Carbohydrate and Sodium Intake for Proper Recovery

This  month my IOC program has focused on proper carbohydrate and sodium refueling, alcohol consumption and exercise and the benefits and negatives of low carbohydrate training. March has been a very informative month, and I need to catch up on my blogging, I’ve been behind. Today I’ll focus on proper carb and electrolyte refueling.

As you all know, carbohydrates are what gives us energy to train, race, and just live day to day. While exercising, we must take in carbs so we don’t become depleted and bonk mid training or race. Today isn’t about during training, it’s about proper refueling of carbs post exercise. So, logically, we burn carbs, we need to take them back in. Let me add here though, that this isn’t for exercise lasting 60min or less. This is for longer, or more intense shorter exercise. 2-3hours +, unless your 60-90min training or racing session is very intense.

Also, while training and racing, we are sweating, and losing electrolytes. Each of us has a different amount of electrolytes in our sweat, so not one amount works for all athletes. Like carbs though, we must replenish our bodies with electrolytes. The two main electrolytes lost in sweat are sodium and potassium

Carbohydrate Factors: There are many different factors to how much glycogen we consume, and conversely, how much glycogen we can store.

  • Degree of depletion- how much carb we took in during exercise and the type of carb will dictate how much carb we can replace and store.
  • Muscle damage done during exercise
  • Gender
  • Co-ingestion of other nutrients

Sodium Factors: There are recommendations in place for how much sodium athletes take in during exercise.The range for endurance athletes is 400-800mg/hr of sodium. Depending on how much sodium you are taking in during exercise, you may need higher amounts to rehydrate and bring yourself back to fluid balance.


  • Post exercise, you want to replenish your glycogen stores with 1-2g/kg. Lets say you weigh 150lbs=68kg. So, you would need to take in at least 68g of carb.
  • You are dehydrated when you have lost 2% of your body weight. Let’s take the 150lb athlete again. After exercise, they’ve lost 4 lbs. 2% of 150 is 3 lbs. So, anything over 3 lbs = dehydration. For every pound over 2%, you need to rehydrate 16-20oz per pound. Sodium intakes should match, or be greater than in sweat lost. So, if you are normally taking in 400mg/hour, try 600mg post.


  • The first two hours are the most important times for our bodies to be replenished. However, as long as you are eating healthy for the 24 hours proceeding exercise, you should be able to replenish both carbs and electrolytes
  • Nibbling instead of eating a large meal might work better for you and your situation. There was no difference seen in glycogen storage between dibbling and eating a large meal.
  • When consuming sports drink or other drinks for re-hydration, sipping a drink over 3-6 hours can often be better than guzzling 32oz in the first 30min. More research is needed at this point though.
  • The sooner you are to exercise or race again, the more important and shorter the recovery window. Anything less than 8 hours is deemed a short recovery window. Eat and drink quickly here!


  • High glycemic index foods have more availability of glucose, and could produce a higher rate of glycogen synthesis. But, focus on what you have available, what you like and make sure you eat enough.
  • To replenish sodium/potassium, commercially available sports drinks can often provide an adequate amount. There are some sports drink that provide more electrolytes than others.
  • Other drinks that have been commonly consumed are milk (low fat) and coconut water.
  • Since our goal is to provide carbohydrate and electrolyte replenishment post exercise, having a drink that provides carbohydrates, plus electrolytes can be key. In addition, adding carbs to a drink will slow the rate of gastric emptying, arrive at the intestines more slowly and slow the plasma volume recovery and not cause a decrease in sodium volume.
  • Lastly, if drinking water is your best option, then you can take in carbs plus electrolytes by eating a full meal. This can be achieved by taking in water in the same amount of a sports drink (16-20oz per lb lost) and eating a meal higher in electrolytes. Think things like soups or chili. Or, add an electrolyte tablet to your plain water as well.


