Overcoming Anxious Thoughts and Self-Doubt.

Anxiety, overthinking, self-doubt, negative mindset, intrusive thoughts… all terms that have now become much more commonplace in conversations within the last few years with the rise in open communication about mental health. I’ve wrestled with them all in various ways, and in many situations been slammed down by them, KO’ed and left staring in the mirror wondering how I got so beaten up. The worst thing? It really never needed to be that way. I’ve learned some effective methods (mostly the hard way) of how to combat those negative, self-doubting voices creeping in and succeeding, and I hope they can help you too on your own journey.

Gremlins

These negative mindsets affect your capacity to make rational decisions and perform to your natural ability. I call them gremlins, or brain chimps. You can miss out on really amazing life opportunities and situations due to them, and you can’t get that time back. Put your hand up if at some point you’ve literally heard these inner fears manifest into horrible little chatty gremlins, telling you why you won’t be able to do something. Guessing you’ve all got your hands up. It sucks, is demoralising and can become increasingly exhausting and overwhelming to deal with regardless of whether you hear them in your day to day life, at work or during sport and exercise.

So how do we face them? Do a Sméagol and screech “Go away and never come back!”. Well, kinda, but using your inside voice, and not sat on a rock wearing only a rag round your middle which isn’t that socially acceptable in most places. (Apart from maybe Swindon.)

My story? 4 years ago I trained as a Personal Trainer, and also simultaneously learned how to ride a mountain bike, and it quite possibly saved my mental health. This is not a “go do something that scares you and you’re cured of all anxiety forever” type of article, but I’ll use my life experiences to show you why this methodology of dealing with those pesky brain chimps is genuinely effective. No one wants to not be able to seize life by the horns because of their own noisy brain, and you don’t have to.

Acknowledge the thoughts. Don’t suppress them.

Imagine the thoughts as a person. Then label that person an emotional state that is causing the things to be said. Fear, jealousy, self loathing. Once you have identified them, you have separated them from yourself. They are not you.

When I used to arrive at a bike park, I’d see a bunch of (seemingly) mega confident blokes all getting their bikes ready. I would instantly start the negative spiral of “what the hell are you doing here, you’re fairly slow and people are going to laugh at you”. So before I’d even got on my bike and faced the roots, I was already battling some obstacles. By identifying these voices as fear, and not my own voice, I could in a way feel like I could answer back and say “Not today mate I want to have fun, sod off”. It takes some time to get used to doing, but it does work.

Proper preparation, leads to proper performance.

Think back to the morning of your exams in school. The exams where you had actually been far more preoccupied with sport/seeing friends/bebo/myspace/puberty/gigs/msn, and knew you hadn’t put in as much work for possibly other more favoured subjects. Walking into the exam hall with sweaty palms and the feeling of impending doom. All down to poor preparation. This feeling feeds the gremlins, and makes their voices louder and harder to eradicate.

When I turn up to a race I undoubtedly get the gremlins on the brain radio, especially when I’m racing steeper, more technical tracks with jumps where there’s a bigger risk of injury. However, because I know I have prepared my bike and my kit, done my strength and conditioning in the gym to keep me strong and primed for what I physically need to do, there’s no extra doubt for me to feed the gremlins. When they start the usual narrative I can just stop it right then and there, knowing I’m physically capable to perform the task, and the rest will come down to talent (or lack thereof) and luck. So when I hear “what if you crash”, I can say, “There’s no reason why I can’t get down, I’m capable”. It’s the same principle if you’ve got a big scary meeting at work coming up, if you’ve prepared what you need to take in, have done your research and truly know the agenda, even an intimidating boardroom dragon can’t catch you out. Which brings me onto my next point.

There’s a difference between what you can affect, and what you can’t.

Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t change. And for what you can change, take steps to affect the variables that lead up to a situation where you know there’s a potential for you to doubt yourself and feel anxious. Subconsciously resigning yourself to what will be and what you can’t change, will help you take deeper breaths and lower your heart rate. This will relieve feelings of tension and anxiety, and distance yourself in your mind from harmful voices intending to block your rational thinking.

I can’t change whether the weather or conditions are going to be horrendous during a race, whether there are people out there naturally faster than me that can beat me, or whether I have been able to memorise tracks enough in the little practice time I’ve had to not crash (they mostly all become a blur anyway). So I’ve learnt to not obsess over these and let what will be, be. However, I can change into the right clothing and protective kit, change the psi in my tyres, my suspension settings, my attitude to the track and nutritional intake to help me perform all day. Acceptance of the things you can’t change also massively helps you have more FUN. Which is why we do these stupid, crazy dangerous sports in the first place right?

