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Cramping

Leg Cramp exerciseDue to the repetitive nature of our sports, endurance athletes are particularly vulnerable to cramping. Regardless of an athlete’s experience or level of fitness cramping can be an issue. Today we’ll take a look at some of the more common causes and cures for muscle cramping.

Causes:

There are several causes for muscle cramps, but the most common are exertion cramps. These are due to a combination of dehydration, heat stress and low levels of electrolytes. They begin as spasms and then spread throughout the muscle. As you become increasingly dehydrated over the course of an event or workout the connective tissues can adhere and inhibit muscle contraction or release. Once the cramping begins it spreads from one muscle to another. Less common are muscle fatigue cramps. As your muscles work, they contract and release over and over. Eventually, the muscles can fatigue to the point that they simply lock in a contraction and are unable to release. These cramps are more common amongst novice athletes but they can hit seasoned competitors as well. Usually they occur early in the season when you’re just getting back into training and aren’t yet up to the workload. If this is the case, simply back off the intensity and build a base fitness that you can expand on over the course of the year.

Prevention:

It’s hard to point to one factor as being responsible for muscle cramps so the best approach is to stay on top of all of the contributing factors. So let’s take a look at what you can do to prevent cramping.

Nutrition:

Electrolytes and water are essential for muscle contraction as you burn through them during work it becomes increasingly difficult for muscles to fire over and over again unless you continue to replenish both. Heat contributes by increasing fluid loss through perspiration and exhalation. Maintaining a steady intake of fluids/electrolytes while consuming calories goes a long way to prevent cramping. On particularly hot days dumping water on yourself helps lower your core temperature and slows fluid loss. However, if water is limited, it’s always better to drink it.

Post Event/Exercise:

The importance of fluid intake doesn’t end once your done. After exercise is when you can actually bring your fluid, electrolyte and carbohydrate levels back to where they were before you started.  Stretching helps fatigued muscles to relax and restores them to their natural length. Ignoring tight muscles will not only lead to cramping later on but injury. Incorporating a 15min stretch to your post workout routine can do wonders to help you recover. Don’t know where to begin? Take a look at this great routine we created just for you!

Massage helps flush the waste that accumulates in muscles and releases tight muscles that can be difficult to address with stretching alone. Both pre and post event massage can have tremendous benefits to athletes of all levels (Trevor Marshall is an AMAZING therapist over at Englebrecht Chiropractic). If all else fails and cramping continues to be a problem a Nutritional Blood Analysis can help determine if you are abnormally low in an essential nutrient. Even if you eat a well balanced diet, take all the right supplements and stay well hydrated, it’s still possible to miss something. After trying everything you can imagine one of our own athletes still had problems with cramping, it wasn’t until he had a blood test that it was revealed he was exceptionally low in a particular nutrient. If you suspect you might be deficient, it is much better to get tested before trying to treat yourself as that can create problems as well if you take too much of a particular vitamin or mineral.

 

What about you? What kind of methods do you use to for cramping? Pickle Juice? Apple Cider Vinegar? Mustard Packs? Tell us about it!

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The Myth of the Life Long Fit

The level at which an individual can meld physiology, biomechanics, ergonomics and art is what makes a bike fit specialist either good or amazing. As you may know from personal experience this can make your riding experience pleasurable or painful.  No matter your level of cycling ability, you are an athlete.  You push your body, you train yourself to do more and more mileage or you push yourself to ride faster and faster.  With this in mind, an athlete is constantly changing and because of that your bike fit changes as well.

This might be hard for some to imagine but that position that was set up for you two years ago, that you have been comfortable to ride, train and race with might not be optimal for you any longer.  There are a multitude of things that can change this position the three most common changes that we see are:

Variability in adiposity:  Let’s be honest, many of us get on a bike to either lose weight or maintain weight and this is a large factor in fitting.  Changes as little as five pounds in adipose tissue can result in a change in position.  This little change can make a saddle more or less comfortable, change hand pressure, allow for positional changes of handlebars and smooth the pedal stroke.

