Women

Mackinac Island Swim

August 31st, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Dawn Hinz

What do you consider a “long” swim? Anything over a mile? How about 2 or 3 miles? Or have you ever done a point to point swim? Is it crazy to swim 8.2 miles around Mackinac Island? Yes it is. Crazy, exciting and beautiful!

The event starts on the shoreline in front of the Grand Hotel and then goes clockwise around Mackinac Island to Mission Point Resort. (Optional to swim around marker buoys near the harbor to make up for not being allowed to swim through the harbor itself.) Water conditions could be wavy and rough or flat, cold or not as cold but crystal clear and rocky. You could stand or reach shore quickly if you wanted a standing break.

A storm blew through the night before the race bringing 4-6’ waves but luckily calmed down by race start. Lake Huron was an enjoyable 68*. 237 swimmers entered the water two by two. Miles 1-2 had a gentle head on current. That current increased over miles 3-4 and then disappeared for miles 5-8, except the last 350 yards from finish. There it pushed you to the final buoy and I had to dig deep to make the final surge back to the finish line. Garmin officially recorded 13,532 yards, about 1000 yards shy of 8.2 miles. Views of the Island were beautiful and you could use various points to sight. The crystal clear water allowed you to see all the rocks and boulders and old logs beneath the surface, along with numerous tiny fish. Oddly enough M-Dot had road construction in the middle of our swim course. They were unloading rocks from a barge at mile 3.5 to repair the road that goes around the Island.

Training for this distance meant swimming 10,000+ yards, broken over 3-4 swims weekly since February with a lot of emphasis on technique. It also meant getting into open water by late May to acclimate to cold water. Long continuous swims started in June at 2 miles and increased mile by mile up to 7 miles in August. If I could go back I would add a few 3 mile pool swims in before hitting the open water.

Are you up for the challenge of a distance swim? There’s actually a few in Michigan. Swim to the Moon offers distances from 0.5 miles to 10,000 yards through a few connected inland lakes. Mackinac Island Swim can be taken on by individuals or relay teams. The Mighty Mac Swim across the Straits of Mackinac will hopefully return in 2021. It’s a 4 mile swim but is more like swimming 5+ miles due to the currents and there is no bottom to touch for a break. 

If you do take on a long distance swim I recommend starting with technique improvement. Bad form over miles and miles could cause a major injury. Follow a solid training plan or work with an experienced coach who can improve your technique and give you an individualized plan. Also, swim in conditions that closely match your event and practice your nutrition.  Happy Swimming, Coach Dawn 


The Divide – Gravel Road Race

August 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

The Divide began in 2015 by Jeff Harding and Don Passenger as a fundraiser for Manton Public School’s Cross Country and track teams. It is held the last Sunday of July and is part of the Michigan Gravel Road Series.  

The Divide offers something for all gravel enthusiasts with 3 route options:

  • 19 miles with 1330 feet of elevation change
  • 34 miles with 1987 feet of elevation change
  • 50 miles with 2292 feet of elevation change.

There is an outer loop that the 34 mile course completes one time and the 50 mile racers get to experience it twice. The outer lap is ridden in opposite directions every year to vary the terrain profile. All routes begin and end on paved roads in Manton, Michigan. Around the 3 mile mark, these roads turn to mostly hard packed gravel with “a little two-track” and “a little sand”  for a scenic ride on the outskirts of the Manistee National Forest.

The Divide is a great race for gravel, mountain and fat tire bikes. As with so many other races, The Divide will leave racers wondering if they are riding the right size tire for the course. 

Jeff, Don and their volunteers (including the cross country and track teams) were top notch with ice cold drinks and freeze pops at all aid stations. The course was well marked with signs and volunteers were stationed throughout the course to make sure racers stayed on course. Photographers volunteered their time and posted over 1000 photos that racers could share for free. 

This year’s race took place on Sunday, July 25th. Jeff and Don, as always, did a great job of posting on The Divide’s Facebook to keep racers up to date. A post on July 22nd, updated the course conditions.  It was reported that the roads were recently brined and the outer loop was rolling “faster than ever”. Then the news about the infamous Gilbert Corners, a section of sandy two-track that keeps racers guessing about their bike choice.  The 19 milers could expect some sand at the bottom of the downhills. The 34 milers would ride this 3-4 mile section mostly uphill on their way back into town. The 50 milers would get to ride this section both out and back. There will be some “sketchy downhills” on the way out and “on the way back the sand at the bottom of those downhills will zap your legs before the punchy uphills challenge your will power”. There was a July 24th update post reporting the rain had made the washouts on Gilbert Corners a little bigger. “Caution Ahead” signs were put out throughout the course with a Facebook posted warning “when you see a caution sign, we mean it!”

 

Athletic Mentors represented well in the race with athletes using a variety of tire sizes.