(…you can tell I was an ‘interesting’ child to raise, my poor poor mother.)

Write things down!

Don’t underestimate the power of putting pen to paper, or nowadays, thumbs to screen. I have an exercise for you that someone did with me years ago, and I’ve done, since, with college students I’ve given talks to about their future career options. It’s powerful, do it.

  1. Write down the main thing, or things, you want to achieve, as if this was future you and you HAVE achieved them. Imagine you have, feel the satisfaction of how proud and happy it would make you feel.
  2. Write next to each thing a reason why you feel you can’t or won’t achieve them. Be totally honest about your fears and reservations about yourself. Writing them out and seeing the words can sometimes be very surprising and almost painful, as it’s visualising the horrible brain chimps comments of self doubt. It’s not nice, and you see how ridiculous they can be which again reaffirms that those thoughts are separate from you as a being. You wouldn’t say these things to someone else, (unless you’re not particularly nice), so why let them be said to yourself.
  3. Write next to that reason whether you can change it or not. For those you can’t change, smile and wave the worries away. For what you can change, use it as an actions list to get cracking on and do what you need to do. Having imagined the feelings of achievement, imagining someone taking that feeling away from you is gutting. Don’t let your own mind be the reason that is taken away from you.

Congratulate yourself on your achievements!

No one likes a bragger, but truly don’t be afraid to give yourself a big pat on the back when you succeed. When I started riding mtb  or lifting weights, the smallest thing would feel like such a huge win, let alone the bigger stuff like standing on a podium. When I was driving home I would have a think, or a debrief chat with my friends about how pleased I was when I finally cleared that bigger jump, or increased my squat PB by 5kg. They don’t have to be monumental, but keeping things in mind when you start to doubt yourself will give you more positive ammo to load up your gremlin cannon with. You’ve earned it, and your strength will continue to grow through your persistence of what you want to achieve.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

You are your own person, and circumstances for success will be different for everyone. Through following the above points, you’ll remind yourself of your own goals and recipes for good performance. It’s fine to use other people to aspire to and use for motivation. But, don’t measure your success directly in line with theirs. Also, remembering again your teenage years, everyone was so preoccupied with their own body concerns and embarrassments, that you barely noticed anyone else even existed. No one else truly cares about your failures, but you. Which finally brings me on to…

Failure is learning.

So you didn’t win against the gremlins this time, didn’t prepare enough or you failed due to external forces that you couldn’t change. Learn from it. Accept you are human, imperfectly beautiful, and that it is a journey. Acknowledge what you could have changed, and again use that as your motivation for next time. The times I’ve driven away from a bike park feeling horrendous because the fear got the best of me and I didn’t have the metaphorical ‘cajones’ to do something, I could count on more than my hands. Use this feeling as your comeback to the gremlins next time they give you a hard time – so what if you fail? You tried. Knowing you tried reinforces your strength in character and no one can take that away from you. Especially not the gremlins!  

Why is Vitamin D Intake So Important?

Why is Vitamin D Intake So Important?

Sometimes called the “Sunshine Vitamin”, Vitamin D is involved in so many physiological functions, when looking at the detail, you almost wonder if there is anything this vitamin doesn’t do!  It has received increased attention in the last 10 years, with many people taking daily supplements as part of their everyday routine.

Vitamin D is normally obtained through exposure of the skin to UVB through sunlight. This is great in the summer months, but during the winter, when days are shorter and exposure to sun is less, we run the risk of developing a Vitamin D deficiency. This is quite widespread in those that live in northern latitudes where sunlight levels are lower, including little old us here in GB! Another great reason to lap up any winter sunshine when it appears, let alone because it makes training or being outdoors much less bracing!

The variations of Vitamin D deficiency status between individuals can also be seen as a result of dietary intake, clothing worn during exercise and overall lifestyle (30). Whatever the reason for Vitamin D deficiency, it can have a significant effect on not only sporting performance but more importantly overall health and wellbeing.

 

Why do we need Vitamin D?

