Finding Balance from a Junior Athlete

May 9th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Nya Caldwell

Hello, my name is Nya Caldwell and I am 14 years old. Currently, I’m a 9th grader at Milford High School. I have always been a multi-sport athlete and have been riding bikes for as long as I can remember. This past fall I was on my high school’s scholastic mountain bike team, which is a combined team made up of cyclists from surrounding high schools.

In the winter I transitioned to boarder cross, (or snowboard cross). Boarder cross is a snowboard competition, where 4-6 competitors race down a course simultaneously. This was an exciting new sport for me, which allowed me to expand my snowboarding skills along with providing a different racing experience.

Everyone in my family either races, or rides for enjoyment. When I was 9 I joined Huron Valley Mountain Bike Club. We met every Thursday night for rides and to work on skills. This experience introduced me to MiSCA and mountain bike racing. That fall I had my first race, and it was at Island Lake Recreation Area. I didn’t know what to expect, but it ended up being really fun. That was the start of my love for racing. In 7th grade I was the MiSCA Middle School State Champion, and in 2021 I achieved the MiSCA JV State Championship title.

For the upcoming school year, I will be competing on HVUR’s Varsity team, and my goal is to have a strong season with a few podium finishes. I am excited to be competing alongside a great group of friends and cyclists.

This is my first year with Team Athletic Mentors. I first became aware of the team a few years ago, through my cousin Kellen. His success has inspired me to reach a higher level in cycling. My goal for my high school cycling career is to keep progressing to the next level in the sport. I love riding trails, so I would love to become better at skills. I want to challenge myself mentally and physically, which will help me in many aspects of life outside of cycling. Coming into this cycling season, I am hopeful that the demands of my other sports activities will allow me to transition smoothly back into cycling. I wasn’t able to put many hours into off-season training on my bike, but have confidence that my other athletic endeavors will help me get up to speed.

Last month I participated in my first gravel race, Barry-Roubaix. This was also my first race as a part of Team Athletic Mentors. It was a freezing cold day, with temperatures dipping into the 30’s, strong winds, and snowy weather conditions. Before the race we gathered as a team for a warm-up ride. Right away, I knew that I didn’t have the proper gloves to keep my hands warm. My hands were getting stiff, and painfully stinging. This was after only being on the bikes for 4-miles! This wasn’t going to work for an 18-mile race in winter-like weather. Luckily, a very helpful gentleman in the team tent lent me his gloves, which worked much better for me. Lesson number one, come prepared for everything and try out your gear before race-day!

It was so cool to line up at the start as a team. There were a lot of juniors in black and yellow kits and we were all experiencing the race-line jitters together. Everyone was so supportive of one another, offering advice and positive words of encouragement. It was such a great experience and all of my teammates were so supportive. The race was a huge success for the team, winning the junior team division. I managed to pull off a first in the 18 and under female category, which was an unexpected result. I was happy with how the race went and look forward to coming back next year.

The thing that I enjoy most about racing is the rush that I get after the ride. Often butterflies and anxiety can be distractions leading up to a race. I like to listen to my favorite playlist beforehand to help calm my nerves and get me hyped up. Once I take off from the start line I try to focus on a good cadence and any riders ahead of me. When the race is over, I always have a feeling of relief knowing that no matter the outcome I tried my best.

This Spring, I am on my school’s JV lacrosse team and on the Athletic Mentors Junior Development Team. Balancing multiple sports throughout the year, and the academic demands of high school can be challenging. However, participating in many different athletic disciplines is a lot of fun and I enjoy them all. The key to success is finding the right balance.

What I Learned About Heart Rates & Training

April 21st, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

Before I started racing, I used a bicycle computer to tell me how fast I was cruising and how many miles I had ridden. I never wore a heart rate monitor. When I started racing, I began wearing a heart rate monitor, using a power meter and using Zwift for off season training. My data showed my heart rate would quickly pop up to the 180s and even into the 190s during hard efforts. According to exercising heart rate zones, 220-your age, my max heart rate should only be 175. 

I was amazed at the number of people who looked at my heart rate during rides (on STRAVA or Zwift) and commented on the numbers; “Look at your heart rate!” “Why is your heart rate so high?”  Several people had advice for me, I heard “you haven’t trained enough” (8000 miles a year apparently isn’t enough training), “you are overtrained”, “you are working too hard”, “your heart rate shouldn’t be that high”, “you should go to the doctor to get that checked”. I was assured that my heart rate is just naturally higher when I am riding. Still, I would question how I felt when I was riding with a heart rate of 183. I was definitely working but I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out. I was also embarrassed as others would say, “man, my heart rate is only 130”. 

I am now into my third year of training and racing. My heart rate still pops into the 180s with hard efforts. As I was researching “normal” heart rates, I had the opportunity to talk with Mark Olson, Athletic Mentors co-founder and expert in the field of strength and conditioning.  I was relieved to hear we have similar heart rates. He explained heart rates are very individual and that there shouldn’t be any comparison to anyone else’s heart rate.

