Electrolytes? Why, Yes Please!

It’s cold outside and winter base training has begun. Some are still amidst their CX season, and those of us without cross bikes who seem to be less on the wild side and not so eager to ride in the cold mud are probably hitting the trainer, rollers, or even spin class. Regardless of your choice for self-inflicted pain, there is an aspect of your training and riding that is not nearly emphasized enough through this time of year…hydration. Many times we don’t drink as much water because we don’t get the same sensations for thirst as we do during our typical Texas summer. Sometimes we don’t WANT to drink too much because it’s too inconvenient to peel off all those layers when nature calls. One thing we cannot deny is that although we don’t always realize it, our bodies still sweat, even when it’s 30 something degrees out. And really, our bodies are working pretty hard to keep us warm. When it’s cold outside the air tends to be much drier, which can also lead to dehydration.

With under four weeks to go till Christmas I would like to introduce secret training weapon number three…elete electrolyte add-in! But first, let’s talk a little bit about these wonderful and yet very misunderstood things called electrolytes. So what are electrolytes anyway?

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“Electrolytes are certain minerals (i.e., calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, sodium ions) essential to human health. As an essential mineral, an electrolyte cannot be substituted by any other nutrient in the diet. That means that your body will only accept that particular mineral or electrolyte.
Without electrolytes, you could not move, think, or live. Within the body, electrolytes are dissolved in body fluids. In terms of hydration, electrolytes are responsible for directing water (and nutrients) to the areas of the body where its needed most and maintaining optimal fluid balance inside the cells. Besides maintaining fluid balance, electrolytes help your muscles to contract and relax and assist in the transmission of nerve impulses from your nervous system to different body parts.”

“Studies show that repletion of one important electrolyte—magnesium—has a significant impact on athletic performance. Moderately trained athletes who took magnesium supplements showed decreased blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen intake. Triathletes supplementing with extra magnesium demonstrated improved cycling, swimming, and running times.
Population studies consistently show that most adults do not get enough magnesium in their diet.”

Three and a half years ago Carlos and I set out to race the Northshore 100 MTB race put on by The Spinistry. It was a 100 mile race in the middle of August when temperatures were easily in the 100’s. We opted to race this as a co-ed team and honestly and truly, we had no idea what the heck we were getting ourselves into. I’ll spare you the details and the super long story of the race and the fact that EVERYTHING that could have gone wrong did…lots of lessons learned that day! In the months leading up to this race we would train in the middle of the day, and as the parking lot was always empty for the exception of our truck, we seemed to be the only crazies willing to ride in the treacherous heat. Around this time is when we discovered elete. Someone happened to post on our local DORBA forum about this stuff and how awesome it was for cramps. So we did some research and even found that many of our troops who were overseas were using elete, and the cases of muscle cramping and fatigue decreased significantly. We ordered a bottle and since then have been true believers of using a balanced electrolyte formula for endurance training and elete has been our top choice. What separates elete from the common sugar-loaded sports drinks is that it doesn’t contain calories, so you can choose where you want your calories to come from and what works with your body. It also doesn’t contain flavorings, sweeteners, colors or sugar. You can use it in a hydration pack and don’t have to clean it out any differently than if you had just water. It leaves no residue. We add elete to all of our water year round.

“Elete instantly delivers important electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, sodium, and chloride to your body. elete CitriLyte Add-In contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride, plus zinc and citric acid, which participate in the Krebs energy cycle for energy conversion.”

Most of the typical electrolyte formulas on the market provide only minimal doses of electrolytes and some even leave out some of the most essential minerals like magnesium and chloride which are both crucial for enabling normal muscle relaxation and contraction, amongst many other benefits that they provide. Magnesium intake also decreases inflammation. That is big news right there! Foods high in magnesium include: dark, leafy greens such as chard, beet greens and kale, Brazil nuts, squash, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, kidney, pinto and green beans, avocados, Quinoa, millet, whole grain brown rice, bananas, dark chocolate, peanut butter, sweet corn and dried fruits such as raisins, dates and apricots.