  • Generally, males and females store muscle glycogen very similarly. The only difference is seen during a females menstrual cycle. Even then, it’s very slight.
  • Both males and females can be heavy sweaters, or be lighter sweaters. Figure out your sweat rate and how much you’ve lost during exercise, then go from there.

Alcohol and Misc:

  • As you can imagine, there are ethics guidelines to performing studies with athletes and alcohol. The generally accepted amount (for this study at least) was 12 drinks in an 8 hour period. What it showed was:
  1. There was a high rate of variability in the effect of alcohol
  2. Drinking alcohol can impair the storage of carbohydrate, but as long as you are consuming the proper carbohydrates in a 24 hour period, you will be able to catch up on your glycogen storage
  3. The best guideline for drinking alcohol after exercise is, to refuel first, then consume your alcoholic beverage.
  • There were some studies done looking at things that promoted better glycogen storage. Some are impractical, others, more realistic, depending on your sport.
  1. High doses of caffeine
  2. Prior creatine loading
  3. High molecular weight glucose polymers
  4. Protein- when not consuming enough carbs (1g/kg), taking in protein can enhance glycogen storage by stimulating insulin

A few weeks ago I spoke on the importance of protein/Lucine post exercise. In addition to 20-25g of protein, take in 1g/kg of carbohydrates in the hours post exercise (2 hours or less). In addition, consume enough fluid with electrolytes to replenish what was lost in your sweat.

Here’s to happy and fast recovering!



No Pasta Zucchini Noodle Lasagna

March is my birthday month, and it always snows in March. At least while I’ve lived on the East coast. I do believe one year in Oregon it snowed as well, but mostly just rain. Hopefully spring is soon on the way, but I’m one of those people that truly doesn’t mind the snow. I was a bit worried as I had a nutrition clinic at Cutter’s Bike shop in Bethlehem, PA, and I was concerned with driving and if people would come.

Nothing to be concerned with, I arrived safely and we had a great group of triathletes/cyclists. My clinic went nearly 2 hours! I have to give a shout out to the Bethlehem/Allentown area. There are some great bike shops and run shops there, plus the homes of Bicycling Magazine and Runner’s World. Also, a world class velodrome and some fantastic trails and roads for endurance athletes. I could see us living in that area and being very happy there.

On to the lasagna. I love lasagna, and being Italian, it’s in my blood. Ever searching to make a healthier lasagna, and a low carb version for injured athletes, here’s my latest version. I think it came out pretty well. When I first told Brett I was making lasagna, it was “great.” Then it was, “wait, where the noodles, I’m not that hungry” and finally “you’re putting sausage in it, maybe i’ll have some after all.”


Zucchini Noodle Lasagna

Lasagna doesn’t have to be too time intensive. It can be, but if you’re a busy working mother or father (dogs count), sometimes you can’t make it with all things from scratch. To save time, I used a jar sauce. And here’s a trick….If you want to hide some of the vegetable taste of the zucchini noodles (that’s going to be your noodles), then a good tasting sauce is key. Brett and I like spicy red sauce, so I used an arrabbiata sauce. Arrabbiata means angry in Italian. The angry part of the sauce comes from the red pepper added.

The main ingredients in this lasagna are vegetables, red sauce, lean Italian chicken sausage, fat free cottage cheese and 2% mozzarella cheese. Yes it does have a bit of saturated fat from the chicken sausage and 2% cheese, but if you’re looking for a healthier, lower carb, gluten free comfort cooking meal on these snowy days, check out this recipe. You can also make this totally vegetarian by just not including the meat. I would up the veggies by an additional 2 cups though. The hardest part is chopping the veggies and waiting the 60min to eat. Here’s my recipe.


