Tag Archives | Fitness

Do I mind? Yes, I do. A look at mindfulness.

meditation-courses1Like a lot of Ski Divas, I do my best to stay in shape. I get out on my bike a few times a week, and I spend a fair amount of time in the gym, doing cardio and lifting weights. And though it’s not always easy, I try to eat right, too.

But while the physical stuff is important, there’s more to staying healthy than just nutrition and exercise. Call it spiritual well being, call it mental health, but I think being truly healthy requires a balance between both mind and body. Anyone who’s been depressed  or anxious can attest to this. If you’re unhappy, if you’re stressed, you can end up feeling pretty crappy. There are all sorts of scientific studies that back this up; I’m sure you can find them if you search the web.

So this past January, I thought I’d give meditation a try. Like a lot of people, I’d heard a lot about something called mindfulness — how it helps with everything from depression and anxiety to lack of focus and sleeplessness. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure I’d be a good fit. All I’d heard about meditation was that you were required to empty your mind, and to me, that seemed like an impossible task. I’m the sort of person who when someone says, ‘Don’t think about an elephant,’ well, that’s all I’ll think about. On the other hand, committing to meditation seemed pretty low risk. I’t’s not like I had to ingest any special pills or foods or train to run a marathon. I didn’t think I had anything to lose. Besides, how could it hurt?

So what exactly is mindfulness, and what does it involve? Basically, mindfulness means paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without making any judgements. The idea is to focus your awareness on the moment while accepting and acknowledging your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings as if from a distance, without judging them to be either good or bad. Instead of letting life pass you by, you live in the moment. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness offers a whole host of benefits: everything from stress reduction to improved focus and less emotional reactivity. You can read more about them here. Take a look; it doesn’t sound bad.

So did I light incense, sit in the lotus position, and chant a mantra like Ommmmmm? Did I travel to an ashram in Nepal, seeking a guru who could provide me with extra special guidance?

Umm……no.

This is a new world. I did what any self-respecting individual does these days: I downloaded an app, or in my case, Headspace.com.

Headspace has a pretty good gimmick: it offers 10 free sessions to get you started, after which you pay by the month. For me, paying works; it gives me the incentive I need to stay committed. Once you subscribe, there are a  number of series that address a variety of topics like depression, anxiety, focus, creativity, and more. You can choose the length of time you want your sessions to last; mine are 15 minutes. Throughout, you’re guided by British mindfulness expert (and former Buddhist monk) Andy Puddicombe. Andy has a genial way and a calm, friendly voice that makes him easy to listen to. He also provides a lot of tips and advice not only on meditating, but on how to apply what you’ve learned throughout the day. I haven’t completed all the series but I have found some repetition, from one to another — which really doesn’t bother me. As they say, practice makes perfect.

For those who are particularly goal oriented, there’s also a way to track your mediation stats. For example, Headspace tells me I’ve completed 254 sessions for a total of 58 hours of mediation time, with an average duration of 14 minutes. This seems kind of OCD for something that’s supposed to be pretty laid back, but that’s okay. It’s interesting to see how the time adds up.

So what do you think, Ski Diva?
Has it helped? I think so. I don’t suffer from depression and I’m not particularly stressed, so I can’t speak to that. But I actually enjoy the quiet space it creates for me each day. And I think it helps me be a bit calmer and provides me with the tools I need to see things a bit differently, too. I also think it’s made me a bit more patient, which is a huge plus for me, and I think I’m a better listener, too.

I’m hoping the benefits will transfer over to skiing. I do suffer a fair amount of height anxiety and yeah, sometimes I get a little scared, when I really shouldn’t. So stay tuned; I’ll keep you posted,.

 



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Should you work out in the heat?

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 6.11.18 AMThe weather news out of the southwest over the past few days has been positively historic.

On Sunday, Phoenix topped out at 118 F, the fifth highest temperature ever recorded in the city. Blythe, California, set an all-time record high of 124 F on Monday. And these are only a couple of the record-shattering highs that have been popping up all over the region. In Southern California, The National Weather Service reported 17 daily heat records on Sunday alone.

So what do you do when you’re a dedicated runner/cyclist/hiker/outdoor enthusiast, and it’s hot enough to bend railroad tracks? Or melt the tarmac enough to cause a plane to sink? And I’m not exaggerating: Both of these actually happened during previous heat waves.