Vitamin D plays many vital roles in our body. The most renowned is its role in aiding the absorption of dietary calcium, and subsequent role in maintaining bone health. So, without Vitamin D present, we don’t absorb as much or any calcium from what we eat and drink, missing out on its vital benefits without realising. It also plays a crucial role in muscle function, recovery, and repair. A study in the Journal of Physiology showed that supplementing with 4000IU/day of Vitamin D had a positive effect on recovery following a bout of damaging eccentric exercise (31).

Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune function.  A study in 2011 looked at Vitamin D levels in college athletes over the winter and spring. It showed that those athletes with Vitamins D levels less than 95 n.mol.1 experienced one or more episodes of upper respiratory tract infection compared to those with higher concentrations of measured Vitamin D.

 

Where can I get Vitamin D from and how much should I take?

Vitamin D exists in very few foods, but mainly oily fish, red meat, liver, eggs yolks and fortified foods such as cereal and spreads). As a result, it’s very hard to meet daily requirements through food consumption alone. The Department of Health recommends taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms  (400 IU) through the winter months and all year round if you are not outside very often or you wear clothes that cover you up when outdoors.

If you are deficient you may need to supplement with more, however, as there are not clear signs to look out for it is hard to judge. General signs such as recurrent injury, fatigue and muscle soreness can be warning signals but hard to identify, as a lot of athletes can feel like this simply as a result of training.  Rather than guessing, the best way to find out is having a blood test. This can give you a clear answer on whether you need to supplement or not and will be advised by your Dr or dietitian as to what level to take. Although rare, as Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (excess amounts get stored, rather than excreted) there is always a chance that you can obtain too much Vitamin D if you supplement with high levels without a clear reason to. Although we know maintaining Vitamin D levels within the recommended amount is beneficial for our health and athletic performance, it is still unproven that Vitamin D supplementation is a direct performance enhancer.

 

Vitamin D’s effects on Cardiorespiratory Fitness (CRF)

Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune function, especially if you’re active.  A study in 2011 looked at Vitamin D levels in college athletes over the winter and spring. It showed that those athletes with Vitamin D levels less than 95 n.mol.1 experienced one or more episodes of upper respiratory tract infection compared to those with higher concentrations of measured Vitamin D.

Additionally, a recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology looked into a link between Vitamin D and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). They tested the blood of 2000 subjects to determine their Vitamin D levels compared to their VO2 max (a marker of cardiorespiratory fitness showing how efficiently your body utilises oxygen).

They found that those in the higher quartile of Vitamin D levels had significantly higher VO2 max levels, compared to those in the lower quartile. This suggested an association between CRP fitness and Vitamin D levels. However, it is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario as the researchers are still yet to conclude from this if CRF is better because of higher Vit D levels, or if Vit D levels are better because of higher CRF.

The general consensus is that Vitamin D deficiency can affect athletic performance, but it is still unknown if Vit D supplementation in those that are not deficient will have the same effects on performance and recovery as those that have a proven Vit D deficiency. More studies on this are needed.

 

Article by Alex Cook, The Sports Dietician

https://www.thesportsdietitian.co.uk/

 

 

Christmas Season Survival Tips from our Dietician, Alex Cook

Christmas Season Survival Tips from our Dietician, Alex Cook

Christmas is a season to eat and be merry of course, but many use it as an excuse to overindulge. Many claim putting on weight over the festive season is part and parcel of celebrations but in reality, it is not necessary and can be avoided. Maintain focus on your longer term goals, whether that’s simply to be healthier overall, or even as hardcore as preparing for competitive events in the new year; keeping them in mind will help you decide where to draw your lines!

We are not advising anyone to restrict their food intake, but if you want to enjoy the next few weeks without overdoing it, follow our Christmas survival top tips to control the festive urge!

 