Mark defined the lactic threshold heart rate for me. A simplified definition of Lactate threshold is the level at which the intensity of exercise causes lactate to accumulate in the blood at a faster rate than it can be removed, making it the border between low- and high-intensity work.  According to various research articles, lactate threshold for an untrained person usually coincides with 50-60 percent of VO2 max, ranging up to 85-95 percent of VO2 max for an elite athlete. Mark explained that the lactic threshold heart rate is how hard an athlete can ride for an hour.  The number is individual and should only be compared to that athlete. For example, if an untrained athlete does a test, trains then does the test again, it is expected the lactic heart rate will improve and increase. Once an athlete is trained, there will be little movement in the heart rate number.  He said that the lactic threshold heart rate is really an input number, the power created is the output number. The heart rate number alone is useless.

Together, we looked at my FTP (Functional Threshold Power) rides that I had done over the past 3 years to estimate my lactate threshold. The data from these tests showed that while my heart rate did not change at FTP, my power went up, reiterating that my heart rate number by itself is meaningless and that my training is improving my fitness.  This information has given me confidence and the ability to explain that my heart rate is okay to those who have shown concern. I also have insight to the reasoning behind, as well as the importance of training rides of lengths, power and cadence parameters. This information has piqued my interest in the “why” and “how” of training. There is still so much more for me to learn.

Challenges of Spring Racing in the Cold

April 15th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Cate Wittman

My name is Cate Wittman, I am 15 and a member of the Athletic Mentors Junior Development Team. I primarily mountain bike race but occasionally race gravel. And I understand how hard riding can be in the early part of the year!

Winter training is the time to build up for the season. It is the factor that determines how your year is going to go, yet it can be difficult to manage. All cyclists have experienced the weird feeling of going from indoor riding to outside cycling. For instance, my legs always feel like jello and my arms as stiff as a chopping block. But here is how it’s been so far…

This winter season, I have been training on rollers and a trainer. I personally like to train inside since the cold can affect my breathing. Of course I do the usual sprints, long rides, spinning, etc, but for mountain bikers, how do you keep your technical skills over the winter without fat biking?

When it finally warmed up, we rode as much as possible to take advantage of the “nice” riding weather. I’ve found myself riding sloppy gravel roads, pavement and even some dry trails. As soon as I hopped on the seat and put my hands on the handle bars, I thought I was going to crash. My whole body tensed up and every little movement made me think I was just going to tip over. There was a very noticeable difference between the trainer and the road.

After riding for about a week in warmer weather, I got used to outdoor riding. Sprints felt unsustainable and long. Spinning felt like I was moving a foot in an hour compared to the rollers. But now I’ve gotten used to my legs spinning, the wind blowing in my face and the road moving underneath me. However, there will still be the weird feeling of not being able to grab a snack from the tableside next to you.

Getting ready for Barry Roubaix was a challenge, going from the comfort of my basement to the intense, muddy, hilly pavement and gravel roads. What made training for the race even better was the cold, icy air of the month of March. It’s hard to breathe in the thick air and I would hyperventilate and cough to try to inhale as much as I could to get a little oxygen to my lungs. It felt impossible.

Luckily, there are techniques that I’ve learned this season to help control things and calm me down. Things like breathing exercises, positive self-affirmations and more can help with my riding. When I can’t breathe, I try pushing all my air out as much as possible rather than in as much as possible. And when things start getting tough and I start thinking I can’t do it, I start talking out loud to myself saying I am able to do it. By doing things like this, it has helped my training and riding this early season. It can even help my mindset which therefore helps my ability to ride as well as I am able to.

At the start of everyone’s season, it feels weird and uncomfortable. Something that you’re not used to. But it’s important to remember that everyone feels this. Calm down if possible; take a few deep breaths, say some kind words to yourself, and try your best. I still need to work on these things, but I know that it takes time and patience. Making racing more enjoyable starts with your own mindset and base training.


Triathlon Training in Tucson

March 29th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Paul Raynes

Predictable sunny weather, beautiful mountains, and abundant training opportunities, all reasons why Tucson Arizona became my home for the first two months of 2022.

At 2400 ft. of elevation, the valley of Tucson is a caldera, and the surrounding mountains the remains of an ancient collapsed volcano. Because of the beauty, weather, and available outdoor activities, Tucson has been my winter destination for the past four years.

Tucson has an expansive and highly accessible recreational parks system. Just down the road from my Airbnb casita, a large 158 acre indoor and outdoor recreational facility, Morris K. Udall Park.  Udall Park became my primary destination for biking, running, and relaxed evening walks.  The desertscape of the back half of Udall Park was a great place to run, and practice transitions off the bike – just me, a few rabbits, birds, roadrunners, and that one coyote that would trot by, stop, and stare at me like it was assessing my running mechanics.

From there, I had a direct link to the Chuck Huckleberry Loop (The Loop), nearly 140 miles of well-maintained interlinked paved trails – approximately 55 miles to circumnavigate the metro Tucson area.  You’ll find exit points for gravel or mountain biking on certain areas of The Loop. Or, if desired, travel to one of the many specific off-road cycling destinations. Most major roads have wide bike lanes, however, for non-stop riding and safety reasons, I chose to stay on The Loop.

South Loop

Tucson has a robust cycling community, great bike shops and features the annual November event, “El Tour De Tucson.”

Like many of the larger parks, Udall had an outdoor lap pool. Regrettably, it was not open during the winter months. I did find at least four outdoor pools with winter hours. The pool at William M. Clements Center, was a short drive from my casita. A drive well worth the 82-degree water, no reservations, and there was always a lane open. A mere $2, for out of towners.