Heat is nothing to mess around with. According to federal data, it actually causes more deaths annually in the United States — about 130 — than flooding, lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes or cold. In fact, Phoenix fire officials blamed the severe heat for the deaths of four hikers over the weekend,

I don’t mind summer, but these temperatures are crazy. Once it reaches the 80’s, I’ve pretty much had it. And with yesterday the first official day of the season, there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more really high temps in the next few months.

So what should you do when it’s really, really hot? Should you go outside and work out?  Or should you skip it entirely and feel like a complete slug?

You could sit around and dream about ski season. That’s one alternative, though it won’t do you much good. Or you could work out indoors, where it’s air conditioned, which is probably a lot better. But if you simply have to get outside, make sure to take the  proper precautions:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. And I mean plenty. Dehydration can contribute to fatigue and poor performance. Even worse, it can cause heat stroke. So be sure to drink 2 cups of water 2 hours before you start your exercise routine, and keep it coming — about 8 ounces every 15 minutes.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, preferably light in color and moisture wicking. Cotton stays wet, making clothes cold and uncomfortable, so it’s not the best choice. There are a lot of high tech fabrics that are much better and will keep you feeling better.
  • Exercise during a cooler part of the day. It’s best to go out first thing in the morning, or late in the day, when the sun isn’t directly overhead.
  • If you stop sweating, stop exercising. Or if you feel nauseous or dizzy or especially hot. This is extremely important. You could be suffering from heat stroke, which can require emergency treatment.
  • Swim. This is a great way to exercise and stay cool at the same time. Kind of a no-brainer, don’t you think?

Also, it’d be a good idea to learn to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Here’s a handy-dandy graphic put out by the National Weather Service that can help:

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 6.24.58 AM

Keep cool, everyone.  Remember, the earth is turning and winter is coming. Then we’ll complain about the cold. 😉



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Eight fitness myths you should ignore.

I wish I had a nickel for all the pieces of bogus advice I’ve heard. Wait an hour after eating before going into the water. Never wear white past Labor Day. Feed a cold, starve a fever. 

I’d be a millionaire.

Fitness is like that, too. There’s no shortage of things we’re told that are supposed to be true, but are way off in La-La Land. The hard part is trying to separate what’s real from what’s absolute bunk.

So helpful soul that I am, I’m about to save you a whole lotta trouble. Here are eight common fitness myths, busted. Think about them while you’re getting getting in shape for next ski season:

RunningDon’t eat before a workout.

Think about it this way: Would you drive a car without gas? No. Your body needs fuel to power through a workout. Contrary to what some people believe, forgoing food before exercise will not force your body into burning more fat; instead, you’ll end up burning protein (muscle mass), and that won’t do you any good. I’m not saying you should eat a big meal and then immediately run a marathon, but have a snack about 45 minutes to an hour before you start. Best thing to eat: something with carbohydrates and protein.

Stretching is a great warm up.

Experts say this can actually be harmful. Why? Stretching a cold muscle is like stretching a rubber band to its limit. When you stretch to the maximum, your body may think it’s at risk of being overstretched, so it compensates by contracting and becoming more tense. That means you’re not able to move as fast or as freely, so you’re more likely to get hurt. Instead of stretching, many experts recommend warming up with a light jog or sport-specific exercise, like a few serves for tennis. That type of light movement increases your heart rate and blood flow to the muscles, warming up your body temperature.

Walking isn’t as effective as running.

Simply not true. Walking and running target the same muscle groups and offer similar health benefits: a reduced risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes, and better cardiovascular health.  Sure, you’ll have to walk twice as long to use up the same amount of energy as you would running. But a runner and a walker will burn about the same number of calories over the same distance. So don’t worry about taking the slow lane. Just get out there and move!

Weight training makes women bulk up.

This is only true if the woman is on steroids. To be truly bulky, you need a lot of testosterone. That’s why it’s so easy for men to bulk up — the average man produces 10 times the amount of testosterone as the average woman. Weight training, though, has a lot of great benefits: it burns fat, improves your athletic performance, and reduces your risk of diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. So don’t stay away from weights because you’re afraid you’ll look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You won’t.

The only reason to wear a sports bra is to keep the girls from bouncing.

There’s more to it than that. Sports bras also help prevent breast sag. High-impact activities, like jogging or aerobics, can stress the connective tissue that keeps breasts firm, causing them to sag more quickly. According to the American Council on Exercise, compression bras work best for smaller-busted women; the more well-endowed (typically a C cup or larger) should opt for an “encapsulation” bra that supports each breast separately. Replace workout bras every six months to a year.