Changes in core strength:  Core strength does not only refer to that shredded six pack abs.  The core strength that this is referring to is the entire region between your chest and pelvis.  This is your stabilizing platform on a bike and helps you to generate power, support yourself on the bike and can have a big impact on your comfort as the ride gets longer and muscles begin to fatigue.  Changes in core strength can mean saddle position changes to a more powerful position that we were not able to support previously and handlebar changes for improved aerodynamics.

An athlete’s fitness: As we become more fit cardiovascularly and gain bike specific strength we are able to modify our position.  This added strength can result in changes in flexibility which can alter position.

The important part is assessing your changes since you last had a bike fit.  Have you increased your saddle time by 10-20% a week or more?  Has your event specificity changed (i.e. 20 mile rides to century rides)?  Has your weight fluctuated by 10lbs or more?  Have you done our core workout or another one for several months?  Are you having discomfort on the bike?

If you answered yes to 2 or more of the above questions you should seriously consider updating your fitting to optimize your position.

 

Schedule your Fitting Online or via Phone

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Rainy Day Interval Workout

Rain Day bicycle workout Trainer

Rainy days are one of the hardest things to get out for and get a workout in.  So, let us help you with your rainy day.  Here is a trainer workout that will test you and help to improve your fitness.

Preface:  We don’t believe in “entertainment workouts” but we do believe in accomplishing something in a workout.  So we add our physiology expertise to our workouts to make something that will benefit you in a minimal amount of time and give you something to focus on (the effort) other than a wall.

Workout

Warmup: 10 minutes

5 minutes (RPE: 5/10)

30 Second – Fast Pedal 110+Rpm (hips should not rock or bounce in saddle)

30 Second – Fast Pedal 110+Rpm (hips should not rock or bounce in saddle)2 minutes (RPE: 5/10)

1 minute (RPE: 4-5/10)

Intervals: 4 x 8 minute threshold w/4 minutes Rest Between Intervals

Cool down: 5-10minutes as needed

Threshold Intervals – These are an 8/10 in intensity and should be right at that point where you begin to notice a burning sensation in your legs.  If you are doing these on a trainer use speed as a gauge for intensity as well as perceived exertion.  Speed on a trainer should be consistent per effort just like a power meter.

 

Did you find this workout beneficial or are you looking for expert guidance with your coaching?  We can help you achieve your goals and FAST! 

LEARN MORE

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The Struggle: Getting Out The Door

Sometimes getting out the door can be 90% of the battle!  Coach Brady experienced that this evening.  There is a benefit once you do though!

 

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An Eye Opening RedEye Velo Junior Team Spring Camp

 

This was my second year to have been privileged to be a part of the Redeye Velo Junior Team spring cycling camp in North Georgia. Unlike our summer camp, this one is designed specifically for their more experienced riders. The mountain passes, cold weather, possibility of rain and or snow coupled with the fun 40+mph descents is enough to elicit this. This year was a different year for me and an eye opening one to say the least.

In previous years I have had a moderate amount of fitness this time of year and I have felt good on nearly every ride.  I have slacked off considerably in the past 6 months and this weekend as I was climbing up several of the passes and in the pain cave I realized that is not the case this season.  This would not be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that in less than 10 weeks I have a 200 mile gravel road race (Dirty Kanza 200) that I will be participating in and my competitive side will not let me go in and simply participate.

So…what does that mean?  It means now is time to ramp it up and ramp it up considerably.  So, I have taken the steps that I recommend many athletes do but not be as dense as I am and wait until so close to time.  Call and get a coach.  I called my close friend and co-worker, Patrick Valentine, and he has constructed a bomb proof training plan for me!  You might be thinking, “Brady, you are a coach.  Why would you get another coach?” and that is a great question!  I get a coach for my events because it is an unbiased eye.  I know another person will push me when I might not want to push and tell me to not be an idiot if I am over thinking things.

