Who doesn’t love a top ten list? I recently got asked by a few fellow coaches what my top ten list of general endurance training and athletic lifestyle tips would be. Basically, what tips or tricks can athletes use to improve their training and health. Here is my list in no particular order:
1. If you are self coached, then you should spend sometime understanding the performance manager chart and learn your sustainable tss ramp rate. Most athletes can sustain 6 – 8 tss points per week. Anymore than that for an extended period of time and you risk over-training, adrenal stress, and declining performance. That doesn’t mean you can’t periodically over-reach, just plan accordingly and think about long-term stress accumulation. It is also important to know that everyone has an upper limit of CTL but how you make up that CTL can vary quite a bit. You may also want to consider doing a power training consult to have us analyze your data and give you specific details on how to guide your training.
2. Consistency matters more than overall duration. I think most of us know that, but it is important to state it again. Doing something most days is more important than just one long day a week. Paying attention to your recovery hygiene and getting some thing in at least 5 days a week will get bigger gains than just a few shorter days and one massive ride on the weekend. If limited on time, just get in a good quality hour.
3. Use light to your advantage. There have been a lot of studies done over the last several years linking blue light emission to reduced melatonin production, alertness, and impairing sleep. The main sources of blue light in our modern lives are computer screens, phones, TVs, and typical lights. It is easy to reduce “screen” time before bed, but unless you want to live by candlelight it is a little harder to reduce blue light wave emission from modern-day lights. That is where the Philips Hue lights come in. They are wifi controlled LED lights that allow you to control color, brightness, and temperature. You can essentially change the light tint to a warm orangish color to eliminate blue light wave spectrum before bed. Also, if you are like me and wake up early to start your day you can set the lights to release more blue light to improve morning cortisol release and get a little extra jump-start to your day.
4. Staying on the sleep theme, magnesium before bed can help tremendously with relaxation and improved sleep function. Magnesium operates as a natural calcium channel blocker and is responsible for relaxation—counter to calcium’s contraction role. In fact, magnesium has been indicated and used by anesthesiologist to help with sedation and analgesic effects. Many athletes are magnesium deficient and correcting that with evening supplementation can help promote restful sleep.
5. Use cold to your benefit. Cold thermogenesis has a lot of uses for athletes including fat loss, recovery, helping with sleep, controlling inflammation, and better hormone regulation. A 5 minute cold shower before bed has been shown to promote restful sleep and a 15 minute ice bath can do wonders to help recovery after hard days. Look for a longer article soon on how athletes can use cold thermogenesis. Until then, check out Ray Cronise’s TedMed talk and blog.
6. Sticking on the recovery/sleep thing, use foam rolling before bed to help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to combat stress and over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. Many of us get stuck in that flight or fight response system and need help getting into the rest and digest mode. Doing some light foam rolling, not working on specific mobility issues, can be a tremendous help to destress. Essentially this is a massage and how often do you want to go out and kick someone’s ass after getting a message… Check out my previous articles on HRV to learn more about sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system balance.
7. If you have digestive issues while working out you should familiarize yourself with FODMAPS and eliminate them around your workouts. FODMAPS is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. FODMAPS are essentially easily fermentable foods that can lead to higher bacterial growth resulting in bloating, gas, cramping, and other gi issues. Eliminating these from your preworkout meal can be extremely beneficial if you experiencing GI problems on your workouts.
8. If you care about long term health, eliminate NSAIDS and use curcuminoids to control inflammation. NSAIDS can destroy the digestive tracts lining leading to a leaky gut and autoimmune issues eventually leading to higher systemic inflammation. Both will not help performance or long-term health. Instead of reaching for that bottle of ibuprofen, get a good curcumin supplement (made from Tumeric) to help control acute and chronic inflammation.
9. You can’t out train a bad diet. I am not the first person to say this but it bears repeating. Seriously, the best training in the world can not overcome a steady diet of deep-fried Twinkies and gummy worms. You won’t reach your full potential on crappy fuel. You need something that burns a little cleaner to get your full performance.
10. The last tip may be the most important. Step back and don’t take all of this so seriously. For example, diet matters but that doesn’t mean you need to be eating a 100% clean diet all the time. If you strive to live clean, get good sleep, have good recovery hygiene, and eat well 85 – 90% of the time, then your body can buffer out the other 10 – 15%.
This doesn’t apply just to food either. This is a complete lifestyle thing. You don’t have the 10 – 15% of leeway on your diet if you’re only sleeping 5 hours a day, live a life full of stress, never get quiet rest time,, and avoid doing mobility/soft tissue work. They are all related. Taking care of yourself in all aspects does allow us to have some room to enjoy a little cake, stay up late, or throw in a crazy long 10 hour mountain bike ride (you know who you are…). Live life. Ride fast, take chances.
There are a lot more tips that could have been on this list. Got something good? Let us know in the comments below.