fbpx

Top Winter Performance Tips

You are not alone if you struggle to maintain your fitness routine during the winter months. Your routine faces shorter daylight hours, harsher weather, holiday events, family gatherings, and of course, lots of food. If you feel like you have to choose between performance and the season, then let’s do a reset on that mentality, and then get down to work with our top winter performance tips!

First, it’s all on you. If you want your routine, then it’s not a choice at all – you just get it done. With the proper performance mindset, you will find you can easily sustain your performance during the winter months.

Second, you are going to have to make some adjustments to deal with the variances of the winter months. Proper planning is about adapting to life’s events to keep you on your performance track.

Third – with all the winter events, you better have some fun and down time in there. Performance is balance. As hard as you push and focus on your plans, you need mental health as well. Time with friends and family, a day or two of rest, and other items are just as important to sustaining your performance as squeezing out one more AMRAP session.

We’ve done cold-weather exercise before – but this time, we’ve selected three tips for each of the performance triad elements – fitness/movement, nutrition, and rest/recovery, to focus on key areas to keep your performance on track.

Exercise

For this part of the performance triad, in the winter months, there are three key tips to keep you on track:

  • Stay Active: Keeping active is the key to coming out of the winter months with your performance levels intact. No matter what the schedule, travel plans, weather forced closures, etc, you can run, jog, walk, do home workouts of bodyweight exercises, yoga, callisthenics, etc. By keeping active, you will keep your metabolism fired up, which will help in many areas: weight management, stress management, hormone balance, and sleep patterns.
  • Dress for the Weather: It can be tricky or at times deceptive to dress for winter exercise. Too much, and you can develop hyperthermia, too little and you risk developing hypothermia. Layering is the best approach. We can break it all down, our send you here, where Very Well Fit has a great article on cold-weather layering.
  • Join a Class: One of the best ways to stay motivated is to develop a means of accountability. If you find yourself wavering during the winter months, a class is a way to impose a sense of accountability to your efforts. Whether because you spent the money, or you do not want to be a no-show in front of others – class membership has been shown to help in fitness routines. If commitment is not an issue – then try taking a class in something you would not do the rest of the year when you are on your normal routine. Yoga, spinning, CrossFit, and others are great ways to keep active, make new fitness friends, and have fun.

Nutrition

With all the food choices, most of which are carb and sugar loaded, it can appear challenging to sustain a performance diet – but we can help with these tips (which all directly tie together):

  • Plan Your Meals: This is a tip that is a constant year round, but likely more important during the winter months when gatherings, family meals, and sweets abound. It can be easy to get caught up in all the food – but this is where meal planning can save you. By planning your meals, you can ensure you sustain proper nutrients, and not face the cravings of an empty stomach vs plate of winter sugar cookies! Planning your meals does not mean you cannot have sweets or those other holiday meals – rather, by planning you will ensure that you are getting proper nutrition at all other times, and not over-indulging when those festive times come.
  • Limit Sugar: Excessive sugar intake is one of the quickest way to add to fat storage. Now this might be hard during the winter season – this is one where you need to focus on keeping your sugar intake under control. But if you plan your meals, as noted above, then you will help keep your body fuelled and it will be easier to resist sugar and all the excessive calories that come with it.
  • High Protein Intake: Protein is a key tool in diet management. It keeps you satiated – meaning you are less likely to indulge in excess eating, and helps your body burn calories by being a denser material to digest. Ensure your meals contain good sources of protein, such as chicken and fish, and you will help control your desire to eat excessive amounts of unhealthy food items.