  • Jared Dunham took 3rd overall in the 50 mile race. He rode 42cc but felt he would have been fine on 40cc tires. Jared said he feels like the sand made a few of the hills more challenging but you don’t need a big tire to ride the course. He further stated that “The Divide may be 50 miles but it’s probably the most memorable 50 mile race course I’ve done so far.” He thought it was a good race, very hilly with some sand thrown in.
  • Terry Ritter took top spot in the 50+ class for the 50 mile on 36cc tires. He felt the course conditions were excellent; right direction and plenty of heavy rain the day before.
  • Hunter Post took 1st in his age group and 4th overall in the 50 mile race, racing 40 cc tires. He also felt the rain helped firm up the sand, but the depth was still energy draining. Particularly on the 2nd lap, once the sand was chewed up by other riders. Hunter liked the direction of this year’s outer loop as well.
  • Melanie Post took 1st in her age group for the 34 mile race. Melanie  raced on 40 cc tires and stated she also liked the route this year. “The sandy climbs were definitely the most challenging part of the course, aside from just the elevation gain in general. The course was very well marked with great volunteers as always.”
  • I raced the 50 mile route on 36cc tires and finished 2nd overall for women. Choosing lines on the edge of the two-tracks was helpful but I still did my fair share of walking some of the deeper sand. The main gravel roads were in great condition.

The Divide really does have something for everyone with 3 options for miles, challenging climbs, fun and memorable sections of sand, and beautiful scenery on quiet gravel roads. It is a great fundraiser with all proceeds going to Manton’s cross country and track teams.  Hope to see YOU there next year!!


Don’t Give up – Keep “Tri-ing”

August 16th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  JoAnn Cranson

Do you have that challenge in your life that no matter how hard you try – you just can’t get better or fix it? Do you feel like giving up?

I experienced that feeling last Sunday! I qualified for the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship 2021 for the Sprint Distance in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This race is once a year and you are racing against the top women in your age group from all over the US. The race entails about a ½ mile swim in open water, a 12.5 mile bike and a 5K (3.1 miles) run.

I really struggle with the swim portion. I didn’t learn to swim until about 4 years ago and it is so hard for me to figure it out and get better. It is so discouraging! I realize this is a minor issue to someone being plagued with health issues, family problems, abuse, addictions, etc. But….no matter how big or small we all get that “feeling” of discouragement in our heart and minds.

I don’t have the solutions to your personal challenges but I hope this blog will give you some encouragement on your journey through life as we each live it. I don’t even have the solution of how I’m going to learn to swim!

But what I can offer from my race today is “keep the faith”. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

So on with my race – out of 80 women I crawled out of the water totally exhausted in 76th place! I still had the bike and run to do with 75 women ahead of me. Now I’m a competitive person so it wasn’t about completing this event – it was about getting a good place. At this point, I could have said to myself – “Why continue to push yourself, just go through the motions and get it done” but what I decided to say to is “Don’t Give Up – Keep Tri-ing” until the race is done!

I ran to my bike, put my helmet and biking shoes on and started pedaling. Biking is my favorite so I said to myself “I’m going to give it my all even if I have nothing left for the run”.

Now back to our daily personal struggles. Life is already hard but then you get “kicked in the teeth” when you are already discouraged – it’s just not fair. But how are you going to deal with it? We just have to acknowledge it and figure it out. Right?

Shows angle of handlebars that dropped and how I had to grab my drink bottle.

So what do you think happens as I’m pedaling just as hard as I can and hit a big bump? My aero-handle bars drop down to a 30 degree angle and my drink bottle started sliding out of the holder on the front of the bike as I’m going 25+ mph downhill. I grabbed the bottle, so now I’m hanging on with one hand and holding this bottle wondering what the heck am I going to do with this? I can’t throw it and I can’t insert it back in the holder that is now slanted at a 30 degree angle. This isn’t fair – wasn’t my race hard enough already!!!

I’m like think fast, figure it out. I remembered just watching an Olympic marathoner stuff her water bottle down her shirt so as I’m still flying downhill I unzip by tri-suit and stuff the bottle down my shirt and zip it back up with the straw flopping out the top of my suit. I had to be quite a sight, but I just couldn’t stop, I could tell those handle bars where not going to move back up and I still had 4 miles to go! So I just keep pedaling!

I made it off the bike and was off on my run. I’m real tired now and it’s really hot. Just like in the day to day grind – it’s easy for us to all say when the going gets tough – I’m tired and give into the negative self talk of “It doesn’t really matter”, “You aren’t really good enough to be here anyways”, “So & so is better”, “Others have it easier”.

Instead I decided to put one foot in front of the other and Run. As I was running my daughter yelled out to me – you’re in 32nd place! What – how did that happen?? I was 76th out of the water but during my pedaling I had passed 44 people. I kept going – I tried to encourage people around me, I walked some, I took ice from volunteers to try and keep my body cooled down. I did the best I could to encourage others and care for myself while trying to do my very best.

I think that was my lesson today that I learned. I needed to keep “Tri-ing” during the hard times and not let my circumstances stop me from completing what I set out to do.   I’m going to seek out more training with Athletic Mentors.   We all need to take action to improve our circumstances the best we can.

So….you want to know how my race ended??? I finished 23rd place. Between the bike and run I had passed 53 of my competitors! I had the 6th fastest time on the bike and the 16th fastest run time in the women’s 60-64 age group.