  1. Maintain your routine – Although it’s only natural for things to go a little awry over Christmas time, try and keep some things the same. Maintaining some basic principles of drinking plenty of water, having a good breakfast and making sure you hit 5 fruit and vegetables a day will stand you in good stead. Think about planning your exercise in where you can too, something is better than nothing, especially if the Christmas week is a little hectic with family and commitments.  
  2. Don’t feel guilty – if you do go a little overboard, banish the guilt. Don’t use words such as “cheat day” or “bad” food. You need to enjoy yourself so get rid of negative talk. Enjoy your time and your food and if you think you slightly overdo it, just cut back a bit the next day. Think about balancing it across the week, if you have one day you’ve overindulged for a staff party or such, you can still eat really well and clean on the other days.   
  3. Don’t feel obliged – It is ok to say no! Just because someone has offered or made something, you don’t have to eat it. Don’t feel pressured by the “but it’s Christmas” comment. Eat and drink what you are comfortable with and don’t eat or drink to please others. 
  4. Have a protein rich snack before you go out – Protein takes longer to digest and therefore keeps you full up for longer. If you go out feeling really hungry, you are more likely to yield to monster portions when faced with the option. Have some hummus and raw veg or greek yogurt with seeds and nuts – that will keep hunger at bay. 
  5. Avoid buying too much food – Having cupboards bursting with foods can be a recipe for disaster. The temptation to eat more than you need is there as a result of not wanting it to “go to waste”. Try and only buy what you need and avoid over-sized boxes, tins of biscuits and crisps etc…if they are there, you will only be tempted to eat more. 
  6. Back away from that buffet! – Buffets can be a dangerous place, bitesize food makes it feel like you’re not eating a lot when you are. Make sure you fill half your plate up with veggies or salad, then protein based foods such as chicken or fish and then the smallest portion carbohydrates like bread or potatoes. Take time selecting your food and once your plate is full, move away to avoid the oh-so-easy grazing and hopefully to do some dancing!

 

Top Winter Riding Safety Tips from Our Cycling Expert, Jonny Bellis

Top Winter Riding Safety Tips from Our Cycling Expert, Jonny Bellis

Riding in the winter is key to maintaining a good level of fitness and setting you up for the next season. However, it can be dangerous as the nights draw in and the weather turns cold, wet and windy. Staying safe on the road is key, and the last thing you want is an incident or a bad experience to derail your season preparation!

Here are my top tips for riding safely in the winter and making the most of your time in the saddle!

  • Lights – lights on the front (white) and back (red) of your bike are crucial to ensuring you are visible out on the road. Chances are if you’re commuting you will be doing so in the dark, as daylight hours are reduced. Similarly if you are on the club run at the weekend, foggy, misty, or overcast conditions are more likely in the winter months. Strong lights to show what’s ahead will make your rides safer, as well as making vehicles aware of you on the road.
  • Training indoors – on the indoor trainer (turbo or rollers), wattbike or similar. If it is icy, pouring with rain, snowy, frosty or below 3C, you reduce the risk of illness and crashing by training indoors. Turbo trainers are a great tool for training – allowing you to do controlled efforts while staying warm, dry and comfortable. You can get as much benefit from a 50 minute ride with efforts indoors, as you can from a two hour road ride in the cold, where you will be taking risks. No dirty bike to wash too, bonus!
  • Winter kit – You need to be prepared for all types of weather when riding in the winter. Warm gloves are key to ensuring you have feeling in your hands to brake and change gear. A warm, waterproof jacket is also a great bit of kit, as is a thermal baselayer to wear under your jersey. You could also take a rain cape for your back pocket, just in case of showers. It’s wise to wear a buff around your neck, to keep your neck and chest warm, especially for if you stop and don’t want your body temperature to drop too much. This can also be pulled up around the face to minimise the amount of cold air you are breathing in.
  • Roads – Due to bad weather, the condition of roads may be compromised so extra care is needed. As I mention in my beginner 12-week plan, look out for potholes or cracks in the road, and identify them to the group you are riding with. Some potholes may be covered with water or leaves and simply look like a puddle, so try to maintain concentration and be aware. Signalling the road surface is even more important riding in groups, to ensure everyone stays upright. Roads may also be more slippery so cornering and stopping needs to be done with extra care. Don’t grab your brakes, and when cornering, go a little more slowly in and out of the bends.
  • Winter Tyres! – During the winter months, with bad weather conditions and poor road surface, you have the option to change to a more durable tyre. Tyre brands will all have several winter options that are generally heavier, grippier and thicker, to reduce the likelihood of punctures or skidding.
  • Fuelling on the bike – You will burn more calories on the bike when you are cold as your body works harder to stay warm. Therefore fuelling sufficiently on the bike is crucial to ensuring you can enjoy longer rides in the winter. Even though it is cold you still need to drink and make sure you eat a good mix of carbohydrate and protein every 30 minutes to keep your resources topped up. 

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Riding in the winter is tough and it’s hard to stay motivated when the weather is grim and there are less hours of light to ride in. However, you will be grateful for the winter miles next summer when the sun is shining and you’re feeling fit – so enjoy riding your bike, and with these tips you can stay safe out on the roads too!

Article by Jonny Bellis OLY – Former professional road cyclist with Team Saxo Bank, and elite private coach. 

