Quad Cramps

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Quad Cramps –How to fix them and avoid them.

For runners and triathletes, fewer things are more painful than quad cramps. During my first Ironman 70.3, I personally suffered from agonizing quad cramps during the first 10k of the run. There was a brief time where I did not think I would be able to make it through the run. Quad cramps can be debilitating, and in this post, we will discuss ways to fix them and keep them from coming back.

First, it’s important to know that there are several things that can cause quad cramps. The most common cause is improper nutrition – you’re dehydrated or don’t have enough sodium (salt) in your body.  Other causes for cramps can include fatigue, and working a muscle when it is “short”, or contracted, and not fully extended.

Whatever the cause, muscles can anticipate contraction, and can simply contract on its own.  This is one of the primary reasons that muscles often cramp towards the end of a race or long training session.

There are four muscles that make up the quadriceps. Of these four muscles, the rectus femoris is the most prone to cramping because it attaches above the hip and below the knee and crosses both joints. This muscle works harder than it’s other quadriceps counterparts. As a result, the rectus femoris has the greatest opportunity to contract when it is short because there are two things that can shorten it – knee extension and hip flexion.

So how do you fix a quad cramp? Remember that when a quad muscle cramps, it is shortened or contracted. The key is to stretch out the contacted muscle so it extends. BUT BE CAREFUL. A contracted muscle needs to be slowly stretched and extended. DO NOT yank it. It needs to be carefully and gradually stretched. You can do this by holding your foot and slowly pulling it up towards your butt in order to stretch out the quad muscle.

There is the possibility that reciprocal muscles can cramp. In other words, if you quad cramps, there is the possibility that the opposing hamstring muscle can also cramp. This is exactly what happened to me at Ironman 70.3 in Tempe.  The cramps were so debilitating because my quads and hamstrings were cramping at the same time. In an effort to avoid this, as you are stretching the quad muscle, be mindful not to hastily contract or fire the hamstring muscle. Take precaution to keep your entire leg as relaxed as possible while stretching the quad muscle.

Once you have sufficiently stretched and extended the quad, it is time to get hydrated. Make sure you take in plenty of fluids and increase your salt intake. Increasing your salt intake and keeping your electrolytes up, will also help to prevent additional cramping elsewhere.

Prevention of cramps is also key. This certainly does not mean that you will suddenly be immune to cramps, but there are things that you can do to help prevent cramps. First, make sure your muscles are properly trained so they are less prone to fatigue. For quads, incorporate exercised into your strength training routine such as squats and lunges.  Also, stay hydrated. This applies to training and not just racing. Hydrate before, during and after workouts, and make sure that you maintain proper electrolyte levels.  You can also employ dynamic warm-ups such as knee-ups, skips, etc. This will gradually warm the muscles up in preparation for a hard workout.  Regular stretching can also help keep your muscles loose and limber.

Employ these simple concepts into your training and racing, and you should lower your risk for cramping. Stay safe and enjoy?

Brent Holderman is an ITCA certified triathlon coach, host of the Tri-Experience podcast, owner of Rockit Sports Online, and an Ironman 70.3 triathlete.

Dynamic and Static Stretching

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Dynamic and Static Stretching

There has been a long standing debate when it comes to stretching.  Some have tried to discredit or minimize the value of stretching, however, it is the position of this coach that proper stretching techniques are in fact beneficial to athletes, particularly when it comes to increasing flexibility and improving performance.

Part of the stretching debate lies in the argument of dynamic vs static stretching. What I have found to be most beneficial is to incorporate both dynamic and static stretching into your routine for best results. Personally, I try to employ more dynamic stretching prior to a workout or training session, while incorporating static stretches post-workout. In this post, we will take a brief look at each.

My personal belief is that, opposed to static stretching, dynamic movement warm ups (pre-workout) prepare working muscles more adequately for strenuous training, while minimizing the risk of injury. Why? Dynamic movement stretches are ideal because they prepare joints for movement, and muscles for optimal activation. By employing dynamic movement stretching, you can initiate movement of joints and muscles through repetitive motion, all while moving a particular body part farther with each repetition.

