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Beat those Pre-Race nerves from the team @ Intrepid Apparel

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Laying awake in bed the night before a race or feeling nauseous on race morning are common among athletes, so don’t get nervous about being nervous! It’s completely normal to be nervous or excited before a race.

Here are four tips to help you achieve an optimal balance where you’re excited to race but also confident and focused enough to execute what you’ve trained for:

1. DEVELOP A PRE-PERFORMANCE ROUTINE

Routines give us a sense of control and help us forget things and avoid mistakes. Many athletes write out their schedule for the day or two prior to the race, some use this technique every day to help organize their lives and practice this idea of performance routine. By frequently following and refining your timing and preparation for things like eating, warmup and training time, you will have a logical set of steps to go through automatically to reach your optimal performance.

Knowing which foods agree with your stomach and when you should eat to boost energy and avoid being that person throwing up after the first hill is quite helpful. Race nerves become an issue when we let ourselves think too much and start making last-minute decisions to consume a different type of carbohydrate powder, change tires or wear different shorts. Stick to what has worked in training, focus only on the moment you are in on race day and then further refine your preparation, equipment or nutrition after the race. If you have the hours before the race scripted out then you can remain focused on the next step and not on random scenarios that haven’t happened yet.

2. PRACTICE RACE DAY

Nerves are usually the result of being confronted with unfamiliar experiences. It can be nerve-wracking when you don’t know what to expect and whether you can handle it. If you train like you will race, with all the same equipment, and challenge yourself to practice your weak points, you will feel prepared at the starting line.

If you are nervous about race starts, warm-up just like you do at big races and then practice ‘rubbing elbows’ and starting the race hard. Road group rides and criterium practices are great places for all cyclists to gain pack skills and get comfortable with the intensity of racing. If you find yourself getting nervous or not being able to focus on the race, you will benefit from some time at yoga class or working with a coach or sports psychologist to develop relaxation techniques, such as focusing on deep breaths.

3. VISUALIZE AND STAY POSITIVE

While you may shudder at the kooky notion of imagining the race — or visualization, in general — it is a very powerful technique for rehearsal used by many top athletes. I advise my coaching clients to spend time the week before a race studying it by watching old race video and headcam course footage and then mentally working through the course line by line, section by section until they memorize the whole track. This takes time and practice, but it never fails to make races less intimidating. Road racers can go through scenarios and also be familiar with the course profile and lap numbers. How will you react to an early break-a-way or position yourself for a sprint? Being familiar with the course and the scenario eliminates more unknowns, and visualizing yourself in these situations helps you experience the challenge before you get there.

4. ACT THE PART

By acting I mean do the work you need to do to be prepared and confident on race day. Stand confidently, breathe deeply and execute the skills you’ve practiced. Avoid the traps of ‘self-handicapping’ or speaking badly about your preparation or skills, focus on your plan for the start and race ahead of you. Too often a nervous athlete stands toward the back of the pack in the start corral and thinks too much about the race outcome, but not about the immediate tasks of the start and early portions of the race. Showing up with a clean and functioning bike and appropriate clothing for the competition helps ensure you feel confident and like the competitor you want to be.

Your nerves before the next big race won’t be gone if you use these ideas, but remember that’s not the point. We need to be excited to achieve our best focus and results. Learn to embrace the butterflies as a sign you’re excited for the challenge ahead and your body is ramping up to execute the race. Stay excited and focused on your routine and goals for the race, and you will find each one goes better than the last.

 

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Integrating Strength Work During Race Season.

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In this day and age most athletes understand the importance of integrating some type of into strength training into their training programme. However, for many athletes, strength is the first activity to get tossed out when their focus turns toward race season. The thought is that in order to be successful at one’s primary sport, all of an athlete’s available time must be spent practicing that sport. While an intense focus and increased volume is often necessary to achieve your goals, this doesn’t mean that a strength routine can’t remain a part of your training. Maintaining a strength regimen, when done correctly, can be just as valuable during race season as it is during the off-season.

WHY IS STRENGTH TRAINING IMPORTANT?