Rest/Recovery

The third part of the performance triad, and often most neglected is rest and recovery. Your winter performance routine needs to have adequate rest and recovery to ensure you are maintaining a balanced performance pattern. Here are three tips to support your efforts:

  • Get Adequate Rest: While the nights may be longer, many do not get adequate sleep and rest during the winter months. Limited and insufficient sleep can have even more effects on your body than muscle health. If you are one who puts off getting adequate rest, you risk impaired concentration, mood changes, weight gain, and a weakened immune system – something you do not want at the peak of cold and flu season! We’ve listed tips before, here, to help you get your proper rest and recovery time.
  • Stretch/Do Yoga: Recovery means resting your muscles. Not only through sleep, but also through stretching and exercise such as yoga. These techniques will help your muscles rest and recover from resistance training or hard cardio training. By giving your muscles care, you not only reduce the risk of injury, but also aid in their ability to recover and provide sustained performance training. If you are looking for tips on specifics, you can check out our other work on adding yoga to your routine.
  • Vitamin D: Make sure you get as much natural sunlight as possible. Natural sunlight exposure is the easiest and most reliable way for most people to get vitamin D – and the hardest to maintain in the winter months. Normal exposure of the hands, face, arms, and legs to sunlight 2-3 times a week for 10-30 minutes is sufficient time to produce enough vitamin D. The necessary exposure time varies with age, skin type, season, time of day, and other factors. During periods of sunlight, vitamin D is stored in your body fat and then released when sunlight is gone.

If you just finished reading, and are thinking these top winter performance tips sound easy – they are, but at the same time, so many people fall off their performance routines during the winter months because they do not follow these simple steps. So easy yes, but yet not done by so many who come out of winter wondering how they got out of shape!

In the end, do not confuse a performance mindset with difficulty. It’s the dedication during the winter months that makes your performance, not the difficulty. Follow these tips, and watch how you charge into spring weather!

– Train Hard!

7 Tips for Training with Problem Spots

Problem spots…the trick joint…old sports injury…

We know these by many names. They are parts of our bodies, that while not injured, pose challenges for those trying to workout and keep fit. These are not active injuries, rather part of the body that just do not work at 100% any more (likely from an earlier injury).

So how can we keep fit, and deal with these problem spots?

  1. It’s a problem for a reason. Something happened, and part of your body was forever affected. This is where we all need to work with our physician to ensure we understand the mechanics of the issue. Guessing at why something is an issue is not the same as taking effective training steps based on solid knowledge.
  2. Do not confuse a problem for an injury. Listen to your body on this – pain, swelling, immobility, etc are signs you have an injury. Maybe minor, maybe not. But you never train on an injury. You seek medical advice, rest, and recover. But you’ve had a bad knee for years – OK, but today your knee decided to upgrade its issues. Be smart, put aside the ego, and treat the injury.
  3. Warm up the area. Get the blood flowing in the the area through simple stretches, and low intensity resistance movements. Keep it simple and slow, until, and if, your problem area is ready to go. For example, you have a tricky shoulder and its chest day… Try doing 10 reps of just the bar, followed by 10 reps of 30% 1RM (One Rep Max) – this will warm up the shoulders, and put just enough tension to let you see if they are OK to add weight. Push-ups? Do them on your knees to decrease the weight. You get the idea.
  4. Apply progressive levels of exercise, vs large jumps. That problem area is going to benefit from steady, progressive adjustments in difficulty, speed, or resistance. Manage the increase in slow amounts. This will keep the area active and warmed up, but also not shock it with in increase that could result in injury. Remember, there is a reason that area is a problem.
  5. Know when to quit. Again, get the ego out of the workout. If you have a problem area, and it acts up – before or during a workout – call it a day with that area. We bet there are other parts of your body you can exercise. Or, change exercises. We want to stress, without control, ego can turn a sore joint into something worse.
  6. Apply proper rest. Have we mentioned those areas are problems for a reason? They will need more attention that other areas after the workout. Foam roller, muscle creams, ice, adequate time off, etc are all critical to ensuring that problem areas have time to recover and rest before your next session with them.
  7. Eat a healthy diet. Your body as a whole, not just the problem area, will benefit from the macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals a healthy diet provides. Keeping beneficial fuel in the tank is vital to helping problem areas rest, recover, and get ready for your next workout.

