Middaugh Coaching Corner – Fit for Travel

Presented by Suunto

Traveling can wreak havoc on your training. Whether it’s business trips or family vacations, we all have busy lives. It’s so easy to go into these trips with good intentions only to return feeling like you’ve lost your fitness, gained five pounds, and now you need to start over. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some tips to help you stay on track while traveling:

Research the Area

This sounds obvious, but you need to plan ahead and try to pick a hotel and location that has the amenities you need to get your workouts in without too much extra travel. Do they have a lap pool or access to open water? Is there space to run, or is their an exercise room with treadmills? Can you travel with your bike, rent one, or is there access to a cycling studio? If you try to do this after you already booked a place to stay or once you get to your destination it is often too late. You either end up without access to training equipment and facilities or spend so much time trying to find them you run out of time for the actual workout.

Swim Options

Your first choice is always a lap pool or open water swimming. Find a pool or open water swim group. Know the location and swim times so that you don’t show up at a time you can’t swim. There is nothing worse than showing up at a pool only to find out the lanes are closed for a fitness class or swim team practice. But what do you do when neither of these are available which is often the case? Invest in a tether($20-200) and tie yourself up to the side of the pool or to the pool ladder and swim in place. This allows you to swim in almost any pool no matter the size. You can do a lot in a 20 minute continuous tethered swim. A third option is swim cords (Swim Cordz), perhaps a last resort if you can’t find water. Try 10 x 1 minute on the stretch cords, focused on a high elbow catch, strong pull, and finish.

Run Options

Running is almost always the easiest to get in. You can run almost anywhere and most hotels have a treadmill. It’s a good idea to make sure your hotel has more than one treadmill however just in case one is out of order or in use. Look for running clubs in the area you are traveling. They often have group runs during the week or routes listed on their website. If you meet up with these groups you can let them lead the way.

Bike Options

This is often the toughest while traveling, but there are still some good options. It’s often hard to fly with your bike when on business or family vacations. This leaves you using the stationary bike in the hotel, renting a bike or finding a cycling studio. If you are driving, take your own bike if you are going to be in an area where cycling is popular. Suunto’s Movescount has an amazing heat map feature that can show you the most popular areas for cycling, running and even swimming. It also can show you routes that already exist in a given area. You can use this to help plan your routes or find a hotel in close proximity to these areas. It can help you train like a local! Check the area for local bike shops and check their website for group rides or cycling routes. You can also look for cycling studios.

Make a Plan

Go into your trip with a plan. Know what you are going to try to do each day for exercise and how you plan to get it in. Knowing what exercise you plan to do, when you plan to do it, and where it will take place will make it much more likely to happen. Part of the plan might be trying to line up a trip with a rest week. This takes the pressure off knowing you’re not trying to get in key sessions.

Set realistic expectations

If you are traveling with family, make sure your support system is on board and know that you might need to get up early as not to disrupt your family trip. If you are traveling for business, schedule your training as you would an important meeting. Take into account post-work festivities which could railroad your training. It might mean skipping cocktail hour or arriving late to a dinner.

Consistency

If you know your trip is going to be action-packed with business or family obligations, try to cut back on the volume, but keep up the repetition. Often athletes that can’t fit in their 60 min run will opt not to do it and push it off to another day. Remember a 10-30 min run every day for 3-4 days is so much better than not running at all and probably better than just one really good run. The same goes for swimming and biking.

Simple is Best

Sometimes it makes the most sense to just plan to run and work on your core while traveling. Again, plan ahead, get in some solid swim and bike sessions before you leave and just focus on the run and your core while traveling. All you need is running attire and running shoes which are easily packed. Find a core routine that is 10-15 minutes in length that does not require any equipment and can be done on the floor in your hotel room if needed.

Read more about how to get the most out of Suunto Heat Maps and Routes at www.suunto.com.

Josiah Middaugh is the reigning XTERRA Pan America Champion and the 2015 XTERRA World Champion. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology and has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years (NSCA-CSCS). His brother Yaro also has a master’s degree and has been an active USAT certified coach for more than a decade. Read past training articles at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/middaugh-coaching-corner and learn more about their coaching programs at http://middaughcoaching.com.

About Suunto

Suunto builds the tools to help you reach your goals. With an award-winning line up of GPS sports watches, heart-rate monitors, and mobile apps, Suunto helps athletes train smarter and perform better. Sophisticated design and rugged construction ensure each Suunto watch is ready to tackle whatever you (and mother nature) throw at it.

Learn more at www.suunto.com.

XTERRA Couch to Trail – Tires Part 2

By Mimi Stockton

Tubes or Tubeless?
The tube vs. tubeless debate is very common in mountain biking circles. Avid mountain bikers are as passionate about their tire system as they are about their trails. After all, it’s the tires that keep the adventure rolling and the rider upright. Once wielded solely by elite racers, tubeless tires are gaining popularity with more and more riders. Car tires made the evolution to tubeless eons ago, so it’s not surprising to see the same shift happening in the bike world. 

In a nutshell, in order to have a tire without a tube, you need the tire’s bead to lock onto the rim. You also need the tire, rim and seated valve stem to be absolutely airtight. A special sealant is key to making it all work.  

While both systems are reliable and have their own sets of advantages, it may really come down to a rider’s preferences and peace of mind. 

