When you think of a tough guy or gal, what do you usually think of? For many athletes, it’s a picture of one that can go “without.” Without fluids. Without rest. Without recovery. Without fuel. Without = Tough.
Believe it or not, this image dates back in history, even to the first “marathon.”
I’ve read that the name marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier. He was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon. Apparently, he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the senate with the words “Masters! Victory is ours!” just before collasping from exhaustion. And, yes, he’s gone down in legends as one tough guy.
I’d say would he was tough! This image among other legends and stories, have made a lasting image in the minds of many athletes. And while it’s likely Pheidippides had no choice but to keep running and to go without, most of the time, we have a choice.
Instead of being tough, I want to be awesome. I want to feel great. Hydrated, rested, strong. I want a smile on my face rather than bags under my eyes. I don’t need fun adventure rides to turn epic, and I certainly want to feel strong through an entire season. No victim, no whining here. I will give up any of these tough gal crowns, as much as I’m able, to be strong and healthy, even if not tough.
Recipe of the Week: A Recipe to De-Throne 5 Tough Guy/Gal Crowns
The “Minimal Sleep” Medal: You’ve heard it, “I can get by on 4 hours of sleep per night, just fine.” This sentence is usually delivered by someone lookin’ a little rough. We all need sleep. It’s true that we may need varying amounts of sleep individual to individual, but 4 hours per night is not enough for most of us.
In fact, most adults need at least 6 good hours of sleep to recover well, maintain low levels of anxiety, train well, and feel energized. This is just to drag yourself to the office and operate day to day. Athletes need more. Take a look at the article below, which includes an awesome infograph on sleep and athletic performance…lack of sleep has a direct detrimental impact. And then, get motivated to work more sleep into your schedule.
The “No Nutrition” Belt Buckle: Something like “I don’t need training nutrition during long rides, a small bottle of water’s enough for hours.” Sure, most people will do just fine on a ride up to 90 minutes without an extra nutrition, and some well-trained athletes can go 2 hours without detrimental effect. But more than this, or when conditions are hot or humid, it simply doesn’t fly. Your body needs fluid, electrolytes, and fuel (carbs) to perform it’s best. I’ve worked with countless cyclists who came to me with cramping issues, energy issues, recovery issues, bonking issues, and more, and the fix is often as easy as proactive fluids, electrolytes, and carbohydrates.
Fueling well means smiles rather than bonks. Yes, please.
Now, if you’re using ketones as fuel for you body (by becoming fat-adapted in daily nutrition with a low-carb ketogenic diet), you can do well without the carbs when riding at <80% VO2 max. But, if not, you need the carbs, and the body prefers them when going anaerobic or bursting >80% VO2 max. You know, when you want to make a fast strong pass on a steep incline.
The “Busy Busy Stessed Out” Trophy: “I don’t have time for stress relief, too much to do.” I’m talking about life-stress here. Chronic stress. And for some life seasons, it happens to all of us. I’m talking to myself as much as anyone here. Four kids, two businesses, riding, skiing, running, and a busy home can make for a stressful schedule around here. And, that’s when everything’s going well. Throw in sicknesses, accidents, or other messy-life-stuff, and it sucks the energy right out. This is no way to ride a bike.
Stressed-out athletes often end up sick, fatigued, burnt-out, and over-trained. They often don’t take the time to do the other important things mentioned in this post, and it all compounds. In the short-term, I see it with clients the week of a race. The travel, the planning, the busy-ness can wipe away months of training with a bad performance, mostly sabotaged by stress.
So, what’s an athlete to do? Most of us can’t meditate for hours per day or decide we’re going to focus on wellness full-time rather than work for a living. But take heart, I think peace-within and stress relief is more a state of mind than a reflection of our schedules. Here are my tips to manage:
- Take time for stress-relief, even if it’s only 15 minutes per day. Praying, meditating, journaling, yoga-ing, quite time. If possible, start and end the day with stress reflief.
- Put down the devices. This is simply choosing to add more tasks to your day! There’s a reason why we don’t have 200 real-life friends in our daily lives each day. We can’t keep up. Our brains overload with excitement, joy, stress, and sadness. It’s too much. I enjoy Facebook and other platforms as much as most, but I’ve found that having a set time for this, with boundaries around it, is key. And, mostly, there has to be solid hours or real-life, device-less.
- Plan your day, the day or night before. Set up your to-do list at the end of the day, ready for the morning, rather than flying by the seat of your pants the next day.