Mount Lemmon is a must-see destination. A 9000 ft. mountain regularly used by the cycling community, sight seers, and hikers. If you’re so inclined, you’ll find a ski resort near 8,500 ft. of elevation. If you do visit Tucson, make sure to take Catalina Highway up the mountain. There’s hiking along the way, and great overlooks, like Windy Point. If you make it to the top, you’ll experience a significant change in eco systems, and have an opportunity to grab a bite to eat in the quaint little town of Summerhaven, some 26 miles up the mountain.

Apparently, I prepared for an Octathlon: road bike, running shoes, hiking shoes, swim gear, 20lbs. dumbbells, elastic bands, self-massage tools, and golf clubs. I used it all, including the golf clubs – I completed a ton of base training, and feel healthy. The sun and hikes into the mountains helped with the sense of health and wellness. After all, it’s not just about the physical being.

Udall Park

My thoughts have been on the purpose of the 2022 season, and during my stay, I received notice of an age group national qualification. Some of the reasons and excuses for not pursuing past qualifications no longer exist. So, why not take advantage of being the youngster at the bottom of the 65-69 age group?

A question to myself, a question of motivation…   Questions of ambition regarding competitive endurance sports surfaced during my soul searching.  Can passion transcend a waning competitive spirit?

It’s been a long journey, and as I enter my tenth age group, I question where my heart is, the desire for intensity, the intensity and discipline it takes for me to be my best.

I’ve learned over the years, if you want something, hangout with people on the same mission, and mind set. Place yourself with the right people, in the correct environment, and the energy will come.

Here in Southwest Michigan, we are also fortunate to be integrated into a large active community.

These communities don’t manifest on their own, and we are especially privileged to have organizations, athletic families, our Athletic Mentors Team – creating the environments where people are motivated to express their passion through athletics and healthy community engagement.

I’m going to do something this season, I’m just not sure what that something is…  I do know, staying healthy and enjoying the moment is important to me.

Staying connected to the athletic community and team, will help me with that vision.  The truth, I can use a nudge in the right direction, a word of motivation, and perspective…

To a safe and purposeful athletic season…

My Experience with AeroTune; Aerodynamics without a Wind-Tunnel

March 22nd, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Jay Campbell

Like most triathletes, I wish I had cheap access to a wind-tunnel. I could fine-tune my cycling body-position, hydration system position, gear selection, and so much more. If you need to be convinced that reducing drag during the cycling leg of a triathlon is important, just wallow in this fact: A recumbent with fairing (eg. a very very aerodynamic bike/rider) only requires 50 watts to maintain 22 mph on a flat course!! (Wilson, D.G., Bicycle Science, 3rd Edition, 2004, p.188.)

Sam Whittingham averaged over 52mph when he set the one-hour world record in his faired recumbent.

Last year, I read about a German company, AeroTune, that was using a rider’s speed and power data to calculate a drag coefficient. Whaaat??!! Here is the gist of how it is done: The rider pedals a 1000m flat course, turns around and pedals 1000m back to the start. The power and speed data are used by AeroTune to calculate a Cd (coefficient of drag). The rider can then make changes to body position or equipment and repeat the test. The change in Cd between the two rides indicates the improvement or degradation in aerodynamics.

Why does this work? Aren’t there a bunch of other factors that affect the speed:power relationship? Let’s take them one at a time (or skip this paragraph if you are not an aero geek).

Elevation change: This factor is reduced by setting up the course on flat terrain. Riding the course in both directions is also intended to remove any effects from “doing work against gravity.”

Wind: Once again, the out-and-back course is intended to subtract out any effects of wind. Even so, I would suggest doing the test on a calm day. If the weather changes during a testing session, either redo the baseline “setup” or come back another day. More on this below.

Frictional losses: These exist, but if you keep the test-power at about 90% of your race-power, frictional losses will be a small fraction of the total power.

Rolling resistance: Aerotune uses empirical data to approximate rolling resistance based on your setup and speed. [Aerotune can also calculate your actual rolling resistance, but that requires a separate test at a lower speed.]

Aerodynamic Drag: Once all of the power losses above are subtracted from your total power, the remainder is consumed by aerodynamic losses. These are typically 80 to 90% of total power at race speeds. The relationship between Power consumed by aero losses and Velocity is roughly Paero = k x Cd x V3 where k is a constant. The test generates data for V (speed) and Paero from which Aerotune calculates a Cd for each setup.

What do you need to use AeroTune? The basic requirements  to do an AeroTune test are a power meter (I use garmin pedals), Garmin bike computer (I have an old Edge520), a mobile phone with Garmin Connect app installed, and the AeroApp on your bike computer (downloaded using ConnectIQ). The procedure is not super-complicated, but is definitely not simple. In fact, I created my own “Gear List” and “Step-by-Step” even though AeroTune provides both on their website, My list includes a tripod, bike stand, and whiteboard, so I can take pictures of each “setup.” A bathroom scale is handy for weighing rider and “rider-holding-bike.” Aerotune suggests a speed sensor but it is not required as speed can be calculated from the GPS data.

Photo of Setup for #3. See table below.

You will also need to create an account at The basic account is free (“Freemium”).

