Monday, June 4, 2018

Stretch Away: Stretches for Cycling Pain


Cycling for long hours can be painful and cause your muscles to get stiff. Do your body a favor and stretch out after your rides to help alleviate the pain. These stretches will help get your body back to feeling good and help prevent you from getting injured.

Neck and Back Pain

Shoulder Shrugs

This exercise can be done on the go, but it’s most effective while standing next to a wall. Place your back against the wall. Let your shoulders and heels touch the wall. Spread your legs shoulder width apart. Lift your shoulders up, so they slide up against the wall and towards the ceiling. Then slide your shoulders down towards the floor. Take this stretch slow to prevent your back from arching or curving.

Elbow Rows

Sit on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you. Keep you back and neck straight. Punch out both arms in front of you. Your arms should make a straight line with your shoulders. Bend your elbows and pretend like you are pulling an oar straight backwards. Squeeze the shoulder blades back together and hold. To make this stretch more difficult you can add a resistance band.

Bird Dogs

Bird dogs are great for helping stretch out the entirety of your back while also helping prevent a back injury from occurring. To do bird dogs, lay a towel or yoga mat on the ground. Start by getting on your hands and knees on the ground. Slowly extend your right arm forward while extending your left leg back. Try to get your extended arm and leg as parallel to the ground as possible. Hold the extended position for five seconds before returning back to the starting position. Alternate and stretch out your left arm and your right leg.

Walking Planks

These are like normal planks, but with an added step. Lie down a towel or yoga mat on the floor and stand with your feet on the edge of the mat, with the mat facing in front of you. Bend down to touch your finger tips to the ground. Slowly walk your hands out until they are in a push up position. Do a plank. After you plank, walk your hands back up to your feet and stand up.

  

Leg Pain

Foot Pulls

This stretch can be done on the go, giving your quads a bit of a break. Stand with feet together. Grab your right foot, bend your right knee, and slowly bring your right heel to touch your glutes. Hold the top of your right foot and pull it into your glute. Hold for 30 seconds and then relax your foot back down to the starting position. Switch sides to stretch out both of your quads.

Hamstrings

Start by standing with feet together. Scoot your left leg forwards until your left heel is resting on the ground and your toes are pointing in the air. Bend your right knee until you feel like you are about to sit in a chair. Rest your hands on top of your right thigh and lean forward into the stretch. Switch sides.

Heroes Pose

This yoga stretch helps stretch out your upper and lower legs. Start on the ground on your knees, and sit on your lower legs. Gently move your right leg to the right, so your calves are touching the outside of your right thigh. Then repeat on the left. Sit on the ground and take a few deep breaths. If this stretch doesn’t feel like it is stretching you enough lean back and rest on your elbows.

Hip Flexors

Start in a lung position on the ground with your left foot flat on the ground and finding your balance on your right knee. Raise your left arm up above your head while keeping your right arm at your side. Lower your left arm behind you and point diagonally to the ground while moving your head to look at your arm. The right arm should rise up diagonally towards the ceiling. The lower half of your body should not move. Hold this position and then go back to the starting position and switch sides.

Now that your body is stretched out after your bike ride your body should be feeling better, which means a faster recovery time. Continue to stretch after your rides to alleviate the pain and muscle stiffness of staying in the perfect aero position.

Happy Cycling!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Building Blocks for Muscles: Protein Packed Foods


Protein is a necessity for athletes, and getting enough protein in your diet can be difficult. Whether you are trying to add more protein into your diet, or looking to build muscle these are the best protein rich foods for the least number of calories.

Main Courses

Chicken

Chicken is hands down a winner when it comes to healthy food packed with protein. Chicken can be incorporated in most dishes and has the most protein for the least number of calories. The key is how you cook it. To make sure you are eating the healthiest version of chicken, avoid the skin and the deep fryer. Instead, grill, roast, or stir-fry the skinless chicken.

Tempeh

Tempeh is a vegetarian option, or an option if you want to change up your protein. It’s fermented bean cake, but don’t let that gross you out. Tempeh has a rich nutty flavor, and like tofu it’s great at absorbing the flavors you marinate or cook with. Unlike tofu texture, which for some is a no go, tempeh has a more solid texture like chicken. Like chicken, tempeh also has a high protein to low calorie ratio.

Open-Faced Sandwiches

Looking for a meal already put together? Try a slice of toast with avocado spread over the bread and some slices of turkey. It’s not only easy to make, but packs protein in each flavorful bite. In addition to protein, you get healthy fats from the avocado and healthy carbs from the toast. This meal is an all-around win-win.

Whole-Wheat Pasta

Whole-wheat pasta takes the cake when it comes to a meal with carbohydrates, but it also does well in the protein category. To avoid using rich sauces, try adding other protein rich ingredients to your pasta meal. Spinach is a great protein enriched green to add to your pasta dish along with a small portion of cheese.