Tubes
Let’s talk tubes first. This well-known system is based on having a separate inner tube within the tire that inflates with air and dictates the performance characteristics of the tire. Some advantages of tubes are that they are easy to repair in the field, can be carried in a tool kit, and are inexpensive to replace. Tube tires are lightweight, but when coupled with tubes, they become heavier.  

The downside of using tubes is that sharp objects can easily puncture them. Additionally, when running lower tire pressure, they can “pinch flat” – a kind of snake-bite rupture caused by air pressure building up in one area of the tube. This is common in off-road biking.

Repairing a ruptured tube is relatively easy, but takes practice and skill to be quick and efficient. A patch kit/spare tube and some basic mechanical skill are necessary for these repairs on the trail. Furthermore, the tube tire set-up does weigh more than a tubeless set-up.  If you’re trying to shave some weight off your bike, this is a fairly easy place to do it.  

Tubeless Tires
First, it’s important to understand what a tubeless set-up is and how it differs from using a tube tire and tube. Tubeless mountain bike tires require a compatible, deeper hooked rim, allowing for the bead of the tire to seal, eliminating the need for a tube.  Also, the side walls are stiffer, thicker and heavier than conventional tubed tires. 

Furthermore, a valve stem is necessary for the tubeless rim and most riders choose to add a liquid seam sealant of some kind to avoid air loss and to protect against punctures.  Mounting tubeless tires is more difficult than tubed tires.  The biggest challenge is getting the tire bead to seat on the rim correctly—the seal has to be airtight. The process requires you to carefully add sealant, then pump in a lot of air in a hurry!  This usually means using a compressor or CO2 cartridge.  And removing tubeless tires can be more difficult (and messy, thanks to the sealant) because the stiff bead designed to grip the lip on the rim can be hard to get off. 

However, it’s not hard to get the hang of mounting and removing a tubeless tire. It just takes a little practice.  Riding on tubeless tires is also more expensive. Expect to pay anywhere from $400-$1,000 to convert a bike to tubeless. And, perhaps most important is the fact that flats in a tubeless tire are a bear to fix on the trail (hello sealant!).  In comparison, tube tires are a relatively simple fix.  You can however, put in a tube in a tubeless tire during a ride (or even a race), so it’s always crucial to carry one with you.  

There are numerous benefits to going the tubeless route. Tubeless tires are somewhat more durable. They are slightly heavier than normal tires, but lighter overall when you consider no need for a tube.  But the two main advantages that tubeless tires offer are:

1 They eliminate pinch flats 

2 They allow the rider to run a lower psi

There is no doubt you will get fewer flats with a tubeless system.  A tire deforms when you hit a hard object like a rock. With a big impact and a tubed tire, that rock and your rim can squeeze together forcefully enough to tear a tube. Whether you call it a “pinch flat” or a “snake bite” (a pair of pinch holes), you’ve got a flat to fix. 

If you switch to tubeless tires you’ll never have to fix a “pinch flat” again. Also, thanks to the sealant put in during mounting, tubeless tires suffer far fewer puncture flats. Tubeless riders who discover a tire riddled with shiny spots after a ride can smile knowing that their sealant fixed all those thorn pricks on the fly. 

You can also ride with less air in your tires. What’s so great about that? Less air equals better traction!  Decreasing air pressure in the tire increases the surface area of the tread in contact with the ground, resulting in better grip, or traction, of the tire.  Riders can run with up to 15 percent less air pressure in tubeless tires, providing terrific traction in the most demanding conditions.

You might find that eliminating the tube also gives you a better feel for the trail, especially while cornering. Running a lower psi helps maintain your bike’s momentum, too, because tires are able to conform to obstacles, rather than bounce off of them. That also allows a tire to absorb small bumps and trail debris, giving you a smoother, more comfortable ride. Using lower tire pressure is the easiest way to allow the tire to deform over irregularities in the trail instead of forcing the wheel upward. When using tubes, there is friction between the tube and tire, and this friction has to be overcome to allow the tire to deform. By getting rid of the tube you get rid of that friction and reduce the energy needed to deform the tire, thus resulting in a faster bike!

So You Want to Convert? 

Option 1:  Get tubeless-ready wheels and tires

Look for a tubeless designation like “UST” (Universal System Tubeless), the original standard. You’ll also see similar, though different, terminology like “tubeless ready” or “tubeless compatible” from some brands.

UST-designated rims and tires are considered slightly easier to mount, in part because of how well the tire bead locks onto the rim. They typically require less sealant, too, because they are inherently more airtight. UST components are a little heavier, though, which is one reason why alternative tubeless-compatible systems are gaining popularity.  Your current wheels or tires might already be tubeless ready, so double-check before assuming that they’re not. Most top-end bikes come with tubeless-ready tires and rims.

Getting new rims and tires is the most expensive way to upgrade, but it also offers the easiest installation and the most reliable bead-to-rim seal. You’ll need sealant and perhaps some valve stems to do the installation, but that should be the extent of your additional expenses.

Option 2:  Convert your current tires and wheels to tubeless

Almost any combination of wheels and tires can be transformed using a tubeless conversion kit. The setup ranges from simple to challenging, because air can find more places to leak in non-tubeless-ready components. 

Conversion kits cost between $50-$70, though you can cut that cost by purchasing components individually. At a minimum, you need sealant, rim tape and a valve. Kits will not give you the lightest set-up, and getting the tire bead seated and holding air usually cannot be done with a floor pump. For that you’ll need an air compressor or a visit to your local bike shop. Some rims convert more easily than others, as do some tires. If you decide to go this route, it is crucial to do some research before you buy.  