Finally, you need a course. Currently, the only public course in Michigan is my course just north of South Haven, but it is fairly easy to create your own course. You just need a 1000m straight, flat, quiet road. A big/fast truck passing will screw up the results.

Screenshot of Allegan County course at


I had a couple questions I wanted to answer before last year’s Age Group Nationals. What hydration system should I use? Are aerosocks worth the time to put on? Is my 25-year-old heavy disc wheel helping or hurting?

I paid for “premium access” for one month to get the results of this study in a pdf format (otherwise the results are only on-line.) Aerotune reports the results in several different forms. In this case, I had Aerotune report the results as predicted finish times for a 40K Time Trial.

AeroTune results for six “Setups.” The green indicates an aero advantage of the setup over Baseline (Setup #1)



Setup #1 is my “baseline” ride. This is my tri bike with training wheels, no hydration system, road helmet and cycling jersey/shorts.

Setup #2 is with a Profile hydration system between the aerobars. It gives a slightly favorable aero advantage over baseline. This is the working hydration system I used at Nationals. (See photo below).

Setup #3 is with an aero-bottle on the seat tube. (see photo above). This gave quite a favorable aero advantage, so I elected to ride Nationals with this bottle in place (empty). See photo below.

Setup #4 is with carbon race wheels. Once again a definite advantage

Setup #5 is carbon race wheels and aero socks. The aerosocks appear to not be effective in this configuration. This ride probably is showing the reproducibility issues with aerotune. The wind was starting to pick up, and may have been a factor. In any case, as you can see in the photo below, I selected not to wear aerosocks at Nationals.

Setup #6 This setup was throwing everything on: race wheels, socks, hydration systems, PLUS aero helmet and Roka trisuit that I had tested previously. I was looking forward to my lowest Cd of the day. I was very confused when this setup turned out to be 2 minutes slower than baseline??!! It made me question all of the results. By this time the wind was picking up, so I discounted this result on that basis. (The wind was a crosswind, so it was slowing me both out and back). I was also starting to get tired and perhaps I was getting lazy with head position. I have some data that the Giro AeroHead is not very aerodynamic if the tail is sticking up (gaze falling down to cycle-computer) or if the tail does not smoothly transition to the spine. I talked with one of the founders of AeroTune and he thought the results were real and that I should do more tests to understand the interaction of various items in the “cockpit”…my shoulders, head, aero-helmet, front water bottle. Unfortunately, I have not had the time to conduct these tests.

My setup at Nationals. Note: no aero socks, empty aero bottle (white) on seat post, working aero bottle (black) between aero bars.

Was all of this worth it?

  • Because I enjoy the science of aerodynamics (I have a PhD in Fluid Dynamics), I may find more pleasure in this than others would. I am not convinced it really made me that much faster, but I am intrigued enough that I will be doing more test rides.
  • I got frustrated a few times when the AeroApp froze during a ride which invalidated the test. [Have you ever had a coach tell you at the end of an interval, “That one didn’t count, Do it again.”? That’s how it felt.] I now turn off any communication between my phone and Garmin during the ride. [The glitches happened after Gale Warning were streamed to my Garmin Edge during a ride.]
  • My new protocol includes a “Baseline” ride every fourth setup. That will give me a better idea of the reproducibility of the results.
  • I am happy to share my written “protocols” if anyone is thinking of trying out AeroTune.
  • More reading:

    AeroTune Test Guide:

    Aerotune Test Protocol:

    Are shaved legs faster?:

    Sebastian Schluricke on Scientific Triathlon:

    The Goals of a Junior Cyclist

    March 14th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

    By  Joel Bretzlaff:

    Hello, my name is Joel Bretzlaff, and I am 15 years old.  I’m from Highland, Michigan, and I am a Sophomore attending school at Charyl Stockwell High School.  I have been cycling for 10 years.  Right around the time I was born, my dad started mountain biking with some of his coworkers, and as soon as I was able, he got me out onto the trails.  

    A few years later, I rode in my first race through MiSCA, and I have been racing MiSCA ever since.  This season, I will be racing in the Varsity category for the Orange Krush Junior Race Team, and I’m aiming to attain a podium finish at least once, and achieve a top-10 finish at all 6 MiSCA races.  MiSCA is a huge part of my life, and I love that I am able to be a role model for younger racers in the MiSCA organization.

    I am entering my second season as a member of Team Athletic Mentors.  Last year, I joined the team for a multitude of reasons.  TAM has allowed me to ride and race with other young cyclists that share my passion for the competitive aspect of cycling.  It has also enabled me to build connections in the cycling community and gain access to resources that help to boost my cycling career.

    This season, I have the opportunity to race USA Cycling mountain bike nationals in Winter Park, CO.  I am looking to represent Michigan and my goal is to place within the top 10 for 15 year olds.  The biggest challenge will be the altitude, as the race course is over 9,000 feet above sea level.  I have never ridden at a major altitude before, so it will be difficult not knowing how my body will handle those conditions.

    While I am a mountain biker first, last season, I rode and raced on the gravel for the first time.  I find it is a great way to train, and I enjoy gravel adventure rides.  My first gravel race was the Dirty 30 50 miler, where I learned the value of sticking with a group, which I didn’t do very well at that race.  Later into the season, at the Waterloo Grit and Gravel and the Cowpie Classic, I rode much more complete, tactical races, and I experienced better results than at the Dirty 30.  I look forward to racing a handful of gravel races this season, including Barry-Roubaix, where I will be racing in the 18 mile team competition along with my Junior Development teammates.

