Category Archives: Nutrition

HEAT, HUMIDITY, EXERCISE & EDIBLE SUNSCREEN

Respect the impact of summer elements on your exercise.

You either like the heat, or you don’t. Those who live in Vermont because they prefer cooler temperatures, and snow and winter sports, just might start to complain when the thermometer hits 70 degrees. Others luxuriate in the penetrating heat of a sunny Vermont day. Both camps often agree, however, that high heat combined with elevated humidity often cause a game change.

In any event, longer daylight hours married to pleasing temperatures lure most outdoors. An added bonus is how little one needs to wear in summer versus winter conditions.

That does not mean, however, that one should be unprepared for what summer elements may produce.

— Weather: It may change any minute. If it rains, will you be prepared? Be sure to check the forecast. Right or wrong, it will at least give you a good idea of what is possible. Above all, avoid getting caught unprepared when dangerous lightening strikes.

— Heat: The condition of heat exhaustion is preventable; heat stroke is deadly. Learn the symptoms and treatments for both (see, for example, www.mayoclinic.org). Your troubles may appear initially as heat cramps. If these escalate to dizziness, hot and clammy skin, rapid pulse, headache, nausea, fatigue (to name a few symptoms), it’s time to take action. Or rather, it’s time to stop, find a cooler place (even the shade of a tree) and hydrate with water or a sports drink. Untreated, heat exhaustion can become unmanageable and dangerous. If symptoms continue for an hour and body temperature is elevated to 104 F or above, seek immediate medical attention.

A warm, dry day is an excellent time to get outdoors to train for a sport or participate in a game, competition or event. However, if conditions are adverse, best to err on the side of caution: Play it safe, dial it back, reduce the intensity or length of your training, take special care to hydrate well and spend every available minute out of the direct sun.

— Wind: Unintended consequences prevail when one embarks on an adventure on a windy day. When checking the weather forecast, also be sure to note the wind. When cycling, paddling or running, for example, a headwind is disadvantageous because of the effort involved. Yet a tailwind, though often an exciting relief, just might be more than you bargained for. On water it’s easy to be blown off course, and on a bike those pesky cross winds can be unsettling. Wind is also unexpectedly dehydrating.

— First aid: It’s smart to refresh your memory of basic first-aid and to pack along a few simple aids that could make the difference between a blip on the day and a sad experience.

— Bugs and bee stings: Oh my; these do come with the territory. Some people seem to attract insects more than others. Know your personal tolerance level and bring along whatever you need to protect yourself whether it’s a topical spray or lotion or long sleeves and pant legs, or even netting. If, of course, you are allergic to bee stings, always be prepared with an EpiPen (epinephrine injection) or whatever antidote you use, and inform your companions of your allergy.

— Poisonous plants: Learn to identify poisonous plants such as ivy, oak, sumac, parsnips, and even common plants such as sunflowers wild grapes and clematis (www.uvm.edu). Reactions to toxins from these plants vary in different individuals.

Surely when your work is in the outdoors, choices are limited and precautions take on new meaning. If, however, you are off for a day of fun, think ahead to insure a safe and pleasant outing for yourself and those with whom you spend your hours.

— Sun protection: Finally, by now, unless you live on another planet, you have heard repeated warnings to protect your skin from the ravages of skin cancer due to exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. Apply and reapply sunscreen as needed.

Read below to see what Kimberly Evans, a registered dietitian, has to say about nutrition and the sun.

EDIBLE SUNSCREEN

by Kimberly Evans, MS, RD.

The sunscreen dilemma is a frequent problem with athletes and outdoor enthusiasts come summer.  One might think that this is a no brainer.  After all, for a very long time now we have been programmed to lather up on sunblock before we even step outside.  You do this to protect your skin from harmful sunrays, and therefore protect your skin from cancer.  For the most part, we can all agree that skin protection is an important consideration for those who are active outside in the summer months.

But wait, there are some cons; maybe even more cons than pros.  For one, not only does sunblock keep out harmful sun rays, it also keeps out very beneficial Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is a crucial hormone-like-vitamin that not only keeps athlete’s immune systems healthy, but also plays a role in preventing stress fractures and other sports-related injuries. 

It is a good practice for active people to get vitamin D levels tested once a year, especially if they are sun-avoidant or heavy sun block users.  Salmon and mushrooms are a great natural source of Vitamin D, but many folks find that they need to take supplemental Vitamin D3.

Another very real sun block con is that many sunscreens are loaded with harmful chemicals, commonly referred to as endocrine disruptors. 

The skin is the largest organ of the body and creams, oils, and lotions applied to the skin quickly make their way into the blood stream.  Chemicals such as PABA, paraben, sulphates, phthalates, oxybenzone, and forms of Vitamin A are common sunscreen additives. 