When the Rubber Hits the Trail

A tubeless set-up offers several advantages to the hardcore enthusiast, but might not be worth the extra cost or hassle for the beginner mountain biker.  With that said, if you rode and raced your first XTERRA season with tubes and plan to be involved in XTERRA down the road, then I definitely recommend at least considering going tubeless. In my humble opinion, the pros of tubeless tires definitely outweigh the cons.  I haven’t used a tube in 8 years!

The XTERRA Couch to XTERRA training series is presented by SheriAnne Little, Jeffrey Kline, and four-time XTERRA age group world champion Mimi Stockton of PRS Fit.  Their new 12-week “Couch-to-XTERRA” training program is designed to do just that, get aspiring athletes off the couch, into training, and to the start line of an XTERRA.  

Read past training articles from PRS Fit at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/couch-to-trail and learn more about their coaching programs at prsfit.com.

Matt Haley’s Favorite Workout

XTERRA Ambassador Matt Haley has been the XTERRA Georgia Regional Champ every year since 2013. 

One of the secrets to his success is fartlek training, or “speedplay.” In a fartlek workout, you alternate your steady-state pace with faster bursts. This is a great way to simulate race conditions and learn how to put in surges when you need them. Additionally, fartlek training reduces the chance of overuse injuries because it alternates high intensity with periods of rest.

Q. Matt, can you share one of your favorite workouts?
A. I typically hit the track once a week for an interval workout. I tend to like longer repeats where I can settle into a groove. Then I finish with something shorter and faster to get in some turnover.

If I had to pick a favorite though, it’d probably pick a fartlek workout. I’ve been doing 30-60-90 workouts since college at Keene State in New Hampshire and that’s always been a staple for me.

I pick a run between 7 and 10 miles and throw in three to five sets of alternating pick ups and rest. I go 30 seconds hard with 30 seconds rest and then 60 seconds hard with 60 seconds rest and then 90 seconds hard with 90 seconds rest.

After I finish five sets, I finish the run up-tempo to increase my lactic acid threshold. 

XTERRA Couch to Trail – Tires

By Mimi Stockton

Tires: It’s not a sexy topic, but a very important one nonetheless.  One so important that it deserves not one, but two articles!  This week we talk tire types and tire pressures.  Next week we discuss the pros and cons of a tubeless setup.  Hopefully after reading these primers, you will feel more confident to equip your bike with the best, fastest and most practical tires available.

As we all know, XTERRA racing involves cross-country mountain biking and that requires tires that roll fast but grip well and have little resistance while climbing. They need to be lightweight and slender to help keep overall bicycle volume down, and they need to withstand the rigors of the XTERRA courses. Riders must consider tire width, knobs, rim width, intended use, price, rubber durability, sidewall protection, and a whole host of buzzwords unique to each tire manufacturer. And all this before you even think about how much air to put in them!  There’s no doubt tires are confusing.  However, few buying choices have more impact on, or can better improve, your ride than tires—they are literally where tire meets trail—so giddy up and let’s get after it!

What kind of tires should I choose?

Your standard mountain bike tire has been designed to perform well in a variety of conditions, from hard pack to soft dirt, which means that it is all about compromises. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the very large majority of riders can’t be bothered to swap their tires depending on what sort of shape their trails are in.  But sometimes these tires, that have been designed with low rolling resistance and all around riding in mind, are not the best choice for an XTERRA race.  Sometimes what’s needed is a more specific tire. The fact is, nothing makes your bike faster than putting faster rolling tires on it, or a tire that is perfectly suited for the trail at hand.  With all the choices out there, how do I pick the best ones?

One of the first things to figure out is what kind of rider you are.  Do you ride XC, where light weight and rolling speed are priority? Or are you more focused on downhill, where grip and strength are what you need most? Since we are talking XTERRA here, let’s assume we are all XC riders and not downhill speed demons.

Next, you want to match up a width and knob design for XC riding.  You’ll want something with short, fast knobs or lower-profile knobs in the center for faster rolling.

Now, consider different tread patters based on the terrain you most often ride.  This however is where it gets tricky for us XTERRA racers because many of us race across the country and sometimes across the world.  Each course is unique and can present us with vastly different terrain.  One race you’re cruising on hard-packed singletrack and another you’re battling loose gravel, mud and sand.  Having two sets of tires may be the way to go.  But tread pattern is an area that you may want to investigate because it is really magic; how the knobs are spaced, whether there are ‘transition’ knobs between center and edge knobs, and how they are shaped and ramped all impact how a tire rides and performs.

Sidewall protection: how much do you need?  If you find yourself riding a lot of rocky trails, you might want more protection.  But keep in mind, the more protection you get, the more weight you carry. It’s a trade-off.  Light and tough–that’s ideal.  XTERRA courses can be long so you need to be efficient, but they can also be full of rocks and other obstacles that require some protection.

What about rubber compound?  This is getting a bit technical, but the general rule of thumb is the softer the rubber the better it grips and but the faster it wears. And also, the more varied the rubber compounds on any given tire, the more expensive the tire.  There are single, double and triple compound tires.  Single are the hardest and cheapest while triple usually have center knobs that are hard, cornering knobs that are soft, and hard base layer to optimize rolling resistance. Generally, these tires are the most expensive option.  In the middle are double compound tires which offer the most versatility–softer on sides, harder in the middle.