I encourage you to Never Give Up No Matter What Your Challenge Is because you never know how it will end if you do!!


Hart Hills Gravel Grinder

May 10th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

This was my first opportunity to race Hart Hills The Classic Gravel Road Race. I have never ridden this course in previous years and since it was a last minute addition, there wasn’t time for a pre-ride. That may have turned out to be a good thing.

I did look at the profile on Strava so I knew there was 3000 feet of climbing that included a long, steep climb about 40 miles into the 55 mile race. I did a quick look at the route but figured it would be marked well so no need to study or download it onto my computer. 

I did a pre race ride the day before from my home and noted how hard the wind was blowing. The weather report indicated there would continue to be 10 mph winds with gusts the next day. Hills and wind, no problem.

Jonathan Meyer, Terry Ritter, Jared Dunham, Christina Vipond

Race day! I arrived in Hart around 8 am to get my packet and to get a good warm up ride in. I rode the finish of the course, which was pavement with some small rollers and downhill to the finish line, much better than a climb at the end. 

The 55 mile racers lined up for a mass start at 10 am. The organizer, Raymond Passchier, was making announcements about how the rain did not help the road conditions as they had hoped for. He was also announcing sand at mile 23, a large pothole at mile 32 so stay to the left, and a couple of well marked areas of “rough road”. I was trying to keep mental notes. We started downtown, made a few quick turns, and we were climbing gravel in no time. The wind didn’t seem too bad and the temperature warmed up enough to be comfortable.  Then the fun really started.

It only took a couple more turns and we were riding into a strong head wind. No problem, just stay on a wheel, there can’t be a headwind the entire ride. Another turn onto a seasonal road and the thought of “hang on, there is some sand”. I managed that area of sand and was thinking back to the pre-race course announcements, I wasn’t even close to mile 23 yet. Another turn and more sand, and wind, and climbing. Finally, a stretch of true gravel road with a break from riding through the sand, except now there was a cross wind that was blowing the bike all over the place. 

I have difficulty grabbing food out of my vest pockets so I was told about the “lick em and stick em” trick for Clif cubes. I decided to try it for this race, two rows of cubes on the tube, ready to give a burst of energy. I quickly learned two rows is not a good idea, a couple fell off in the first few miles but overall the trick was working, at least for the first hour. 

By the second hour of the race, the remaining cubes were coated with dust. The wind continued with strong gusts. The sand continued to be constant as well. I was riding a section of gravel road which was pretty much loose sand when I saw a man getting his mail from his mailbox. He looked at me and smiled. I told him I didn’t know I was going to have so much fun riding today. He responded with, “You are a long way from Hart”.  This was followed by a short section of pavement which felt so nice to just ride without sand and gusting winds. Then I saw the sign for a sharp right turn. As I got closer, I saw it wasn’t just a sharp turn, but a downhill turn onto a washed out, sandy two-track. I started laughing and asked the volunteer “seriously?” He had a funny smile and shrugged his shoulders. 

Somewhere during the third hour of the race, I crested a hill and saw a big pothole, there was no choice but to stay to the left just as the race director had announced. The wind was still gusting when I hit some rollers and barely felt like I was moving going downhill. I was pretty sure I was going to get blown back up. There was another sandy two-track that I was not able to navigate cleanly and had to get off the bike. I grabbed the tube, completely forgetting about the cubes and knocked the remaining 4 into the sand. There was a brief thought of “I should grab those” before coming to my senses. I was near the 40 mile mark and expecting to turn onto a gravel road for the long, steep climb I had noted from the road profile. I rounded a corner on the seasonal road and, of course there it was, not on a gravel road.  

2nd Place Overall Women

I had only 10 miles left and I knew the last few were pavement and downhill. I was excited to hit pavement with about 8 miles remaining. But there was that gusty crosswind and an open farm field, which put me in a complete dust out for a few seconds. A little more gravel and then pavement I recognized from the warm-up ride! I was ready for the downhill finish but one more gust of wind made me stop riding completely because it was pushing me into the lane of an oncoming truck, Mother Nature exerting herself one last time. 

Three hours and 39 minutes of hills, wind and sand! Hart Hills The Classic Gravel Road Race 2021 was the most challenging course I have raced yet. It was also the course that made me laugh the most. Raymond and all the volunteers did a fantastic job.  I know what to expect from this race next year!

 


Rebuilding After Injury

March 14th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

The risk of injury is common for athletes and many who mountain bike have their fair share of stories to tell. I learned so much about cycling and racing in my rookie year with a few minor injuries to talk about. The season ended with a fun ride of the Iceman No Cometh, the nicest weather ever for the non-event The next day, I was mountain biking with a friend when my back wheel slid out on dry leaves and down I went. It should have been a non-incident, unfortunately, my left arm was extended when I landed and I heard bones breaking. The doctor from ER reported the X-Rays showed a shattered head of the humerus in my shoulder. The doctor even suggested that given the extent of the injury I might need a total shoulder replacement.  Although the news was devastating, I tried to be optimistic, telling myself “at least it is the first day of the off season.”