If you lather up before going outside, a good rule of thumb is to choose a sunscreen that has strong broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, such as those containing zinc oxide.  Badger All-Natural Sunscreen and Aubrey Organics are two good examples. 

The Environmental Working Group (a non-profit research group focused on public health protection) has several guides to choosing a good sunscreen, as well as several interesting articles such as “Eight Little Known Facts About Sunscreens.”

 As a registered dietitian and food enthusiast, I find there is always a celebration to be had when food comes to the rescue. In my world it often does.  Beyond topical sunscreen, foods themselves can offer sun protection for the skin. 

The next time you are heading out for a run, hike, bike, walk, swim, round of golf or any other outdoor activity, plan a meal where you can eat your sun block or take sun protecting snacks along. 

Wait, what?  Yes. I am not talking about finding an edible sunscreen here.  I am saying that many foods in your kitchen contain natural protection against solar radiation. 

The phytochemicals in foods actually make their way to the upper layers of your skin, increasing resistance to UV damage. Think of these foods as part of your summer medicine cabinet that can be found in your kitchen and your garden.

Here are the top foods that offer skin protection.

TOMATOES. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a phytochemical that has been shown to protect the skin against sunburn.  This protein is enhanced by olive oil and cooking the tomatoes. (Bruschetta anyone?) 

AVOCADOS. The oils in avocados help protect the skin from damaging effects of the sun.  Avocados make a great addition to a smoothie, a salad, or as a sandwich spread.  (Although I have been known to simply cut them in half and eat with a spoon right out of the skin.)

APPLES, particularly red apples.  The triterpenoids in the skin of apples fight cancer cells by inducing apoptosis, or death of cancer cells.

GREEN TEA. The catechins in green tea offer skin protection.  Make a goal of two cups per day.  Green tea can be a good liquid to add to a smoothie, use in a sports drink or to make a simple iced tea.

CITRUS. Beyond the healing properties of the Vitamin C found in citrus, the essential oils found in the skin of lemons, limes, and all citrus contain limonene, an essential oil that offers a dose of skin protein when eaten.  Zest lemons or limes into your tea (hot or iced) or even onto a nut butter sandwich. (Trust me on this one; it is delish.)

OMEGA – RICH FOODS. Salmon, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are omega powerhouses.  The omega-3 fats act as sunscreen and have been shown to decrease squamous cell skin cancer by 20%.

POMEGRANATES are rich in ellagic acid and support glutathione production in the body. These phytonutrients offer antioxidant protection and fight skin damage caused by free radicals. Pomegranate juice is always available and makes a tasty pink lemonade. 

Pomegranates also make an excellent addition to guacamole. This is a win-win. Try this recipe.

Pomegranate Guacamole

 2 ripe avocados

¼ cup diced red onions

3 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tsp salt

½ cup finely diced cilantro (mint or parsley can be used for those non-cilantro lovers – cut down to ¼ cup)

½ cup pomegranate seeds

Halve and pit the avocados and scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl. Add red onion, lime juice, salt, and cilantro to the bowl. Mash the mixture together with a fork. Stir in pomegranate seeds and serve with chips or crudité (jicama is very nice here)

If you are active outside in the summer, add these foods to your shopping list.  Food does not need to replace sunblock entirely, but it can work together with it to increase its effectiveness in a most tasty and delicious way. Culinary medicine is a growing science that combines the art of cooking with the emerging science of nutrition, genomics, and biochemistry. Eating your way to skin protection is just one example of culinary medicine. 

To contact Evans, email Kimberly@wholehealthnutritionvt.com or visit her website: www.wholehealthnutritionvt.com

John Spinney – Triathlete and Coach

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT LONG-TERM SUCCESS:  MEET THE ATHLETE – JOHN SPINNEY

John Spinney wears two hats; both are professional and both represent life-long passions.

John Spinney at 2015 Ironman Mont Tremblant Ironman Hawaii Qualifier

John Spinney at 2015 Ironman Mont Tremblant Ironman Hawaii Qualifier

The first, some might say, is his real job. As post-secondary transition coordinator at the Vermont Agency of Education, Spinney works in the field of special education, helping students transition from high school to college to career, forming partnerships between schools and business.

His other hat might be better identified as a baseball cap or cycling helmet. A competitive triathlete, Spinney has made his own transition, from podium to coach.

Spinney, who lives in Waterbury with his wife, Lindsay Simpson, grew up in Guilford, Vermont, in a closely knit family who lived and worked professionally and compassionately with individuals with special needs. Spinney’s present was clearly informed by his past. His parents modeled lives based on education, embracing disabilities. Furthermore, he spent his childhood with four siblings; two of whom were special-needs adoptions with Down syndrome.