For most athletes it’s safe to assume that the primary goal of training is to improve and prepare for racing with each passing season. Regardless of the discipline and focus, every season the goal is the same: to get better. So, with that goal in mind we can easily identify why it is that strength work is an important part of structured training:

  • Injury Prevention: This is the most common reason given for performing strength exercises. A consistent dose of strength work can help to increase bone density, maintain muscle mass and protect vulnerable joints from injury.
  • Become Well-Rounded: While the goal is always to become better at the specific sport you’re focusing on, the goal should not be weakness outside of that sport. There’s value in being an athlete, instead of just a cyclist, runner or swimmer. Feel your best no matter what you’re doing.
  • Increase Power: Strength training, especially with weights, increases slow-twitch muscle fiber. Slow-twitch muscle fibers don’t produce lactic acid at the rate fast-twitch muscles do, thus allowing you to produce more power for longer. High lactate threshold equals more power.
  • Better Form and Body Mechanics: Strength exercises are great for restoring balances to our bodies. Better posture, and overall body alignment can be achieved with continued and consistent strength work.
  • Equal Power Delivery: Whether it’s your pedal stroke or finding the pocket, strength work helps athletes deliver more even and consistent output to the pedals and get deeper into the pocket off the back of the bike. This improves efficiency, which helps improve an athlete’s resistance to fatigue.

WHAT SHOULD STRENGTH TRAINING LOOK LIKE DURING RACE SEASON?

Most athletes spend the winter in the gym focusing on weighted strength work to increase both force and power. This is a valuable use of time since these gains can be directly applied to the early stages of race season build up. Assuming the work has been done in the gym, the focus shifts to more of a maintenance-based approach as you near your first race, and then through the height of the season. Using strength work to continue to develop or maintain a strong core, correct imbalances and aid in injury prevention is the goal. You don’t want it to add too much fatigue thus negatively impacting your training and preparation for racing. Here are several areas to focus on while actively training for priority events:

  • Light Weight or No Weight: Often times lifting heavier weights (or even any weights at all) can adversely impact key workouts. Try focusing on mobility, flexibility and range of motion in your exercises. These movements can take the form of body weight exercises, and can be performed outside of the gym.
  • Short and Sweet: Keep your strength training time to a minimum. Workouts lasting one hour or less should be plenty of time to get in a quality session. This time should also include a proper warmup and cool down.
  • Always Work Your Core: Your legs are probably getting plenty of work. You might even consider not working your legs at all. You should however, always work your core with every session. That includes your low back, glutes, hips, and abdominal area. A strong trunk is key.
  • Try to be Explosive: Traditional strength work doesn’t do much for your aerobic capacity (VO2max). If you’d like to try and integrate cardio into your strength routine, try high intensity interval training (HIIT) or plyometrics to increase your heart rate and further develop your aerobic system.
  • Double Down: If you hesitate to commit an entire day to strength work you can combine it with an easy bike ride or run. Make sure that these dual sessions are properly scheduled in conjunction with key workouts, and that they don’t accumulate undue training stress or fatigue.
  • Focus on Form: Don’t try to squeeze in too many exercises. Focus on form and the quality of the movement. This approach will also help keep the overall time of the workout down.

Strength training shouldn’t be an afterthought once race prep begins. While the approach and focus will and should change, it’s important to still continue to maintain a strength regimen. A strong core, improved form, efficiency and power are all valuable during race season. Use strength workouts as an opportunity to fine-tune your training and sharpen any weaknesses. There’s no doubt that the time invested in a properly executed strength routine will pay dividends when race day comes.

Is stress ruining your race performance? By the team @ Intrepid Apparel®

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®If you’ve been stressed lately, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey from the American Psychological Association, two-thirds of Americans currently feel stressed about “the future of the nation.” More than half of the respondents also said the current political climate is a significant source of stress. All the time spent checking our phones and Facebook feeds isn’t helping. On a 10-point scale, the overall stress level for people who constantly check email, texts and social media is 5.3, compared with 4.4 for those who don’t check their phones as frequently.

That much stress can have negative consequences for our health, well-being and even our athletic performance.

“It definitely has an impact,” said Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen, a clinical exercise physiologist at Yale and an adjunct professor at Columbia University, who has extensively studied how stress affects athletes health and performance. There’s no doubt it takes a toll.

When our brains are fatigued or placed under stress, it tends to have a physical and emotional component. We physically feel terrible, and studies have found we perceive the same workout as more difficult than when we are not under stress. “Everything seems to feel more effortful,” said Stults-Kolehmainen.

Stress has been shown to change behaviors, too, he said. One theory is that we operate with a limited ability to self-regulate, and when that is taxed we often don’t have enough willpower left to do things that are harder. This goes hand-in-hand with an increased desire for foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

Stults-Kolehmainen has found stress even impacts recovery, especially after a hard workout or race. “Even if you’re able to do the workout or race you have a more prolonged recovery,” he says.

Here are five ways to cope:

1. USE EXERCISE AS STRESS RELIEF

It’s true that exercise can help reduce stress levels, though that benefit tends to come from light workouts or just getting outside and moving.