Jonny Bellis was one of Britain’s most promising, up and coming cyclists; a member of the GB squad with the likes of Mark Cavendish, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy and part of the world’s number one professional road team, Team Saxo Bank. When Jonny won bronze in the Under 23 World Road Race in 2007, he became the first British male rider to medal in over 40 years and also represented Team GB in the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the age of just 19.

His burgeoning career took a monumental detour after a horror scooter accident in 2009. He spent 3 weeks in an induced coma, contracted repeat life-threatening infections, suffered a stroke and was told he’d be paralysed from the neck down. In just over a year after this tragedy and after a gruelling recovery process, he incredibly made it back to the start line at the top of his game at the Tour of Britain. He retired in 2015 and now inspires the next generation as a coach. He provides a true and unique depth of experience and we’re proud to have him on board as our cycling expert.

Download the Amplify Life app for free to follow Jonny’s expert plans and get stuck into your training journey! To speak to Jonny directly about 1-1 coaching you can contact him through his website below.

www.belliscoaching.co.uk
@jonnybelliss

Top Tips for Winter Wellness

Top Tips for Winter Wellness

As ol’ Ned Stark said, “Winter is coming”, and after the Arctic spell we had last year, we need to think ahead and be prepared.  Although we know that moderate exercise is good for keeping the bugs away, it is also evident that those of us engaged in more intense training, or have recently competed in an endurance event, appear to have an increased risk of developing symptoms of the upper respiratory tract (URT) (1). To us at Amplify Life, that just seems unfair!

To make matters worse, if you’re training to compete at any level, getting unwell can lead to a nice relaxing anxiety attack about time ticking away towards your next race! Many of us constantly analyse our levels of fitness, or lack thereof when the flu comes around. It adds an extra intensity and stress to a winter bug that maybe non-athletes don’t get.

We are itching to get back in our trainers and training schedules and, as a result, we may not rest quite enough and allow our bodies to recover before pushing the heart rate up again.

So, from learning through experience, here are my top tips for staying well and top of your training game during Winter (..and not ending up feeling like a white walker in the army of the undead)!

Eat well and hydrate often

  • It may seem simple, but one thing that does your body no good is training hard and not eating correctly to meet your requirements. Immune system function appears to be suppressed during periods of low calorific intake and weight reduction. Therefore, if you are prone to catching illness, it is advised to lose weight slowly and during non-competitive training phases when training volume is lower (2). In general, eating a healthy balanced diet on a day to day basis is a simple step to ensure an optimally functioning immune system. As, if you are energy deficient your immune system may suffer, and you may be more susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections (URTI).
  • A healthy immune system benefits from a diet adequate in calories, high in fresh fruit and vegetables, omega 3 fats, nuts and whole grains. Ensuring three meals a day and good recovery meals / snacks that contain carbs (50g) and protein (20g) post training will help keep your body in top form.
  • Keep hydration levels up. Drink regularly throughout the day (moderate tea and coffee intake also counts) and ensure after you have trained you hydrate enough for your urine to be clear.

Carbohydrate and fluid intake during exercise

  • Studies have found that carbohydrate intake may play an important role in maintaining effective immune function. Low carbohydrate intake may cause direct immunosuppression, as immune cells function best on glucose alone.
  • Additionally, ingestion of carbohydrates during prolonged, intense levels of exercise can reduce the production of cortisol as a response to training. Cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’, has been linked with immune suppression. If an athlete is training fasted or in an intentionally low-glycogen state, it is advised not do this more than a few days at a time. Plus, if you’re prone to illness and bugs it’s probably a safe bet to not do it at all until your immune system is back to strength.
  • Staying hydrated during exercise has multiple benefits. One key reason is that it ensures saliva flow is maintained (mmm nice right?). Saliva is important as it contains antimicrobial properties, so if saliva flow decreases there is a chance that we become more susceptible to infection from viruses and bacteria (1).

VitaminC

  • Vitamin C has antioxidant properties which help counteract the effect of damaging free radicals you produce as a result of heavy exertion. If you manage to have plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet, then supplementation may not be necessary. However, during high levels of training and getting over illness, you may benefit from increasing your Vit C intake to give your body that extra boost.
  • A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (3) showed how the supplementation of 600mg Vitamin C per day for 3 weeks prior to a 90km ultra marathon race, reduced the incidence of URTI during the 2 week recovery period.