Add to that a varied and competitive enthusiasm for athletic activity, and it is easy to see how Spinney became who he is today. After a lifetime of running, riding, swimming and skiing, he may have found his calling as a coach whose vast competitive experience fuels his ability to connect with athletes of all levels and at one of many stages of their athletic growth and performance.

BACKSTORY  In 1993, Spinney graduated from Brattleboro High School, where he had run cross- country and bike raced. Tim Chock and Barbara Walsh, then and now owners of the Brattleboro Bicycle Shop, “taught me everything I know,” Spinney said. It is under the wings of this small, local bike shop that Spinney first experienced team racing of a surprisingly good quality — public-school kids in a prep-school league.

There was a Time Trial series out of West Hill Shop in Putney, a program for aspiring youths from the New England Cycling Association, and maybe 50-65 bike races a year for the 16-year-old Spinney. He began to burn out.

Interestingly, while in high school, “alpine ski racing was actually my first sport,” Spinney said. But there also lurked the “inner ski bum,” he said. During his years at Johnson State College, Spinney ran cross-country, bike raced, coached Mitey Mites at Smugglers’ Notch, and finally found his way onto mogul fields.

With teaching license in hand, Spinney headed to Waterville Valley Academy, where he did what so many young ski academy instructors do, combining several jobs in one as house parent, classroom English teacher and mogul instructor, integrating dryland training in the academy’s program.

TRIATHLON  Today Spinney is identified as a triathlete, but it took awhile for him to realize the personal impact of the sport. “I did my first triathlon at 14,” he said. “I was mostly a bike racer but dabbled in triathlon.”

A ski injury in his senior year at college kept him off the hill, but nudged him in another direction. “It took a couple years,” he said. “My back was killing me.” “You know what?” he said to himself, “I’ll just do a bunch of triathalons; riding isn’t that long.”

And then fate stepped in. The Vermont Sun Triathlon series has been in existence for over three decades. On July 22, 2000, Spinney entered and subsequently won a Vermont Sun sprint triathlon. More importantly, at that event he met Lindsay Simpson. Spinney unabashedly states “It was love at first sight.”

Their story is one of connection: personal, professional, athletic, and certainly a mutual commitment to values and ideals.

Though they went their separate ways for awhile, daily communication and a good bit of creativity eventually brought them together again where Lindsay taught and served as house-parent at the Lowell Whiteman School, now Steamboat Mountain School, in Colorado. They never looked back. In 2001, the couple drove to Burlington and in 2006 were married.

John Spinney and Lindsay Simpson, PIneland Farms trail festival 2014. In 2016 Simpson returned to Pineland Farms to win the Women's 50 Mile Race.

John Spinney and Lindsay Simpson, PIneland Farms trail festival 2014. In 2016 Simpson returned to Pineland Farms to win the Women’s 50 Mile Race.

Conventional wisdom might suggest that it is unwise for life partners to coach or be coached by the other, but in the case of John and Lindsay, it works. “Lindsay never loved swimming and cycling,” Spinney said, “but she loves to run.” Over the years he has coached his wife to become a highly successful ultra-distance runner, qualifying this year for Leadville, the ultra race that separates and distinguishes them all. Lindsay, in turn, acts as John’s support crew, whether in Hawaii for the Ironman Championships or in his day-to-day efforts. They live, work and train as a team.

“I love what I do,” he said. When speaking of his work, “These are two jobs I am passionate about.” When speaking of his life, it is his marriage that brings a smile to his face. QT2 systems coach

For Spinney, in 2008 it all came together — competition, athletics and education — when Jesse Kropelnicki, founder and managing director of QT2 Systems, coached him through a pivotal year of Iron Man training.

For Spinney, teaching and competition morphed into coaching, drawing on personal experience in practice, performance and recognizing the need to understand how people learn. Under the umbrella of QT2 Systems training are five cornerstones. Preparation (training and nutrition/rest) combines with execution (race-fueling and pacing) and the fifth cornerstone, mental fitness, to produce the race outcome.

QT2 logic refers to the model that helps build programs across lines dividing endurance sports, makes the principles applicable to multiple sports, and with appropriate adaptations to multiple athletes with varying skills and body types.

QT2 training involves the whole picture. Which energy system is needed for a key race? What is the current fitness level of each athlete, his or her strengths and weaknesses? How should one explore conditioning, diet, recovery and the all- important mental component? What is the athlete’s limiter, and how does that inform training and ultimately results? “If your coach can’t tell you why you are doing a particular workout, then get a new coach.” (Jesse Kropelnicki, www.qt2systems.com) It must all make sense; and it must work.