Lentils

Lentils are a staple in my household, and for good reason. Lentil soup is vegetarian, cheap, and packed with protein. Try to get a lentil soup without any extra additives. If you just aren’t feeling like soup you can throw it on top of quinoa and the liquid will get absorbed and flavor the quinoa.


Snacks

Spoonful of Nut Butter

Nut butter is a healthy snack packed with protein. Almonds and peanuts are the most common of the nut butters. Grab a spoonful for a healthy protein snack. In addition to being good snacks, they also help add protein to other foods, like oatmeal.

Eggs

Eggs are a great source of protein and easy to make. Whether you only have time for a quick scramble, or a nice hard-boiled egg, eggs fill you up. Not only are eggs great snacks, but they can also spice up other meals while providing protein.

Jerky

The favorite road trip food is also a quick on the go protein snack. High in protein most jerky will give you the benefits you are looking for, whether it’s beef jerky, turkey jerky, or even vegetarian options.

Greek Yogurt

Yogurt is a healthy snack, but when it comes to yogurts, Greek is the best. Greek yogurt out performs regular yogurt, because Greek yogurt is made from whey, meaning you are getting more protein. When choosing this snack, it’s more cost efficient and healthier to create your own Greek yogurt flavors. Plain Greek yogurt can be enhanced with various types of fruits like blueberries, raspberries, and bananas, and if you want different texture combos try adding almonds. Greek yogurt is also a great substitute when cooking.

Eating the same high protein foods can become boring, but hopefully with these foods it helps create variety. Try to spice up other foods with protein rich foods to help get the protein you need without missing out on any flavor.

Happy Protein Rich Eating!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Catching the Zzzz’s: How to Get Great Sleep


Sleep is essential to everyone and especially important to athletes, but sometimes it’s hard to fall asleep. To fully recover from your long hours of training it’s necessary to get a good night’s rest. If you are having troubles falling asleep, or waking up in the middle of the night, here are a few tips to help you get the rest you need.

Falling Asleep

Tick Back the Clock

If you know you already don’t get much sleep try this method. Purposely make your bedtime 5 hours and thirty minutes before you have to wake up. Try it for a few days and when you feel sleepy during the day, set your new bedtime to allow for another 15 minutes. Repeat adding 15 minutes back onto your sleep schedule until you don’t fall asleep during the day or midafternoon. This will help you realize how much sleep your body needs as well as resetting your sleep clock.

What You Eat

What you eat close to bedtime or for dinner can have effects on how well you sleep. If you frequently find you are having troubles falling asleep try looking to your diet. Tomato sauce contains an amino acid that triggers your brain to be active. Similarly, chocolate contains caffeine which means even though you put the coffee down in the morning, you might still have a caffeine intake. Foods that will help you get to sleep are milk, pumpkin seeds, and egg whites.

Try Yoga

Yoga, while exercising your body, is also a great way to regulate your breathing. Since most of the stretches in yoga also depend on your breathing technique, it’s a great way to slow your body down. Yoga also helps release stress which may be preventing you from a good night’s sleep.

The Room

What’s in your bedroom can affect how well you sleep. Anything bright in your room will prevent you from falling asleep. Avoid bright alarm clocks or night lights and stick to a darker room. If the temperature of the room is too hot, that might also prevent you from falling asleep. Keep the room cool and let the bed covers warm your body up. If you’ve tried making a sleep friendly habitat in your room but still have troubles, try keeping the room lavender scented, or another calming scent.


Stress

Stress is a never-ending cycle when sleep is involved. Too much stress and it’s hard for your body to stay asleep, too little sleep and your body is in a state of stress. If you are having a hard time falling asleep due to stress try meditation or yoga before bed. Both will regulate your breathing which helps you destress. If you wake up in the middle of the night due to stress trying counting down from 300 but in increments of three. It gives your brain a dull activity to focus on instead of whatever is stressing you.

Bed Equals Sleep

Get into bed only when you are ready to fall asleep. Avoid using your phone in bed or staying up in bed reading. This goes for when you can’t sleep too. If you’ve been in bed for twenty minutes and still can’t drift off to slumber land, get up and try a boring activity away from your bed. Train yourself to only be in bed when you are ready to fall asleep so that your body starts to sleep faster.

Routine

Routines are a good way to trick your brain into falling asleep. Make a routine to get yourself prepared to fall asleep an hour before you actual intend on sleeping. Try doing a relaxing activity like reading for the first twenty minutes, then start getting ready for bed for the next twenty minutes, and the last twenty minutes focus on meditating. Setting a routine before bed can help your brain fall asleep faster. Routines are also good for sleep schedules. If you set your body on a routine for sleep, like falling asleep and waking up at the same time every day, it makes it easier for you to get the right amount of sleep you need.

Hopefully these tips tricked your brain into falling asleep when you hit the pillow and staying asleep throughout the night. If you find you’ve tried every method, but still can’t sleep, then it might be time to look into a new mattress.

Sweet Dreams!