Let’s use the hips as an example. By reducing hip stiffness prior to your run or ride, your hip muscles will work more efficiently and economically during your workout, all while reducing the risk of overuse injuries. Here are some simple dynamic movement stretches for the hips that you can try before your next workout:

Inchworms –    Start in a “push-up” position with your arms extended as if you are going to do a pushup. From this position, without moving your hands, walk your feet towards your hands. When you cant get your feet any closer to your hands, walk your hands back out in front of you to return to the pushup position and repeat the movement. If you need to, in between repetitions, lie on your stomach arch your back up in order to stretch the spine.

Leg Swings – for this movement, you can simply stand perpendicular to a wall (with your side to the wall). Simply take your outside leg and swing it back and forth, gradually increasing the height of each swing. Turn and repeat the exercise with the opposite leg.

Walking lunge – perform a deep lunge in order to stretch the hips. For an extra stretch, at the bottom of the lung, twist your torso away from the back leg.

 

Now let’s take a brief look at static stretching. As opposed to a dynamic movement stretch, static stretches  are designed to hold a joint or muscle in a particular position in order to loosen or stretch the muscles. This type of stretch should not be difficult or overly challenging. Holding the stretch position for anywhere from 30-60 seconds will help to increase flexibility in the muscle tissue. However, keep in mind, that static stretch movements done prior to working out, may actually prevent the muscles from firing properly.

Quad Stretch – while standing, grab your rightfoot and raise it up towards your glute while pushing your hips forward in order to stretch the quad. Remember to pull your foot up slowly and do not yank it. Hold the stretched quad for 30-60 seconds.

Frog stretch – while standing with your feet about shoulder width apart, turn your toes outward, and squat down as far as you can, keeping your heels flat on the floor. While in the squatted position, use your elbows to press your knees outward.
Try incorporating these stretches in your pre and post workout routine. I think you’ll see increased performance and flexibility.

Brent Holderman is an ITCA certified triathlon coach, host of the Tri Experience podcast, owner of Rockit Sports Online, and an Ironman 70.3 triathlete.

 

Beat the Bonk..

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Beat the Bonk

We’ve all been there. At some point during your training or racing, we’ve all experienced the dreaded bonk. First, let’s start by defining what bonking is. In endurance sports such as cycling and running, bonking is defined as a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy. In other words, “hitting the wall”.

In order to perform at peak efficiency, the body requires a steady supply of glucose. When those stores are depleted, the body naturally begins to slow down. Along with a decrease in performance level, we also begin to experience additional side effects such as headache, fatigue, disorientation and irritability.

So how do we address the bonk? What’s the cure? Milder instances of the dreaded bonk can usually be remedied by brief rest and the ingestion of food or drinks containing carbohydrates. These should be simple carbs that can be rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. The chances of bonking can usually be minimized by ensuring that glycogen levels are high when the exercise begins, and maintaining glucose levels during exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances, or by reducing exercise intensity.

How can you take preventative measures to minimize your risk of bonking? First, always carry fuel with you. This includes liquids and solids that can be easily consumed during exercise. These may include sports drinks, gels, chews, Stinger waffles, etc. Secondly, learn to time your intake of nutrition accordingly. Taking in some simple carbs such as a banana, juice or sports drink 10-20 minutes before your workout will help to provide an additional boost of energy. You may also consider taking in some protein and healthy fat 20-30 minutes before a workout such as a banana with peanut butter. At meal time, try to aim for a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein. For example, 50-70 grams of carbs and 25-30 grams of protein. Also aim for about 10-15 grams of healthy fats. This will help maintain balanced  and sufficient nutrition.

Brent Holderman is an ITCA certified triathlon coach, host of the Tri Experience podcast, owner of Rockit Sports online, and an Ironman70.3 triathlete.