If you’re strung out and stressed — a bad day at work, bad news, everything’s going wrong — and don’t feel up for working out, Stults-Kolehmainen recommends simply extending your warmup and then seeing how you feel. It’s been documented that stress tends to make perceptions of effort harder and make it more difficult to ramp up quickly to intense efforts. A longer warmup can be enough to get yourself moving. If you’re still feeling too beat up at the end of the warmup to do a hard workout, then an easy version can help offset the stress.

2. REFRAME YOUR STRESS

It’s important to remember: “Not all stress is bad stress,” says Patrick Cohn, a mental-training expert at Peak Performance. When you’re stressed before a big race or an important work presentation, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means all the right biological mechanisms are firing to pump you up. Think of it as your body getting ready to kick butt.

“Many people get stressed over stress,” says Nir Eyal, author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products,” which is a waste of energy. So stop doing that. When it comes to objectively stressful life events, though, how we respond is a highly individual process that depends on the stressor: whether it’s threatening or controllable, if it has high social consequences and if we can find a way to cope or reframe the situation. There are some people who are exceptionally resilient. Some people will even take a stressful event, like losing a job, and find a way to reframe it as an opportunity. Resilient people are often those who have more resources (literally and mentally) and have learned coping mechanisms, such as dealing with the problem directly, finding external support or re-focusing on their larger goals.

“It’s really hard to predict who’s going to be resilient,” says Stults-Kolehmainen.

3. PLAN AHEAD

“The best way to deal with stress is to anticipate it,” says Stults-Kolehmainen. Stressful situations we don’t anticipate — and especially ones we can’t control — tend to have the worst effects.

One of the reasons we often feel stressed out, emotionally or mentally, isn’t really because of stress, it’s because we didn’t plan ahead. Sit down, says Eyal, and figure out what matters to you, what your priorities are, and then plan those into the calendar. But be honest, not everything can be a priority. “You probably have too many priorities,” says Eyal.

“People have more free time than ever,” Eyal says, so if we’re feeling stressed out, it may actually be that we’re using our time to do other things like watch TV or flip through Instagram. “Is it really stress or is it an excuse?”

4. COMPARTMENTALIZE YOUR WORRIES

Even if we’re great at planning, and we tackle all of life’s challenges with gusto, there are still days in this 24-hour news cycle where it can all just seem overwhelming. That’s when it’s time to compartmentalize.

“If you can’t do anything about it, you shouldn’t be worried about it,” says Eyal. If you can and want to do something about whatever you’re worried about, then do it. But if not, then it’s not worth worrying about, he says.

“You have to be able to park what’s going on in your life for the next two hours,” says Cohn. He’ll have athletes make a list of the things that are on their mind, set it aside — leave it in a locker room or the car — and then choose to focus on the task at hand. Know you can always come back to that list later.

Mindfulness can also be extremely beneficial in athletic performance, says Stults-Kolehmainen. More research is finding the simple the act of being present in the moment, with purpose, and letting thoughts pass without judgment, can make you perform better, faster, stronger.

5. DISCONNECT

OK, so you know it’s probably a good idea to put the phone down and stop refreshing Twitter, but you just can’t. Eyal has found two useful tricks that work for him.

He’s gotten out of the internet cycle of constant worry over the latest news by subscribing to one — and only one — actual paper newsfeed. That way, he savors and enjoys it, and he doesn’t fear he might be missing something.

The other thing he does is called “temptation bundling” — pairing something you don’t want to do with something you want to do. He wants to stay engaged and online, but he doesn’t want it to take over his life. So he’s deleted Twitter from his phone and only lets himself log in on his desktop, which sits over a turbo trainer That way he spins a few miles while getting his social media fix for the day.

Want an easy way to feel less stressed? Leave the smartphone at home get out & ride! 

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6 ways you could be self sabotaging your race results?

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If you can improve your race results without buying new equipment or training more, where would you start? You might look at your mental approach to racing—how your mental game helps or sabotages your success. Do you understand how your mental game is slowing you down in races? The attitudes, beliefs, and mindsets that athletes take into a race dictate their performance success. The first step to improve your mental approach to racing is to understand how you might sabotage your success with doubt, high expectations, perfectionism and other mental game roadblocks. Here, you’ll learn about the top-six costly mistakes races make with their pre-race mental approach.

1. Placing strict expectations on your performance

Despite what others have taught you about positive expectations, maintaining high outcome expectations can actually limit your success in racing. Why do high expectations limit you? If you don’t achieve your pre-race expectations during the race, you’ll start to doubt yourself or become frustrated. Essentially, expectations set you up for failure before you even start the race.