The more time you spend in the gym, the better.

Did you know that lifting weights creates tiny muscle tears? You need to rest to help them repair (this is when they get stronger). Overtraining can also mess with your menstrual cycle. And thanks to your body’s built-in protective mechanisms, it can also cause a plateau in your weight loss. So take some time off to recover. I’m on a three-day on, one day off workout schedule.

Crunches can give you six-pack abs.

Losing weight in a targeted area won’t work. The body just isn’t built that way. Oh, exercise may strengthen the muscular groups in a specific area, but no matter how many crunches you do, you ain’t going to have six-pack abs. Why? Fat can only be lost from the body as a whole in an order that is predetermined by your genetics. So if you have a high percentage of body fat, your abs will be covered with — you guessed it — fat. In order to get visibly toned abs, you have to first reduce your overall body fat, which means plenty of cardio, coupled with strength training for faster results.

No pain, no gain.

This is just plain silly. If it hurts while you’re doing it, STOP. Your body is trying to tell you something. Pain is an indicator that you either have an injury or you’re doing something wrong.  (Of course, this doesn’t include the mild muscle soreness you may feel for a day or two after a workout.) If something really hurts, stop, rest, and see if it goes away. If it doesn’t, or if it starts again or increases after you begin to work out, see a doctor.

 



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Why Women Should Lift Weights

If you’re not lifting weights because you’re afraid you’re going to end up looking like this……..

Muscle-man

…..forget it. You have nothing to worry about. Most women don’t have the level of testosterone that’s needed to support a bulky physique. And any woman who does is probably supplementing with hormones.

Nonetheless, a lot of women don’t lift weights because they’re afraid they’re going to bulk up. Well, it’s time to set all that aside. Lifting weights is good for you. And here are a number of reasons why:

It’ll help you burn fat: One of the biggest benefits of  weight training is the effect it has on your body’s ability to burn fat during and after exercise. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn at rest. So, basically, muscles speed up your metabolism, resulting in more effective fat loss.

You’ll improve bone health: Strength training is an excellent way to combat loss of bone mass, thereby decreasing the risk of osteoporosis. This is particularly important for postmenopausal women, whose bodies no longer secrete estrogen. When you perform a curl, for example, your muscles tug on your arm’s bones. The cells within those bones react by creating new bone cells  The result: your bones become stronger and more dense. Another great benefit: strengthening your muscles can also help improve balance and keep you as strong as possible which lowers the chance of a fall-related fracture.

You’ll decrease joint pain: Stronger muscles are better able to hold your joints in position, improving joint performance and decreasing pain. For example, research shows that weak thigh muscles can increase the risk of knee osteoarthritis. Even small increases in muscle strength can reduce that risk.

You’ll look better: Which would you rather have: a body that jiggles or one that’s tight and sculpted? Weight training can help you get the latter, creating curves and definition right where you want it. It can also help fight the effects of gravity, making you much less likely to have arm jiggle in your upper arms.

You’ll be mentally stronger: Weight lifting is empowering. When you challenge yourself, your confidence grows. And that can help you tackle stuff you never before thought possible.

women-lifting-weights

You’ll improve your heart health:  In an Appalachin State University study, people who performed 45 minutes of moderate-intensity resistance exercise lowered their blood pressure by up to 20% — a benefit equal to or surpassing that of taking anti-hyperintensive drugs. These effects persisted for about 30 minutes after the end of a training session and continued for as long as 24 hours in people who trained regularly — 30 to 45 minutes a few times a week.

You’ll have better control over your blood sugar: This is especially important if you have diabetes or risk factors. A study published on the Nature Medicine website in April, 2013, reported that weight training encourages the growth of white muscle, which helps lower blood glucose because it uses glucose for energy.

You’ll have more strength for skiing: (It always comes back to this, doesn’t it?) Skiing requires more than gravity to get you down the hill. You need lots of strength in your hips, glutes, and thighs to perform to your optimal level. And while you can get some of that through exercise like running or biking, weight training can help build the muscle strength you need and better protect you from the acute and overuse injuries that are too common in this sport. So when you’re getting ready for ski season, be sure to make weight training part of your fitness routine.

 



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Keeping in Shape for Skiing: Y Not Yoga?

A few weeks ago I attended a class at Sun Yoga, a yoga studio owned by a friend of mine in Tampa, Florida.

For me, this was out of the ordinary. Sure, I’m an active person, and though I stretch a bit after my workout (when I remember to), yoga just isn’t part of my regular routine.