A follow up appointment with a shoulder specialist and sports medicine doctor gave a more positive outlook.  The shoulder was not ‘shattered” as the ER doctor described, but the head and upper shaft of the humerus was broken in three places. Surgery took place five days after the break. During the surgery it was revealed that the rotator cuff had been torn and where it attached to the humerus, that piece of bone had been broken. A plate and 11 screws were used to put the bone back together and the rotator cuff was repaired. The doctor was optimistic and said I could be back on the trainer in three weeks. Even with the optimism,  shoulder injuries are known to take a long time to heal and I knew that race season started in just over 4 months.

Recovery has different stages and doesn’t always follow a linear path. Proper nutrition is important for athletes and even more so during recovery. I immediately received advice on the best nutritional approach for healing the bone. A diet high in protein,Vitamins C and D, magnesium, calcium and potassium was recommended.  As for the arm, the first three weeks focused on resting with as little movement as possible. A sling kept stabilized, great for healing, not so great for everyday tasks that had been taken for granted.  Sleeping was difficult due to the sling and fear of rolling onto the shoulder. 

At the three week mark, I was finally able to get on the trainer.  I had been wearing tank tops because they were easy to get on and off.  Sports bras were impossible to put on and even harder to take off so I bought front closure sports bras. That was still a challenge with one arm. I learned from watching YouTube videos that I could hold one side with a door jamb while using my right hand to fasten it.  I had to get used to wearing glasses while on the trainer because I couldn’t put contacts in. Even putting the heart rate monitor on required a couple of tricks (the door jamb trick worked well for the strap too). Training rides started very easy and with short durations but it was nice to return to a form of normalcy.

Four weeks after surgery I was able to start taking the sling off, begin range of motion exercises and gradually add weight training. This was exciting but also frustrating.  Atrophy happens so fast, and rebuilding strength happens so slow. It was nice to have daily encouragement from teammates during this stage. Some days felt like huge gains had been made, but others felt like three steps backwards had been taken. I continued to be diligent with nutrition, arm exercises and increased time and effort on the trainer. 

Two months after the surgery, I saw the surgeon again. He took X-Rays and checked the strength and range of motion of the arm. He then said,“I have one question for you, what is your secret to healing so quickly?”  I told him, “It’s easy.  Proper nutrition, treating rehabilitation like training, and support from friends.” Maybe said differently, I never stopped thinking or acting like an athlete in training. The arm isn’t 100 percent yet but it is strong enough to start the season. I have come to recognize the road back as a journey.  While I am not at the final destination yet, I am within striking distance.  I will use this season to get the rest of the way there. 


Is Lactic Acid an Athlete’s Friend or Foe?

October 22nd, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson
By:  Raquel Torres
Lactic acid or lactate, is the substance that our body generates during physical activity when our body cannot obtain energy through oxygen, this has always been a source of debate in sports science.
Physical trainers believed that this substance was the cause of cramps, sports injuries and, for a time,  it was the “bad guy” by experts in health, physical exercise, and sports.
However, sports science has made it clear that this was all wrong. That there is no relationship, for example, between cramps and lactate. And that lactic acid did not have to be an impediment to the high performance of athletes, but even, if it is known to control it, it can become another ally in the improvement of physical performance.
During exercise, the body’s cells demand more energy than they can actually provide, so the body reacts by acquiring energy from sugar (muscle glycogen), converting these large molecules into smaller molecules, in two possible ways: aerobically and anaerobically.
  • The energy produced aerobically (with oxygen) more energy is obtained, but slowly.
During aerobic metabolism, a series of enzyme-catalyzed chemical reactions are involved in aerobic metabolism. These reactions cause energy to be produced.
Aerobic metabolism is the primary energy system in endurance sports that last several hours and in short-duration events with low or moderate-intensity exercise, it depends on the good blood supply to the muscles and releases oxygen and energy to eliminate waste products. When muscle glycogen stores are depleted, fatigue begins and affects performance, the body becomes dependent on fat as an energy source, speed, and intensity of work is reduced. Once the supply of glycogen is depleted, it takes approximately 24 to 48 hours for the body to recover and replenish glycogen in muscle fibers and the liver.
  • The energy produced anaerobically (without oxygen) the energy obtained is less but faster, and the muscle takes this energy-producing waste, which in theory is one of those responsible for cramps.
Anaerobic metabolism, also known as the ‘starter system’ because energy is immediately available at the start of exercise, uses creatine phosphate metabolism in the process, does not produce lactate as a waste product, and does not require oxygen in the development of energy.  The higher the intensity of the exercise, the higher the use of carbohydrates in contrast to fats.  The anaerobic lactic system (without lactic acid production) is the primary energy system in the early stages of exercise, as it allows rapid acceleration and speed with the support of creatine phosphate stored in the muscles, although it suffers a sharp drop after 10 to 20 seconds.
  • The third type of metabolism in energy generation is lactic anaerobic.
The anaerobic lactic system depletes glycogen stores rapidly. Lactate, a toxic waste product of anaerobic lactic metabolism, is produced faster and cannot be eliminated, leading to accumulation in muscle fibers. It reduces the pH of muscle fibers and slows down the chemical reactions responsible for generating energy.  Lactic anaerobic energy is the primary energy system in sports that require maximum effort (high intensity) for a period of 20 to 120 seconds.
In other words, lactic acid is a substance generated by the body that is beneficial in principle, but too much and without good training can lead to low performance, even muscle damage and injuries.
Lactic acid is produced primarily in muscle cells and red blood cells when it breaks down carbohydrates under conditions of low oxygen levels. That is, lactic acid is a source of energy for the human body.
The oxygen level in the body could drop for two reasons: during strenuous exercise (sprinting) or if the person has an infection or illness (because of the amount of energy required by the immune system). In these cases, lactic acid comes from the breakdown of glucose when oxygen is not present, that is, in an anaerobic exercise such as lifting weights or swimming at full speed 50-100 meters where there is a lot of intensity and little duration. Under normal conditions that lactic acid  when we are training is reused and there is no major problem. But when there is a lot of lactic acid in the body, we have neither energy nor the ability to contract muscles, this is nothing more than tiredness, fatigue and the best thing we can do is stop the exercise or activity.
In other words, from a natural perspective lactic acid is a “turbo button” feature of extra energy, a survival mechanism to keep humans and other creatures safe under a fight or flight threat.  
 