Spinney is serious about what he does. He is a numbers guy. His work is structured, not restrictive. He stresses the need for balance. He will alternate a hard year of intense competition with a year that is perhaps equally demanding, but more for fun.

When coaching, Spinney looks for the 1 percent rule: “Where are all the little 1 percent things you can improve as an athlete? Look for the little dials. That’s my job,” he said.

The bottom line is endurance. “It’s all about long-term success,” he said. “Mobility, body work, nutrition, maintaining muscle mass,” all are critical. But perhaps the most critical of all is one’s Daily Performance Environment.

Active Vermont: Spinney on Daily Performance Environment

This is the glue that keeps the athlete together — and leads to the ultimate fitness developing tool: Consistency. You get injured or sick or burnt out and you lose consistency and lose fitness.

Key items for the DPE:

Daily bodywork. (self-myofascial release work followed by targeted stretching, 3-5 minutes twice a day) I have all my athletes think of this in the same way as brushing your teeth a.m. and p.m. The goal is mobility and limit soft-tissue adhesions which often lead to inflammation in joints which can lead to injuries.

Stay mobile, stay healthy, stay consistent. The other thing I always say to my athletes is: Bodywork should be commensurate with training load. If you’re training really heavily, then the amount of time given to bodywork should be increased; while less bodywork is needed when training load is light. There should be a quick and easy way for the athlete to do this. Items should be kept in one place for easy and time-efficient access. At minimum, I recommend firm-foam roller (bonus points for spiky-foam roller), softball (an actual softball), and a golf ball or Foot Rubz ball.

A mutual acceptance among the parties in your household of overall fitness goals and also a successful balancing of the spousal-approval units (SAUs). This is a big one and arguably the most difficult one to achieve, but it is a cornerstone of any highly successful athlete. There is an agreement and a balance in the household around the commitment needed to perform. The athlete also is committed to keeping the SAU bank full and knows when to fill it. It is all a balancing act. Diet and meals, daily logistics, dividing up of chores, supporting each other, and being in a true partnership. I am in no way an expert at this, but constantly trying to get better and be a better partner.

An acceptance of the type of diet the athlete needs to be successful. In our household we use the “The Core Diet” (http://www.thecorediet.com/). This is essentially a diet based on specific timing of macronutrients and micronutrients. We use “core” windows of time and “noncore” windows. Core windows are when we are not training — we eat only core foods: lean meats, veggies, nuts, seeds and lowfat dairy — no processed sugars of any kind; all nutrient-dense foods that promote overall health and recovery from workouts. Then before, during and after workouts are “noncore” windows. In the noncore windows we eat fuels designed for performance like sports drinks, gels, powerbars, recovery drinks, etc. The whole diet is very dynamic and depends on where you are in terms of the timing of your workouts.

Maintenance of gear and fuels. Keeping your bike in top-performing order, making sure to replace run shoes when they are getting broken down (stay healthy), making sure you have fuel for your workouts. No bonking allowed (it is super catabolic and hurts immune system — stay healthy).

Healthy supplement routine aimed at robust health. A good multivitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D. (For supplements, I recommend Klean Athlete — all of their supplements are third-party tested by NSF and free of any banned substances). Visit: http://www.kleanathlete.com/.

Prehab routine. This is a specific strength routine aimed at areas of sport-specific weakness. Usually twice a week.

Other notes. I currently coach 14 athletes ranging from Pro triathletes to age-group triathletes, one elite masters marathoner, and three Ultra runners. I am self-coached, which is pretty cool. I can modify workouts and customize on the fly, based on my recovery status.

Sleep. Sleep is easily the most potent recovery tool available to athletes. Aim for eight hours a night consistently. (Maybe sneaking in a nap here or there.) Many people struggle with this one due to the logistics of their life with kids, intense job, etc.

If there are any ways for the family to work on this together, the dividends can be huge, with better overall health and recovery, thus improving their athletic performance. You can track your sleep with a great app called “sleep cycle” in the App Store. I’ve used it for years and swear by it.

John Spinney is a competitive triathlete and training services specialist, QT2 Level 3 coach, USAT Level 1 coach. He can be reached by email john@qt2systems.comIMG_4323

All of the above appeared June 12, 2016 on the ACTIVE VERMONT page, Linda Freeman, Field Editor, Rutland Herald & Times Argus Sunday paper.

Maintain Fitness and Weight during the Off Season

Holidays 2015

Holidays 2015

STAY ON WHEN YOU’RE OFF – Unfortunately most active people, at some time, are derailed by illness or injury. More painful than the condition is the fact that these folks, who love to be up and about and pursuing their sport or exercise, are forced to take a break. Sentencing an athlete to sedentary rest is not what anyone wants.