Maybe I should re-think that. Because the class I went to was pretty great. My friend, Debra Fullerton, is an amazing instructor (if you’re in the Tampa area, I strongly recommend giving her a try), and really, it was a terrific workout. And though I thought I was in pretty good shape, some of the muscles I used in the class begged to differ and complained to me about it the following day.

Karen Dalury Killington Yoga

Karen Dalury
Killington Yoga

What does this have to do with skiing? Everything. Because after I returned home to Vermont, I got in touch with Karen Dalury at Killington Yoga. An instructor at Killington Ski Resort, Karen has a yoga studio that’s just a few miles from the mountain. And while she sees yoga as a great way to stay fit in a general sense, she especially advocates it as a way to condition your body for the ski season to come.

I recently spoke to her about how she sees yoga fitting into a ski conditioning program.

Q: So tell me about yourself, Karen. How long have you been teaching?
A: I’ve been teaching yoga since about 1990 and practicing it a lot longer than that. Initially I got into yoga because of the spiritual aspect; I found it looked at things in an interesting way. But what kept me with it is its physical benefits. I’m an active person and I’d like to remain that way. I’ve had a lot of back issues over the years, and yoga helps keep me going. I ski every day in the winter; I’m an instructor at Killington and I work for PSIA. I’m a telemark professional, though I teach alpine as well. So I do yoga year round.

Q: So why is yoga good for skiing?
A: Skiing is a physically demanding sport. We’re asking a lot of ourselves out there. I see that a lot, even with my co-instructors who want to attain higher levels of achievement or certification. What’s holding them back? Their bodies. They can’t physically do what they need to do. For example, when you ski, you need to create angles with your knees, your hips and your spine, and you need to maintain dynamic balance. They can’t do that. Their hips are too tight, or they don’t have the range of motion they need to get to the next level. Yoga is key. It’s not just stretching; it’s a very dynamic practice. What many people don’t realize is that being fit for skiing isn’t just about being strong. In the past I’ve said to myself ‘this is the winter I’m going to get my legs and core super strong,’ and all I’ve ended up doing is injuring myself, and that sets me back. So literally, all I do now for fitness is yoga. Oh, and I stand up paddle board, too.

What’s so great about yoga is that it takes your body through complete range of motion and builds strength at the same time in a wide range of angles or positions. For instance, the hips are meant to be able to flex, extend, and rotate, and move out this way and that way. But once you get to be about thirty, you lose some of that if you don’t work on it. And just being flexible alone isn’t enough. You need to have stability, too, so you don’t injure yourself. What yoga does is build suppleness and stability at the same time so you’re balanced. I can do things on the mountain that many of my cohorts can’t because I have more range of motion for someone my age.

Q: Does yoga benefit skiers in any other way?
A: Absolutely. Yoga helps you achieve better focus and stay present. When I ski, I’m consciously, consistently practicing breath control and focus. When you’re in a mogul field, for example, you need to look ahead so you know what’s coming. But you also need to stay in the present and not think too much. If you’re skiing fast, you better be in the moment and you better be focused. And if you’re in a fearful situation, yoga can help with that, too. You can literally change the way you feel and your body’s chemical reaction by changing the way you breathe. A few cleansing breaths and focusing on the moment can be a big help. Yoga is like a super power, but it has to be practiced and developed. When you’re standing at the top of that gnarly run isn’t the time to start. That’s where you want to call on the skills that yoga helps develop. You have to work on them before you get there. And you can build those skills during the off season.

Q: So how should yoga fit into a ski conditioning program?
A: Yoga is not a quick fix. Starting it now would be beneficial. After all, good things take time. I find that in the winter when I’m skiing each day, my yoga practice is just maintenance. The summer is when I can really improve and get to the next level. It’s not about putting your feet behind your head, it’s about reclaiming your freedom in your body.

Q: What type of yoga do you do?
A: I don’t teach just one kind of yoga. I teach many different styles, though right now I’m predominately into the alignment based styles. I teach a slow style which is mellow and patient and I’m finding it’s more the sort of yoga I need. It lets the joints unravel, rather than actively stretch. There’s something for everyone. You just have to find the yoga style that works for you.

Karen strikes a pose.

Karen strikes a yoga pose.

 



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What’s the best time of the day to work out?

Now that my ski season is over, it’s time to move on. (Omigod was that me who said that? Move on? Holy crap.)