With these steps, you should be able to manage exercising with a problem area. But remember – one, never, never, exercise on an injury, and two, your best source of advice on this is going to come from a medical professional who can diagnose your specific issues.

-Train Hard (and Smart)!

Creatine Supplements: Effects on Muscle Performance

There are a lot of articles out in the fitness world that talk about the wonders of creatine supplements. Many supplement companies not only have creatine as a standalone product, but include it in pre-workout mixes.

So this stuff must be great, right? As we did with our Pre-Workout article, we’re going to try to give you simple, yet science based take on creatine to help guide you in your health and fitness decisions.

So what is creatine, and how does it work?

Let’s start with the science – adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the most basic form of energy in your body’s cells. It plays a fundamental role in metabolism and muscle function.

Biochemically, ATP is a nucleoside triphosphate, which indicates that it consists of three components: a nitrogenous base (adenine), the sugar ribose, and the triphosphate.

In muscle performance, ATP acts in the following manner with myosin, which is a motor protein best known for its role in muscle contraction:

  • ATP prepares myosin for binding with actin by moving it to a higher- energy state and a “cocked” position.
  • ATP must bind to myosin to break the cross-bridge and enable the myosin to rebind to actin at the next muscle contraction.

Mechanism of muscle contraction.

For training, or any intense muscle activity, your muscles typically store only enough ATP for 8–10 seconds of high-intensity exercise. After this, your body must produce new ATP to match the demands of your physical activity.

Simply put, this is why you can burst few short periods of energy and muscle movement, but cannot sustain those levels.

We’re getting to the part about the creatine…

A study by the Centre for Human Sciences in 2000 showed that fatigue sustained during short-term, high-intensity exercise is associated with the inability of skeletal muscle to maintain a high rate of anaerobic ATP production from phosphocreatine hydrolysis – and that the ingestion of creatine monohydrate at a rate of 20 g/d for 5-6 d was shown to increase the total creatine concentration of human skeletal muscle by approximately 25 mmol/kg dry mass, some 30% of this in phosphorylated form as phosphocreatine.

Moreover, the study showed that a loss of ATP during heavy anaerobic exercise was found to decline after creatine ingestion, despite an increase in work production. These results suggest that improvements in performance are due to parallel improvements in ATP resynthesis during exercise as a consequence of increased phosphocreatine availability.

Short version – Creatine supplements increase your body’s stores of phosphocreatine, which in turn helps support your body’s ability to create ATP and replenish the depleted supply to continue fueling muscle activity.

Other Creatine Benefits

Increase in the water content of your muscle cells.

Increase in repetitions and weight loads of training sessions.

May reduce muscle breakdown and assist in post work out recovery.

Lastly, a study in 2010 from the Department of Sport Science was conducted to determine the effect of resistance training for 8 weeks in conjunction with creatine supplementation on muscle strength, lean body mass, and serum levels of myostatin and growth. The researchers found that creatine increased muscle mass when added to an exercise regimen and resulted in a “significant decrease in serum levels of myostatin,” which is a protein that inhibits muscle cell growth.

So that’s it – creatine helps your body maintain its ATP levels, which in turn help muscle output, recovery, and growth.

Does that mean you should take it?

That is a discussion between you, your health provider, and if available, registered dietician. But hopefully, with our comments, you are now better informed about one of the more prolific supplements on the market.

As always

-Train Hard!

 

Maintain proper rest

Proper Rest for Recovery and Growth

With all the effort into your workout and diet, did you realize that failing to add the proper amount of rest and recovery into your efforts can undermine and work against you?

Sleep is an important part of your body’s repair and maintenance efforts. For athletes, sleep is the time where the concentration of growth hormone in the body is at its highest. These hormones are the building blocks to your muscle recovery and growth.

How important is that good night’s sleep to your recovery?