It happens; though with the enormous strides made in medicine, physical therapy and training, alternative exercise is more often available. But these are alternatives. Facing 4-6 weeks away from exercise routines or sports specific training is daunting. The challenge is to remain optimistic and logical when feeling overwhelmed. The trick is to maintain what is safe, fuel appropriately, snag some extra sleep and be positive.

What is referred to as the “off season” for sports or conditioning, is that period of time just following the final race or event of the season stretching all the way to the start of the equivalent of pre-season, usually 4-8 weeks. An injured athlete faces down time much the same as a competitive athlete in his or her off-season or a recreational athlete whose favorite sport is seasonal and done for the year. The smart individual will look at this mandated time off as a significant part of training. In fact, some suggest that it is the most important piece of the whole.

Off-season is not the time to reduce all conceivable levels of fitness to zero. Though an initial week of zoning out and doing not much of anything might be called for depending on the previous season’s stresses, the remainder of the time should be devoted to activity that first heals and then prepares the body for what is to come.

Off-season is an excellent time to assess one’s overall strength and flexibility. Are there any problem spots, any weaknesses, any imbalances? Correct these now and help prevent overuse injury later. As you resume exercise, pay particular attention to working opposing muscles groups and a balanced mix of moderate cardiovascular exercise.

Off-season means you DO have time to play. You want to maintain about 50-60% of your conditioning and active play will help you do so as you relax your mind and loosen your tight hold on discipline.

Off-season is a great time to take some classes, work with a personal trainer who understands your sports and conditioning needs, make friends with a Concept2 rowing machine, explore new areas on foot, snowshoes or skis, and buddy up with friends or family for active hours that will remind you why fitness is your personal choice.

A word about the holidays – Apply the same skills that you apply to your training. Pace yourself. Finish strong.

Holidays 2015

Holidays 2015

While you’re at it, remember to reach out to others. A helping hand offered to those running the race, so to speak, along with you means a boost to your own energy, capability and, yes, joy.

EATING THROUGH INJURY AND HIBERNATION

by Kimberly Evans, MS, RD

Many active people are challenged to figure out how to eat when training stops. And let’s face it at some point in time training does stop. There are many obstacles to training even under the best of circumstance. For one thing, seasons change. That is how things work in Vermont, and unless you are an athlete with a year round training program, sometimes this means a pause in training.

And then, even the best athletes get injured. So you see, for one reason or another despite best intentions sometimes training stops.

When a change in weather or an injury stops an athlete’s training program they often struggle to figure out how to eat in response. As a dietitian who works with a variety of athletes, I have seen things go one of two ways. Training stops but eating remains unchanged, or training stops and so does eating. The writing on the wall is pretty clear here; neither of these scenarios leads to good outcomes.

When training stops and eating remains unchanged this typically leaves behind a deconditioned athlete with unwanted pounds. This makes it difficult, emotionally and physically, to bounce back. And, on the flip side, when a change in training results in an overly drastic decrease in eating, this too leaves an athlete deconditioned, with little energy, and in less than prime shape to jump back into the game.

So, while it is true a decrease in activity means you need fewer calories, it may not be quite as few as you think. Many formulas used to calculate calorie expenditure during exercise, for example the standard 600 calories per hour, grossly overestimate calorie burn. As a result, this leaves many injured athletes needlessly cutting excess calories during down time.

This is one of the most common mistakes injured athletes make, not eating enough for fear of unwanted weight gain. An overly restricted diet can result in prolonging an injury by not giving your body what it needs to heal.

This means that when the ice melts or that injury heals you are more deconditioned than you expected to be because of muscle loss that comes with an excessive calorie deprivation.

Here is the word of caution to sidelined athletes, please be diligent in continuing to take in adequate calories, especially from nutrient dense foods. Some foods you will want to make sure to continue to include on your plate are sweet potatoes, kiwi, salmon, walnuts, eggs, and berries. Bottom line, athletes need to eat well when training, and when recovering.

Injury aside, when workouts become less demanding eating needs to be adjusted. Continuing to eat like you are training intensely, while your are actually at rest during the off season will only result in one thing, unwanted weight gain. But not so fast. Weight gain does not need to be an unwanted side effect of changes in a training plan if you plan correctly.

First of all assess the duration of your off time. If your training will be sidelined for a week or less, it is likely that no real changes need to be made to your eating. When it looks like things will be off track for a week or more a modest reduction of about 300 calories will likely keep things in check.

Secondly, now may be the time to reduce your carbohydrate intake slightly. It is true that most athletes can get away with, and need, more carbohydrates. During off season pull back a bit and create more space on your plate for protein rich foods such as tofu, chicken, eggs, salmon, Greek yogurt and high protein grains like quinoa. This will keep both your tummy and your body happy at the same time.