 

 

Finding the Sports Drink that right for you…

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Sports Drinks 101 – The basics of Sports Drinks

There are many choices when it comes to sports drinks. Different flavors, different brands, all with their claims of why theirs is the best choice for athletes. With so many choices on the market, how do you know which one will best suit your needs? The best way to start is with a basic knowledge of common ingredients found in most sports drinks, and the role they play in keeping you hydrated.

Triathletes need to utilize sports drinks because during training and racing, water alone is not enough to meet an athletes hydration requirements. On average, triathletes will lose approximately one liter of sweat per hour. Keep in mind, that this is an average, because sweat rates will vary from athlete to athlete, as will the composition of sweat lost. However, we can work with this average for general informational purposes.

What is sweat comprised of? Sweat contains water, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride. These are also known as elecrtrolytes. When we sweat, we not only lose water, but we lose valuable electrolytes as well. These electrolytes must be replaced in order to avoid dehydration and to maintain optimal performance. Some of these nutrients are more critical to replace than others, and we will focus on those.

The primary ingredient in sports drinks is water. It is first ingredient listed on any sports drink bottle. Keep in mind that sufficient fluid consumption is the most important thing to keep you moving forward during training and racing. Dehydration is not only detrimental to performance, but dehydration also causes slowing of gastric emptying, which further decreases performance.

In one way, shape or form, sugar is typically the next ingredient found in most sports drinks. It’s important to remember that a certain amount of sugar is not a bad thing when it comes to sports drinks. Working muscles require simple carbohydrates in order to stay fueled. Experienced triathletes understand that rapidly absorbed, simple sugars can result in extended endurance capacity and increased performance.

During exercise, training or racing, the body needs rapidly absorbed carbohydrates to fuel muscles, and not slowly digested complex carbs. With that said, two sugars are better than one. The stomach can process up to approximately 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour when a combination of two different simple sugars are consumed. This because the sugars are absorbed in the body by two different metabolic pathways. Studies have shown that a 2:1 ratio  of glucose to fructose, or maltodextrin to fructose, or a combination of glucose, fructose and sucrose works best. With that said, look for a sports drink that contains approximately 14-15 grams of sugar per 8 ounces. Higher concentrations of sugar can either slow gastric emptying, or can pull water into the intestine in order to dilute the excess sugar, which will result in GI distress.

When athletes sweat, sodium of the electrolyte that is lost in significant enough quantities, that it must be replaced during endurance training an racing. Just as sweat rates vary from athlete to athlete, so does the sodium content of sweat. Whether or not you are acclimated to hot and humid environments can also have an impact on sweat loss and sodium content. When looking for a sports drink, athlete should look for one that contains 460-1000mg of sodium per liter, or 115-250 mg per 8 oz. There are several benefits to maintaining adequate sodium intake. Sodium will increase you desire to drink, helping you to stay hydrated. Other benefits of sodium include maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure. It also helps the rate at which the small intestine can absorb carbohydrates and also decreases urine output, which helps to prevent dehydration.

Another mineral that is also found in sports drinks is potassium. Potassium is a mineral that helps to maintain proper electrolyte balance in the body. When considering a sports drink, look for one that has 20-90mg per 8 oz.

As mentioned at the outset, there are additional vitamins an minerals that are lost in sweat. These include magnesium, calcium and chloride. However, these particular minerals are not lost in significant enough quantities that they need to be replaced during exercise.

So when considering a sports drink, make sure to focus on water, carbohydrate, sodium and potassium.

Brent Holderman is an ITCA certified triathlon coach, host of the Tri-Experience podcast, owner of Rockit Sports Online, and Ironman 70.3 triathlete.

Episode 004: Rest & Recovery and Mental Toughness

Rest and Recovery is one of the most often overlooked aspects of triathlon training. Today, we discuss how proper rest and recover can hold the keys to taking your performance to the next level. Plus, triathlon is all about mental toughness. We discuss strategies for dealing with the pain and putting mind over matter.

Episode 003: Training in the Heat and Staying Hydrated.

