make weight training your priority (in the off-season)

make weight training your priority (in the off-season)

Let’s first clarify that yes – every sport SHOULD have an off-season. If you aren’t training for anything specific but train for life, you should still have a few months where you slow down and focus on things that you may have neglected due to lack of time, interest, or just because it isn’t a part of your daily routine.

In Vancouver where we can ride almost year round, the off-season can be short – only a few months sometimes. Some cyclists are more fair weather riders and take a full 5 months before getting back on the road. But, either way, relying on spin classes alone should not be your only off-season training. If you hope to continue moving well for the remainder of your life, your training program needs to support this.

The number one thing that everyone should be incorporating in their off-season is weight training.

Starting from the age of 30, we lose 3-8% of muscle mass per decade. This number increases dramatically after the age of 65. Cycling is great to build muscles for the legs, but does nothing for the upper body. In addition, cycling is a non-impact sport, so it won’t help build strong bones. If you don’t want to become frail as you age, you MUST maintain a weight training program year round. The off-season is a good time to start. Everyone should aim for three 45min strength workouts per week, unless you have an active job that requires a lot of lifting. Throughout the cycling season, you can drop back to once a week to maintain the fitness you have gained.

But not everyone is ready to jump into the gym to start picking up weights. Some may need to take a step back and deal with prior injuries or poor mobility before undertaking a weight training program.

Injury Rehab

Before you can start to weight train, you first need to be injury free. Trying to build muscle on a torn tendon or tissue will create a larger problem. Find a physio. Do your exercises, and don’t start to add weights until you are pain free. If you have a chronic problem that won’t get better with physio (torn knees or blown out hips), make sure that you are doing exercises that support your injury and aren’t making it worse.

Mobility Training

Having poor mobility is a precursor to injury. If a joint can’t move like it should, your body will compensate. This works for awhile, but the added and repeated stress will eventually take a toll on your body and you will be back to the physio again. Having adequate mobility in every joint should be the FIRST goal for every lifelong athlete.

If you want to cycle when you are 80, now is the time to prepare your body, slowing down the natural decline that happens with age.

Importance of recovery

Importance of recovery

Starting a workout without adequate recovery, could be doing more damage than good.

Do this too many times in a row, and performance will quickly decline. 

For many of us, when we see ourselves getting slower, we think we need to train more. This is the last thing we should do!!!!! In many cases, more training will cause an injury or result in some sort of illness as the immune system can’t keep up. If you find yourself chronically fatigued, the fastest way to get back on track, is to first let your body heal.

One way to avoid over-training is to follow a pre-planned program which includes both recovery days and a full week of recovery once a month. Even if you are feeling strong, DON’T SKIP THE RECOVERY WEEK(S).

But recovery isn’t about doing nothing. It can include easy workouts, stretching, yoga, and “fun days”. These are added to the training program for a reason; they all help your muscles recover faster and mentally reduce stress.

So how do you make the most of your recovery time?


RULE #1

The more intense the workout, the more recovery time you need. 

48hrs should be enough rest, but you may need to extend this time if you made a big jump in your training volume/intensity or after a hard race or event. If you still don’t feel rested before your next strenuous workout, it is best to skip it and take more time to recover. 

When you first start any sport there is going to a period of adaptation. For cycling, this feeling lasts a bit longer as you are building an endurance base. Once you have established a solid base (of 2-3 hours comfortably), you should no longer be bagged and need a nap after your long rides.


OTHER TIPS (specifically to cycling but can be adapted to other sports)

1.  Add in a short (30-60min) recovery ride the day after an intense workout. Keep your recovery rides light and easy, spinning the legs quickly (over 85 RPM) with very little to no intensity.

2. Stretch hip flexors (top of legs into the abs), glutes (buttocks), quads (front of legs), low back, and hamstrings (back of legs) religiously. Ideally, do a movement stretching program instead of static holds.

3. Enjoy time off the bike to cross-train. Doing something new is a great stress reliever but will also help strengthen muscles you are not using on the bike. The most complimentary sports are swimming, yoga, tai chi, or weight training (Your focus should be on core and upper body during the summer. Hard leg and weight training are best done in the off-season during the fall and winter).

4. Your body is trying to heal from the moment you get off the bike until you get back on again. Plan meals ahead of time to ensure you are well-fuelled (both food and water) before and after each workout.  

5. Muscles repair during sleep, so don’t skimp on your zzz’s.

6. If you are suffering from fatigue, frequent colds/flu, injuries, general fatigue, depression, or more frequent irritation, it may mean that you are overtraining. Take a few days off until you feel better. When you come back to training, ease back into it slowly. Training when you are sick will likely only prolong your illness.

