Monthly Archives: August, 2013

Sore No More!

Those Danish researchers are at it again. (No, not the guys studying raspberry danish!)raspberry_danish

According to the article in the Sept issue of Health magazine, “After a killer workout, hitting the gym again is probably the last thing on your mind. But… doing light exercise two days after a tough session is as effective as a massage for relieving aches.”

We all know that the soreness we feel is due to the tiny muscle tears that occur when we stress muscles to build muscle strength.  Some light exercise a day or two after an intense one will increase your blood flow, promote healing and enable the muscles to move more easily.

The article calls out these mini workouts “to combat achiness”:

  1. Take a Walk – a 20 minute stroll at moderate pace around the neighborhood or on a treadmill.
  2. Hit the Pool – Swimming a few easy laps will warm up the body and boost circulation. And best of all – it’s super low impact so won’t jar your joints.
  3. Work Out Your Core – Balance, or core focused moves, like single leg squats or side planks improve blood flow, up overall fitness and still give whining muscles a break.

And when all else fails, I hear a day at the spa is a scientifically proven cure-all!

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Sometimes You Just Need to Enjoy the View!

I have been leading group  rides for two years now, a task that is sometimes referred to as “herding cats.”  I really enjoy getting out there with the group, working those legs, talking about whatever comes to mind, dodging deer, cicadas and squirrels;  and even sometimes, working really hard at keeping up with a very strong group.

Last Sunday’s Big Ring Riding sponsored group ride was set up for 48+ miles with some good hills in the middle. The weather was to be nice, so it looked like it would be a good day.  I usually ride from my house to Rhinebeck for the start, stopping for a cappuccino and pastry on the way down, and last Sunday was to be no different. However, I got up feeling tired and disinterested, thought about skipping the ride down  and driving (not the capp and pastry, though) but decided to get out the door on time and take it easy on the flattest route to Rhinebeck.  A good group of seven riders showed up and we talked while getting ready to go.

Off we went west towards Rhinecliff, my legs still feeling fatigued and burning while going up the hill out of Rhinebeck. I settled in and let the more motivated riders lead.  Once getting to Rhinecliff I signaled an unplanned right turn and took the group down to the Hudson River at the boat launch. Most of the riders had never been there or didn’t even know that there is a nice spot to take a break during a long ride, have a snack at the picnic tables or just enjoy the view of the lighthouse at the mouth of the Rondout.  A big empty oil barge was rumbling south so we talked for a few minutes, marveled at the Great Blue Heron on the bank to the north, then headed back up the hill  to the planned route.

Heading south is the rolling hills of Morton road which got the group moving and pushing the ups and downs.  The pace picked up as we headed onto South Mill Rd.  but another excursion opportunity came to me and we headed for another unplanned right turn down Wyndclyffe Court to take a look at the now falling down, but still architecturally phenomenal Wyndclyffe  mansion. If you’ve never seen it, it is a huge brick house built in the 1850’s in the Norman style (according to wikipedia). The house has been abandoned since 1950’s and since the 1980’s has been crumbling, losing one tower and lots of brick.  Per Bob Yasinac, the house was “built for Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones, a relative by marriage to the wealthy Astor Family, and it is rumored she is the source of the old adage: keeping up with the Joneses.” Sad to see these glorious mansions crumble into the woods.

So back to the ride we went and headed south, back to Rte. 9 and then right onto Old Post Rd. and guess what, another excursion into Staatsburg for a ride by the Mills Mansion down to the river again. Staatsburgh is another of the Hudson River mansions, but this one is  a NYS historical site and is very well maintained.  I’ve spent a lot of time there with the Red Hook HS cross-country team running and watching the team compete every fall. The grounds are open and free, go through the mansion on one of the paid tours  to see how the people lived in the gilded age.

Next we headed back up to the planned route and up the hill, across route 9 and onto the meat of the ride. By then my legs were into it, and my head was too.  So off we went for a lot of climbing and a very nice 16+ mph average over the route with a great group. We stopped to look at the great vistas of the Millbrook Winery at the top of Ernest Rd., had a couple of very nice dirt roads, climbed the east side of Salisbury Turnpike and flew down the west side. Successful day of riding, I think!

My training rides are hard work, head down, focusing and pushing those pedals for the entire workout plan. The group rides are much different for me,  much less focused on performance. It’s all about the group and the route. Although we do ride hard on these rides, I hope to make them fun for every rider, not just the strongest.