The training is covered, the goals are laid out and now it is on me.  With Patrick’s help and watchful eye over the next 10 weeks I know that things will come together nicely.

So, in the coming weeks you will see me.  Riding the pavement, logging miles on the red clay roads and fine tuning my body to be prepared for the Flint Hills of Kansas.

written by:

Coach Brady Irwin

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How to Use Your Heart Rate Monitors and Power Meters More Effectively

In my years of running, riding, training, racing and coaching I have had the experience to come across thousands of people who own heart rate monitors and power meters.  As I became more versed in training, physiology and how each device could be best utilized I realized that at best 5% of the people who have these amazing aids are underutilizing the full power of the tools they have at their hands.  The simple question of “What is your power at threshold?” or “What is your heart rate threshold?” has often led to blank stares.  If you have a Garmin or Polar heart rate monitor or one of the many power meters that are out there and you feel that you fall into this stereotype let us help you get started with more accurate training.

 

Test your Fitness:

Use your HR monitor and Power Meter to their fullest

Without a baseline it is difficult to know where the current fitness level is which helps you know where to begin.  This baseline number is achieved through testing which can be done with a field test or in a lab test, like a lactate threshold test.  At SoS, one of the ways we have our athletes gauge fitness is by performing 2 field test efforts that are 10 minutes in length.  We have found that the numbers these two efforts produce are very accurate.

 

Create Training Ranges:

Training ranges allow you, as an athlete, to know how to more effectively utilize your training tool.  Based on the numbers that you produce during your testing you can create training ranges.  These numbers are used to help you focus on precise energy systems that the body utilizes during century rides, triathlons or bike races.

 

Training:

The testing has been done, the ranges have been created and now it is the utilization of those ranges.  Dependent upon what your goals and ambitions are will determine what you do with these ranges.  If you are looking at gaining some fitness but don’t really want to do intervals you can use it on your rides to gauge your intensity effort.  If you are looking for improvements, and fast, this will give you the best gauge of where your intensity needs to be.  Whether it is with the knowledge of a coach or your own knowledge, the amount of time that you need to stay at each intensity level is the other key factor in this equation.

How to Use your HR monitor or Power Meter
 

Think of these new ranges as a tachometer in a car.  If you are working with a Formula 1 engine and are going off of numbers for a Toyota Corolla you are not stressing the body enough, inversely, if you are working with the Formula 1 numbers and have a Corolla engine things will catastrophically fail.

Now, GO, test and train!  If you are not sure of how to do this we can help.  Whether it be our knowledgeable coaching staff or our lab to perform lactate threshold and VO2max testing we can steer you in the direction to improve the usage of your training tools.

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Bike Fit: Cleat Replacement

The most commonly neglected piece of equipment in cycling that we see during our Retul bike fits are cleats.  When riding we frequently clip in and out wearing the engagement points, walk on them, drag them across the ground as stopping (don’t do that!) and quite frankly I believe we forget they even exist.  Whether you are riding 10 miles at a time or hundreds of miles at a time these little pieces of plastic and metal play a much more important role than you might know.

Look Cleats

Cleat on Right shows excessive wear with a broken off tab that holds the clean in the pedal

In bike fitting we focus on decreasing the risk of injury while trying to balance the ability to produce power and optimize a rider’s position for aerodynamics.  These factors might not all be important to you but for everyone who rides we know that injury prevention is a priority.  This injury prevention is directly correlated to position and quality of your points of contact with your bike.  Your first point of contact with the bike is the pedals and with cleats these are not able to be changed while pedaling.  With this being the case it becomes more important to make sure your first point of contact with the bike is at its best.