Along with the compound, you also want to figure out how thick your casing needs to be.  Casing is the protective layer that runs bead-to-bead and gives a tire its flex characteristics. Often, tires are designed with just the right casing for their intended use, making the choice simple.  Each casing type is tuned for its specific use, ensuring the best performance.

Finally, buy the right size tires for your rims.  Tires are designed around rim widths. So even once you’ve figured out the riding style, knob profile, sidewall, rubber and casing, keep in mind that you shouldn’t go out and run a very wide tire on a narrow rim, or vice versa. Generally, if you’re running a rim wider than 30 mm, you’ll want a wider tire (2.3-2.5″). If you’re running a narrow rim–something closer to 20 mm–you’ll want a narrower tire (1.9-2.2″), even though getting a wide one might be tempting. All tires are usually offered in a variety of widths. But buying the right size for your rim will ensure the knob profile will perform as designed and not be too ’round’ (wide tire on a narrow rim) or ‘flat’ (narrow tire on a fat rim).

What’s the takeaway?  Every rider is different.  And every trail is different.  It pays to play around a bit with tires to really dial in what works for you on the majority of trails you ride. For example, do you want plenty of front end grip and less back end bite?   Do you ride more centered, more front or off the back? Do you like tires that break evenly and predictably? Maybe having the same tire front and back is your jam.  It’s okay to have different front and back tires–just don’t vary them too much.  Make sure to answer the above questions before you plunk down money for your next set of rubber.  And perhaps most importantly, buy a good tire gauge and inflate your new tires properly, because if you don’t do that, all this is for naught!

Now, what about tire pressure?

Tire pressure is a critical component in getting the most out of your mountain bike. There are a number of variables that go into figuring out the ideal pressure range for a tire. So what’s the magic bullet pressure, one that will make you shred harder than the pros?  Unfortunately, tire pressure is as personal as the fit of our saddles or what beer we choose at the bar, and depends on weight, riding style, tire choice and the trails we ride!  But there are a few things to think about when pumping up those tires.

There are certain pressures that will generally work well for most people in most situations, but if you want to maximize your riding enjoyment and unlock extra grip, there is a better way to find your optimum setup that works for you.  When it comes to finding the perfect pressure, it’s all about finding that balance between grip and stability.  What happens if you run too high? Higher tire pressures help support the sidewall of the tire offering increased stability and increased protection for the rim, but go too far and traction will be drastically reduced as the contact patch shrinks and the ride will feel harsh.  What if I go too low?  Low pressures increase grip from the larger contact patch and improve cornering traction as the softer tire can wrap around trail imperfections. However run the tires too low and you drastically increase the risk of rim damage, and the softer air pressure reduces the natural spring of the tire which can create a wobbly and unstable ride at speed. In hard turns the tire tends to lack stability in the sidewall and can feel shifty.

Keep in mind these variables when figuring out your ideal pressure–they all impact tire performance:

1. How much do you weigh?  How a tire performs at a given pressure is relative to the rider’s weight. For example, a 150 lb. rider might find that 28 PSI in a tire feels too hard and lacks traction, whereas a 225 lb. rider might find this pressure too low resulting in a squirmy tire.

2.  What is the terrain like where you mostly ride (and race)? Fast and flowy? Or a bunch of chunky rock gardens? If the latter, consider bumping up your pressure to combat pinch flats and sidewall damage.

3.  What’s your riding style? How you ride is as important as where you ride. The more aggressive your style, the more likely it is that you’ll need to run a bit more pressure. Or are you a finesse type – one that rides ‘gently” on the bike? Do you try to pick the cleanest line through a rock garden, or do you prefer to charge ahead with reckless abandon? Do you keep your wheels on the ground, or do you enjoy launching off jumps and drops?

4. What is your tire’s volume?  Tire volume and pressure go hand in hand.   A tire’s volume will determine how a given pressure ‘feels’. For example, a certain psi in a 29 x 2.25 tire might feel almost flat, while this same psi in a 26 x 2.0 model will feel rock solid to the touch – the wheel will bounce off, rather than absorb, a trail’s irregularities.

5. How wide are your rims?  This plays a critical role in determining how low you can go without sacrificing performance. A wide rim does a better job of supporting a tire than a narrow one. For a given tire size, a wider rim will allow you to run a lower pressure without the tire squirming and folding underneath you.

6. Finally, what’s the construction of your tire? The way a tire’s casing is made will impact how it feels at a given pressure in much the same way as your weight does. Tires with high TPI (threads per inch) casings are generally more supple than those with low TPI counts.

Sorting out a tire pressure that’s right for you is as much an art as a science. Keep these six factors in mind and take the time to experiment.  The best way to figure out your ideal tire pressure is to hit the trails. Arm yourself with a pump and gauge and find a short one to two minute test loop with some nice flat corners, berms, rocks and roots–representative of the terrain you ride but nothing too crazy; you want to be able to concentrate on “feel” while you ride, not worry about crashing into a tree.  Think about how much grip you have, how “hard” or “soft” the ride feels, especially when going over roots and rocks.  Repeat this exercise several times, lowering or raising the pressures until you find that optimal balance between performance and stability.  You will probably find that you are running a slightly different pressure in the front than in the back.