But really, it is. The seasons change and we have to change, too. Still, it’s good to keep in mind that ski season will come again, and staying fit over the summer can pay off big time when it does. Plus it’d be incredibly boring if we just sat around and didn’t do anything during the long off season stretch.

Time to get out the bike!

Time to get out the bike!

So during the off season, I spend a fair amount of time working out. This can be outdoor stuff — hiking, biking, swimming, stuff like that, which can be a lot of fun — or indoor stuff, like going to the gym to do weights or cardio, which isn’t quite as fun but I do it, anyway. Whatever form it takes, the important thing is to just get to get out there and do it.

Chances are this is something you already know. But here’s something you may have been wondering about: when’s the best time to exercise?

I searched the web for info on this, and really, there doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast rule. The best time, actually, is the one that works for you. For me, it’s morning.  Typically, I get up between 5 and 5:30 AM — awful, I know; I have a horrible body clock — so I like to get my workout done and out of the way. I may actually be on to something. There are studies that say that morning workouts increase your energy for the rest of the day. What’s more, some even say that a morning workout boosts your metabolism, helping you burn more calories all day long. Morning workouts may also help you get a better night’s sleep, though as a chronic insomniac, I’m not sure I’d agree.  Still, researchers at Appalachian State University tracked the sleep patterns of people ages 40 to 60 who walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes, three times a week. Participants worked out at three different times: 7 AM, 1 PM or 7 PM. The result: those who hit the treadmill at 7 AM slept longer and had deeper sleep cycles than those who exercised at other times of the day. In fact, the morning crowd spent up to 75% more time in the reparative “deep sleep” stage at night.

But not everyone is a morning person like me, or is motivated to hit the gym any time before noon. So for those of you who prefer the afternoon or evening, consider this: One small study found that afternoon exercise boosts workout performance. Researchers found that evening exercises had higher power outputs. They theorized that the more complex the movements required to perform the exercise, the more that the time of day can impact the performance. Another plus: we may be less prone to injury if we work out later in the day. That’s because our core body temperatures are higher, making our reaction time quicker and our muscles and joints more adaptable to exercise. This is corroborated in a 2010 study published in the journal Chronobiology International. Researchers found that as body and environmental temperature increases in late afternoon, so does enzyme activity and muscular function, so you can work out at your peak from about 2 PM to 6 PM.

Not everyone can choose when they exercise. Between family, jobs, and life in general, finding the time isn’t easy. So whether you choose to work out in the morning, afternoon, or evening, the important thing is to get it in at some point in your day. It’s all good.

 

 



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Surfing your way to better skiing.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I harbor a deep, dark secret: I grew up on the Jersey Shore. And though I never learned to surf, I know plenty of people for whom surfing is a way of life — similar to the way I feel about skiing. So this week, while I’m on vacation, I’ve decided to post a piece by guest blogger, Emily Bradbury. Emily is a fellow Vermonter who lives, plays, works, and raises her family here in the Green Mountains. She’s a contributor to Ski Vermont’s All Mountain Mamas blog, and the founder of Adventure Travel Mom. And she has some thoughts on how surfing can actually make you a better skier. Take it away, Emily! 

The Kindred Spirit of Ski Divas and Surfer Chicks
Emily Bradbury

Emily Bradbury

Emily Bradbury

As a native Vermonter and lifelong skier, falling in love with surfing was a complete surprise. My life is in the mountains — hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter, working and raising my family in a small ski town. So surfing was not really on my radar, until I spent a week at a surf camp in Costa Rica a few years ago. Turns out, skiing and surfing are kindred spirits, and those of us who feel at home in the mountains have an edge in learning to surf.

Through the surf camp I visit every year, I’ve met some pretty incredible women, most of whom claim skiing as their primary sport. Here are five reasons why women who rip on the mountains tend to kill it in the waves too, and why surfing might even make you a stronger skier:

1. Athletic instinct. Individuals who ski and board are naturally adept at surfing. General fitness is part of it, but the difference is the mental factor. The hardest part of learning to surf is catching waves. You paddle hard and get into the right position, which is just as the steepest part of a wave is about to break. You pop up and you’re staring down the steep face of a moving wave. Hesitating or leaning back means a wipeout and a pounding by the next wave. Skiers instinctively know to stay low and balanced, look where they want to go and just charge. It’s the same thing they do every day in the mountains.

2. Learning something new is good for the brain. Freesking World Tour Champ Laura Ogden credits learning to surf with making her more critical of her skiing. Though initially she just wanted to experience the feeling of catching a wave, she found that surfing served a higher purpose. “There is something inherently good for the soul in being novice at something similar to what you excel in. Learning to surf played many unexpected roles in my life, all of which had a very positive impact on my skiing.”