We’ve all heard that the three most important words in real estate are location, location, location. As athletes, when it comes to training and racing, there are also what I consider to be three of the most important words to remember – hydration, hydration, hydration.

Proper hydration is essential for anyone who exercises, but especially for endurance athletes such as runners and triathletes. As temperatures and humidity rise, proper hydration becomes even more essential in order to avoid heat related illness and injury.

In this episode we discuss tips and advice for staying properly hydrated and preparing the body for training/racing in hot and humid conditions. We’ll discuss:

Knowing your hydration status

How to check your hydration status

Never use thirst as a guage for dehydration.

Signs of dehydration

Cramps, muscle fatigue, weakness, extreme thirst, headache, nausea

Importance of Electrolytes

 

Water serves multiple functions – water regulates body temperature, aids digestion, protects vital organs, cushions joints, facilitates cellular communication, transports nutrients to the cells, and removes waste, including lactic acid (the primary cause of exercise-related muscle soreness).Exercise Increases Water Loss

In one hour of exercise, the body can lose a quart or more of water, depending on the air temperature and exercise intensity. Thus, proper hydration before, during, and after exercise is critical for performance as well as health safety.

In addition to water loss, important electrolytes, electrically charged minerals in the body such as sodium, potassium and chloride, can be flushed out of the body through sweating during exercise.

Sports drinks are designed to replace electrolytes in the body and they do have their place in high-intensity or endurance exercise lasting longer than 60 minutes.

In addition, people who sweat profusely or who exercise in hot weather should consider some type of re-hydration drink that will replenish electrolytes.

Tips for Sports Hydration

In order to prevent dehydration, anyone who exercises (especially athletes) should drink water before, during, and after the workout.

The following tips can help ensure your body has the hydration it requires for optimum exercise performance and recovery. These are general guidelines and may need to be increased for high-intensity or endurance activities or races.

If you are a serious athlete, you may want to weigh yourself before and after workouts to keep track of your fluid losses. Doing so will help you develop an individual hydration schedule.

Before Exercise

  • Drink at 16 ounces of water about two to three hours before exercising.
  • Drink 8 ounces of water about 30 minutes before exercising.

During Exercise

  • Drink 8 ounces of water every 15 to 30 minutes during exercise
  • If exercising longer than 60 minutes, drink about 12 ounces of a sports drink that contains a mixture of carbohydrates every 20 to 30 minutes.

After Exercise

  • Drink 8 to 16 ounces of water 30 minutes after exercise.
  • If you weighed yourself before exercise, weigh yourself again and drink 16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight lost.

Throughout the Day

  • Drink at least one-half to three-fourths of your body weight in ounces of clean water throughout the entire day.
  • Drink an additional 8 ounces of water for every cup of soda, coffee, tea, or alcohol consumed. These beverages are acidic and contribute to additional water loss in the body.

Important notes:

  • The body can only utilize about 12-16 ounces of water at one time. Thus, when rehydrating, drink 16 ounces of water every 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Drink water BEFORE you get thirsty. When you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Thus, drink water regularly throughout the day.
  • In preparation for a sports performance, the time to really focus on proper hydration is the three days prior to the event.

At Rockit Sports, we want to provide you with the tools to meet your hydration needs. Please check our line of hydration products from FUEL BELT, the leader in hydration products for athletes. Please go to http://rockitsportsonline.com/collections/vendors?q=Fuel%20Belt. Rockit Sports and Fuel Belt – keeping you hydrated.

 

Training in the Heat:

Failing to plan and prepare for exercise in the heat can be detrimental to your health and performance and may even result in heat related illness, which an be serious and even life threatening. There are three primary heat illnesses:

Heat Cramps

Heat Exhaustion

Heat Stroke

Hyponatremia

 

Tips for training in the heat:

Choose your exercise time wisely

Choose your route wisely (see shady routes)

Wear loose, moisture wicking materials

HYDRATE

Replenish Electrolytes during longer workouts

Cool yourself (ice packs, cold towels, cold water, etc)

Use sunblock and a hat/visor

Rehydrate and re-fuel

 

Thank you for tuning in!