A 2018 study performed by Uppsala University in Sweden took fat and muscle samples from 15 healthy young men on two separate mornings – one after a good night’s sleep and the other after they lay awake all night. After the sleepless night, the participants’ muscles showed signs of protein breakdown. Their fat tissue, in contrast, had elevated levels of proteins and metabolites that are involved in promoting fat storage.

Limited and insufficient sleep can have even more effects on your body than muscle health. If you are one who puts off getting adequate rest, here are other things you might encounter:

  • Memory issues
  • Impaired concentration
  • Mood changes
  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Risk of diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • Risk of heart disease
  • Poor balance
  • Reduced sex drive

Now before you think that another shot of an energy drink solves all this…

Stimulants (caffeine, energy drinks, etc) aren’t enough to override your body’s need for sleep. In fact, these can make sleep deprivation worse by making it harder to fall asleep at night. Which, you guessed it… may make you end up in a cycle of insufficient sleep.

So what are the signs this may be an issue? One sleepless night, or one tired day is something we all experience. It is not the one time or rare occurrence that we are talking about. What you should watch out for are signs of:

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Constant fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Concentration issues

And remember what you can tolerate as part of your routine, and how much sleep you need, is not a constant throughout your life. Just because you could push your limits in your 20’s does not mean those are your same limits later in life. As your body changes over time, so does your metabolism and other physiological aspects that will impact how much sleep you require to stay healthy, and see the benefits or your training efforts.

If you are in need of a few basic tips to manage your rest cycles, try these:

  1. Stick to a regular time for bed, it will keep your body on a schedule
  2. Do not over-sleep on the weekends, or off days, as this too will impact your body’s ability to manage its rests cycles
  3. Be careful with naps; they are fine, but too many, too long, or at the wrong time, and you can mess up your body’s sleep cycle
  4. During the day, get as much exposure to light as possible; this not only helps the body develop vitamin D, but also helps tell it to be awake
  5. At night, limit the amount of exposure to bright lights – like television, and computer screens – this will help ensure your body knows it is time to shut down
  6. When it is time to sleep, keep the room dark
  7. Try to avoid physical activities such as exercise within three hours of your expected bed time – exercise activates your metabolism, which in turn makes it hard to sleep
  8. If you do want to add an activity to help you rest, there are simple yoga techniques that you may find beneficial,
  9. And, limit caffeine and alcohol at night; one clearly does not work well with trying to rest, and while the other might make you relax, it can interfere with your sleep cycle once you are asleep

If you are looking for more advise and understanding on the importance of sleep and recovery, we recommend you try these resources by Sleep Help:

As we always end our sections with Train Hard, in this case…

– Rest Hard!

Overtraining Risks

Yes, there is such a thing as too much training. While we all know the value of training, and pushing yourself to achieve your fitness goals, even the best intended workout routines and regiments can be overdone. If you are not allowing your body the proper rest and nutrients it needs to recover and develop from all your efforts, you risk developing overtraining syndrome.

Overtraining syndrome is a condition that occurs when the body is pushed (through exercise) beyond its natural ability to recover. It can be easy to confuse tiredness with overtraining. If you are routinely working out, you can expect a certain amount of exhaustion with your program. Overtraining syndrome is when you are training past this point, and not enabling your body to recover. Before you think this is not an issue – there are some aspects you need to know about how overtraining can create risks to your health.

Overtraining Risks

1. Elevated Resting Heart Rate

A healthy resting heart range (RHR) is 60-100 beats per minute and the more you exercise, the lower your RHR will be. Highly trained athletes may have RHR ranges in the 40s.

However, in periods of overtraining, you might notice that your RHR is 10-15 beats per minute higher than usual. There are a host of issues that can come with an elevated resting heart rate – and if the condition is prolonged, you may find it takes longer to recover.

2. Insomnia

Killing yourself at the gym can actually make it harder to get to sleep. Sounds counterintuitive, but too much exercise can actually limit your ability to get the all important rest you need to recover from the same exercise. You end up creating a viscous circle if you do not recognize if this is happening to you.