3. Improve strength and balance. As skiers, we spend a lot of time in the “forward flex” position, with tight abdominals and strong quads. Avid skiers are prone to injuries that result from chronic overuse of certain muscle groups. Surfing puts your body in extension, opening the front side and strengthening the posterior chain, which includes the glutes, hamstrings and back muscles. Paddling a surfboard works your upper body and lower back, while lengthening abdominals. A week of warm water surfing is the body’s perfect antidote to a season of ripping it on the hill.

4. You are there for yourself. Aussie surf coach and avid snowboarder, Victoria Patchell points out that “like skiing, recreational surfing is a sport that doesn’t have winners or losers, only participants. Once you enter the water you are there for yourself, and due to the individualist nature of the sport it provides an incredible opportunity for personal growth and transformation.”

5. Same rush, different sport. My friend Hillary Harrison, an avid skier who owns Peaks n’ Swells Surf Camp in Costa Rica, was first drawn to surfing because she craved that same adrenaline rush she got from skiing and biking in the mountains. “I’ll never forget how free and happy I felt riding that first wave,” said Harrison. “People say we’re addicted to the rush, but it’s hard to give up that feeling when it’s what drives you in life.” Don’t worry if you’re not an adrenaline junkie like Hillary (I’m not!). Surfing has a “bunny slope” too. White water waves are the perfect way to practice paddling out, popping up, and turning before heading into bigger surf.

Emily kills it on a wave.

Emily kills it on a wave.



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Eat well, ski well.

Ever have one of those ski days when your get up and go has got up and gone? Maybe it’s your diet. Now that pre-season is here, it’s a good time to think about ski nutrition. After all, it’s no surprise that the food you eat can have a profound effect on your skiing. Food is fuel. Put bad stuff in, and you’re likely to get bad results.

Recently I spoke to Diana Sugiuchi, a Registered Dietician and member of TheSkiDiva.com forum. Diana runs VerticalDropNutrition.com, a site that focuses on eating for skiing, to see what she has to say on the subject.

Diana Sugiuchi

Diana Sugiuchi

Q: How did you get involved in ski nutrition?
A: One day I was skiing by myself and feeling pretty horrible and crappy, so I went into the lodge and got a bagel. And as I was sitting there eating, I got really mad at myself – not just for stopping for thirty minutes and for paying $5 for the bagel, but for not eating properly. I thought, ‘this is ridiculous. You know what to eat; you’re a nutritionist!’ So it occurred to me: if I’m in this predicament, there must be a lot of other people who have this same problem; people who aren’t skiing as well as they could be because they’re not eating the right things.

Q: How is eating for skiing different from eating for any other sport?
A: There are a lot of similarities. It’s an endurance activity, because you’re out there for a while. But when you ski you have the ability to stop and have a snack. And unlike a marathon, you have bursts of activity for short periods of time. This makes your nutrition needs a bit different.

Q: Does the weather pose a challenge, as well?
A: Cold weather increases your metabolism a little bit, and that can play a part in the kinds of foods you may want to eat, as opposed to foods you may want to eat when you’re biking in the summer. I find what a lot of people don’t pay attention to is apres ski muscle recovery. If you’re on a multi-day ski trip and  wake up on day three and can’t even move, you know there’s a lot you can do to minimize that through what you eat.

Q: Can you give me examples of foods or nutritional guidelines you should follow for skiing?
A: The most important thing is to front-load before you go out. Eat as much as you can without being uncomfortably full because that’s going to give you the energy you need to carry on. A good breakfast would be lean protein. You don’t want to overdo it on  fats, and that’s what you’ll find at a lot of resort breakfast buffets. That’s pretty much the worst food you can eat because you’ll want to take a nap afterwards. Eggs are great and I absolutely love low-fat Greek yogurt. You want to make sure you eat a lot of complex carbohydrates because they’ll give you the energy you need. Protein will stick with you a bit longer, but eating things like oats and fruit and whole grains are really going to give you that good energy you need.