7.  If you follow the Kits Energy Training Program, you will see a recovery week every 4th week.  During a recovery week, your volume/distance is reduced, BUT your intensity is NOT.  By maintaining intensity, you will not lose any fitness. After the week is over, your body should have adapted to the previous month’s stress, and you will be ready to add more stress/training again.

SIDE NOTE: If you are new to cycling or a more “seasoned” rider, you may need a recovery week every 3rd week instead of four. Listen to your body as it always knows best.

Building an aerobic base

Building an aerobic base

Before you start worrying about being a fast(er) climber, you first need to develop a solid aerobic foundation or base.

This is the key to any and all endurance sports.

The time it takes to build your personal aerobic base will be different from other riders and will depend on:
1. the distance you are training for
2. how many years you have been riding
3. how much time you have to train
4. age

But generally speaking, if you are training for an event, you should be comfortable riding a minimum of 2 to 3 hours at a steady state, before you start worrying about being fast(er).

You develop this base by riding slow (HR or Power zone 1 and zone 2) steady rides, and increasing the distance by no more than 10% each week, until you get to or close to your goal distance. Through proper and adequate recovery, your body will adapt and grow stronger. The process, repeated over and over again will result in increased strength and endurance OVER TIME. 

Building a base takes time and can’t be rushed so it is vital that you start at least 3-6 months before your event. Sorry, but any last minute “cram training” for endurance sports doesn’t work. Once you have developed a comfortable and solid base, continue maintaining and/or increasing your distance throughout your season. 

The workouts that we do in Kits Energy are designed to specifically build strength and power, not endurance. If you are willing to go there – these workouts will push you into new power/heart rate/ pain zones that you aren’t willing to do when you ride alone.

Every time you push yourself to new levels, your body recognizes that it needs to adjust and adapt. As your body gets stronger, your ability to do more work also increases. So if you are waiting for a time for when the workouts will feel easy – that’s not going to happen, because as you get stronger you continue to push yourself harder (hopefully). But, you will notice, that throughout the season your regular riding friends will be having a harder time keeping up with you! Trust the process.

Take an Epson salt bath for recovery

Take an Epson salt bath for recovery

The more you train, the more you need to recover.

Many athletes get so caught up closing activity rings, counting steps, competing in Strava challenges, or reaching a distance goal, that they forget to make recovery a priority. 

One form of recovery, that often gets overlooked is an Epson Salt Bath.

Especially in the cold winter months, a hot sudsy bath does sound pretty inviting. But, besides being relaxing, how else does it help you recover?

We don’t have many concrete scientific studies that support how an Epson Salt Bath helps recovery, but we do know that it works. On the most basic level, taking a warm bath helps calm the nervous system which has a ripple affect, allowing your body to direct it’s energy into repair mode.

If you want to take it a step further, if the athlete also uses this time to focus on breathing, or follows another form of relaxation technique such as listening to music or reading a novel, your brain has time to shut off and recharge. Think of your body like your iphone; it has a long battery life, but the more you use it, the longer you need to stop to recharge.

So what is it about the Epson Salts?

Dissolving epson salts in water releases magnesium and sulfate ions, which can be absorbed through the skin. Magnesium plays many crucial roles in the body and is required in more than 300 essential metabolic reactions in the body. Some of the most important roles for an athlete are:

regulates energy production aka improves performance

regulates muscle and nerve function

regulates blood sugar levels

regulates blood pressure

reduces inflammation

strengthens bones

reduces depression

improves digestion

helps release melatonin which helps you sleep

So, instead of thinking of your bath as a guilty pleasure, you can add it to your arsenal of recovery tools to make you faster, stronger, fitter, and healthier overall.

In the summer, we will talk about ice baths and contrast baths, which also have amazing benefits in aiding recovery, but much harder to convince when it is already cold outside.

10 tips to break sugar addiction

10 tips to break sugar addiction

scroll to bottom for cookie recipe

After several weeks of indulging over Christmas, it can be challenging to return to our usual, healthy way of eating. This is not just due to a lack of willpower. Physiologically, your body and brain are now programmed to want more sugar, making the cravings almost impossible to ignore. 

The brain demands sugar

Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. Your brain also sees sugar as a reward, making you want more of it. You reinforce that reward system every time you eat sugar, making it a tough habit to break.