Play around with your pressures BEFORE a race–not the morning of.  You want to have enough knowledge of what works for you to be able to adjust to race day conditions.  If it’s been raining for the past couple of days before your race, turning the nice hard packed trails into a mud festival, you should know how to adjust accordingly (either put on mud tires and increase the Psi or If using regular tires, drop a few Psi).  Don’t rely on other people to tell you what pressures to run.  Everyone is different and everyone has different magic numbers!

The XTERRA Couch to XTERRA training series is presented by SheriAnne Little, Jeffrey Kline, and four-time XTERRA age group world champion Mimi Stockton of PRS Fit.  Their new 12-week “Couch-to-XTERRA” training program is designed to do just that, get aspiring athletes off the couch, into training, and to the start line of an XTERRA.  Read past training articles from PRS Fit at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/couch-to-trail and learn more about their coaching programs at prsfit.com.

XTERRA Nutrition – Good Gut Health

By Alexandra Borrelly

As athletes, we often think of food as fuel for performance. We count macros, hydrate constantly, and practice eating on the go so that on raceday, we can endure for hours on the trails.

However, proper nutrition isn’t just about food. Our digestive system is the gateway to the body. If our gut isn’t healthy, then even the cleanest food, won’t be used efficiently.

So much more than a group of muscles and organs, the intestinal ecosystem includes epithelial cells, immune cells, and a complex community of microbes. Rather than just a swinging door, the intestines function as a coded entry where nutrients are sorted according to their quality and how much the body needs them.

Additionally, the gut is also a barrier to harmful elements in the external environment, such as bacteria, viruses, pollutants, and allergens.

One reason the gut is so powerful – and fragile – is because of the distinct microbial communities and flora living in the human intestine, which have a profound impact on our well being and health. If this ecosystem becomes unbalanced – from stress, antibiotics, poor nutrition, and a decrease in “good” bacteria – it can throw our entire system off.

The “good” bacteria in our gut thrives in an alkaline environment. In contrast, a diet low in fiber and essential fatty acids, and high in acidic foods such as dairy, sugar, and gluten – can throw the digestive system into chaos.

While exercise is an incredible benefit to the body, sometimes, high-intensity exercise can also disrupt the intestinal balance. When the body is under physical stress, oxygenated blood moves away from the intestines and towards the muscles, where it’s needed.

However, when the effort stops, and the blood flow returns significantly to the intestines, the tissue can be damaged by a phenomenon called “ischeia-repurfusion.” This occurs when the return of the blood to the gastrointestinal tract causes an increase in oxidation and an alteration of the intestinal barrier.

Intense activity may also be responsible for local hyperthermia – like heat stroke – and local mechanical stress from muscle contraction in the abdominal region.

If we do not take care to preserve the barrier between the gut and the bloodstream, over time, it becomes permeable. When this happens, certain external elements that are undesirable are allowed to pass into the internal environment, provoking an excessive immune reaction of the organism.

Many scientists believe that this is the basis of certain allergies, such as food allergies. In some cases, inflammatory mechanisms trigger longer-term chronic diseases and more serious, autoimmune conditions.

Additionally, many studies have shown that our moods are dependent upon the foods we eat. There are numerous connections between our intestines and nervous system, necessitating proper diet, sleep, and self-care practices.

To maintain a healthy intestinal ecosystem, it is important to:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Thoroughly chew your food
  • Eat a high-fiber diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Consume essential fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6
  • Reduce consumption of dairy products and gluten
  • Use caution when taking antibiotics and other anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Take a comprehensive probiotic supplement, kefir, fermented foods, and sheep or goat yogurt to boost good bacteria in the gut
  • Consider glutamine and additional antioxidant supplements if the gut is especially sensitive.

Rather than just a mechanism to convert food to fuel, our gut has the power to affect our inner landscape on physical, emotional, and psychological levels. When we know how this fascinating ecosystem works, we can make choices that lead to optimal health.

Alexandra Borrelly Lebrun is a pharmacist and has studied sports nutrition and natural medicine. She works alongside her husband, a former professional XTERRA athlete & 2005 XTERRA World Champ, Nico Lebrun, at Organicoach, where they create optimized nutrition plans for athletes of all levels. 

Middaugh Coaching Corner – Rest, Evaluate, and Get Back to Work

Presented by Suunto

At this point in your racing season you have probably completed nearly half of your season’s races. Hopefully, you are right on track to reach your goals and crush your “A” race in a month or two. The physical and mental strain of consistent training can take its toll and maybe your performances have even dipped a little. It might be time to take a step back, refresh the body and mind and prepare for the final push.

Refresh your mind and body
A rest week does not mean that you don’t do anything. It means you don’t do anything structured. This is a great time for social workouts, but don’t get pressured into competing with a group or going too long. In general, try not to go over the 60 min. mark for your rest week. For some, it might mean avoiding groups so that you don’t go too hard. Triathletes and endurance athletes in general often end up on an island doing many of their workouts on their own. Your planned rest week is a great time to throw out structure, zone goals, and just enjoy the activities you do. Spend extra time with your family and friends just cruising and taking in the scenery. It’s amazing how well you will feel both physically and mentally after a week with no structure and a little more social contact.