Thanks so much for tuning in to the Tri Experience podcast! This podast is all about you, the triathlete, and we would certainly value your feedback.

If you have enjoyed this episode and found value in it, we ask that you please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.

Also, we ask you to please leave an honest review for The Tri Experience Podcast on iTunes! Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated, so please leave us a rating and a review! These ratings and reviews have a direct impact on the ratings for the show, and your feedback is used to make the podcast the best it can be!

Lastly, please don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates, and new episodes.

Until next time………cheers.

Brent

 

Links and Resources mentioned in this episode:

www.Rockitsportsonline.com

www.FUELBELT.com

 

 

Episode 002: Athlete Safety & the Importance of Road ID.

This week’s topic presents simple and common sense approaches to staying safe on the swim, the bike and the run. Triathlon is a great sport, but with it come inherent dangers in all three disciplines. In this episode, I share my personal experience of being hit by a truck while bike training, and how my Road ID played a significant role for first responders.

Also, we discuss practical, common sense tips for staying safe on the swim, bike and run. The tips can be easily incorporated into your everyday training and racing, and help minimize the potential for danger.

In this week’s episode, we discuss:

Staying Safe on the Swim – 

Practice in the pool before taking on open water.

NEVER Swim alone (especially in open water)

Know the currents

Be aware of water temperature

Pay attention to weather conditions

Always have a plan A, and a plan B.

Utilize lifeguards (where available)

 

Safety Tips for the bike –

Make sure  you can be seen (particularly in the dark)

Use bright steady headlight in the front, bright blinking light in the back.

Communicate with others on the road. (eye contact, hand signals, etc)
Follow the rules of the road!! (stop signs, traffic lights, yielding, etc)

Expect the unexpected!! (because it can happen, trust me!)

Beware of the left cross, and the right hook.

Pick a smart route (roads with shoulders, bike lanes, well lit, etc)

 

Have a safe run – 

Run FACING traffic 

Obey traffic signage

Follow off-road rules (posted rules on tracks, trails, etc)

Choose low traffic streets to run on

Be polite!!

Be Seen. (lights, reflective gear/apparel)

Keep your head up (look ahead down the road, trail)

Thank you for tuning in!

Thanks so much for tuning in to the Tri Experience podcast! This podast is all about you, the triathlete, and we would certainly value your feedback.

If you have enjoyed this episode and found value in it, we ask that you please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.

Also, we ask you to please leave an honest review for The Tri Experience Podcast  on iTunes! Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated, so please leave us a rating and a review!  These ratings and reviews have a direct impact on the ratings for the show, and your feedback is used to make the podcast the best it can be!

Lastly, please don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates, and new episodes.

Until next time………cheers.

Brent

Links and Resources mentioned in this episode:

www.Rockitsportsonline.com

www.ROADID.com

 

Episode 001: Running Efficiency and Overcoming Fear of the Open Water.

This week’s topics present new ideas and fresh approaches to conquering the run and the swim. Triathlon is all about efficiency – going farther, faster, while using less energy. This week’s run segment discusses, in detail, some practical ways to improve your form and mechanics thatt will help make you a more efficient runner.

Also, open water swimming is VERY different from pool swimming.,and can be much more intimidating and cause swim anxiety. In our swin segment, we discuss some strategies that you can incorporate into your training and racing that will help you overcome your fear of the open water.

In this week’s episode, we discuss:

Tips for a better run –  

Proper posture and position

Increasing your Cadence

Proper Footstrike

Improving your stride

Stride

Incorporating the hamstrings

Patience in developing new run habits

 

Overcoming Fear of the Open Water –

Identifying the fear (what scares you?)

Sighting

Dealing wwith Cold Water

Breathing patterns

Thank you for tuning in!

Thanks so much for tuning in to the Tri Experience podcast! This podast is all about you, the triathlete, and we would certainly value your feedback.