I also recommend shoving a few little snacks in your jacket, just because you don’t want to come in if you’re hungry.  Carbohydrates with a little bit of protein are great. One of my favorite things is PB & J on whole grains. Cut this into little pieces so you can have a bite or two when you need it – fantastic. Some of the energy bars are good, too, but try to stay away from the ones that are really high in protein because that’s not what you need when you’re in the middle of your activity. You really want to go where the carbs are. I love the Cliff Z bars. They’re made for kids, so they’re small – just 100 calories or so. They also have a good ratio of carbs to protein. Be careful, though, some of the bars that look really healthy have enriched flour — which is wheat flour — as one of their first ingredients. So if you eat them your blood sugar is going to drop pretty quickly.

Q: What about lunch? How do you navigate the ski cafeteria jungle? I mean, there’s a lot of crap out there.
A: There is a lot of crap. I always buy my lunch because I’m too lazy to make it in the morning. So my go-to is chili. All the mountains have chili, and chili has a lot of beans, which is a great complex carbohydrate that’ll stick with you all afternoon. If they have a white chili that’s made with chicken, that’s great, but beef chili is good, too. Go easy on toppings like cheese because you don’t want too much fat in the middle of your day. Sometimes I’ll have a turkey sandwich, if they have a sandwich station. You want something nutrient dense, where you’re going to get a lot of bang for your buck. I don’t think a salad at lunch is good enough. It’s a lot of filler and not enough protein and whole grains.

Q: And after skiing? What can you eat then to help your body recover?
A: Some great things to eat after skiing to help with recovery are hot chocolate made with lowfat milk. This is a variation on one of the best recovery snacks, which is a glass of lowfat chocolate milk. A banana with some peanut butter is good, too. Buy little individual packages of peanut butter for easy traveling. Or you could eat dried fruit and nuts or a turkey sandwich. Bring it with you and it will stay fresh in the car while you ski.

Q: So now we’re getting into pre-season, so we’re starting to think about things we can do to get ourselves ready. Is there anything we can do nutritionally?

Chocolate milk: the ideal recovery drink!

Chocolate milk: the ideal recovery drink!

A: Oh, yes. This is the time when you should be focusing on building strength; doing your conditioning exercises. And if you’re not eating the right things at the right time, you’re not going to improve your muscle capacity. It’s really important. You can’t eat your way to being in shape. You have to replenish yourself within an hour after your work-out. It doesn’t have to be a whole lot. One of the things I recommend is 8 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk. It has just the right ratio of carbohydrates to protein, and just on a physiological level, it’s the best recovery snack. It’s better after a work-out than regular low fat milk because you need the extra carbohydrates – and sugar is a simple carbohydrate — to drive the protein into your cells. Your body absorbs it better.  It doesn’t have to be chocolate milk, but you want something that’ll give you 10 grams of protein. Sometimes I’ll have half a cup of Greek yogurt with a little bit of fruit in it.

Q: One last question, especially for our eastern or midwestern skiers: Any advice on what we can do, nutritionally, to adjust to altitude?
A: There are a few things you can do. It’s super-important to stay hydrated, so make sure you’re drinking water often. Aim for at least 80 ounces per day. Don’t skimp on the carbs, either. These help get oxygen into your cells. Complex carbs like whole grain bread, brown rice, fruits and beans are best for sustained energy. And don’t overdo the sodium. It may be best to avoid salty restaurant meals while you’re adjusting to the altitude and choose less processed foods which have less sodium. Lastly, eat foods high in potassium such as potatoes, citrus, bananas, tomatoes, leafy greens and dried apricots.

Thanks, Diana! For more info on ski nutrition, visit her site at VerticalDropNutrition.com.

 



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Biking through the summer [or whatever gets you through the off season].

Summer’s a rough time for skiers who really don’t have any non-skiing passions. I mean, I like to do other things besides ski, but I just don’t LOOOOOVE them in quite the same way. So finding an alternate activity is tough. I can’t run (I have seriously bad feet), and hiking, though enjoyable, isn’t something I do too often.

One of the things I do do is bike — road, not mountain. I have a Specialized Ruby Comp road bike that’s about seven years old. I’m not a bike gear head so I can’t give you all the specs, but if you’re interested in such things, you can read about it here.

Anyway, here it is. I’ve made a few modifications since I got it. Pink tape on the handlebars, changed out the compact crankset to a triple (yeah, I wanted the granny gears), and most recently, a really cool saddle.

bike

Cool seat!

Cool seat!

This summer I got a bright safety green helmet, too. I think it makes me extra visible to the cars and trucks out there; I’m a little paranoid about getting hit. I like the visor, too.