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Rarely do we struggle with cramping anymore, and if we do it is generally our own fault and could have totally been prevented. Sometimes it’s hard to get in the amount of water our bodies really need to perform and be competitive. If you were to take a look at any top athlete in any given sport, I would put money on the fact that they’ve all developed good habits and through the years they have learned to be consistent with these habits. Consistency is the key to any area of life that we want to excel at from your family, your job, your passions, and your health. So consistently drinking water to maintain a healthy electrolyte balance is a habit that we are continuously working to improve on.

If you want to learn more about the single electrolytes in elete, and what science has to say about their role in health you can click here. Elete makes a great gift and even better stocking stuffer for any athlete, friend or family member who is active, or works outside. This is the perfect weekend to swing by Plano Cycling and Fitness to pick some up, as they’re one of the few local places you can find it. While you’re there, take advantage of their Three Day Black Friday sale!

And don’t forget your pocket flask when attending all those wonderful holiday parties…add a couple of drops to your favorite adult beverage! 😉

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Never Been To Palo Duro Canyon?!?

Here’s a little taste!

Palo Duro Fun from Lisa Uranga on Vimeo.

Secret Weapon Number Two on the Countdown to Christmas!

For nearly seven years Carlos and I have been Master Trainers at 24 Hour Fitness. We both have such a passion for health and fitness that really I can’t see any other way to live our lives. I have learned so much in these years, having trained over seven thousand sessions, from nutrition, to proper goal setting, exercise techniques, periodization in cardiovascular and strength training, and most especially flexibility. All of these things are the keys to life, longevity, AND successful cycling. When I say “successful” cycling I’m not talking JUST competitive cycling. I mean riding your bike for what it is intended for, to have fun! I would say THAT in itself, constitutes success in cycling! Unfortunately, it can quickly turn into no fun when we start getting aches and pains on OR off the bike. Even worse is when our aches and pains get so bad that it keeps us from riding our bikes at all.

So for week five of my Countdown to Christmas, I would like to introduce to you Podium Cold and Podium Cold Foam Rollers. Podium Cold is an extremely practical method to reduce inflammation after a hard ride by icing your legs with these awesome leg sleeves. No more messing with ice bags and wasting a ton of water for an ice bath. Podium Cold was introduced to me earlier this year by a fellow racer, and I must say, I was pretty excited when I got my own pair. When you first put these guys on, it really takes your breath away! REALLY. It’s helpful to have distractions, like watching The Big Bang Theory, or maybe a rerun of one of the XC MTB World Cups on Red Bull TV, then you’ll forget what’s even going on with your lower extremities. 🙂

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Aside from icing your legs to reduce inflammation, I would really say that the Podium Cold foam rollers are the KEY to successful cycling. I am a HUGE believer of self myofascial release, which is just a fancy word for massage. So here’s a little bit of simple science…if one muscle is tight and “shortened,” then the muscles directly across, or opposite, is going to be weak. An easy visual example is your bicep and tricep. You cannot contract both at the same time. Therefore, these muscles are opposites. So if you were to have a shortened bicep muscle due to overuse, or keeping a constant bend in your arms, like on a computer typing, or riding a bicycle for long durations, then over time your tricep will get weaker and your range of motion will become limited because of the lack of flexibility that you have developed. This leaves us prone to injury especially in other areas like the connecting joint, our shoulder. Very commonly people who tear their rotator cuff also have a tear in their bicep muscle where it attaches in the shoulder, and usually it all happens with some sort of everyday movement like reaching to pick something up in the back seat of your car.

All this was to give you an example of what can happen when we start to form muscle imbalances and do not address them. When we sit down, whether it’s in a chair at work, in the car, on the couch, or on the saddle, sitting puts our hip flexors into just that, FLEXION. If we stop to think about how much time in a day these muscles are in a state of flexion, why in the world would they be capable of going into full extension? Unless we were to make a constant effort to inhibit (foam roll or massage) and lengthen (stretch) the tight muscles. Then, to correct the imbalance, we must activate and strengthen the opposing muscles, which in this case would be our glutes, otherwise known as your behind. So long story short, our daily lives, along with being an active cyclist causes tight hip flexors. Tight hip flexors causes our hips to shift anteriorly, so if you think you are standing up straight and your butt is sticking out (this is an anterior tilt), and you have a huge arch in your back, you actually just have REALLY tight hip flexors, and most likely lower back pain to accompany it. This leads to weak glutes, among other things such as your abs and lower pelvic muscles, which we need all of these things to be strong and stable on the bike.