In addition, expectations are usually about outcomes, such as achieving a personal statistic, placing high or winning.  Athletes judge their performance in each discipline based on their expectations. In most cases, expectations cause competitors to focus on outcomes and feel more pressure to perform at their peak, which can turn into pre-race anxiety or worry.

2. Leaving self-confidence to chance

Self-confidence is an athlete’s best friend. If you have a high level of belief in your ability, it’s hard to feel anxious. Unfortunately, many competitors leave their confidence to chance. This means they fail to take full responsibility for feeling confident at the start of the race. Do you wait to feel confident in your skills only when you have a good start to the race? If so, you leave confidence to chance or immediate results.

Are you unsure how you will perform before a race? Do you doubt your ability to finish strong? Your main objective is to be proactive with your pre-race confidence. You don’t want confidence to be thrashed around by immediate results at the start of the race or a particular discipline. You want to fuel your confidence—just like your fuel your body—before the start, not react to what’s happening early in the competition.

3. Worrying too much about results or outcomes

Your pre-race worry, anxiety or tension can come from several sources depending on your unique disposition. Most athletes worry too much about outcomes, results, making mistakes during a race or where they think they should finish compared to other people.

Fear of failure is the number one reason why athletes don’t perform as well in races as they do in everyday training. Most of the time, fear of failure is rooted in two areas: (1) social approval or worrying about what others think and (2) the payoff syndrome or worrying that all the hard work you do to succeed might not payoff. You must understand your underlying fear so you can overcome this form of self-sabotage.

4. Misinterpreting pre-race jitters

Every athlete experiences pre-race jitters. These are the feelings of excitement prior to the start of a race. However, some athletes turn pre-race jitters into performance anxiety. And performance anxiety will slow you down because you can’t trust in your plan or skills. Pre-race jitters are a natural part of your racing, but pregame performance anxiety will cause most athletes to tense up, worry about their performance and ultimately not perform up to their ability.

Experienced athletes welcome pre-race jitters. Positive pre-race jitters help instill an optimal level of mental activation or excitement, which can boost focus. Your ability to embrace pre-race jitter is critical to having a good start and consistent performance. Many athletes will interpret pre-race jitters as anxiety, which causes them to become stressed or anxious and thus focus on the wrong performance cues.

5. Worrying too much about what others think

For many cyclists, a big source of pre-race worry about performance comes from social approval or the need to have others “approve” of their performance. If this is you, you might feel the need to be admired, accepted, respected, or liked by fellow competitors, teammates or coaches.

This leads many athletes to worry about performing poorly and avoiding mistakes because they think the outcome influences what others think might about them. Thus, if you crave approval from others such as teammates or competitors, you are more likely to become anxious or are afraid to fail in competition. Your need for approval from others supports your fear of failure. Athletes who need others’ approval to feel confident in their skills are prone to pre-race anxiety.

6. Striving to perform perfectly

Perfectionism can be both an asset and a disadvantage for athletes. Perfectionism can actually slow you down during competition. For example, perfectionist athletes have incredibly high expectations about their performance. They also lack confidence and trust in competition. However, perfectionism can help athletes with practice because they are goal-oriented, committed and strive to improve their skills.

How does trying to be perfect slow you down during races? When perfectionists attempt to perform perfectly, they become easily frustrated with mistakes, and are often stuck in a “training mindset” when performing in races. None of these characteristics are ideal to perform your best in races.

During the next several weeks, we’ll dive deeper into each of these six areas of mental sabotage so that you can get the right tools you need to break through any mental or performance anxiety barriers you have that might be holding you back.

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Science Says These 3 Foods May Help Cyclists.

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For many athletes, knowing which foods aid performance and which don’t relies on trial and error. Peer-reviewed journals can be a great source of information, too. They provide top-tier, quality content backed by thorough investigation from researchers on numerous subject groups. The following foods received such examination and the results were published in top journals. Read on to learn more about each study and outcome, then decide for yourself whether or not it works for your training.

1. DARK CHOCOLATE

Background: The flavanols in dark chocolate can help boost nitric oxide production — this causes blood vessels to swell and reduces the amount of oxygen you need.

Question: Does dark chocolate consumption lower oxygen requirements and allow you to exercise longer?