Sometimes it seems  that all I need is to just take it easy and look around a bit to get my motivation back. We ride in an area that has great roads and is full of the hidden gems like Wyndclyffe that we go by all the time without seeing.  Look around guys, there is more to riding than average pace and climb stats!

Short, but intense wins the fat burning race!

What? Work harder but shorter to burn fat?  Haven’t we always been told we need to spend endless hours at moderate effort to burn the extra pounds?  Well more recent studies show that shorter, higher intensity workouts (think HIITS) actually results in more fat burn overall than the moderate exertion in a longer cardio workout.  If these shorter workouts can really deliver results it’s great news for everyone ‘cuz what’s the number one excuse why people don’t exercise? that’s right… time!

So what is it about this higher intensity format and why shouldn’t you just hide before someone tries to make you do it?

Hiding under leaves

First word. EPOC . Excess Postexercise Oxygen Consumption. Translation – burn up to 5x more calories AFTER your workout. That’s right. EPOC increases your metabolism and burns calories (and hence fat) for up to 24 hours following your exercise. This effect is not seen with low-moderate intensity exercises. (see this reference).

Second word. Interval. Without getting all clinical and technical, it simply means seconds of exercise followed by seconds of rest. Each exercise/rest cycle is called an interval. Now combine some intervals back to back and you have a set. Pretty simple really.

Third word. Effort. The other part of the equation. (you thought I was going to say intensity, right? but I know that word scares you…)  The idea is, during those seconds of exercise, you’re supposed to “give it all ya got”, then rest, and repeat. There are different timing cycles, with the best known being 20/10 for 8 rounds totaling 4 minutes or  Tabata timing.  The key is to maintain the 2:1 ratio of exercise to rest. So 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of recovery, or 30 seconds of work and 15 seconds of recovery, etc.

So what high-intensity exercise should you try?  BuiltLean.com has a menu of example workouts here that provides one framework for you to follow. There are many others out there, so browse around. But, one that we especially like, and is the basis for our Fitbata class,  is progressive or mixed-interval training.  In this method, rather than repeating the same move in a 20/10 pattern, you follow a 40/20-30/15-20/10 interval, adding effort and movement each time yielding a hard, harder, hardest approach where you control the effort.

So the next time you head to the gym for your regular steady-state aerobic routine, think of me – Short, but intense 🙂

Less time. Concerted effort. Bigger results.

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Cramping…. Do You Really Know What Causes Muscle Cramps?

I have been a continual cramping machine since I started running in high school and continuing ever since.  Mostly, it is the “charlie horse” cramp that occurs when stretching or sitting in a chair, but I also cramp on the long rides, usually after 50 to 60 miles of hard effort.  The cramps will affect my calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and the abductor/adductor muscles. Generally any muscle used to spin those pedals on those long, hard efforts. I like everyone else always thought it was caused by low electrolytes in my system due to the long effort.  In attempts or prevent cramping,   I have swallowed electrolyte pills at regular intervals, drank lots of water, drank less water, drank electrolyte drinks, and tried many different things in an effort to prevent cramping, all unsuccessfully. So I’ve been reading up on the subject.

I found an article where   Joe Uhan summarizes the state of the science concerning the true cause of cramping, see  his blog entry “Cramping My Style.” Here is what I learned:  Surprise…. the notion that salt, or the lack of salt causes cramping is based on a 100-year old scientifically-flawed study of British miners. As it turns out, there are no scientifically sound studies that link low electrolyte (or salt) levels to exercise-induced muscle cramping.   One study  (Schwellnus, Drew et al. 2011), found that no difference in hydration or blood sodium concentrations between crampers and non-crampers. So what is the cause?  Nobody knows for sure, but one new theory is that it is a neuromuscular mechanism to shut down the muscles to protect the body from harm that might result from continuing to perform at a high level. This is part of the “Central Governor” theory proposed by Dr. Tim Noakes (Science of Sport) in his books the “Lore of Running” and “Waterlogged.”

Oddly enough, it has been found that tasting salt (or pickle juice)  can stop cramping very quickly, too fast for the salt too have been absorbed into the blood stream. Hence the theory that it is the brain and the nervous system that controls the cramping response, not the electrolyte or water balance. Essentially fooling the brain into allowing you to continue cramp free.

Whatever you think, Joe Uhan’s blog  shed some interesting light on the subject and even gives a list of things that we can do to reduce the occurrence of muscle cramps and to manage them when you get them. Most of the recommendations are not about training your muscles or taking supplements, they are training your brain to allow you to continue.   Good advice to consider.