So here’s what you do…order a foam roller NOW for any and all of your cycling buddies and family who doesn’t already have one. Make them read this blog so they understand why they need to use it, and hopefully it will help them to ride pain free and better yet, faster and stronger! Taking care of our bodies is so important so that it will take care of you. We all need to designate time, whether it’s right before/after riding, or on your rest days to pamper our muscles that we tend to abuse day in and day out. If you are a racer, just remember, if you are capable of activating and utilizing more muscles than your opponent, then this will give you an edge and allow you to pedal longer and harder.

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Whether you are a racer, non-racer, or just all around passionate cyclist, be pro-active and take care of your body. Don’t wait till something hurts, or a muscle finally gives out and pops. We’re not all Professionals who get pampered day in and day out with a sports massage. For a discount on any of these products, send me a message on Facebook or to our email at Teamuranga@gmail.com and I’ll give you a coupon code to use at checkout. So this Christmas give the gift of flexibility and longevity with Podium Cold!

Canyon Fever

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Last Thursday Carlos and I set out on our journey to the beautiful Palo Duro Canyon for the kickoff of the 2014 Hill Country Bicycle Works Mountain Bike Marathon Championship Series. If you’ve never been out to this gorgeous canyon in the middle of the Texas panhandle, it is absolutely worth the trek! So much so that we made a four day weekend out of it! Since we got an early start on the road, we arrived at our campsite around 2:30 in the afternoon.

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We set up camp and headed out for a ride. The trail was marked perfectly and the views were just as breathtaking as we remembered. When we got back from our ride, we were excited to see our friends and teammates Steve and Sonya all set up at the site next to ours! Ah, let the weekend of friends, fun, riding, and racing begin!

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The evening was COLD so we ate some delicious homemade chicken soup to keep ourselves warm.

Friday morning we went out for another lap of the canyon and sectioned a few spots of the trail. The rest of the day we prepped our bikes for the following morning and kicked our feet up in good company.

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I’m going to back track a little bit to the past month. Almost exactly a month ago was the last race of the cross country season in Tyler. There wasn’t a particular reason I didn’t blog about the race other than I just got lazy, busy, and SICK! The weekend of the Tyler race, the heavens opened up on us while we were camping, the day before the race. It was a huge storm that struck down trees and we even got hailed on! It was pretty bad. The rain came down so hard that our canopy started to cave in on us and all of our stuff was under it, including our bikes! The bad thing was that the canopy was right next to a tree and it was lighting like crazy, so we didn’t want to stay there to hold up the fort. We took cover in the truck and every few minutes Carlos would run out and make sure the canopy didn’t completely cave in. Poor guy got so soaked and next thing we knew he came down with a cold a few days later. Boo.

I thought I was home free when the first few days of his cold I felt fine…and then it hit me! Next thing I knew it was all in my chest and there was no riding going on in the Uranga household. I was having all sorts of trouble breathing and after a few weeks went by I finally just bit the bullet and made an appointment with my asthma doctor. It turned out that I had some major inflammation in my airways. He put me on a round of antibiotics, which dramatically decreased the inflammation, but I was still having this strange tightness in my throat which makes me feel like I can’t breathe, plus I was constantly having these dull headaches. I’m now on another round of antibiotics for a sinus infection. I nearly cried when my doctor said I couldn’t race the marathon. I decided to wait out the decision making till Saturday to reevaluate how I was feeling.

After riding Thursday and Friday, I was feeling really good. My congestion was gone, breathing was much better, and no more headache, so I made the call to register for the race with the support of my husband and my coach. I was given the green light to race as long as I PROMISED to pull the plug if I wasn’t feeling well. Sweet!

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A little more back tracking to the weekend before the marathon, and here we were camping again, but this time at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, TX….another MUST for any mountain biker!