If you are going to bed tired but unable to get to sleep and this coincides with an increase or prolonged training frequency, you may be over training.

Take a few days away from the gym in order to recover and let your hormones and central nervous system restore their equilibrium.

3. Muscular Soreness

This is not post-workout muscle soreness; it’s normal have some level of soreness for a day or two after training.

However, if these aches last more than three days, it’s probably a sign that your body has not adequately been able to recover and you need to consider taking a break in training. Another sign to watch for is if this soreness is in areas you have not trained – or just all over. This too is a sign you are not resting sufficiently after training.

4. Poor Performance

A drop in your performance is one of the key signs of overtraining. You have a goal, and you train hard to reach it – but you can unwind all that work if you do not allow your body to rest. Strength, power, speed, and stamina will all be affected if your body cannot rest. You may find that increasing your strength, losing or gaining weight, or your other fitness goals’ progress slows down or plateaus. If you find that your workouts are just getting worse, and you have other symptoms, consider time off. It might be only a few days, it might be a week. Your body is telling you it needs rest, and if you want to keep your fitness gains, you would be wise to listen.

Signs of Overtraining

These are in some ways similar to the risks, but more importantly also signs that you might be overtraining. Watch for them, and you can avoid even getting to the risks!

1.Excessive Fatigue

Fatigue will accumulate in a body that never has a chance to fully recover from previous workouts. Moreover, sustained energy expenditure leads to something called “low energy availability,” which means that the body is consistently pulling from its own energy stores (carbs, protein, fat). This can be the result of too much training or too little fueling.

2.Loss of Appetite

A hormone imbalance can also affect hunger and satiety mechanisms. More training should stimulate more appetite, but the physiological exhaustion of overtraining syndrome can actually lead to appetite suppression.

3.Metabolic Imbalances

Long-term low energy availability may lead to nutrient deficiencies, such as iron deficiency anemia, which have the potential to harm both health and performance. Medical complications can also involve the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine, nervous or reproductive systems (e.g., menstrual cycle disturbances in women).

4.Increased Perceived Effort During Workouts

Not only can overtraining decrease performance, it can also make seemingly effortless workouts feel unusually difficult. A clear sign of this is an abnormally elevated heart rate during exercise or throughout the day. If you are experiencing overtraining syndrome, you may find that it takes longer for your heart rate to return to normal after a workout.

5. Insomnia or Restless Sleep

Sleep provides the body time to rest and repair itself. But overproduction of stress hormones caused by overtraining may not allow you to wind down or completely relax, making sleep much less effective (which compounds chronic fatigue and moodiness).

Self-Diagnosis

There are several ways you can objectively measure some signs of overtraining. A common and easy method is to record your heart rates over time. Track your RHR. If your RHR increases and you experience other symptoms, you may heading into overtraining syndrome.

Treatment

If you suspect you are overtraining, start with the following:

  • Reduce or stop the exercise and allow yourself a few days of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and alter your diet if necessary.
  • Get a massage that can help relax you mentally and physically.
  • Try cross training as it often helps athletes who are overworking certain muscles or suffering from mental fatigue.

Final Thoughts

If you are following a proper training plan, then rest, recovery, and good nutrition should already part of your routine. Remember, there is no need for high intensity or exhausting training all the time. If you look into any professional athlete’s training program, you will find they all incorporate off days and rest – and you should follow their example. You can cause more damage, and slow your results by neglecting the rest your body will need to accommodate your training.

-Train Hard…and Train Smart!

Foam Rolling Benefits

You train, eat healthy, get plenty of rest, and yet your muscles still get sore and tight. It can be frustrating to feel great about your workout, but still have the aches and tightness that can come with your training success.

That is where the magic of foam rolling can help.

For those of you that have not tried foam rolling, there are many benefits:

  1. Increased blood flow
  2. Improved movement
  3. Better range of motion
  4. Improved recovery time

Foam rolling is a myofascial release technique. In simplest terms, myofascial release is a process of applying tension to the muscles over a period of time that allows them to relax. This in turn improves blood flow to the muscles, which helps bring in nutrients that help muscles recover from training.