The research: In a study published in theJournal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, a team of researchers at Kingston University reviewed this query. They had a group of nine amateur cyclists complete an initial fitness test to establish where their exercise levels were. The nine participants were split into two groups. The first group replaced one of their daily snacks with 40 grams of dark chocolate daily for two weeks. The second group did the same, but replaced the snack with white chocolate. During this period, researchers conducted cycling tests and tracked heart rates and oxygen consumption. After a seven-day break to remove all traces of chocolate from their bodies, the two groups switched the type of chocolate they ate for an additional two weeks and took the same cycling tests again.

Conclusion: Dark chocolate eaters used less oxygen when cycling at a moderate pace, and covered more distance in a two-minute time trial.

2. BEETROOT

Background: Eating nitrates has been linked to exercise improvement; roasted beets contain particularly high nitrates.

Question: Can the nitrates found in beets improve cycling performance?

The research: In a study published in theJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers used 11 recreationally fit men and women in a double-blind trial to discover the answer. Participants ate baked beetroot and 75 minutes later cycled a 5K time trial. In a separate test, they ate cranberry relish and 75 minutes later cycled the same 5K time trial.

Answer: After eating beets, participants cycled 5% faster and perceived exertion was lower than after eating cranberry relish. 

3. CHERRY JUICE

Background: Cherries are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Question: Can these anti-inflammatory properties translate into helping runners recover after a marathon?

The research: Published in the Scandanavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, researchers tested endurance cyclists to see if cherry juice works. Twenty recreational cyclists were assigned to one of two groups: cherry juice drinkers or placebo drinkers. They consumed their drink for five days before a ride, the day of the ride and 48 hours after. Muscle damage, soreness and inflammation were examined before and after the ride.

Conclusion: Those who drank cherry juice healed faster. Researchers found the juice reduced inflammation by increasing total antioxidative capacity — meaning, the antioxidants in the cherries helped clean the harmful free radicals in the cells and blood. In turn, strength recovered significantly faster. 

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Wild rides by the team @ Intrepid Apparel®

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THE CASE FOR ABANDONING COMFORT

North America has an abundance of world class riding destinations. With the rapid proliferation of new trail networks in virtually every state and province, one could spend an entire lifetime and still not sample all the singletrack that magnificent continent has to offer. So why would anyone bother to venture overseas in search of the unknown? And sonwhy not periodically head of for mountain-bike adventures in remote corners of the world, when there are so many quality shredding options in the UK?

I sometimes wonder why not plan expeditions in such far-flung places as Afghanistan, Russia, Tibet and the Republic of Georgia?

There are myriad reasons why people choose not to roam the earth in pursuit of exotic riding, just imagine the never-ending thrill of being thrown way out of one’s element; of being thrust into alien and often-absurd situations with little idea of how to deal with them.

There’s nothing like landing in a rundown airport to be greeted by chain-smoking immigration officers who could just as easily reject you as to stamp your passport and let you enter.

Few things could be more entertaining than stacking your bikes on top of a dilapidated vehicle, strapping them down with twine and backfiring your way out of a dirt parking lot en route to the mountains. And all this is just a prelude to the uncertainty of whether the trails on the trailforks will live up to their extraordinary allure. There is a unique excitement in experiencing something for the first time, in seeing things that you never could have imagined.

We will always be dedicated to celebrating our own trails, but from time to time we want to share our forays into foreign regions, why not consider the Japanese Alps, where elusive ribbons of manicured singletrack wind through majestic forests, or consider leading yourself high into Mongolia’s Altai Mountains, where descents of glacial moraines culminate in rowdy packraft runs down raging rivers.

This all said you could choose to sit in your office in Slough conjuring up images of endless singletrack or you could #beintrepid - We hope you enjoy the ride.

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The pleasure of pain.

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A TEST OF METTLE IN RURAL NEW ZEALAND

MASOCHISM IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF MOUNTAIN BIKING. Pushing beyond one’s own perception of his or her mental and physical limitations reveals a side of ourselves we rarely see, the depths of which can only be plumbed by sinking past the point of despair and clawing back to the surface. Often, it takes months of being removed from such a trying experience for a sense of satisfaction to replace the wounds, for the mental strength gained from such perseverance to reveal itself. When that happens, the plans inevitably start percolating to do it all over again; as mountain bikers, we simply can’t resist the pull of pain and the pleasure it eventually leaves in its wake.