    Another major aspect of my cycling life is my part time job at Cycletherapy Bicycles in Waterford.  This position has allowed me to be involved within the bicycle industry, and explore other possible career paths relating to cycling.  I have also been learning many things about bicycle repair, which is a crucial facet of any cyclist’s performance.  One of the best parts of my job is meeting cyclists of all types from the area and seeing my friends that come in the shop.

    In addition to cycling, I am also working towards attaining my Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts.  I have enjoyed partaking in Scouts over the years, and I recently completed my Eagle Scout project, where I put in a fire pit, woodshed, and benches at my church. 

    I have been putting in the hours on the trainer this winter, and I cannot wait to suit up in my race kit once again at the end of March.  Outdoor riding is more appealing with every trainer ride I complete, and I am wrapping up the winter service/ upgrading of my mountain bike.  Cycling is my passion, and I look forward to making great strides in my cycling career during the 2022 season!

    Five Ways to Improve Your Metabolism

    March 3rd, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

    By:  Raquel Torres

    Metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body.

    These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning; the molecules are constantly changing shape, renewing and rearranging themselves to either build things (heal), use energy, or save it as fat. 

    Sports training can have a significant effect on metabolic rate – this can determine weight gain and weight loss. This is because it boosts calorie burning.

    However, the word metabolism is often used interchangeably with metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn.  The higher it is, the more calories you burn and the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off.  Having a high metabolism can also give you energy and make you feel better.

    Metabolism is a tricky thing. It’s not as simple as “eating a certain food” or “running a 10k every day”, and certainly not “taking a diet pill”. But the right balance of factors can lead to a healthy metabolism that’s metabolically flexible and sustainable.

     1. Enough sleep.

    Sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining (or improving) metabolism. In fact, studies show that sleep deprivation leads to changes in glucose metabolism and hormonal functions. The result is a decrease of levels of Leptin Hormone (control the feeling of fullness/appetite suppressant), and an increase in the Ghrelin Hormone (which invokes the hungry feeling), along with other issues, known as metabolic dysregulation, which also has links to an increase in obesity and diabetes. 

    2.  Keep a good combination of exercise with CARDIO + STRENGTH. 

    For example: 40 minutes of any Cardio 3-5 days a week, including some H.I.I.T (high intensity interval training) and 2-3 times a week of Strength Training. People who include strength training burn significantly more fat than those who only perform cardio exercises. 

    People who are leaner with higher muscle mass burn more calories at rest, compared to those with higher body fat. 

    Fact: 1 pound of lean muscle in the body burns 14 calories a day at rest , while 1 pound of fat burns 2-3 calories a day. 

    Tip: Strength training can be weights at the gym or bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, or resistance bands.

    3.  A well balanced nutrition.

    Avoid extreme diets. While some studies show that fasting is healthy, if you are underfeeding your body on a regular basis, your metabolism will adapt to the lower caloric intake and your metabolism will work to preserve the remaining calories as fat rather than energy, hence slowing down your metabolism.

    Fact: Eating some type of food, like proteins, can increase your metabolism for a few hours.

    Tip: Reduce calorie intake at a healthy and realistic pace to lose weight sustainably. 

    This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb, and process the nutrients in your meal.  Protein causes the largest rise in TEF. It increases your metabolic rate by 15–30%, compared to 5–10% for carbs and 0–3% for fats.  Try to include proteins in every meal. Proteins can be: nuts, meat, fish, yogurt, cheese, egg, and many vegetables, such as green vegetables, as well as rice and beans are rich in proteins. 

    Fact: While carbs are necessary for energy, studies show that some are better than others. Consuming complex carbs (ex. oats, potatoes, rice, fruits, veggies, beans, or grains) versus simple carbs (ex. white bread, pasta, food with raw sugar, corn syrup, and concentrated fruit, etc.) means that the body requires more effort to break down the foods. That’s why when you eat complex carbs, you feel full for longer.

    Tip: Try to have 30% of your total of food intake in proteins.

    4.  Caffeine / Coffee. 

    Studies have shown that caffeine can boost metabolism by 3 to 11%. Most fat burners supplements have caffeine as their #1 ingredient. That doesn’t mean that you need to be a coffee addict, or spend all day long drinking coffee expecting to lose weight–you still need to put in the effort. 

    Tip: Caffeine/Coffee before exercise can improve your workout, speed up metabolism, and burn fat more efficiently.

    5.  Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

    Age is just a number, but it still affects your metabolism. The rumors on this one are true.

    From about age 25 until age 65, your metabolic rate decreases with each year by a rate of 2-5%. This means the number of calories your body burns without you doing any sort of physical activity actually decreases. 

    Tip: The best way to beat the reduction in your BMR is to regularly exercise. Following a healthy eating plan helps as well. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body is burning.

    Remember, you are in charge: don’t get in that defeating mindset about “your genes or your age”; there are areas that you have total control over your metabolism: your lifestyle, nutrition, sleep, weight, and well-structured exercises.