Evaluate the first half of your season
Breaking your season into two sections like this makes it easier to push through and concentrate on reaching your season goals. The rest week also allows you to reevaluate the first half of the season and revise your plan for the second half based on your performances thus far. Look at your performances in each leg compared to your competition. Are there one or more areas that you seem to be consistently losing ground? If there are, can this be explained by injury or consistent missed workouts? I always go back and see if athletes are hitting their power, heart rate, or pace goals during their big interval sessions. It is common to see interval sessions missed or cut short when performance dips.

Nail the second half of your season
You’ve evaluated the first half of your season, now it’s time to implement a plan. The goal during this last stretch is to link together focused, uninterrupted training blocks that prepare you for the unique demands of your most important race.

The years Josiah has delivered his best performances in Maui, he had mostly uninterrupted training and stayed injury free for that final 12-week stretch. Include a few benchmark workouts or races along the way to make sure you are on track, but remember these should not be epic events that tear you down too much and cause too big of an interruption in your training.

For many of you, this big race might be the XTERRA Pan Am Championships or the XTERRA World Championships. There is absolutely no excuse to get within a few weeks of these races and realize you haven’t gotten in any climbing. Try to have at least one weekly workout that helps prepare you for some aspect of that “A” race. Is your big race generally wetsuit legal? Is it longer than other races you do? How much climbing is involved on the bike and run? What is the weather generally like? Is it at altitude?

With a proper training outline, thoughtful planning, and enough rest to stay happy and injury free, you can generate peak performances at the right time and place to meet your goals.

Josiah Middaugh is the reigning XTERRA Pan America Champion and the 2015 XTERRA World Champion. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology and has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years (NSCA-CSCS). His brother Yaro also has a master’s degree and has been an active USAT certified coach for more than a decade. Read past training articles at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/middaugh-coaching-corner and learn more about their coaching programs at http://middaughcoaching.com.

About Suunto

Suunto builds the tools to help you reach your goals. With an award-winning line up of GPS sports watches, heart-rate monitors, and mobile apps, Suunto helps athletes train smarter and perform better. Sophisticated design and rugged construction ensure each Suunto watch is ready to tackle whatever you (and mother nature) throw at it.

Learn more at www.suunto.com.

 

 

XTERRA Couch to Trail – Strength Training for MTB

By Mimi Stockton, 4x 40-44 Division XTERRA World Champ

If XTERRA is an endurance sport,  is strength training really necessary?  The short answer? Yes.

That goes for all three sports, but right now, let’s focus on the importance of building muscles for mountain biking.  This is not to say that muscle building isn’t important for swimming and running – it’s simply that as XTERRA athletes, we spend the most time on the bike. Doing specific strength exercises geared toward biking will give you more bang for your buck.

While off-road triathlon is indeed an endurance activity, mastering technical sections of the mountain bike trails requires high force outputs at relatively slow speeds, something that is best developed through specific mountain bike strength training. You also need to perform repeated intense isometric muscle contractions (think static holds) of your arms, legs and core to absorb shock and vibrations when riding over rough terrain and maneuvering the bike over obstacles. 

If you’ve ever watched mountain bikers jockey for position on incredibly rough terrain, hop, jump, balance and fall for two grueling hours, you will quickly arrive to the conclusion that strength training is a must for XTERRA racing.  During last year’s World Championship race on Maui, the mountain bike portion of the race came down not to whom who could ride the fastest, rather who could carry their mud laden bike the fastest up and down the course.  I remember thinking to myself, “Thank god I did so much strength training this season!” 

For a long time now, the bike industry has tried to make you think that a new bike or a new part would make the biggest difference on the trail. In reality, it is the engine driving the bike that makes the real impact.  Strength training will only make you better. Hitting the gym will increase your force production, which will allow you to spin more efficiently; you’ll be able to navigate technical trails better as you fatigue; and when you fall, your body will be able to absorb the impact as well as a running back playing football. 

Furthermore, strength training will make your bones, ligaments and tendons all stronger—something any mountain biker who’s taken a hard fall can attest is important. Spending time on the saddle takes training precedence, but all you need is 30-45 minutes in the gym (or even at home) two days a week to focus on the legs and upper body and core. 

Pay Attention to Your Core
Do not neglect the core – core strength is key to maintaining balance, improving maneuverability, and combating overall fatigue on the bike.  Next time you’re on your bike, pushing up a hill, take a second to notice how your entire core is engaged.  All those muscles are working to stabilize you and help keep you balanced on the bike up to the top. It’s a simple truth – getting stronger will allow you to ride harder, faster, and longer, adding up to more fun on the trail. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

Mountain biking today is far more involved than simply road riding on a dirt road. Muscling a 25 pound bike around on a technical trail requires a specialized skillset and specific physical abilities. As such, routines and exercise selection need to reflect this.  Strength training for the mountain biking world has been slow to catch up to the unique and highly physical demands of the sport. Today’s average rider rips up trails that just five or six years ago would have been considered extreme. And today’s extreme rider, well, let’s just say that they continue to defy all reason in their quest to progress. Considering how fast the sport has evolved in such a short period of time it really comes as no surprise that most mountain-bike-specific strength and conditioning programs are slow to catch up.

How to Get Stronger
 First you need to get strong, then you can work on power (i.e. fast strength).  After you’ve built a strength base – which generally takes 6 to 8 weeks for complete beginners – you can begin to work on maximal strength using whole body exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press and chin ups. While MTB is a predominantly single-leg activity (i.e. only one leg is pushing at a time, not both together), double-leg exercises like the squat and deadlift allow you to push heavier weights and hence allow greater strength to be developed.