Zucchini Noodle Lasagna (Serves 8)

  • 4 Zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • salt
  • 1 lb lean ground beef, turkey, chicken or sausage (I used chicken sausage)
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 green or red pepper diced
  • 2 cups of sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups of spinach (I buy a big tub of spinach and just reach in and grab two very large handfuls, I don’t measure spinach)
  • 1 jar of red pasta sauce, divided, your choice-I used arrabbiata
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 cups of fat free cottage cheese
  • .5 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups of 2% mozzarella cheese
  • spices to taste (more garlic, oregano, basil, pepper)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil, and gently place zucchini slices on the pan. Sprinkle with a little salt and bake for 10min in preheated oven.
  3. After 10min, let the zucchini cool and blot the zucchini with a paper towel. This will help to absorb some of the liquid given off from the zucchini
  4. Meanwhile, saute your meat/sausage until brown. Take off any additional fat from the pan. Add the garlic, onion and pepper and cook for 5-8min. Then, add the mushrooms and spinach and cook an additional 3-5 min until all the veggies are cooked and soft. Drain any water that may be in the pan.
  5. Take your 9×13 pan and add 1 cup of pasta sauce to the bottom to coat it. Reserve 1 cup of pasta sauce for later use as the last layer of the lasagna. Add the remaining pasta sauce to the meat and veggie mixture. Let this sit while you work on the cheese.
  6. Mix the cottage cheese, parmesan cheese and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese together. Add your egg and any additional spices. Mix gently.
  7. You will have 3 layers of zucchini acting as macaroni and you’ll need 2 layers of meat/veggie/sauce and 2 layers of cheese. Layer your first layer of zucchini in the pan. Top with meat/veggie/sauce mixture. Top with cheese mixture and spread evenly out. Repeat with zucchini, meat, and cheese. Finally, your third layer of zucchini will go on top.
  8. Use the additional 1 cup of pasta sauce to spread evenly over the last layer of zucchini. Sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella.
  9. Cover with foil and bake 45min.
  10. Uncover and back an additional 15 min. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  11. Enjoy!

Nutrition per serving:

  • 356kcal
  • 24g carbohydrate
  • 16g fat
  • 30g protein
  • 5g fiber




Irish Beef Stew with Stout Beer

Under Armour's Boardwalk

Under Armour’s Boardwalk

Domino Sugar's Molasses Tanks

Domino Sugar’s Molasses Tanks

Yesterday was St.Patrick’s Day, and look at Under Armour, it’s covered in snow. We actually got 5-6 inches of snow! On March 17th!!!! I love the tanks in the right picture, those are actually molasses tanks from Domino Sugar. And they’re painted with Michael Phelps, Cal Ripkin JR and Ray Lewis, three Baltimore sports stars. When you’re walking by the tanks you’ll get this delicious smell of molasses.  We love to walk along the harbor here as the Under Armour complex and the harbor view is beautiful. Even in the snow. Because it was St. Patrick’s Day and it was snowy, Brett requested beef stew.

And what better way to make beef stew than with a nice stout beer like Guinness. Beef stew has many good qualities including being chuck full of vegetables and having lean beef providing protein, B vitamins and iron. That being said, this stew is higher in saturated fat and calories then we normally eat. But, it’s a holiday and everything in moderation. If  you see my picture below, I like my stew’s chunky. Feel free to chop your veggies smaller. Also, Brett requested to have mashed potatoes with his stew. So, what I did was take 4 russet mashed potatoes and use just a little butter to make mashed potatoes. This stew is good on it’s own as well. Here’s my recipe for my Irish stew.


Irish Beef Stew with Stout Beer (8 servings)

  • 2 lbs of lean beef but into 1 inch cubes-you can use less meat as well, just up the veggies
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4c of flour
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2-1 can of Guinness or other stout beer
  • 1 lb carrots chopped into large chunks
  • 4 stalks of celery chopped into large chunks
  • 1 lb of mushrooms chopped into large chunks
  • 6-7 small red potatoes chopped into large chunks
  • Low sodium beef broth
  • Thyme, and additional pepper
  1. Place beef chunks in a large ziplock bag with flour, salt and pepper. Shake the bag until the meat is coated with flour.
  2. Heat a deep pot over medium to medium high heat. Swirl olive oil once around the pan. Add the beef and brown on all sides. You can do this in stages if there is too much meat for the pan.
  3. Add the onion and garlic. Stir in tomato paste until the meat and veggies are coated with paste. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Pour in your stout beer and scrape the bottom and the sides of the pot. The meat has a tendency to stick a little so adding the beer will help to release the yummy bits.
  5. Cook the meat mixture for 1 hour over medium to low heat making sure it doesn’t stick.
  6. Add celery, carrots, mushrooms and red potatoes to the pot. Add around 1 cup of beef broth, or until there is just enough liquid to cover the meat and veggies. Cook an additional 1 hour until the meat is tender and vegetables are cooked.
  7. Add thyme and black pepper