Another great strategy can be paying attention to the timing of your eating while in your down time. Keeping eating limited to nine to twelve hours of the day at three- to four-hour intervals, as opposed to the graze-all-day plan, has proven to have positive impacts on weight according to some recent research.

In addition to following this nutrition advice, regardless of why you are less active, this might be a great time to try something new. Weight training, yoga, and meditation all show great benefits for the active person.

Yes, injury, weather related hibernation, family commitments and holidays could be a little bit of a game changer for the active person. However, a sensible approach that is not too extreme will keep you on the right road to successfully getting back on track to being your awesome active self.

 

Kimberly Evans, MS, RD, co-owner Peak Physical Therapy Sports and Performance Center and Whole Health Nutrition, Williston. To contact Evans, go to RD@wholehealthnutritionvt.com

To view the newly published e-book, Breast Cancer Superfoods, coauthored by Evans, go to www.breastcancersuperfoods.com.

HOLIDAY SEASON = ATHLETIC EVENT

 

Let the holidays begin, 2015

Let the holidays begin, 2015

You’re in it now. The holiday season. No matter how you treat it, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a holiday marathon that ends for some on January 2 and for others on February 14.

It’s Sunday morning and you’re reading the paper. What led you to this point? Perhaps on Wednesday you finished early at work and headed home or here to Vermont to visit and wrap up the final preparations for, most likely, one of the most glorious and gluttonous meals of the year.

Thanksgiving is the one holiday nearly everyone can agree on and celebrate. There’s no quarrel over the naming of it and no squabbling over the commercialism. (Of course there’s the struggle between Native Americans and Pilgrims and the Christmas – strike that – holiday – decorations, songs and sales that began just after Halloween, but …)

Thanksgiving is the warm up to the main events, the 5k that spikes your speed for the marathon. Hanukkah falls early in December this year, Christmas on the 25th, and for all others, school breaks, office parties and holiday events mark a period of merry-making as an occasion to prepare for, endure and ultimately recover from.

Sunrise Thanksgiving morning 2015, Harpswell, Maine. D.Bonito

Sunrise Thanksgiving morning 2015, Harpswell, Maine. D.Bonito

Thanksgiving. Hmmm. Let’s see. After Wednesday you may have jumped out of bed early Thursday morning to go run a Turkey Trot or Gobble Wobble, or you may have dashed to the kitchen to begin the final round of cooking for the feast to follow. After the travel, sports, football games and feast, you finally sink into bed exhausted from the sprint to the finish.

But can you recover? No. It’s up early (and I do mean early) to attack Black Friday with a vengeance. After an all out race on Thursday, you’re really not up for the endurance event on Friday. However, it happens, and you must draw on your tediously conditioned reserves, your base.

Saturday is the family’s opportunity to ski (several resorts are optimistically open and there are always the early season trails on which one can make his or her way down, albeit cautiously), explore and visit, in addition to the endless feeding of the multitudes that inevitably follows Thursday, though everyone declared they would never eat again. Saturday is a day of intervals, either dragging along or speeding forward, on a straight path or multiple detours.

Alas, post Thanksgiving Sunday dawns. The fourth day of this particular event signals one of two things. There might be a frantic effort to stuff in a few more non-working activities (or leftovers), or one last-ditch attempt to come home with a buck. Or, the day may demand recovery. Perhaps the only exercise for many will be handling the remote. Monday, a workday, looms as threat or relief, a return to schedule.

But will you return to what has become the usual? Most likely, the answer is no. First of all, your body has become accustomed to an abundance of holiday foods. Rather than being satiated, your appetite now demands more. And more often. You decide you want to bake cookies, or that your friends would just love a home-cooked something as a gift for the next gift-giving holiday. Very nice. But are you sure? Or is it just your need to hang out in the kitchen, pick up a spoon and stir something? And please, no fruitcakes.

If you celebrate Hanukkah, you’re on the fast track for your next extended event with barely a recovery period. You must be organized, honor your need for rest and recovery even as you push forward to the start line. For others, preparations for the Christmas holiday season begin on Thanksgiving evening. Perhaps you watch one of the versions of “Miracle on 34th Street” to put you in the mood. Maybe you drag out your boxes of decorations, write your gift list or organize cards, stamps and addresses.(Note: there continues to be some sort of practice of mailing greetings. The ready use of the internet has altered forever the face of correspondence and giving with electronically delivered holiday wishes and the ever useful last minute gift card.)

Somewhere in the intervening weeks professional obligations must be met while scrambling to put the finishing touches on the end-of-the-year fiscal records and social calendar. January 1st will arrive all too soon and you will begin another new year in whatever condition you may have brought upon yourself.