How can we avoid the accumulation of lactic acid?  With a smart training plan, based on training the organism displays adaptive mechanisms that prevent lactic acid from accumulating so quickly and if it begins to do so, the muscle supports it more effectively.
Beware of some bad combinations of specific exercises (like speed work and/or weights) in a bad combination can make the body accumulate lactic acids and cause injury.  That is why the importance of having a good training plan with a wise balance between intensity, volume, frequency, and rest is key.
Here are 10 practical tips on how to avoid accumulating lactic acid:
1.Train more frequently and consistently.
2. Warm up well in each activity.
3.Breathe deeper for better body oxygenation.
4.Stretch frequently.
5.Hot baths.
6. Massages.
7. Maintain good hydration.
8.Consume enough: antioxidants (fruits like berries), magnesium- helps the metabolic system (dark green vegetables like spinach also legumes, nut,s, and cereals), vitamin B, natural proteins (creatine), omega 3 Oil (cold-water fish/salmon, avocado, olive oil or some nuts).
9. Beware of lifting weights (frequency and intensity) and speed exercises and their combination with other physical activities.
10. When you feel a lactic acid burn in your workouts, reduce the intensity so that the body can channel its natural mechanisms, and avoid acid accumulation. It is the way the body warns us so that we do not over-do.

Why Tri?

October 8th, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By Belinda Vinton

When I tell folks that I am a triathlete, they usually think that a triathlon is an extreme and unattainable goal for the average athlete. But I think that triathlon has saved me! I have been a runner since middle school. I ran the distance events in track and field and ran many road races. As the years went on, I was strictly a summer athlete. My children’s activities kept me so busy! And being a school teacher, I felt like June, July, and August were the only months I could run. But I also was strictly a runner. How did I train? I just threw on my running shoes and ran. No strength training. No cross training. Just running. In my early 40’s I decided to train for my first half marathon. I didn’t follow a training plan. I didn’t ask for advice. I just kept doing the same thing I had always done. I just ran! Different distances on different days. Maybe a little speed work. Rest days? Not if I could help it! I’m sure you can guess what happened…by the time the half marathon arrived I was really hurting. Foot, knee, hip. Injured. So I vowed never to run a half marathon again. 

A few years after that, my sister convinced me to try triathlon. I borrowed a road bike. I took swim lessons. I joined a gym. And that’s when my body came to realize the importance of strength training and cross training! I started taking regular TRX classes and boot camp classes. I participated in an Athletic Mentors tri camp and came away with an actual training plan! I started training with the plan, adding in strength training. What a difference it made! 

I’ve been competing in triathlons for 9 years now. I wish I could say it was without injury, but I can’t. The pandemic came at a good time for me! I would not have been able to compete to the level I would have wanted to this summer due to a lingering hip injury. As I have made my way to several different doctors over the last 2 years I hear much of the same. My injury is caused by arthritis but is worsened by pounding the pavement. As one doctor put it, “Your hips are like a tires. The tread will wear down eventually. And you have a lot more miles on your tires than most people!” Each doctor though has encouraged me to continue cycling, swimming and strength training. These activities have kept me strong and have actually helped me! 

In hindsight, I wish I would have started doing triathlons sooner! By adding cycling and swimming to my workouts, I believe that I have helped my body and helped extend my active time. I do love running, and I always will, but I think that triathlons have helped my body by working different muscle groups and making me an overall stronger athlete.  So I encourage everyone to expand your variety of exercise to keep you motivated and to help your body parts from wearing out!


Morning Workouts – Here I Come!

September 1st, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Belinda Vinton

One of my biggest struggles as a working, single mom is finding the time to fit in my workouts. Over the years I have come to find that the best time for me is the early morning hours. This was not something that came easy to me, but over time I have learned to appreciate my early morning workouts. Getting that workout in early means that I have the rest of the day to accomplish all of my other duties. I don’t have a workout hanging over my head. I don’t have to worry about whether or not I will be too tired in the evening. I can eat and drink without having to check the clock. I actually have more energy for the rest of the day by getting an early morning session completed. So how can you become an early morning person? Here are some tips from my experiences!