    How Mountain Biking Has Enhanced My Life

    February 15th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

    By: Elizabeth DeFauw

    Hello! My name is Elizabeth DeFauw and I am 17 years old. I am a junior (11th grade) in high school taking online courses from Home School Legal Defense Academy (HSLDA) and Memoria Press Academy. Homework fills, 8-10 hours,  of my day with studying, quizzes, tests, and several various homework assignments. It is not fun to study but…  my free time is always amazing! I spend my precious free-time cycling, skiing, seeing my amazing friends, reading Scripture and praying, or hanging out, playing games with family. I absolutely love to be active in almost any sort or fashion. Before I got hooked on biking, I had tried multiple different activities and sports, such as Krav Maga Israeli war/self-defense, dance, swim team, and such. None of them can be compared with biking (and skiing).

    I am currently a Varsity rider in MISCA. I started racing in 2020 for Huron Valley United Racing and achieved 2nd overall in Junior Varsity and advanced to Varsity in Orange Krush Cycling Club for 2021 season. I earned podium twice in Varsity, 4th in Heritage Park Race and 5th in the Milford Time Trial. I won the fall 34 miles Lowell Classic, which was my first gravel race. It was a super muddy but absolutely amazing race!

    Lowell Gravel Race

    I was prompted twice to join Team Athletic Mentors and did. I am excited to be a part of the group, especially after meeting everyone officially and personally. I hope to continue to develop as a rider, achieve goals, and inspire others to pursue their passion. Team Athletic Mentors has already encouraged me to train harder! I will do my best to contribute and encourage the team I am now a part of and represent.

    4th Place Finish

    How I Got Into Mountain Biking:

    Note: During this time, in 2020, the covid-19 lockdown took place. This stopped several activities I enjoyed because of their restrictions.  This made life extremely isolating, difficult, “inactive,” and kind of depressing since everything I used to do and the people I used to be with was stripped away. However, as I have learned, the conclusion of my former life was for a new and good purpose. 

    I was introduced to mountain biking in July of 2020 during one of the two usual family week-trips to the Upper Peninsula. We met up with a few longtime friends and they invited me to go riding with them on the Point Trail in Copper Harbor. At first, I was a bit nervous because I had only ridden a few trails in the Lower Peninsula, and I knew they had been riding for years. All anxiety altered into exhilaration and a feeling of freedom at the start of the flowy downhill. The trail was decently technical for a “first ride,” but I managed almost every section. I threw any potential fear behind me (I do not remember being afraid once) and dove right into anything thrown at me. We reached the end of the Point Trail (half-way point for the trip), ate, and looked for agates (I am a rock-hunter).  We continued our journey back to town. It was mostly uphill going back. Endurance and solid effort were required, but I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of endurance and proceeded onward.  After the ride, I felt on fire (both figuratively, and, for my muscles, literally)! I completed 20 miles that day. We also went riding the next day and, afterward, was encouraged to join MISCA, which I did with much enthusiasm. I was driven from then on, feeling like I had something to strive for; something I could put my passion and competitive nature into.

    Biking is more than a sport to me. It significantly changed my lifestyle and mindset for the better. Through cycling, I have met amazing people (some of which I would consider to be good friends) and have had some of the best experiences of my life! It has inspired me to  push myself to go beyond my limits to achieve goals. This is not just confined to athletic goals, but also career and personal goals. I was determined then, but I feel all the more determined now.  I’m looking forward to an incredible 2022 year!


    15 Ways to Get Mentally Stronger

    January 26th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

    By Raquel Torres

    “Fear is the biggest disability of all. It will paralyze you more than being in a wheelchair”. Nick Vujicic.

    Tough people handle difficult situations with strength and grace. They stay positive instead of letting criticism rule their day. Being mentally tough is essential to staying positive, happy, and moving forward.  For many of us it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes practice and time; after consistent work we become braver not less afraid

    Coming back from many life setbacks, personal and in triathlon as a professional elite, I dedicated many years researching about mental strength and how to improve it, learning from many different authors, doctors, scientific studies, and experts in several areas like psychology and sports medicine, so I can improve myself and help others better as a coach.

    First, we decide to be brave then we become braver, being courageous is a personal constant decision.

    Here is a recollection of recent scientific studies and data related to this topic from doctors and elite athletes, also practices and tips that can help us to have better life experiences, no matter who you are, what you do or want to do.

    1.Wake Up! You are not your thoughts, you become what your most predominant thoughts are, sometimes our thought patterns are not even ours, they are from the environment, society, friends, family etc. Tip: with some practice we can change and create new healthy thought patterns. 

    2.  Guard your thoughts, you must become aware about what you think, where your thoughts go, your life follows. Certain thoughts should never be in your head for more than 2 seconds. Tip: replace weak thoughts like: “I can’t, I’m tired,” or “I’m bored” with: “I am strong”, “I got this!”, “I have what it takes!”.

    3.  Take responsibility. Have strong boundaries. Are you spending too much time and energy with fearful, negative, lazy people or someone with a bad attitude? Cut the time, attention or cut them off from your life. Tip: a practical way to guard or track your energy and thoughts that I heard some use, is to have an elastic band on the wrist and every time you catch a negative thought or listen to a negative comment, pinch yourself and replace that thought with a positive one, or with a ring and turn it around your finger or touching mala beads can replace the elastic band with the same mental effect of switching thoughts to positive.