An athlete periodizes his or her annual training plan, as well as shorter blocks such as the holiday season. For many athletes, this last month waiting for snow conditions to cooperate or this first month of on snow activity marks the start of their peak season. For others, December is the off season, the month of play and early base building before January training picks up in earnest.

The off season is never entirely sedentary. To give it all up in favor of a six-pack and the sofa is to invite an uncomfortable and discouraging return to training. A happy mix of activity is the key to maintaining enough fitness to move forward, but enough rest and relaxation to allow fatigued or damaged bodies to become whole.

Waning dedication to one’s sport, even to the extent of burn out, is always a risk and can be circumvented by deliberate time off. Better to choose alternative activities than be sidelined by overuse injury, don’t you think?

Traditional recommendations for athletes during their off season is to step away from their primary sport and focus attention and energy on other types of training. For example, a cyclist or runner should take advantage of the off season to further his or her core conditioning, strength training and even more intense yoga practice. Later, during peak season, whether competing, touring or adding miles, the pendulum will swing in the other direction and core, strength and other practices should moderate to balance the increased intensity of sport training.

Mentally a break is superb. Though reading and studying one’s sport or passion is motivating and educational, a good chunk of fiction might better relax the personality that self-disciplines.

The final piece of the off season pie is sweet. Take time to roll on the floor with your kids, meander through the woods (after rifle season and/or garbed in orange), slide recklessly down a hill, try some pond skating (when thoroughly frozen, please), roll a ball down an alley or try an old fashioned game of hide and seek.

Sunrise Barre Town Vermont late November 2015

Sunrise Barre Town Vermont late November 2015

Stop to notice spectacular sunrises and by all means plan to celebrate Winter Solstice. Do you remember last winter when I challenged you to find new and different outdoor ways to commemorate each full moon? Have you done so? Some of you have and keep in touch to let me know that you have had snow shoe adventures, hiked, paddled, enjoyed moonlight picnics, and more. I have heard of some good ones.The next full moon falls on December 25th. How will you celebrate?

Until then, it is Sunday, the fourth day of the initial holiday athletic event, Thanksgiving. You have done it. Now you are ready to look forward to the month of December and all that it means to you and yours.

May the habit of giving thanks be one you practice regularly. Whatever our situation in life may be, there is always something for which to be grateful. You know the old saying, “any day I wake up in the morning is a good day.”

The American author William Arthur Ward wrote: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

There’s this, too: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy.

Pause for a glorious sunset as well. Barre Town, Vermont 2015

Pause for a glorious sunset as well.
Barre Town, Vermont 2015

Training for Endurance Means Fueling Well

Endurance sports appeal to athletes of all levels. Training is, of course, specific and necessary in order to achieve satisfying results. Nutrition, or fueling, is often overlooked as an integral part of training. The following appeared in the Rutland Herald & Times Argus, Sunday, ACTIVE VERMONT 8-2-2015

The tortoise and the hare of training and sports, by Linda Freeman

Endurance. The negative connotation of endurance is of tolerance, resignation, stoicism; certainly long-suffering. On the other hand, endurance is often linked with patience and perseverance that demonstrates moral and physical strength. Endurance of any kind is based on experience, practice and tenacity. Physically, endurance is built on a foundation of consistent, appropriate and adequate training.

Sports often fall quite neatly into one of two categories: aerobic and anaerobic, marathon and sprint, fight or flight, tortoise and hare.

A sprint, for example, requires a sudden, swift burst of energy that pushes to the point of pain or even collapse, the very end of one’s competitive rope. A marathon takes hours to complete. Though runners now race at surprisingly fast paces for such continuous exertion, it is still a slower pace than the 400-meter dash.

Athletes train for their sport with a mixture of base-building, LSD (long slow distance) combined with intervals, high-intensity work with built-in breaks.

Team sports are often more fun to watch than individual endurance events, but even the infielder, goalie or forward who must be ready to move, and move fast, must also have the endurance to play through one game or even an entire tournament.

Consider these: adventure sports, running (half-marathons are increasing in popularity, marathons, and the new darlings of the running world, ultra-distance trail events), triathlons (swim, bike, run), cycling (even casual riders score a century of 100 miles along with mountain bike marathons and grand fondos of “great distance or great endurance”).

Golf (18 to 36 holes), fishing derbies, single- or multi-day hikes and daily or weeklong sports camps are yet more examples of the need for endurance as a significant tool in one’s fitness and performance toolbox.

For the average person, endurance sports are possibly more accessible than speed events. Remove factors of genetic predisposition, skill, and even budget from the equation, activities based on acquiring endurance are, in some form, universally achievable.