As Carlos and I were out exploring this beauty, he was caught a little off guard by a rocky drop off, and next thing he knew he was over his bars and landed solid on his hip and thigh! It looked bad and my heart dropped! There was no soft dirt for him to land on and rock is not very forgiving. Thank God he’s got some meat on his bones and he was okay, just very very sore. After our ride we were cleaning our bikes for the next days ride when we came across a crack on my carbon front wheel. Uh! It just wasn’t in the cards for us to ride. With all the signs that were right in front of us we took the weekend for what it was, a weekend all to ourselves to cuddle by the fire and just RELAX!!! Amazing how we need so much to happen in order to rest our bodies.

Okay, fast forward to Palo Duro and Thursday’s pre-ride…Carlos had a little tuck and roll action on a slippery decent. Of course it was Murphy’s Law, and you better betcha, that the rolling action was on the same side that he went down on the weekend before! Ouch. So here he is sore leg, sore hip, and sore shoulder.

Come race day, the morning was perfect and I woke up to the most AMAZING rainbow I’ve ever seen in my life! It started out small and next thing we knew it turned into a full blown double rainbow! We couldn’t even fit it in the screen of our phone to get it all in the shot!

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The Minnerly’s drove me over to the starting area so I could register and pick up my number plate. I was feeling really good and my game plan was to LISTEN TO MY BODY since my health and riding have been little to nothing in the past four weeks. Today was not the day to try to be a hero and I wasn’t willing to risk getting myself sick again. On the other hand, Carlos woke up with some stomach pains and his breakfast was not going down very well.

The race began as a mass start. I was in the first row and Carlos was a few rows behind me. When they sounded the horn I made sure to stay up at the front, but out of the wind, which happened to be blowing around 30 mph the ENTIRE race! There was a two mile start loop which started on the road and then dropped into single track. I was the second girl going into single track behind Nina Baum (Stan’s NoTubes). The start was fast just as I expected and about five miles into the race I knew I needed to back off. I was happy to be out of the traffic behind me and stuck with my plan to tone down my pace. Somewhere back in the canyon Alison Kinsler (Nuke Sunrise Trail Bombers) came up on me and I went ahead and let her pass. I didn’t even attempt to chase her down.

About half way through my first lap Carlos had picked his way through the crowd and passed me. His pace was a little too brisk for my taste and it turns out it was a little too brisk for him too with the bumps and bruises he had accumulated in the previous weeks. As I approached the feed zone heading into my second lap I saw Carlos there swapping out his bottles. To my advantage Sonya was standing there with my bottle in her hand so I got to head out a few seconds before him. I just kept my pace and when I got to the first sandy, steep climb I I hopped off my bike to save a bit of energy. This was a bad move on my part because Carlos came up on me so fast that I couldn’t get out of his way in time. He was forced to I unclip and right away his legs started cramping. Uh! I felt so bad for being the reason he didn’t ride up the climb and it was much too soon in the race for him to be cramping. I immediately knew this was not going to be good. He told me to keep going so he could keep his legs moving. I rode off and continued my race.

Carlos struggled the rest of that lap fighting cramps. To make matters worse he had misplaced his pocket flask of Elete and so he had no relief. The combination of cramps, lack of calories, and his XC race pace (sarcasm) that morning was not ideal. He made the decision to pull the plug after that lap. As a certified cycling coach, he sometimes laughs at himself for being his own worst client when it comes to not following his game plan. So this winter his goal is to do more marathons for that simple reason, to make himself stick with his game plan!

During my first and second laps I had a terrible, throbbing, sinus headache. It got so bad through my second lap that I had almost convinced myself to pull out of the race. The last few miles when I was covered a little bit more from the wind, my headache went away, so you better believe that I kept on going! My legs were feeling surprisingly good still and my pace was still steady. The only thing putting a limp in my step was the wind. It was gnarly! At one point in the canyon I turned a corner and almost got blown off a cliff, and in an open section, I was literally blown off the trail! It was nuts climbing into a headwind. That’s not really the norm on a mountain bike. It felt more like I was on a brutal road ride.

All in all it turned out to be a pretty decent race for me, finishing in third and receiving a very healthy payout! The race was very well put together and organized.

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Nothing to complain about and so much more fun than being sick on the sidelines! Life is good.