Self-massage with a foam roller is a great way to achieve myofascial release. There are many foam rollers available, so locating one is not too hard. Whether you get one that is very firm, or soft, is going to depend on your needs. While there are articles that advocate one form over the other, the end is really your preference and the results that you obtain. If within your budget, we recommend two – one that is firm, and one in a soft-to moderate range. In this manner, you can use the roller that best suits your particular muscle need.

When to foam roll

You can foam roll any time. It can be part of your morning wake-up routine, at the end of a long day to help relax, or added to the beginning or end of a training session. Adding it to the beginning of a training session will help warm up your muscles and improve the blood flow prior to your exercises. After your workout can help smooth back out tight muscles that have been stressed during your training motions. Unlike stretching before a workout, which can lessen the degree of muscle contraction capacity that will then reduce your lifting ability, foam rolling will not likely degrade your workouts. Moreover, warming up your muscles before a workout will help reduce the risks of injury.

How to foam roll

The back: Foam rolling your back is likely the easiest muscle group to work, and in addition to warming up your muscles, also can reduce stress. The motion is simple, place the foam roller on the floor, and lie back onto it. Using your legs, roll your body along the roller, focusing on tight, sore areas. You can rock your body to focus on specific sides, cross your arms in a hugging motion to put more emphasis between your back and the roller, or stretch out your arms to increase the muscle stretch. Be careful to support your neck, and avoid putting excessive stress directly on your spine.  As with any physical activity, listen to your body. There are tight sore muscles and physical pain – pay attention to the difference.

The legs: The sides of the thighs are a typical area that benefits from foam rolling, as it is often tight and can lead to injury if not properly maintained. The IT band, which runs from your hips to your knees will benefit from the myofascial release, as will your lower back. While lying on your side, work the roller up and down your outer thigh. Do not be surprised if this is painful – this area can be tight! Use your hands and feet to balance your body as you roll. Let the weight of your body pressing into the roller do all the work – pause on tight areas, and just let the muscle relax.

For your quadriceps, you will lie face down. Put the roller either at your hips, or just above your knees. Using your arms, move your body to roll the roller up and down your legs. Pause on the tight spots, and let them relax. If you are in something like a cobra yoga pose, then you have the motion for this one right.

The calves: You would be surprised how often these are tight. This is an easy area to address with a foam roller. Sit upright with your legs straight in front. Place the roller under your lower legs, and using your arms, move your legs up and down the roller. Like the thighs and back, let the weight of your body press into the roller. If you need to push more into the roller, you can work one leg at a time, while you push your leg into the roller with your hands. As always, pause on the tight sore spots, and let the weight of your body smooth out the muscle.

The shoulders: These can require a bit of practices, but they too will benefit from foam rolling. Like with your outer thighs, lie on your side, with the foam roller just below your shoulder, where it rounds out back into your arm. Using your hands and legs, move your shoulder onto the roller. Do not go to far, our you will come off the roller! Just work the shoulder slowly, letting your weight do all the work.

Other body parts: The method of foam rolling is the same – steady rolling pressure. Here is where we have to stop giving specifics, and just say to you “figure out the pose, and roll.” There are also many hand held rolling devices that you can buy to help with smaller muscle groups.

By foam rolling, your muscles will get the benefits of myofascial release, you will see improvements in your training, and will likely overall feel better. Best of all, you can obtain this for only a small investment in personal training equipment.

-Train Hard!

Select the fields to be shown. Others will be hidden. Drag and drop to rearrange the order.
  • Image
  • SKU
  • Rating
  • Price
  • Stock
  • Availability
  • Add to cart
  • Description
  • Content
  • Weight
  • Dimensions
  • Additional information
  • Attributes
  • Custom attributes
  • Custom fields
Compare
Wishlist 0
Open wishlist page Continue shopping
Shopping cart close