dog to up dog.

3. Parkour Burpee – These guys are nuts and so are their burpees. Do one burpee on the floor, hop up onto a table and do another there. Hop down and repeat.

4. Side Burpee – Place hands beside feet, hop into side plank and back to standing.

5. Lateral Jump Burpees – Replace hop up with lateral hop, either traveling to one side and back or moving back and forth.

6. Hurdle Burpees – Set up some ropes or hurdles and use the jump in the burpee to clear them straight on (harder) or laterally (easier).

7. Thruster Burpees – Instead of jumping your feet behind your hands, jump them beside them so your feet and hands make a straight line.

8. Pull-up or Muscle-up Burpees – Instead of a hop do either a pull-up or muscle-up. You can really get creative here: donkey pull-ups, single arm pull-ups, chin-ups, v pull-ups… just make sure the bar is high enough that you don’t smoke your head on it.

9. Hopper Burpees – Tie something near the level of your max jump height and aim to touch it each time.

10. Reverse Traveling Burpees – Once moving forward is too easy, replace hops with backwards hops.

l’d love to here your variations in the comments below.

Happy Burpeeing!!