Helmet

But even with the cool bike, saddle, and helmet, biking in Vermont can be a challenge. I’m not the strongest cyclist out there, and the hilly terrain isn’t easy. But the rewards are great. You get to see lots of stunning scenery right up close. Here are a few pics I’ve taken cycling in the area:

Cornish-Windsor Bridge

Cornish-Windsor Bridge

Sunflowers

Mountains

Once in a while you encounter something a bit offbeat, too. Like this sign for “Wendy’s Way,” a bike path in the Manchester, VT, area dedicated to 10th Mountain Division veteran, Olympian, and long-time Stratton ski instructor, Wendall Cram. Needless to say, I got a real kick biking on it — and an even bigger kick when I happened upon him in the parking lot, when I was loading up my gear.

WendysWay

Then there’s this marker for Phineas Gage in Cavendish, VT. Phineas was a railroad worker who suffered a traumatic brain injury when an iron spike accidentally passed through his skull with such force that it landed almost 30 yards behind him. Remarkably, he regained consciousness within a few minutes, was able to speak, and survived a 45-minute ride back to his boarding house while sitting in a cart. Although Phineas managed to recover from the accident, his personality was radically altered. His case is among the first evidence suggesting that damage to the frontal lobes could changes aspects of personality and affect socially appropriate interaction. Kind of makes you appreciate helmets, doesn’t it?

Phineas Gage Marker

Phineas Gage Marker

Anyway, I’m counting down the days to ski season, as I’m sure many of you are, too. Let’s see — with a target day of November 15, that’s only 96 days from today, August 12. In the meantime, I’ll keep on pedaling.

 



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Why is working out so hard sometimes?

I just got back from a bike ride that nearly ate me alive. By the end I was toast. Exhausted. Ready to collapse into a sweat-soaked, road-dust encrusted puddle of flesh. I know, I know — ewwwww.

Yet the other day I did a similar ride and had a completely different experience. Same intensity, same type of terrain, no problem. It was a piece of cake. Easy-peasy. I felt wonderful, maintained a good pace, and at the end I leapt off my bike, smiling.

Go figure.

ExhaustionI know I’m not the only one who has exercise ups and downs, but why things should vary so much from one day to the next is a complete mystery to me.  And it’s not just limited to biking. I’ve had this problem in a variety of activities — including skiing –and if I could bottle the good days for the days when I felt like crap, I’d be a happy camper.

So why is working out so hard sometimes? Why can’t each day be the same?

There are a variety of theories on why this happens, so I thought I’d share some with you:

• It could be nutritional, hormonal, sleep-related, [insert something here]. The body is a complex machine, and there are stressors in our lives and bodies we may not even be aware of. Drink alcohol the night before, and you might not perform well. Get a poor night’s sleep, and it could make a difference. (Though as a chronic insomniac, I’ve had some pretty good days following nights when I’ve slept maybe 3-4 hours Maybe it all comes down to what you’re used to?)

• It could be the environment. Maybe it was too hot/cold/humid/dry/windy. Maybe it’s the air quality. Maybe it’s the altitude. In short, in addition to internal things, there are external things that can affect your performance. Working out when it’s really hot or humid can be much more exhausting than it is on a  moderate day. And biking when it’s extremely windy can be a real challenge. Know that and make allowances.

• Maybe you were over/under hydrated. If you don’t drink enough before or during your workout, you could feel weak, dizzy, confused, or sluggish. Overhydration has its own set of problems, too: cramping, nausea, and confusion, so it can easily be confused with dehydration. In fact, drinking too much fluid, especially from certain “rehydration” drinks, can ironically cause dehydration.  A drink that has a high level of sugar and additives may require too much of your body’s own fluid to dilute so it can be absorbed. Also, drinking too much water at once may cause you to pee too much, so you don’t absorb any fluid.

• It’s in your head. It’s no secret that energy can be related to attitude. A positive attitude can result in greater energy for a better workout. And depression can wreak havoc on the way you perform. So keep that in mind (pun intended).

• These days just happen. And when they do, either pack it in or just expect less from yourself. Your body is trying to tell you something, so listen to it and back off.  You may be doing too much. There’s actually something called “overtraining syndrome.” Too  much training can break you down and make you weaker. Physiologic improvement actually occurs during the rest period that follows hard training. During recovery, your cardiovascular and muscular systems build up to compensate for the stress you’ve applied. The result can be a higher level of performance.

In short, who knows what’s going on. Some days are just not as good as others, so I kind of like the last explanation best (though trust me, I am not overtraining). But if you think you have an idea of your own, post it here. I’d love to hear it.

 

 

 

 



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