    4.  Get out of your comfort zone and fix your problems.   Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. When life is hard, we want comfort, not change. Those who have learned the secret of being mentally tough have learned that sometimes comfort now can mean pain later, whereas a little discomfort now can yield a big reward in the future.

                  “Courage is grace under pressure -E. Hemingway.

    5.  Confront your fears and break it down to identify your triggers. For example, make a mental list or write it down, dividing the scenario into little pieces, for example in triathlon, if you fear open water, write down in detail what you are afraid of: dark water, animals, deep waters, waves etc. Tip: with the adequate safety protocol, start from the shore, and build your confidence up while training in that environment, spend time with others who are braver than you or have extensive experience in the area that you want to get better at or mentally stronger, apply visualization techniques. Keep in mind that animals are more scared than you, because we humans are so creepy. 🙂

    6.  Be accountable and careful. Whatever you are working towards, have someone like a coach that can hold you accountable in areas you are likely to give up.  Tip: there is a time for sharing your goals to help with your accountability, and other times you’re better off keeping them to yourself. You just need to be strategic and rational in your decision. Sometimes a “friend”, a family member, doctor, partner, psychologist, teacher, no matter the role or the relationship with you, some people are secretly frustrated with themselves and sometimes intentionally or not, they’ll try to sabotage, discourage, or distract you from your personal goals or aspirations.

    7.  Pump up your confidence. Toughness and confidence go hand in hand. Being tough comes down to the choices you make about handling any given situation. Having confidence in yourself makes it possible to make the right choice and follow through with it. Tip: remember/visualize times when you were brave and accomplished something.

    8.  Don’t take opinions personal. You can be a good person, a decent,  good hearted human and have thick skin, don’t worry about the little things, comments, or opinions. If you’re going to be tough, you can’t let a negative comment ruin your day. Tip: Realize and keep in mind the difference between truth and opinion. Focus on what you have total control: your mind, your actions. 

    “An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you.” — Goi Nasu

    9.  Consistent rest can make you tougher. To be tough does not mean to be masochistic or a brutal person. You need to be tough when needed, the situation will tell you what mental attitude is the best or is required, the sacrifices to accomplish a goal can be personal and sometimes circumstantial. Example: not everyone needs to wake up at 5:00 am to work or train “hard”, if your responsibilities requires you to stay up late and you do not need to wake up until 7:00 am, with those 2 extra hours of sleep you can have a better-quality rest; which is an essential ingredient to have enough energy to be tough and overcome any challenge. The saying “the early birds eat the worms” has its exceptions. Never look for validation or attention from others on what is working hard or being tough for you, because we all have different pain thresholds, challenges and lifestyles. To be tough is a tool that we need to be diligent on how, when and what is mentally required. Some people spend their lives and energy trying to “show off” to someone or others on how “hard they work” or how “tough” they are, this is very common, and not surprising when they end up overdoing stuff or doing things that can be counter-productive in the long term with achieving good results, happiness and personal satisfaction. Tip for endurance sports: in the podcast about the book “How bad do you want it” by Matt Fitzgerald he explains how studies show now that elite endurance athletes can get tougher applying some techniques while training, like listening to music and the consumption of moderate caffeine, can bring the benefit of improving the “perception of effort” while training (working harder while feeling less hard) and with time reap the benefits of becoming tougher, with an adequate training, applying the 80/20 Rule (Total Training Volume=80% Easy training +20% Intensity training). Matt also mentions about how often recreational or amateurs athletes make the mistake of over training, getting in that security blanket mindset that “hard work pays off”, “that’s true and it pays off until some extend in endurance sports” he comments, most elites athletes have the capacity to take a day off and take the easy days easy, the opposite of most amateurs or recreational athletes.

    10. Engaging in the activity makes you tougher. When athletes engage 100% in the activity the body increases the number of secreted Endorphins within the brain and nervous system, these are the natural Painkillers-hormones (causing an analgesic effect). Scientific studies show that athletes that have a total engaging mentality in their activity or goal, feel less pain while doing the same exercise with the same effort compared with other athletes that mentally try to distract themselves from the activity. Ex. watching a movie or reading a book while exercising or trying to distract or think of other things rather than the goal or activity or try to “avoid the pain”.

     Note: In the Book “how bad do you want it?” This method of engaging in the activity can be the opposite when training and during an event, race or test. For example, studies show that athletes or students that engage in the activity (focusing on inside feelings) while they train or practice make them improve the perception of exertion and pain tolerance (by increasing endorphins creation) on the other hand during a math test, event or a race if they focus on external factors, rather than inside feelings, the athletes have a more pleasant experience and better results.  

    11. Prepare your mind for the upcoming activity as a tough one and that you will be tougher than the activity. Tip: Resent scientific studies show that athletes that visualize the event as a tough one, feel less pain or discomfort than the ones who are expecting an easy experience.

    12. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. While pain is what happens to us, suffering is what we do with that pain. While changing our perception of this concept may be difficult, it is possible. We can avoid or lessen our actual suffering based on what we choose to do with the pain we experience. Tip: keep the pain in the body and relax your thoughts with your favorite mantras.