Probiotics

  • Probiotics or ‘friendly bacteria’ are getting more and more attention these days. Whether you are fermenting your own food or taking a supplement, we are much more aware of how significant our bowel health plays in so many aspects of our wellness. Thinking about adding these into your diet may be a wise idea to help fortify your immune system.
  • Active people should look out for probiotics that contain at least 10 billion live species of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. If you don’t want to take supplements, try using live natural yogurt or foods such as sauerkraut and kefir for example.
  • A double blinded study in the International Journal of Sport, Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (4) supplemented 84 endurance athletes with a probiotic or placebo over 4 months of winter training. They measured the incidence of URTI in both groups. The number of athletes that experienced 1 or more weeks of URTI was 36% higher in the placebo group compared to those that took a probiotic.

Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is recognised as having an important role in immunity and helps to defend against the common cold. Vitamin D deficiencies are common in the athletic population, although the general population also suffers, especially in the months between October and March due to lack of natural sunlight.
  • Individuals are advised to supplement every day with 10 mcg of Vitamin D a day, and make the most of daylight hours!
  • It’s also crucial in assisting phosphate and calcium absorption, so getting enough Vitamin D is important when making sure you can get everything you can from what you eat and supplement.

Immune Boosting Top Tips summary!

  1. Don’t skip meals and avoid negative energy balance. Overall energy intake should match your requirements. Don’t shy away from carbohydrates, and if you are doing fasted training / training low carb, only do it for a few days at a time.
  2. Consider taking carbohydrate during training (30-60g / hr). Taking this in fluid form also helps maintain hydration and saliva flow.
  3. Ensure regular intake of protein (20g per meal per day) and focus on post training meals (0.3g/kg of body weight).
  4. Regular intake of fruit, vegetables and salads (at least 7 a day). If you think you will struggle with this consider taking a multi vitamin.
  5. Take Vitamin D supplement between October and March.
  6. Take probiotic every day ensuring it has at least 10 billion live bacteria
  7. Consider supplementing with extra Vit C (no more than 1000mg) leading up to focus races.

(* note : if you are taking a multivitamin, to avoid double dosing check what it contains as you may not need extra vitamin C or D, for example.)

Article by Alex Cook – Registered Sports & Clinical Dietician

References

  1. Gleeson M 2016 Immunological aspects of sport nutrition. Immunology and Cell biology 94 117-123
  2. Nieman DC et al 1996 Immune response to obesity and moderate weight loss Int. J Obesity relatedMetab. Discord, 20:353-360
  3. Peters EM et al Vitamin C supplementation reduces the incidence of postface symptoms of URTI in ultra marathon runners Am Journal Clinical Nutrition 57: 170-174
  4. Gleeson M, Bishop NC, Oliveira M, Tauler P 2010 Daily probiotics (Lactobacillus casei Shirota) Reduction  of infection incidence in athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 1-10

Nutrition Tips On Your Road To Recovery!

Nutrition Tips On Your Road To Recovery!

Congratulations to those who ran in the Richmond Run fest at the weekend!. Whether you’ve completed 5 or 21.1km, you’ve achieved your goal!  Mentally you will be buzzing but physically you will be tired. Your body is in recovery mode and may need a little support from you in the coming week.

How we recover is paramount to overall performance. Just as important as that Sunday long run and Tuesday track session.  The reality is, if we recover better we can train harder.  It is this that makes a huge impact on performance not just by getting us back to previous form but can make us even better.  When a session is done or race completed, many of us switch off too early. Understanding a little more about how we can help our bodies recover better after hard training sessions and races will make you a stronger runner.

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in this process. Providing the body with the correct nutrients at the correct time can affect the rate we recover. Dehydration, glycogen depletion (when our carb stores have been used) and muscle soreness can all be tackled by a consistent nutrition strategy.

What do we need?

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Carbohydrates and protein are the main nutrients we need to get the recovery process going. Although both play equally important roles, protein is always the main nutrient that is associated with recovery. Indeed it is the main driver for muscle protein synthesis, the process that instigates muscle repair and adaptation. However for runners, carbohydrate is just as important. We run, we use up our fuel (muscle glycogen) and when we finish, especially over longer distances, the tank can be close to empty. If we don’t replenish these stores, our next training session may be hampered. Rehydrating is also a focus point. Dark coloured wee post training or racing is to be expected but the aim is to get it nice a clear again within a few hours. Once you have achieved this, you know your body is rehydrated and back in balance.