- Say no to things and people and plans. Choose what you truly want. Say no more often than yes…and fully enjoy the “yeses” you do partake in!
- Eat proactively throughout the day, rather than letting a busy day dictate it. When you get so busy you skip daytime meals, usually you’ll end up with lower-than-optimal blood sugars. And guess what? Low blood sugar slow the brain and make most everything seem overwhelming. It increases anxiety and stress.
- Lastly, practice stress management when planning a race or destination ride. Clear your schedule as much as possible. Have a plan way ahead of time. Ask for help.
Acute stress, on the other hand, can be a great tool for an athlete. This is that nervousness and excitement that increases adrenalin before a great ride or race. It has the opposite effect of chronic stress.
The “No-Supplement” Badge: “I don’t do “pills” (supplements).” I get it. I used to look down on supplements too, before I figured out how much they are needed by most athletes. But now, after working with so many fatigued athletes, I see it in a whole new light.
Imagine a professional race car driver treating his race car the same way as a 16-year-old with a 1980s Pinto. It’s not fathomable. The teen is driving on empty, barely even changing the oil, and otherwise running it into the ground. Don’t be a 16-year-old’s Pinto.
Drivers who expect a certain performance out of their cars go above and beyond to give it the right tools, fuels, and parts to perform. These high-performance engines burn more in order to hit top speeds. And, even if you’re no race car, you burn more too. And we’re not talking just more calories.
Every extra reaction in your body takes nutrients. And what’s more, these biochemical reactions produced unwanted products in the body, which need to be dealt with, by (you guess it), nutients (such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients). And if you don’t want deficits of good things, and build-up of bad (which add up over time), then I recommend supplementing your diet as an athlete.
The supplements I most often recommend to athletes include: A food-based multivitamin (with 800 IU vitamin D), magnesium (along calcium & vitamin D if NOT present in the diet), fish oil (if not present in the diet), ginger/turmeric (if not present in the diet). Then, I recommend a few extra, specific amino acids (see here).
Lastly, for cyclists who are also runner, who are females, who are vegetarian, or who are otherwise potentially low in iron, I investigate their numbers. Click here for more info.
And, by the way, you can always look for chewables, liquids, and powders, if you *hate* pills.
The “No Rest-Day” or “No Off-Season” Title: You know, the “I feel guilty taking a rest day without a work out.” Although I work with clients who have to talk themselves down when taking a rest day, this one is easy for me to embrace. As much as I love riding my bike, I also love rest days. I feel like I gain time, which as you’ve read above, I need. It reduces stress much like exercise does, because my brain welcomes the rest. As do my legs.
And, I also trust the system. I trust that my muscles adapt and grow to accomodate the new limits to which I’ve pushed them during training, while I rest. They need it.
I also embrace off-seasons or breaks between seasons. Some of the strongest cyclists I know hardly touch a bike for 3-4 months every year during the Winter (when you live in a snowy, cold, ski resort town, this is part of it). And after a few weeks of hard work every Spring, they’re right where they left off, and without burn out. After living this lifestyle while racing for 5 years, I trust that my seasons and years of building endurance are ingrained in my muscles and lungs. And I love the bike even more when it’s time to come back. This is not to say that year-round cycling isn’t fantastic for many cyclists, but it is to say: embrace rest days and even breaks. It can revive the mind, body, soul, and increase appreciation and love of riding.
Many years ago, my husband, friend and I decided you could turn any whiny comment into a tough guy one if you just used a deep enough voice, the right inflection, and a grunt-style delivery. We were climbing a peak in the San Juan Mountains after a 3-day back-pack in and a fight with some local mountain goats for our camping spot. We were tired. And we hurting. So, instead of I’m so tired, wah wah, just try “I’m. So. Tired. Bro.” in a strained, deep, tough-guy voice. Sometimes there’s no other option.
But most of the time, I say choose to get some rest. Recover well. Fuel Right. Lay down these tough guy/gal crowns. Instead, work to be a smart, healthy, strong, cyclist.
Fuel Your Ride. Nourish Your Body.
If you’d like to work with Kelli one-on-one with a Custom Nutrition Plan & Coaching, or download one of her acclaimed Instant Download Plans like Fuel Right Race Light, click here: Apex Nutrition Plans for Endurance Athletes. Be sure to use coupon code lovingthebike for a 15% discount!