  1.  Plan ahead. I pack my gym bag the night before. I then lay out my clothes so I can change right away. I even set a snack on the kitchen table to get me going.
  2. Set an alarm…on the other side of the room. Yes, I set the alarm on my phone which is on the headboard. But then it is too easy to hit snooze. I have an old-fashioned clock radio on the dresser across the room. That means I have to get up, walk over, and turn it off. That’s half the battle! Now I’m out of bed. And my clothes are right there, ready to dress for my workout.
  3. Set small goals to start. I started out by setting a goal of one morning a week to get up early. I planned mine for Wednesday. I told myself that I could sleep late on the other days, but hump day was early workout day.
  4. Find an accountability partner. It was a friend who first convinced me to meet her for a 5:30 am class. I wasn’t feeling great about it, but I knew she was counting on me. Text your partner to make sure they are up! It was so much easier coming to the gym during the early hours knowing that I would be able to see my workout partner. Even during the quarantine, I looked forward to seeing my friends on Zoom workouts!
  5. Don’t give up! I started the once a week routine in October and by springtime, a strong habit had formed! Not only was I enjoying my early workouts, I liked it so much that I began to do it every day! 

I am now a fitness instructor and personal trainer at the Jackson YMCA. My favorite time of day is still 5:30am! I feel refreshed and ready to face the day with that workout under my belt. 


My Oatmeal Cookbook

February 9th, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By Jared Dunham

As an endurance athlete you may be faced with many early morning or otherwise inconveniently timed workouts to your daily schedule. To fuel for one of said workouts it’s easy to reach for a protein bar, cereal or a similar product, however a better and more holistic option is oatmeal. Oatmeal is an empty canvas as far as food goes, it can be served in many ways and variations. Admittedly I’m an emerging oat addict myself, eating mostly oatmeal for a great deal of my past breakfasts. Nowadays I don’t eat oats nearly as much as I did in the past but still thoroughly enjoy the dish every now and again. With that being said, here are some of my favorite recipes for oatmeal. I hope they help break you out of your daily oat rut or make you take a shot in the dark and try some oats for the first time.

Quick Notes:

  • These oat recipes can be made easily in 15 minutes or less with the caveat that you use a microwave for cooking.
  • Most microwaves have an “Oatmeal’ setting on them, however cooking them for about 3 minutes is a good substitute.
  • Boiling oatmeal on the stove in a cooking pot also works, however this requires a little more time and cleanup, so I usually opt for the microwave if I’m trying to whip up some oats quickly.
  • All my recipes are based on one serving and are a ½ cup of dry oats each.
  • When cooking these oats, I use about ¾ cup of water.
  • Milk is a good substitute, which some of the recipes call for, but I use water most of the time.
  • Lastly, the amounts of ingredients in these recipes are in the eye of the beholder and all these meals are open to editing so if there’s something you wanted to change then go ahead and try it.

Classic Recipes

Pumpkin Spice

While the season for pumpkin spice lattes may be over, you can still enjoy this meal anytime.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 268
  • 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Spice Carbs: 38.5g
  • 1/8 Cup Pecans Fat: 10.3g
  • 1/4 Cup Canned Pumpkin Protein: 8g
  • ½ tbsp Brown Sugar

Directions:

  1. Begin cooking oats, about halfway through mix the canned pumpkin in with the water and oats.
  2. Finish cooking.
  3. Mix in brown sugar to be sure it melts while oats are hot. Afterwards stir in other ingredients and enjoy.

Cinnamon Apple

Cinnamon apple is a very simple recipe that is a good option if you are trying to fuel for a workout or day without many bells or whistles attached.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 204
  • ½ Finely Chopped Apple Carbs: 41.7g
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon Fat:3.2g

Protein:6.3g

Directions:

  1. Chop up half an apple while aats cook.
  2. When oats finish mix in Cinnamon and Apple.

Cooking Notes: If you’re looking to sweeten up this recipe then add half a tablespoon of brown sugar or maple syrup.

Maple Nut

This recipe was crafted to mimic the taste of the “Maple Nut” glazing that coats a doughnut of the same name. The main difference is this one speeds you up instead of slowing you down.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 300
  • 1 tbsp Natural Peanut Butter Carbs: 45.1g
  • 1 tbsp Real Maple Syrup Fat:11g
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract Protein:9.5g

Directions:

  1. Cook oats, then mix all ingredients.

Carb Load

Sweet Potato Oats

Sweet potatoes and oatmeal can be a match made in heaven especially if you’re looking to pack in a few extra all-natural carbs before a ride. This bowl combines the two with a dash of sweetness and salt.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 321
  • 1/2 Sweet Potato Carbs: 52g
  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar Fat: 10g
  • 1/8 Cup Chopped Pecans Protein: 7g

Directions:

  1. Chop up the Sweet Potato while Oats cook.
  2. Stir in Brown Sugar to melt after Oats finish.
  3. Cook Sweet Potato in microwave if you need to.
  4. Mash Potato in with Oats until desired texture is achieved.
  5. Mix in Pecans.