If you have enjoyed this episode and found value in it, we ask that you please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.

Also, we ask you to please leave an honest review for The Tri Experience Podcast on iTunes! Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated, so please leave us a rating and a review! These ratings and reviews have a direct impact on the ratings for the show, and your feedback is used to make the podcast the best it can be!

Lastly, please don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates on new episodes.

Until next time………cheers.

Brent

 

Links and Resources mentioned in this episode:

 

Rockitsportsonline.com

 

 

Advantages of wearing compression socks…

I personally was never a big user of compression socks until recently. I have never been an injury prone athlete, but lately started experiencing some calf cramping and fatigue in my left calf. I decided to give a CEP compression calf sleeve a try. Almost instantly, it had an impact. I was noticing on my next few runs that there was less muscle fatigue and less cramping. I have since been running with a compression sleeve and have experienced no issues whatsoever. Here are some additional benefits to wearing compressions socks/sleeves:

Proven to Reduce Injury

Shin Splints:
Reduces vibration, increase oxygen and promotes healing.

Calf Cramps:
Increase oxygen to optimize muscles, removes lactic acid.

Achille Issues:
Increases oxygen to the Achilles; padding prevents damage.

Pulled Muscles:
Increases blood flow to increase warmth in the muscle.

Traveling Issues:
Graduated compression prevents venous reflux and pooling.

Medical professionals have long recommended compression for patients looking to improve blood circulation and overall leg health. CEP uses the science behind medical compression to help athletes maximize performance and recovery.

Arteries

For the athlete, improving arterial blood flow is the key to peaking performance. CEP compression socks apply consistent compression to the calf, allowing the arterial walls to relax and the flow of oxygen-rich blood to increase by up to 40%. More oxygen means more power during performance and a faster recovery.

Veins

Graduated medical grade compression that is tighter at the ankle improves vein health by reducing the veins’ diameter and pushing de-oxygenated blood back to the heart.

 

The bottom line? CEP compression socks have been scientifically proven to improve blood flow, allowing athletes to reach higher speeds using less energy. Please check out the CEP line of compression socks at http://rockitsportsonline.com/collections/vendors?q=CEP. We would certainly appreciate the opportunity to support your compression needs. Any thoughts or questions regarding compression gear? We would love to hear from you. Until next time……

Brent

Owner – Rockit Sports

3 basic types of running shoes

When shopping for new running shoes, there are 3 basic shoe types that are commonly recommended for runners. Here is a brief summary of each shoe type:

Neutral

Neutral shoes are designed for feet with a high arch. Lighter weight runners with normal arches may be able to get away with neutral shoes as well. These shoes offer very little additional support for the foot. Ideally, most runners wearing a neutral shoe will have pretty efficient biomechanics and won’t pronate too much. Neutral shoes have a very curved shape and posting (use of different density midsoles), or denser cushioning in order to slow the foot’s natural rate of pronation.

Support/Stability

Support shoes are designed for the runner with a moderate or “normal” arch. These runners need some additional support for their foot since they will pronate some. Support shoes generally use cushioning of different densities to slow the foot’s rate of pronation and prevent injuries. The use of different density midsoles is referred to as “posting.” The outside (lateral side) of the heel will generally be a regular density foam and as the foot rolls inward, it will encounter a denser foam that slows the foot’s pronation and keeps it from rolling too far inward. Support shoes are cut along a straighter line than neutral shoes, but they still have some curve.

Motion Control

Motion control shoes are designed for maximum support of the foot. These shoes are targeted towards a flat foot with a low arch. They use the same method as support shoes to “block” the foot from overpronating. Many motion control shoes also use a hard TPU (thermal plastic unit) piece in conjunction with denser cushioning to really support the foot. Motion control shoes are generally cut along a pretty straight line that creates a wider base for flat feet. Unfortunately, motion control shoes are usually heavier than neutral or support shoes simply because of the extra support features that are built-in.