A certain amount of inflammation and stress occurs when you train as well and it is part of the training and adaptation process that helps us get fitter. Along side ensuring you meet your carbohydrate, protein and hydration needs, foods with antioxidants and anti inflammatory properties will help us recover. Look for brightly coloured fruit and vegetables and ensure you have them at least 5 portions a day (more is ideal). Good fats found in fish oils can also regulate some of the stress and inflammation that we get from hard exercise. So regular intake of oily fish, olive oil and nuts for example is a goof habit to get into.

How do you do this? 

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The 3 R’s of recovery are your sole nutrition recovery focus. If you adhere to these 3 rules after every hard session and race, you can be sure recovery will be  training harder with more consistency.

 Rehydrate  

 Refuel 

 Rebuild 

1      Rehydrate with water or / and electrolyte drink. You need to take on fluid at a rate that you are not peeing it straight out!  As soon as you have finished training / racing drink 500mls fluid. After that, drink little and  often until urine is clear or you have reached your pre run weight. If you have sweated a lot or it is a particularly hot day you may want some added electrolytes to help the hydration process. If you want to be more exact drink 1.5L of fluid for every 1 kg lost in weight (1).

2      Refuel with carbohydrate but no need tp over compensate! Everyone likes to indulge post race but after most training sessions you don’t have to go crazy! Here are some guidelines:

  • If you have 24 hours between sessions, your strategy can be a little more relaxed.      Follow your daily carb needs appropriate for your level of activity and ensure a well balanced mea within an hour or so of finishing exercise. Simple but effective!
  • If you have less than 8 hrs between sessions, or you have done a gruelling fasted sessions this is where you need to be more exact. Take approximately 1g carbs / kg of body weight each hour for 3-4 hrs to maximise glycogen synthesis (2). This way you will ensure your glycogen stores are as restored as much as possible for the next session.

3      Rebuild with protein. Protein is not essential for the immediate post session recovery (i.e. it won’t make any difference to  performance in a second session a few hours later) but plays a large part in long term recovery and adaptation to training. As mentioned previously it is the main driver for muscle protein synthesis but this process occurs over many hours and days. Therefore getting into the habit of having approx 20 g protein post session and then regularly at each meal and snack for remainder of the day will ensure adequate adaptation to training sessions and ensure an improvement in performance.

Example of how to get 10g protein

FoodQuantity
nuts50g
milk300mls
eggs2 medium
nut butter50g
yogurt200g
chicken40g

In essence you need to think ahead. A prepared athlete is a successful athlete. Simply by ensuring you don’t go hours without eating after training or racing and eat a snack or meal with adequate carbohydrate and protein you will ensure recovery will be efficient. Always carry items such as cereal bars, nuts and dried fruit in your bag so there is always something if you have forgotten something more substantial. More careful planning is needed if you are training twice day as the recovery window is much smaller. Below is an example of a really easy, cheap to make DIY recovery shake for quick instant refuelling:

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Banana and Oat recovery shake 

1 pint skimmed milk

1 banana

15g raw oats

Put everything in a blender and blitz up ready to go. If you are going away from home for a session, put in insulated cold flask to keep chilled.

CaloriesCarbohydrateProteinfat
39070g19g2.5 g
  1. M, Sawka MN, Burke LM, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2007;39(2):377–390.
  2. Burke LM, Kiens B, Ivy JL. Carbohydrates and fat for training and recovery. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2004;22(1):15–30.

Martin Yelling’s Long Run Home

Martin Yelling’s Long Run Home

We’re proud to be backing today’s stage of the Long Run Home and donating money to Martin Yelling’s chosen charities (see below).

So far Martin has run 133 miles in four days and today he’ll cover a total of 32 miles between Crackington Haven and Padstow. Martin’s goal for the long run home goal is to run the entire South West Coast path, a total of 630 miles in  21 days.

Check out where Martin’s running, by clicking on the image below.

Martin Yelling's Long Run Home
Martin Yelling’s Long Run Home

We’re supporting Martin who is running the south west coast path for three charities he cares about: The Southmead Hospital Charity, Julia’s House and MacMillan Cancer Support. You can too sponsor Martin at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MartinYelling128.

Martin sets off Martin and runner

For more action today:

* Stage discussion: https://www.facebook.com/events/1048183521933746/
* Live tracking of Martin for every stage: http://live.opentracking.co.uk/longrunhome/