Cooking Notes: The fastest way to make this recipe is to microwave the potato however, if you steam it, that will allow the spud to mix better with the oats. If you’re looking for more carbs add the whole potato.

The Fruit Bowl

Let’s see how many different fruits we can mix in with oatmeal. This is less of a standout than some of the other recipes but still holds true with how great oats taste when your average fruits are mixed in.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 259
  • ½ tbsp Honey Carbs: 55g
  • 1 Sliced Strawberry Fat:3.3g
  • 1 Sliced Orange Wedge Protein:7g
  • 1/4 Chopped Apple
  • 1/4 Sliced Banana
  • 6 Grapes

Directions:

  1. If Fruit isn’t already prechopped then do that while Oats cook.
  2. Mix Honey followed by Fruit when Oats are finished.

Cooking Notes: This recipe requires various fruits, but you can use whatever may be at your disposal. If there’s any leftover fruit salad, simply use that or chop up fruit to be used for several servings and then store in the refrigerator.

Beet Oatmeal

Studies have shown that beets can help improve performance in endurance sports when consumed before exercise. It only makes sense that we add them in with oats.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 260
  • ¾ Cup Beet Juice Carbs: 54.4g
  • 1/2 Finely Chopped Apple Fat: 3.2g
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon Protein: 6.4g
  • ½ tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar

Directions:

  1. Add Beet Juice instead of Water to Oatmeal for cooking.
  2. Chop Apple while Oats cook.
  3. Once Oats are finished, mix in: Cinnamon, Vanilla, Brown Sugar and Apple.

Cooking Notes: Unless you have a juicer or direct access to beet juice then mixing dried beet powder in with water will be your best option. That is what I do here.

Protein Packed

Greek Oats and Berries

For this recipe the Greek Yogurt provides a nice contrast to the citrus flavor of the mixed fruit.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 210 to 235
  • ½ Cup Frozen Mixed Berries Carbs: 38 to 40g
  • ¼ to ½ Cup Greek Yogurt Fat: 3g

Protein: 10 to 15g

Directions:

  1. Cook Oats.
  2. Cook Berries separately.
  3. Mix warmed Fruit with Oats and Greek yogurt.

Cooking Notes: I prefer to leave the fruit juice that comes with the frozen fruit in when I mix with oats.

Strawberry Dream

I was a little hesitant on mixing cottage cheese in with oatmeal but soon discovered that the pair have a similar flavor that jives perfectly.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 279 to 334
  • 6 Chopped Strawberries Carbs: 48 to 50g
  • ¼ to ½ Cup Cottage Cheese Fat: 5 to 8g
  • 1tbsp Strawberry Jam Protein: 8 to 17g

Directions:

  1. Chop Strawberries while Oats cook.
  2. After Oats are ready; mix in Cottage Cheese and Strawberry Jam.
  3. Lastly, add Strawberries.

Cooking Notes: This recipe can be adapted to any fruit, EX: Chopped Peaches and Peach Jam.

Savory Oat Bowl

Here’s another one you may have to be open minded about. Trust me though, there’s nothing under the sun that doesn’t taste great with bacon and cheese.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 361
  • 2 Eggs (Runny) Carbs: 28g
  • 1 Crumbled Slice of Cooked Bacon Fat: 18.3g
  • 1 tbsp Shredded Cheddar Cheese Protein: 22.8g
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Fry Eggs while Oats cook.
  2. Mix Cheddar Cheese in with oats after they’re finished.
  3. Add Bacon to mixture.
  4. Mix in Salt and Pepper to taste, then top with Runny Eggs.

Cooking notes: I prefer using runny eggs for this recipe because the yoke adds more flavor to the bowl, however I have tried mixing scrambled in with oats. Something I haven’t tried is mixing precooked oats in with scrambled eggs as they cook. If you want to make this recipe much faster with less cleanup make sure to pre-fry your bacon and then simply store in the fridge till you need to use it, then microwave to warmup for this recipe.

Indulgent Recipes

Elephant Ear

As the name would suggest, the main objective of this recipe was to have a similar taste with that of an Elephant Ear. This one is surprisingly low calorie compared to a lot of the other recipes that made it onto the “Indulgent” list.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 271
  • 1 tbsp Sugar Carbs: 32G
  • ½ tbsp Cinnamon Fat: 14.5G
  • 1 tbsp Melted Butter Protein: 5G

Directions:

  1. Begin cooking Oats
  2. Near the end of their prep add Butter to be melted.
  3. Mix Butter in with Oats and add other ingredients.

Almond Joy

We’re going for an Almond Joy candy bar here, enough said.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 577
  • 1/8 Cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes Carbs: 64.6g
  • 1/8 Cup Chocolate Chips Fat: 31g
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk Protein: 18.6g
  • 1/8 Cup Sliced Almonds

Directions:

  1. Cook Oats with Milk instead of Water.
  2. After Oats have finished mix in Chocolate Chips till they melt, followed by other ingredients.