Even with a proper bike fitting riders with overly worn cleats can begin to notice signs of discomfort including, but not limited to, foot numbness, knee pain and hip pain.  If this becomes severe enough it could ultimately lead to time off the bike and away from training.  A newer set of cleats increases the stability of the foot’s positioning with the pedal which provides a solid foundation for a fitting to be based on.

Look bicycle cleats worn

The nose of the left cleat is worn and can be a hazard for un-clipping under load

There are many factors that play into cleat wear with include how much you walk on them, the quantity of training and if you have any pedaling irregularities which create greater friction. There are several signs though that you can look for to verify the state of urgency.

Shimano Cleats –  With a very simple colored marker on the cleat (typically yellow), you can tell when these cleats are worn by the changes in the cleat.

Look Style Cleats – These are very common cleats and are frequently under maintained.  There is no clear marker on these.  With the “gripper” style cleats once the rubber is gone you need to replace them.  Non-gripper cleats do not have an indicator so you will need to pay closer attention to and replace once they begin to get roughed up.

SpeedPlay Cleats – The metal plate does not make these invincible!  These cleats hold  up a bit better than either of the other styles, however, if you wait too long you increase the risk of not being able to get the screws out.  Once these begin to wear or once you notice visible wear on the inner circle of the cleat it is time to replace the cleat.

If you are unsure of whether you need to purchase new cleats you can bring them in to Science of Speed or take the to your LBS for a knowledgeable opinion.

– On Resin based pedals, without a metal plate where the cleat contacts, it becomes even more important to regularly replace your cleats.  Any wear or roughness of the cleat acts like sandpaper and can create grooves in the surface of your pedal forcing you to buy new pedals sooner than you might have hoped.

– Not replacing your cleats frequently enough can result to unclipping under higher loads whether sprinting or pedaling hard.

 

Do you need to get your bike fit?  Schedule a fitting with a Science of Speed fit professional today to make sure you are in the optimal position for your goals.

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Dynamic Stretching For Runners

With all of the running events coming up on the calendar I thought it would be a good time to talk about the benefits of dynamic stretching. As our training begins to ramp up so too does our risk for injury. Many of the aches and pains so common to runners have to do with the limited range of motion involved in running. The main difference between dynamic stretching and traditional (static) stretching is that it is active. The purpose of dynamic stretching is to warm up the muscles and connective tissues by increasing blood flow and taking them through a wider range of motion, preparing them for action. Static stretching encourages the muscles to relax, great for recovery but counterproductive before activity. The intent during dynamic stretching is not to gain flexibility but to simply warm up your body and prepare it for activity.

Here’s a sample routine to try before your next run:

-Hip Circles
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips. Rotate your hips in circles, clockwise 10 times and then counterclockwise 10 times.

-Lateral Leg Swings
Hold onto a wall or light post for stability. With your feet shoulder distance apart, swing a leg straight out to the side and then across the front of your body to the opposite side. Repeat the motion 10 times for each leg.

-Calf Stretch
Starting on all fours, raise your hips so the body forms an inverted “V” and you’re supporting yourself on your hands and feet. Slowly pedal the feet, lowering one heel to the ground while raising the other. Keep your leg as straight as possible when lowering the heel and then bending the knee as you raise it. Repeat 10 times each leg.

-Lateral Lunge
Stand with your legs about double shoulder width with your toes pointed slightly outwards. Keeping your back as straight as possible, bend one knee about 90 degrees and lower your self while keeping the other leg straight out to the side, raise up to a standing position and then bend the other knee and repeat. Repeat 10 times each leg.

-High Kicks (Toy Soldier)
Walking forward, kick your leg as high as you can while keeping it straight. Alternate legs as you walk. Repeat 10 times each leg.

-Butt Kicks
Walking forward, kick the heels back into the glutes with each step. Repeat 10 times each leg.