And the body wants it’s share as well

As if that wasn’t enough, now your body also demands that you give it another hit. As insulin moves glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells for energy, this rapid drop in blood sugar leaves you feeling wiped out and shaky, searching for more sweets to regain that sugar “high.”

Starch equals sugar

Think you don’t have a sweet tooth, but crave bagels, chips, crackers, or french fries? Highly refined starches are complex carbs that the body breaks down into simple sugars. When eaten without protein, fat, or fibre, starches can make blood sugar levels surge and crash, similar to a simple sugar bonk. 

So how do we break this cycle?

  1. Start Slow

January is notorious for making massive commitments to change our lives and diet, only to fail by February and give up.

Instead of going cold turkey on quitting sugar, do it gradually. Try cutting out one sweet food from your diet each week. For example, pass on dessert after dinner or eat one cookie instead of two.

2. Retrain your taste buds

Over time, you can train your taste buds to enjoy things that aren’t as sweet. Start by putting less sugar in your coffee, oatmeal, and baked goods. Over time your taste buds will change, and you will experience the same pleasure or “high” with less.

3. Change up your sugar choices 

Include more fruits and vegetables containing natural sugars, fibre, antioxidants, and essential vitamins. 

4. Educate yourself 

Check food labels. Watch out for items that list any form of sugar in the first few ingredients, or have more than 4 total grams of sugar per serving.

The word “sugar” sometimes goes by another name, like these:

  • Agave nectar
  • Brown rice syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Glucose
  • Lactose
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Sucrose
  • Honey

5. Add more protein and fibre

High-protein and fibre foods digest more slowly, keeping you feeling full for longer. They also don’t make your blood sugar spike the way refined carbs and sugars do. Good protein sources are chicken, yogurt, eggs, nuts, or beans. Good fibre sources are soaked chia seeds, oats, beans, lentils, berries.

Food combining (eating a high protein or fibre along with a high sugar food) will slow the release of insulin and help prevent a sugar crash. But the brain will remain in the same “sugar = reward” feedback loop.

6. Do NOT substitute with artificial sweeteners

Some studies suggest artificial sweeteners may leave you craving more sugar, which doesn’t help break your taste for sweets. Pay attention to your body. Are sweeteners making you crave even more sugar? 

7. Get enough sleep and rest

Many times we crave sugar because we are tired and looking for energy. In addition, if we are well rested, we can make better decisions and, therefore, better food choices.

8. Snack on exercise

It is usually around 2 or 3pm when our blood sugar drops and we start to crave something sweet. Instead of reaching for a cookie, get up and complete a short but vigorous form of exercise. Run up and down the stairs or whip off 10 fast push-ups or do burpees in your office. The quick adrenaline rush will boost your energy levels and curb the craving.

9. When baking, cut the sugar by half

Unless the recipe was designed for weight loss or a low-sugar diet, EVERY recipe I have found uses way too much sugar. As a general rule, I cut the sugar by half. If it is just for myself and my husband, I will continue to cut the sugar until I find how low I can go before he notices. 

10. Make it easy

Have tasty snacks and food available and easy to access, for when your next sugar craving hits. Some snack ideas are: celery sticks with peanut butter, yogurt and blueberries, hummus and any vegetable, apple and almond butter, raisins and almonds. Eat foods that you enjoy so you don’t feel deprived.

Here is my favourite healthy cookie recipe courtesy of Dr. Leslie Wicholas. Leslie is a psychiatrist and an avid cyclist who rides with Kits Energy. She also designed the food as Medicine program to treat depressive mood disorders and fibromyalgia at the Mood Disorders Association of BC.  I love these cookies so much that I double the recipe, so I always have a few in my freezer.

Chocolate Spice Cookies (gluten and dairy free)

by Leslie Wicholas, MD

2/3 cup baked cooked garnet yam. Remove the skin from the yam before using. (You can bake yams ahead of time and freeze them to use later)

1 egg

4 Tbsp mild flavoured olive oil

3 Tbsp dark maple syrup

1/3 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup oat flour

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

3 Tbsp dark chocolate chips

Bake yam at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until really soft. Fully cool in refrigerator before using.

  1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix the wet ingredients well.
  3. Combine dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients. Mix well. Batter will be sticky with a cake like batter consistency. It will firm up after baking.
  4. Grease cookie sheet with coconut oil. Scoop a spoon full of batter onto the sheet. Gently shape into cookies
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Cookies should be firm, with a little “spring” when you touch it.

Makes 15 cookies

Keeps well in fridge for 3-4 days. Freezes well.

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