Furthermore, endurance sports are often cited as a metaphor for life, a field on which to play out the challenges one faces daily, personally and professionally. Endurance requires practice, discipline, focus and the equanimity to continue through ups and downs. In competition or in real life, the power to finish, especially to finish strong, is evidence of the depth of preparation and training, of mental, physical and emotional endurance.

Other than spending long, carefully planned and executed hours of physical training, fueling well before, during and after an endurance event is as critical as the strength and skills you have worked so hard to acquire. No longer does one stuff a plateful of pasta the night before an event and assume that it will satisfy nutritional needs. Today, the concept is to eat and drink well all the time, not just during taper week or the day before. What, when and how to fuel needs to be as strategically planned and executed as each step or mile along the way.

Nutrition is a complex and often confusing topic. Below, Kimberly Evans, MS, RD, organizes and simplifies strategies for you to sample as you prepare for your next endurance event. If you train well and fuel sufficiently, you will give yourself the opportunity to perform your best and have much more fun as you do so.

GMSR photo by Jeb Wallace Brodeur

GMSR photo by Jeb Wallace Brodeur

Don’t forget the nutritional needs of staying active                           By KIMBERLY EVANS

We are fully into cycling season here in Vermont, and one thing that is on everyone’s mind, as it well should be, is cycling safety. Cyclists are heading out in pairs or groups, wearing brightly colored clothing, securely fastening their helmets and riding far enough to the left to be in the line of vision of motorists, but not so far as to be in the middle of the road.

However, one aspect of cycling safety that might not be high on the minds of riders is nutrition. Many experienced cyclists know that good nutrition is key to race day performance, but outside training and racing many cyclists don’t really consider nutrition as part of their riding experience.

Now you might be asking, what does nutrition have to do with cycling safety? When you are not fueling properly on the bike you are much more likely to be less alert and responsive and, if out on a long ride and not fueling properly, you are vulnerable to making poor decisions. In other words, your head just might not be fully in the game … or in the ride, as the case may be. Poorly fueled riders are more likely to make poor decisions and more likely to be involved in crashes. So here are some key points to consider when heading out for a long ride:

The last supper

Heading out for a long ride tomorrow? Make sure to really fuel up the day before and take special care to focus on a carbohydrate-rich diet. A great pre-ride dinner might be 1 cup of brown rice, a 4-ounce piece of salmon and an oatmeal cookie. High fiber and heavy foods should be avoided the night before a long or hard ride.

Fuel up

A good pre-ride breakfast will also be rich in carbohydrates. Don’t skimp but don’t overeat. A few of my favorites include oatmeal with berries, buckwheat waffles with bananas, or whole grain pancakes with a Greek yogurt. Aim for about 500-700 calories in the 2 hours before your ride.

If you cannot get all of your fuel in with solid food                                                      add a sports drink such as Skratch Labs or                                                                             a homemade electrolyte, anti-oxidant lemonade:

1 large lemon, juiced.
2 tablespoons of honey.
1 pinch of Himalayan pink sea salt.                                                                8-10 ounces of water.                                                                            Raspberries.

Plan ahead

Before every ride consider what you might need to bring to fuel your ride; how many water bottles, how much sports drink and how much solid food.

Some targets are one 16-ounce bottle of water for every hour on the bike, 300 calories of fuel for every hour on the bike, and a source of electrolytes for hot riding days. Think about packaging 300 calorie snack bags for every hour you will be on the bike.

Some of my favorite 300-calorie fuel packs include: a Kind bar plus a half-bottle of Skratch Labs, half of a peanut butter and banana sandwich, a half-cup of trail mix or dried fruit such as dates.

How will you carry all of this fuel? Most cycling shirts have great back pockets that make it easy to store fuel. I have also fallen in love with the biking Bento box. The Bento box is a nylon pouch that sits just behind your stem, making it easy and safe to eat from the saddle.

If you are less inclined to bring fuel with you on the bike, plan ahead to stop along the ride. Where are the gas stations, convenience stores or favorite latte shops along your route?

No matter how you fuel, a nutrition plan is the safest and best way to make sure that you not only don’t bonk on your ride, but also really maximize your performance as an athlete.

If you are really going the distance, and training for a ride of some distance — such as a half-century, a century or a brevet — I would highly recommend consulting with a dietitian with a specialization in sports nutrition for a fueling and hydration plan that considers your daily needs in the months and weeks leading up to the event in addition to your specific needs to fuel your ride.

If you are not hitting the road this summer on your bike, these smart fueling practices likely still apply to you. From team sports to endurance athletes of all ages and competitive abilities, proper nutrition enhances performance and athletic enjoyment.

Kimberly Evans co-owns Peak Physical Therapy Sports and Performance Center and Whole Health Nutrition in Williston. Contact RD@wholehealthnutritionvt.com or 999-9207.