    13. Get active and follow through with your goals. If you want to be tough, be willing to put in the time and effort it takes to accomplish your goals. Tip: keep in mind that just “having the information” does not do the work, just reading or listening about other stories alone will not make you tougher, you need to put in the work, nobody will do it for you.

    14. Be selective. Remember that some societies, communities, governors, religions, and the most dangerous humans in world history use fear as a tool of controlling others or the masses. Tip: stay out of that mentality, protect your mind and be very selective on what information you allow in your mind, what you choose to believe, and what you need to ignore.

    15. Forgive yourself. Pick yourself up after making a mistake. Tough people use their mistakes as a tool for learning how to do better next time. Do not get in a trap of staying in low energy for a long term or feeling sorry for yourself. Tip: Learn and reflect after a mistake or failure and turn the page asap and  come back wiser and stronger.

    “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor”

     Toughness can only be acquired through experience, every challenge you must face gives you a chance to get tougher. What is the story you’re telling yourself? That belief is the key to being mentally tough.

    Sources: The Physical Performance Show and Matt Fitzgerald – Best-selling Author ‘How Bad Do You Want It?’


    Winter Bikepacking

    December 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

    By Jonathan Meyer

    Over the Thanksgiving weekend my brother and I were invited to go bikepacking for the first time with fellow Team Athletic Mentors rider Joel Bretzlaff near Cadillac. Not surprisingly, the weather 180 miles north of where you live is bound to be colder and more wintery. But our expedition would not discover that until it was too late to turn back.

    This is my bike setup.

    All four of us (James Meyer, Joel and Jason Bretzlaff, and I) are experienced campers and backpackers, but this adventure would still have us venturing into uncharted territory literally and figuratively speaking. Due to our limited experience in bikepacking, we had none of the required specialty gear like frame bags (storage that goes within the front triangle of your bike), large saddlebags, or front racks for carrying the larger items, and almost everyone went about acquiring these items in different ways. James and I borrowed gear from some avid bikepacking friends. I also built my own front rack with machined aluminum mounts, and an old 2×4, which I strapped the 4-person tent that we all slept in for two cold, snowy nights. Jason also fabricated most of his gear, using handlebar extenders for a front rack, and taking advantage of this impressive sowing skills to make his own frame bag.  The tent is the large roll strapped to the front, the frame bag is the dark grey triangle filling up the front triangle of my bike, and the saddle bag is the large bag sticking way off the back of my bike. All this gear plus the bike ended up weighing about 54lbs 9oz.

    Picture from the first singletrack we rode.

    A successful bikepacking trip cannot be completed without teamwork, and on this trip, we split the load of everything up evenly among our four team members. James and I carried the tent and the rainfly, Jason carried the Jet Boil, for boiling water to heat our food, and Joel carried
    extra food for the group, and navigated us through the snowy forest on a route of his own design.

    The planned trip was a 90 mile ride over the span of three days and two nights, starting on Friday and finishing on Sunday. The first day we started at Red Bridge River Access and rode 23 of our 25 planned miles through beautiful singletrack of the North Country Trail, blanketed in 3” of sticky

    Picture from the single track just before the road into Mesick.

    snow. For the first five miles of the trip, we were making fresh tracks. After about 13 miles of singletrack we rode pavement into and through Mesick, where we learned the dangers of icy pavement. Then we continued onto dirt forest road, and then finally a few more miles of singletrack, to where  we

    hiked a few hundred yards off the trail and farther into the snowy wilderness and set up camp. After clearing away the snow and setting up our tent and sleeping arrangements, we boiled water for our dinners and headed to bed, preparing for the hardest stage of our journey, the 45-mile day of singletrack and forest road that awaited us tomorrow.

    The next day we were low on water from hydrating while riding, and from boiling it for dinner from the night before and breakfast from that morning, and eventually we would need to find more if we were going to make the full 45 miles planned for the day. With that thought, we began our day on singletrack, descending into the river valley, and soon we reached a bridge where we would have to cross the river. This spot would be our last opportunity to refill on water, so it would have to get us through the rest of today, and all 20 miles of tomorrow. After filtering, we began to climb back out of the valley on the singletrack. Throughout the day we rode many miles of singletrack, forest roads, and ORV trails, all covered in 4 inches of snow and counting. The two main challenges for that day were the huge distance we needed to cover, and the forecasted 3 inches of new snow we were going to receive along the way.  As the day wore on, we began to get tired, and run out of food. Our initial plan was to camp at the top of Briar Hill, the highest point in the lower peninsula, but we would not make it past that point until the next morning. As the group lost steam and proclaimed they could go no further, we set up camp, made dinner, and went to bed. Over night the snow kept falling.

    In the morning, we used a large portion of our remining water, and almost all of our remaining food. The main challenge for our final day would be keeping a positive attitude riding through about six inches of snow, with dwindling energy and resources, through even more accumulating snow. This would prove to be a difficult challenge, as temperatures continued to drop.  However, despite adversity, we managed to push through the wind and snow all the way back to our start point at Red Bridge. Though this trek was very challenging and difficult and even painful at some points, I very much enjoyed the experience, and would definitely do it again. I would recommend bikepacking to any serious cyclist who also has a love of the outdoors, although maybe make your first-ever trip in the summer when there won’t be six inches of snow hindering your progress every pedal stroke.


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