After the maximal strength phase, you can move into a specific strength phase where you work on single leg exercises and more specific core and upper body exercises. Following on this, you can move into a power training phase using plyometric exercises (e.g. Box Jumps) and modified weightlifting movements.  There’s some evidence to suggest that for those with high training volumes it’s better to replace some endurance training volume with strength training rather than adding extra volume. 

The Best Strength Exercises for Mountain Bikers 

1. The Deadlift – A must for every rider.  The deadlift works on the “hip hinge” movement pattern that separates balanced, efficient movement on the bike from unbalanced, injury causing movement. This primal movement pattern is the basis for your body position, your pedaling power and your ability to corner, bunny hop and jump properly. Without command of this movement pattern and a good deal of strength in it you will struggle to consistently progress as a rider.

Far from just being a lower body exercise, the deadlift works on grip strength, shoulder stability, core strength and the ability to drive from the hips and not from the low back. These are all essential qualities of a good, injury proof rider and no other exercise is as efficient in delivering results as this one. Once you have developed your technique on the regular deadlift, you can progress into the single-leg deadlift.

2. Bulgarian Split Squat – One of the best things about this exercise is that, when done correctly, it serves as both a great uni-lateral leg exercise and a great hip flexor stretch. Prop one leg up on a bench and make sure that you start with your torso completely upright with your shoulders and hips square. Lower yourself under control and make sure that you keep your torso upright and everything square on the way down.

3. Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups/Push-Ups – Most MTB riders are very weak in the upper body. This really takes its toll as the trail gets rougher and the ride gets longer. Having good upper body strength and strength endurance is vital to controlling your bike and maneuvering down the trail. In fact, if more riders worried about getting stronger rather than how to shave a few pounds off their bikes they would be far better served. These upper body exercises are also great for building a strong core.  If pull-ups and chin-ups are too difficult to execute properly, work on push-ups and holding a plank.  

4. Standing Shoulder Press – The standing shoulder press is one of the best exercises available for strengthening the pressing muscles. When done correctly, the standing shoulder press will not only add upper body strength, it will actually help injury proof the core and shoulders as well.

The one thing I can’t stress enough is good technique or form when doing your workouts.  After all, if you are doing them to make improvements to yourself, the last thing you want is a setback from incorrectly doing a move and hurting yourself.  If you’re uncertain how to do a certain move, just ask. People love to feel like experts.

Get Stronger. Get Faster.
Strength and power training are an important addition to the overall training program for mountain bikers. Improvements in strength, explosive power, and lean body mass have been shown to improve the force that can be applied to the pedals which results in greater power during climbing and sprinting.  Increased strength prevents you from fatiguing so easily while climbing and will enable you to control your bike better while hurtling down a hill.  That might just lead to less crashes…which for some, is a pretty good deal!  So grab those weights and start lifting!  New gear might make you ride a bit faster, but weight lifting definitely will!

The XTERRA Couch to XTERRA training series is presented by SheriAnne Little, Jeffrey Kline, and four-time XTERRA age group world champion Mimi Stockton of PRS Fit.  Their new 12-week “Couch-to-XTERRA” training program is designed to do just that, get aspiring athletes off the couch, into training, and to the start line of an XTERRA.  Read past training articles from PRS Fit at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/couch-to-trail and learn more about their coaching programs at prsfit.com.

Josiah Middaugh

Middaugh Coaching Corner – Nutrition for High Intensity Exercise

Presented by Suunto

What athletes eat/drink before a race can vary widely, but there is more agreement regarding what to take in during exercise.  Especially if we are talking about sustained high intensity exercise, such as what you experience during an XTERRA race.  During high intensity exercise your primary fuel source is carbohydrate but you are limited with how much carbohydrate you can store in your muscles, liver, and bloodstream.  For most athletes the supply will last between 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on how saturated your glycogen stores are to begin with and the rate at which you are burning carbohydrate.  One solution is to slow down in order to increase fat metabolism, sparing carbohydrate, but for most of us competitive types, that is not an option.  So here is the conundrum:

  1. Carbohydrate stores are limited.
  2. At threshold intensity and higher, carbohydrate is your primary fuel source (90-100 percent).
  3. Carbohydrate cannot be assimilated at the same rate it is consumed.

Your fueling/hydrating goal for intermediate distance racing is not to replace everything your body consumes, but to delay glycogen depletion and dehydration/electrolyte imbalance at least until the finish line.

The sympathetic (fight/flight) and parasympathetic (resting and digesting) nervous systems are often thought of as opposing forces since they have almost exact opposite effects on many body functions.  So during sustained, high intensity exercise, skeletal muscles can increase blood flow by 15 to 20 times that of resting muscle, which shunts blood flow away from non-essential functions such as digestion.  So taking in nutrients during a race is not only uncomfortable, but also not as effective compared to an easy, long endurance ride.  Determining how much you can handle and from what sources is something you need to experiment with during training and lower priority races.

A well thought out strategy doesn’t need to be complex, but needs to be effective and familiar.  First, start with how long the race should take you.  Shoot for about 240-320 calories per hour at least while you are on the bike.  If you prefer to think in grams, then about 60-80 grams of CHO per hour.  This can be a combination of a drink mix, energy gel, and/or solid food.  If the concentration is too high then it will delay gastric emptying (sit in your stomach) until it is diluted by either water you ingest or water pulled from your body, further dehydrating you.  So make sure to take in enough fluids and with a high electrolyte content.  Sodium is the primary electrolyte your body loses so make sure your drink mix is formulated with at least 200 mg or more per serving.  The EFS drink mix I use has 500 mg of sodium per serving.