-Walking Lunges
Step forward bending the front knee 90 degrees (take care to make sure the knee cap is over the ankle) while keeping the rear leg as straight as possible (without straining). Lower rear knee to the ground in a controlled and easy motion. Stand up (using your hands if needed) and step forward with the rear leg. Repeat 10 times each leg.

Adding a simple routine like this one prior to your workouts and events can do wonders for performance and injury prevention. As always, if you have any additional questions feel free to email us at Science of Speed and we will be happy to answer them.

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Grab a Bottle

 
Hydrate during your next workout

As the temperature continues to rise let’s briefly touch on one of the endurance athletes biggest issues: HYDRATION. A good baseline for water consumption is half of your body weight in ounces (i.e. a 150lb person would need 75oz). When you add training hours on top of that your hydration needs increase dramatically. The number varies depending on environmental conditions, duration, fitness level and genetics. To reduce the risk of dehydration and optimize performance here are a few rules of thumb to follow:

1. Hydrate before exercise. Throughout the day continue drinking water, I find that keeping one of my water bottles on me and drinking whenever I think of it (and continuing to refill the bottle) helps me stay on top my hydration.

2. 30 min or so before your workout make sure you drink an entire bottle.

3. During exercise your hydration needs (and your ability to fulfill them) will vary. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests 3-6 oz of water for every 20 min of exercise.

4. Hydrate after exercise. An easy way to determine water loss is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. Every pound lost is equal to about 16 oz of water.

Noticing a trend? Drink water. All day long. The effects of dehydration are cumulative, just like caloric intake. You don’t have to hit your numbers exactly everyday but rather over the course of the week your consumption/expenditure should even out. Staying on top of your hydration is one of the simplest ways to prevent injury and improve both recovery and performance.

Join us Thursday June 26th at 6pm for our final lecture in our Training Talks series. Trevor Marshall LMT and Dr. John Englebrecht will discuss common issues, their contributing factors and the benefits of Massage Therapy and Chiropractic Work for endurance athletes.

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Weight

A common misconception is that all endurance athletes fit into the same mold, that in order to be serious about your sport you need to look like a pro. What you find when you look at the pro peleton is that there is a wide variety of body types present. Just because Chris Froome looks like a praying mantis on his bike doesn’t mean that a rider of similar stature will have the same ideal racing weight. Marcel Kittel is of a similar height but probably has about 40lbs on Froome. If Kittel had tried to drop that much weight he would probably wind up getting shelled out the back of his local club ride instead of being one of the top sprinters in the world.

Forcing yourself into a target weight that is unnatural for your body type and build is not only unhealthy it can also rob you of training gains and cause your performance to suffer. When the body is chronically malnourished it is not getting the necessary nutrients to recover and rebuild from training. Resulting in little or no gain in fitness. Sometimes even a loss. Brad Huff is a professional rider who spent a couple years struggling to drop weight and actually wound up performing worse as his weight went down. Once his coach helped him figure out the problem he actually started the next season at a higher weight than he’d ever had before as a professional and his performance increased dramatically.

That’s not to say small adjustments can’t be made to find an ideal racing weight but you’ve got to be smart about it. In order to lose weight at a healthy rate, knowing your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is extremely helpful. BMR is the number of calories needed for basic body function. The number varies greatly from person to person and in order to get an accurate number you need to take a BMR test. BMR tests take about 45min to complete and are extremely easy. There are plenty of online calculators out there to guess your BMR but they are wildly inaccurate and can vary by hundreds of calories from one calculator to the next. When you’re looking at maintaining a 300-500 calories a day deficit for healthy weight loss, that kind of inaccuracy can really create problems.

Armed with an accurate BMR you can track your energy expenditure from day to day using either  a power meter or any number of algorithms that use, average heart rate, speed and elevation to calculate energy expenditure. Again, the more accurate the better.

Where can you take a BMR test? Right here at Science of Speed!

Do you have any questions regarding Diet and Nutrition? Send us an email and we will try to get it answered in our upcoming lecture (June 12th).

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