Pro enduro racer Anka Martin and 249 other hardy souls took on New Zealand’s inaugural Tour Aotearoa last February to test their mettle. The brevet, dreamed up by Kiwi Jonathan Kennett, traveled 3,000 kilometers (1,865 miles) from the northern tip of New Zealand’s North Island to the southern tip of the South Island, on backcountry single and doubletrack, sandy beaches and tarmac, and over various bodies of water (crossed by ferries, fishing boats, jet boats and a steam ship). Self-supported riders climbed 30,000 meters (98,425 feet) in total elevation as they navigated the country. They had 30 days to finish the route–technically it’s an organized bikepacking tour, not a race–but couldn’t complete it in fewer than 10, and were required to stop for six hours per day.

On some days, time dragged as rain relentlessly fell from the sky, riders focused on nothing more than reaching a rest point where they could tend to their saddle sores, dry their gear, eat and find a bed. For some, that meant pitching a tent or bivy in a campsite or bunking at a hotel. For others, like Anja Macdonald, the first female finisher and fourth overall, that meant collapsing near the track in a ditch, under a tree, on a golf course or in a bus shelter.

Martin has conditioned herself to tolerate agony through years of racing, but Tour Aotearoa was an intense personal struggle unlike any other. She had broken her hand two weeks prior at the Andes Pacifico race, but carried on casted, riding 17 straight days with one fully operable hand. There also were mechanicals, crashes and an Achilles injury. Everyone out there had their own demons to conquer. One woman’s bike suffered a major mechanical, requiring a $220 taxi ride to the nearest bike shop. Another rider buckled his wheel three times–it was a 26-inch and he couldn’t find a replacement–and another suffered so badly from sleep deprivation that a local had to carry him to his house where he could recover. In the end, though, 90 percent of the field finished by the cut-off. And presumably enough time has passed that they are already plotting their next plummet into the pain cave.
 

Yoga, losen yourself up pre & post ride to get the best out of your body & mind.

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Travel takes a toll on the body — even if it’s a vacation to recharge. Long flights, train rides and road trips mean sitting in small spaces for hours and leave our bodies tight and stiff. Practice this five-pose yoga session before and after your journey to lengthen and stretch the body. Hold each pose for 5–10 breaths to shake off the exhausting and bring on the exciting.

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CHILDS POSE

This pose is a salve that soothes and calms the body. It stretches the low back, hips, thighs and ankles while increasing circulation to the head, which can relieve stress, fatigue and headaches.

The Move: Kneel down and sit on your heels with your knees and feet together. As you exhale, bend forward, placing your forehead on the floor. Extend your arms forward, placing your palms down to lengthen your torso and stretch your arms.

 

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LOW LUNGE

Sitting for too long compresses and tightens the hip flexors. This lunge variation is the perfect antidote and opens them up.

The Move: From standing forward fold, bend your knees, take both hands to the floor and step your left foot back. Drop the left knee and slide the foot back until you feel a gentle stretch through the front of your thigh. Stay here, with your hands framing your right foot, or inhale and lift your torso up, resting your hands on your front thigh or sweeping your arms overhead. Hold here for 5–10 breaths and then, on an exhale, frame your right foot, turn your left toes under, engage your left leg, step forward to standing forward fold and repeat on the other side.

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COW FACE POSE

When yogis come into this pose, the body is supposed to look like the face of a cow. Forget playing spot the farm animal and focus on the deep stretch to the hips and shoulders which start to hunch forward after too much sitting.

The Move: Start in a comfortable, seated position and cross your right thigh over the left. Slide your feet out in opposite directions, as if you were tying a shoelace so that each foot rests next to the opposite hip. You’re aiming to stack one knee on top of the other, but a space between the two is normal. Try to sit evenly on your bottom.

Inhale and lift your left arm up overhead. Bend your elbow and rest your palm on your upper back or shoulder blade, depending on your reach. Use your right hand to gently press your left elbow down. Take the right around your back, palm facing out, and try to reach your left hand. If you can’t touch — and that’s common — take a towel or strap in your left hand and reach your right hand for the towel. Lift your left elbow toward the ceiling. Keep your spine tall.

After 5–10 breaths, switch sides. Remember, if your right leg is on top, your right arm is the bottom arm, and if your left leg is on top, your left arm is the bottom.

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STANDING FORWARD FOLD

This posture provides a deep stretch for the hips, hamstrings and calves. It creates length in the spine, releasing tension in the low back. It’s also a simple inversion, which helps get blood flowing back to the upper body.

The Move: From a standing position, inhale and sweep your arms overhead. Keep your low belly engaged to help counteract arching your back. As you exhale, hinge from the hips and swan dive forward with your arms out like wings. Rest your hands on your suitcase, hold onto your ankles or place your palms on the floor. Let your head be heavy and relax your eyes.

To deepen the release in your back, bend your knees and rest your chest on your thighs. Add a shoulder stretch by bringing your arms behind your back, interlacing your fingers and letting your arms fall over your head.