For XTERRA racing I like to keep it simple.  If the race will take around 2 hours, then I can make more mistakes with my nutrition and rely exclusively on liquid calories from my EFS drink mix.  I don’t need to maximize calorie intake, but I will race better if I stay hydrated and take in some calories.  If the course is more dynamic with less sustained climbing, then intensity is not as sustained which can allow you to dip back into your fat burning zones and spared some carbohydrate.

For the championship races, especially those with massive amounts of elevation gain, the energy output is the highest, most sustained, and generally race times can be 3+ hours.  So for those races, shooting to maximize the amounts of water, calories and electrolytes is critical, but also needs to be practiced.  I like to start with my familiar EFS drink mix and then have a 400 calorie liquid gel flask taped on my top tube that I will take during the second half of the bike along with water from aid station(s).  Another thing to consider is not transporting excessive amounts of water long distances (in racing and in life).  Use the aid stations, that’s what they are for.  Consider carrying more than one water bottle when you have determined there is too much time between aid stations to rely on only one bottle.  I personally don’t use solid food during my races, but many prefer some solids or semi-solids, especially if the intensity will be slightly lower or if you know you will be out there longer.

Write down your nutrition plan before big races so that you know exactly what to do. Seeing it on paper will help you remember it on race day. It also allows you to revisit your plan later. I know many athletes that go back to their nutrition plan after their race and make notes on how they performed and how they felt that day. This analysis can help you nail down your nutrition and will make putting together your next plan much easier.

Josiah Middaugh is the reigning XTERRA Pan America Champion and the 2015 XTERRA World Champion. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology and has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years (NSCA-CSCS). His brother Yaro also has a master’s degree and has been an active USAT certified coach for more than a decade. Read past training articles at http://www.xterraplanet.com/training/middaugh-coaching-corner and learn more about their coaching programs at http://middaughcoaching.com.

About Suunto

Suunto builds the tools to help you reach your goals. With an award-winning line up of GPS sports watches, heart-rate monitors, and mobile apps, Suunto helps athletes train smarter and perform better. Sophisticated design and rugged construction ensure each Suunto watch is ready to tackle whatever you (and mother nature) throw at it.

Learn more at www.suunto.com.

More Middaugh Coaching Corner Articles

 

Making Sense of Omega 3 and Omega 6

By Alexandra Borrelly

As we begin enjoying summer vacations, camping trips, and visits north to stay cool, it seems like a good time to talk about the special fish that live in the cold-water lakes of the northern United States and Canada. Herring, salmon, and anchovies are just a few of the fish high in a healthy fat, known as omega 3.

Omega 3 and omega 6 fats – essential fatty acids – can’t be made by the human body, so they must be consumed from plants and animals. Omega 6 fats help with brain function, muscle growth, and hormone production, but on the flip side, they also cause inflammation in the body.

Omega 3 fats are highly beneficial for the cells because they reduce inflammation and may lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Additionally, they are highly concentrated in the brain and are important for memory, performance, and brain development. They have also been shown to combat depression.

These two essential acids exist in a ratio to each other. Because there is a limit to the amount the body can use, omega 3 and omega 6 end up competing with each other in the body for space.

In order to maintain health and respond to the body’s day-to-day needs, it’s important to balance omega 3 and omega 6 to maintain a homeostasis between inflammation and repair.

As an athlete, micro-inflammations of the muscles due to physical activity are frequent. It is therefore essential to have a large dietary intake of omega 3.

Unfortunately, it’s often easier to get omega 6 than it is to get omega 3 – and omega 3 is the essential fatty acid we need more of. If our diet is high in processed foods – which include vegetable oil, salad dressing, nuts, seeds, and wheat – we will have too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3.

Some signs of a long-term imbalance between omega 3 and omega 6 are:

  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Dyslipidemia (too much lipid in the blood)
  • Mood and behavior disorders
  • Degenerative diseases

So where can we find these good fats? The best source of omega 3 is from fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, and salmon because fish are a direct source of omega 3.

Plant oils such as rape, linseed, purslane, avocado, and nuts like walnuts, cashews, and almonds also provide omega 3 fatty acids. Unlike fish, omega 3 from plants needs to be transformed by the human body before it can be used. Vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, and vitamin C are necessary for the process.

It should be noted that as we age, this transformation mechanism is much less effective, so it’s necessary to increase our intake of fatty fish as we get older.

It’s easy to find canned salmon, anchovies, and sardines in our local markets. Canned salmon can be added to salads or sandwiches and anchovies can take a Caesar dressing from good to great.

If you are a vegetarian, you can make your own healthy salad dressings from a tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of walnut oil or flaxseed oil. Additionally, consuming two to three servings of fatty fish per week, snacking on nuts, and including one or two avocados in a salad or smoothie will keep your brain happy and your body healthy.

Alexandra Borrelly Lebrun is a pharmacist and has studied sports nutrition and natural medicine. She works alongside her husband, a former professional XTERRA athlete & 2005 XTERRA World Champ, Nico Lebrun, at Organicoach, where they create optimized nutrition plans for athletes of all levels.