Cooking Notes: Obviously if you’re looking for a leaner version of this recipe it can be done. I’d recommend replacing Whole Milk with Almond and lessening the rest of the ingredients.

PB&J

Here’s an idea to shakeup that average, packed lunch, peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 397
  • 1 tbsp Natural Peanut Butter Carbs: 49g
  • 1 tbsp Natural Jelly Fat: 17g
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk Protein: 15.3g

Directions:

  1. Cook Milk with Oats instead of Water.
  2. After Oats have finished mix in other ingredients.

Cooking Notes: If you’re looking to save a few calories, skimp out on the Whole Milk and replace it with Almond or Skim.

The Usual

The Usual was probably my favorite recipe for quite some time, it capitalizes on the banana and peanut butter combination that works so well with oatmeal. A note however, this recipe has a lot of horsepower so you may want to save this one for a hard workout or race.

Ingredients: Estimated Nutrition Facts:

  • ½ Cup Oats Calories: 436
  • 1 tbsp Natural Peanut Butter Carbs: 64.5g
  • 1 tbsp Sliced Almonds or Other Nuts Fat: 15.3g
  • 1 tbsp Natural Maple Syrup Protein: 11.6g
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Chopped Banana

Directions:

  1. Slice up your Banana while Oats cook.
  2. When Oats are finished mix ingredients in as followed: Maple Syrup, Vanilla Extract, Cinnamon, Natural Peanut Butter, Sliced Almonds, and Banana.

Enjoy your Oats!!


Pumping Iron: Strength Training for Endurance Runners

October 28th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Erin Young

“I’m a runner, why should I strength train?” I get this question often and honestly there is no single, easy answer. But I do believe there is a time for strength training in every athlete’s year. It will look different for every runner. It may be an off season activity while the snow flies, it could be three days a week up until the competition or just 20 minutes a day to work on core, balance or weaknesses.

In the last decade, new research is showing that strength training can benefit many kinds of endurance runners–if the right types of it are done in the right doses. This newer research suggests that strength training can enhance endurance-running performance by improving running economy, delaying the onset of fatigue, improving maximal speed, and increasing anaerobic capacity.

When broken down to its components, strength training temporarily overloads the neuromuscular system, which allows for an improved ability to recruit individual muscular units, an increase in muscle-firing frequency, increased muscle-tendon stiffness (allowing you to have more stored energy with each step), and improved muscular coordination over time. These are all minor physiological changes but together and over time equal running-economy improvement which allows you to run a given pace with a little less effort. 

“But Won’t I Bulk Up?”: Addressing Strength-Training Fears

The most common concern I hear from endurance runners is the fear of putting on bulk from strength training. Now there is something to be said for individual genetic predispositions, but science shows almost a complete lack of muscle growth with strength and endurance training–in correct dosing. Why is this? Muscle growth with concurrent strength and endurance training seems to be blocked on a molecular level.

As we’ve alluded to a couple times in this article so far, there appears to be a dosing ratio at play. When athletes maintain a 3:1 ratio in the number of endurance sessions to the number of strength sessions they perform, muscle growth doesn’t occur. So if an athlete wanted to gain mass while still getting some of the benefits of concurrent strength and endurance training, they would need to increase the number of strength sessions or decrease the number of endurance sessions.

Strength Training and Injury Prevention

A lot of athletes will tell you that strength training helps them feel more durable. There is research suggesting that traditional strength training can reduce sports injuries significantly. This is done by increasing your tissue’s ability to manage load while modifying endurance-training volume and frequency.

For example, one study that replaced 30% of an athlete’s weekly running volume with strength training found that athletes remained injury free while improving their five-kilometer performances. Additionally, hard strength training has positive effects on circulating levels of testosterone and human growth hormone which can help the body repair muscular damage at faster rates post-hard-endurance and post-hard-strength-training efforts.

Maybe that’s what durability feels like? That is, creating enough physical change to more than manage your niggles and instead create more significant physiological adaptations that keep fatigue at bay longer and hold your form together longer because you increased your running economy. That is, you became physically stronger. I’m not certain we will ever have a perfect metric to measure durability, but if being stronger keeps you on the trail more consistently, that might be as close as we get to an answer.

Strength Training for the Aging Endurance Runner

When it comes to aging and declining endurance-running performance, naturally decreasing muscle mass seems to be the main culprit. This is because there is a direct link between the age-related decrease in VO2max and muscle-mass loss. This age-related muscle-mass loss starts somewhere just north of age 40 and accelerates rapidly after 70. Between the ages of 40 and 80 and with no intervention, you should expect to naturally lose approximately 40% of your muscle tissue. Also note that muscle loss in the aging woman appears to happen at a slightly increased rate than men.

What this means for our aging athletes is that strength training to maintain and build muscle mass is incredibly important. The current, best treatment for muscle loss is strength training. The general recommendation is that if you are over the age of 40 and not currently strength training, we should probably change that.

Need help with a strength training regimine for your next endurance event? Fall and winter is a great time to reduce your running load and hit the gym! Visit www.athleticmentors.com to see how we can make you better, faster and stronger on the trail!



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