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PIGEON

This pose opens up the hips, groin, hip flexors and thighs, which makes it a great remedy after a 10-hour car ride or a trans-Atlantic flight

The Move:

To come into full pigeon, begin in down dog. Step your right foot forward, placing your shin on your mat so that your right knee is behind your right wrist. Eventually, you may be able to rest your shin parallel to the top edge of your mat, but most of us make a diagonal with our leg so that our right foot is near our left hip.

Lower your back leg and hips to the ground. Walk your back leg out so that it extends directly behind your hip. Press the top of your left foot evenly into your mat.

Walk your hands to the mat next to your hips. Square your hips, making sure you’re not dipping to one side or the other. If you find there’s a gap between one hip and the floor, tuck a block or blanket under that glute for added support.

Deepen the pose by folding forward on an exhale. You can rest on your forearms or place your forehead on the mat.

To come out of the pose, walk your hands back to your sides. Curl your back toes under, engage your leg, press firmly into your hands, and step your right foot back to down dog. Take the pose on the other side.

Why you may need sugar to help post rides recovery.

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Athletes have different nutritional needs that go beyond calorie and macronutrient intake. Specifically, there are two nutrients that are harmful in excess but are helpful when used strategically for athletic performance: salt and sugar.

HOW SALT CAN IMPACT PERFORMANCE

Research shows that one in four people will develop high blood pressure from excess sodium intake. The majority of sodium in the typical American diet comes from processed foods, and avoiding these products will help make room for foods with higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino acids, as well as allow for targeted use of salt when you exercise.

If you exercise for more than 60 minutes and to the point of sweating, research shows that consuming electrolytes (including sodium) during exercise enhances performance and recovery.  Sweating is key — it sets athletes apart from inactive individuals and increases their sodium needs.

This is particularly true for salty sweaters (those who have white crystals build up on their skin and clothes after exercising).

Not only can sodium help improve performance if consumed during exercise, it can also aid recovery since it helps replace fluids lost during exercise. Many athletes will drink large amounts of water during and after exercise and assume they’re hydrated. But without sodium, the body doesn’t retain water — we just pee it out. On hot days or even when wearing warm clothing on a cold day, sodium is a necessity in addition to water both during and after exercise.

You can replace sodium either by eating salty foods (and drinking water to replace lost fluids), or by drinking beverages like sports drinks that contain sodium. After a workout is a good time to include salty foods such as pretzels, salty crackers, tortilla chips or salted nuts.

 HOW SUGAR CAN AID RECOVERY

For people who have trouble regulating their blood sugar levels, such as those with diabetes or pre-diabetes, too much sugar can be dangerous. Yet for athletes, sugar is a nutrient that can be used strategically to help improve performance and enhance recovery.

If exercising 60 minutes or more, having food and or beverages that have sugar in various forms — including dried fruit, bananas, sports bars, gels and sports drinks — can improve performance. The general recommendation is 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour.

Studies from the Australian Institute of Sport have shown that foods rich in complex carbohydrates, which take a longer time to hit your bloodstream, are less effective than foods high in sugar (aka quick-burning carbs) at restoring glycogen levels. For athletes engaging in rigorous training for more than an hour, eating foods high in sugar within 30 minutes of training is more effective than eating complex carbohydrates.

A dietitian isn’t necessarily going to tell an athlete that they need to start eating chocolate cake and candy every time they do a hard workout (although some have famously recommended chocolate milk), but including foods high in sugar during and after a rigorous one hour or more training session can help improve performance and recovery.

The Short Story: If you engage in vigorous exercise for an hour or more, salt and sugar during and after your workouts just may improve your performance.

The power of a connected body.

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Heart rate training is not just for serious athletes. Anyone — at any level — can benefit from tracking. While strapping something onto your chest that reads your heart beat can be an intimidating endeavor (and then there’s all of the math…) — the real-time feedback helps us push ourselves in ways we would never do on our own.

We reached out to gym-goers who got monitors and got hooked — whether it was to help rehab, to level up, for inspiration or to fire up their competitive spirit. Think of it as your omnipresent trainer (or something along those lines).

Mike McKee: “The Rehabilitator”

He got back in shape after a major accident thanks to the help of the Under Armour Record and MyFitnessPal apps, the band and heart rate monitor. Mike says, “It’s helped me get my life back!”

Ryan Biddle: “The Competitor”

Motivated by the constant data around meeting goals, eating right and sleeping, Ryan appreciates witnessing his aerobic and cardiovascular fitness improving. He says, “through all this, I become a better version of myself.”