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20131120-213322.jpgI’m excited to finally be back on my bike and enjoying this awesome weather! Now the countdown begins till it’s new bike day!!!! It should be any day now when my new wheels arrive at the shop!! Ah! Can’t wait!

Stay posted tomorrow for week five of my Countdown to Christmas…What’s Your Secret Training Weapon?!?

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Christmas Countdown…What’s Your Secret Training Weapon????

Here we are only six short weeks away from the big “C”…..CHRISTMAS!!! I know I probably say this all too often, but time sure does fly! I think most especially when you’re having fun, doing what you love, and loving what you do.

I don’t know about you guys, but if you’re any sort of athlete at all, I’m sure you’re a pretty driven person as I like to believe I am. So why is it that year after year I get caught on the week of Christmas thinking, “Oh shoot! I need to buy presents!” as if I didn’t know for the entire 364 previous days of the year, since the last Christmas, what date it was going to be on. Doh! It’s like a mean joke I play on myself every year, when I get to run around like a chicken with it’s head chopped off. Maybe it’s just the adrenaline junkie inside of me that likes to race against the clock to see if I can get it all done while the rest of the world runs around with their heads chopped off too! Ha!

Well the reality of it all, is that it REALLY just stresses me the heck out! So I’ve decided that this year I’m not going to continue this vicious cycle, and I’m going to enjoy the holiday that I truly do love. I’ll save the race against the clock for my bike. In an attempt to do this, I’ve decided to have a countdown to Christmas! Each week I will have a new blogpost to share a few of our “most secret” off-season training tools that could very possibly take place as fabulous gifts for your friends and family who also enjoy this wonderful sport of cycling! So follow us week by week to make sure you don’t miss anything!

With six weeks to go, I want to introduce our favorite piece of indoor training equipment…Sport Crafters Rollers. A little over a year ago my brothers best friend gave us his set of Sport Crafters Cadence Rollers because he just didn’t have the time to use them anymore. He knew that Carlos and I would put them to good use and knowing how much they helped him improve his cycling, he knew that we would provide the perfect home for these puppies.

If you’ve never used rollers before, they sure can be tricky! I totally thought to myself, “I’m a mountain biker! How hard could this really be?!?” Well, boy did I have to put my ego to the side and get a good hold of the wall next to me! Carlos held my bars to make sure I wouldn’t fall, and for the first time I was not eager to get rid of those “training wheels!” After a few minutes I finally had the courage to ask him to let go. At first it felt like the bike was going to slide right out under me and my heart rate was going up like I was working on my threshold! I knew this had to be so much more mind over matter so I focused on relaxing my upper body and letting the bike move underneath me…just keep turning the pedals over. A few more minutes into it and I found myself in a rhythm. I loved it! I found that riding our new rollers improved my balance on the bike significantly and was NOT boring at all! Through the winter my indoor workouts flew by so much faster than my plain old trainer workouts.

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During the remainder of the year when we do most of our general riding outside, Carlos and I used our cadence rollers inside mainly to spin our legs out on recovery days and continue balance work. The deal with the cadence rollers is that there isn’t any added resistance. So if your goal is to get your watts up pretty high it’s rather hard to do. Unfortunately, sometime last month the band that connects the front and rear drum broke. But, because they have a lifetime warranty, we sent their customer service an email. Their quick response was impressive and what was even more impressive was that they shipped out a new band the very same day…for FREE! In this process their marketing manager, Sarah Houser, informed us of their new OverDrive drum that offers a “real road resistance” feel. With the winter about to begin we knew this OverDrive drum was just what we needed, so we bit the bullet and ordered one.

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This is a game changer folks! There is zero vibration and plenty of room for hitting your top end power. Carlos and I have both done some really great workouts with our new OverDrive drum and it is awesome! It’s fun to not only challenge your body by pushing hard, but also to have to use core strength and balance to stay on these things.

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As for Christmas, I don’t know of any cyclist who wouldn’t be ecstatic to have one of these under the tree with their name on it!!! They’re a little pricey, retailing at $399, but they’re sure to please! So check out your local bike shop to get one ordered, or hit them up online at http://www.sportscrafters.com.

Stay posted next week for more “secret” off-season training tools and start your gift list now!