Katelin Manning: “The Perfectionist”

On a constant journey to get better, Katelin says “it has improved my overall daily health performance and allows me to make sure my workouts are harder!” As a customer service representative for Under Armour, she wanted to know all about the products — and ultimately was converted.

1. Why did you get a heart rate monitor and band? How has your training changed?

Mike: Since I’d started tracking net calories and steps, I kept looking for ways to keep a more accurate log of it all, and the heart rate monitor and band seemed like the perfect choice. It really lets you know when you’re truly pushing yourself and when it’s time to pick up the pace. There’s no arguing with data.

Ryan: As someone who has a degree in adult fitness and is avid about training, being able to quantify workouts is a huge plus. Knowing your heart rate zone is important to tailoring your workouts to your specific goals: endurance, speed, weight loss, mass. The great thing about the UA Record with the heart rate monitor is it puts the heart rate zones in a graph so you can see how long you were in a specific heart rate zone.

Katelin: They keep me accountable for my workouts and show how hard I am working. Having the heart rate tracking available with the chest strap, I can see how to create workouts that mimic the heart rate patterns I get from running. I enjoy the sleep tracking because it helps me make sure I am getting enough. I find myself thinking about what time I will go to bed and what the number on my band will read once I wake up — and if I will be happy with it or need a second cup of coffee.

2. What advice do you have for people who are curious about connected training but haven’t pulled the plug yet?

Mike: Think of it this way: Would you really feel confident racing a car that didn’t have any gauges?Information is one of the most powerful parts of any sport. The more information you have, the more you can improve.

Ryan: Being a monitored athlete will tell you where your weaknesses are and the steps you need to take to improve them. It can quantify your workout intensity so you can go harder the next time and make those slow, gradual progressions that make you better. 

Katelin: I would definitely recommend taking the plunge. You will discover either how hard you are pushing, or slacking, on your workouts. It’s a great way to help with making small daily life changes and a great way to challenge yourself to your full potential.

3. What did you learn about yourself? Your training?

Mike: I learned just what it means to push myself. Every stage of fitness has a limit to be pushed. Each day is a new climb, a new run and a new challenge.

Ryan: That I can meet the fitness challenges I have set for myself.

Katelin: That my body is capable of great things. It’s interesting to see what you can accomplish when you integrate science into your workouts.

 

Understanding your Heart Rate Zones can really create the difference on race day. 

Understanding your Heart Rate Zones can really create the difference on race day. 

Pre - Ride Meditation from the team @ Intrepid Apparel®

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Pre - Ride Mindfulness: Reverse the Effects of Stress with a Body Scan.

Going straight into a ride or race is tough. We believe the best way to start it off right is with a little peace of mind. Here’s one quick and simple way to establish emotional wellness, every ride!

Calm your mind and energize your body with this stress-relieving exercise called the body scan. Our bodies and emotions are deeply connected, which is why we feel butterflies in our stomach when we’re nervous and tension in our shoulders when we’re stressed.

When life gets hectic, it’s easy to switch into autopilot, unaware of what you’re actually experiencing inside, physically and emotionally, as you power through your day. Tuning in to the physical sensations in your body is a great way to connect with what’s going on in your mind.

To do a body scan, simply focus your attention on each part of your body with open curiosity — without judging or trying to change anything. Here is a simple sequence to guide you through the body scan while lying down or sitting in a chair:

Take a few deep breaths, paying attention to your breath as it goes in and out. Slowly scan your body from head to toe, bringing your attention to each area. Then follow these steps:

  1. Start with the top of your head, moving to the sides of your head.
  1. Now move to your face, forehead, eyes, mouth and jaw.
  1. And now to the neck and shoulders…
  1. …to your upper arms, forearms, wrists and hands.
  1. Take note of any sensations you may feel, without judging or trying to change anything.
  1. Now move to the torso, the chest and upper back.
  1. Be aware of your heartbeat and your breathing.
  1. Pay attention to your stomach and lower back.
  1. Notice any thoughts that may be running through your mind, and just let them go, bringing your attention back to your body.
  1. Notice your hips, thighs and knees.
  1. Down to the the shins, calves, ankles and feet.
  1. Become aware of your body as a whole, and feel how your whole body is connected.
  1. Finally, bring your attention back to your breath, and, for a few moments, feel your entire body expand and contract with each inhale and exhale.

Once you feel ready and relaxed, you will notice that the Flow of the Trail will become clearer - If in doubt watch the Elite Racers before they head into a winning run....