  • 400kcal
  • 37g carbohydrate
  • 13g fat
  • 30g protein
  • 5g fiber

Do’s and Don’ts of Expos and Finish Line Areas


With my first full week of a large running race/expo of the year over, I wanted to share my experiences and give some do’s and don’ts of race expo’s and finish line festivals. I might write another blog about the do’s and don’ts of taper or race week, but today is about the expo and finish line festival. That being said, this is fresh in my mind and might contain things that slightly resemble a rant, but there are serious points too. This week/weekend was the DC Rock n Roll marathon/half marathon and 5k. Last year there were 25-30,000 runners but this year there were around 21,000. It was actually a pretty noticeable difference from a vendor perspective.

As a nutrition tech rep I participate in most the large marathon, triathlons, cycling races and even some swims in the Mid-Atlantic. It’s pretty fun and I love my job. March is the kick-off for marathons here in the Mid-Atlantic and race season really goes until November/early December. Some large races (Rock n Roll and IM are two) have large expos, and other small races have small expos or no expo at all. I like working expos as it’s a great time to interact with racers, show new product and get feedback and just be surrounded by enthusiastic athletes doing what you and they love. Sometimes though, there some things that aren’t great. And I want to warn you of them.

And here they are….

PreRace Expo:


  1. Sip on a water bottle or diluted sports drink, especially if it is going to be hot and humid. This is not the time to get dehydrated.
  2. Go ahead and check out the new items on the market. The cool thing about expos is that generally a rep is available to give you one-on-one attention and answer your questions. This can be good if you have questions and aren’t sure who to ask.
  3. Move quickly and efficiently through the expo. Take time to get your packet/bib, pick up any items you may have forgotten to bring from home, however don’t spend all day at the expo. 2 hours and less is a good idea.
  4. Wear comfy shoes to the expo so your feet and legs aren’t tired.
  5. Go early in the expo, or early in the day. You’ll get more time with reps, less lines and less stress.
  6. Take a look at the race course or drive the race course if possible. RnR’s always have very large maps of the course so you can see the exact course. The other cool thing is Geico is currently sponsoring the race and they do an accelerated drive-though. In a few minutes, the Geico screens will show you the entire course on their TV. Also, especially for triathlons, pre-driving the course is a great idea to preview the course and plan your plan of action.
  7. Take advantage of race day expo pricing. A lot of vendors give expo discounts and they are great. For example, say a nutrition product is normally $3 and they are 6 to a box. So, $18/box. Expo pricing might only be $10/box. What a steal!
  8. Give respect to vendors and don’t just take their free product and walk away. Vendors are there to promote their products. Yes, they have free things they are giving away, but give them a chance to talk about the product. This is not really about nutrition vendors, although we like to hear from you too.


  1. Sample everything if your race the next day is an “A” race and nutrition has a tendency to upset your stomach. Pick a few choices and give them a shot. If you take one of each thing each nutrition company is sampling you could take in a thousand calories and not realize it. Or you could eat something that doesn’t agree with your stomach. If it’s not your “A” race, it’s not as big a deal.
  2. Buy new shoes or new clothes for race day. Yes, take advantage of the discounts, race day promo gear, and asking reps questions, but don’t wear them the next day, you’re asking for trouble.
  3. Spend hours on your feet, only spend an hour or two at the expo. That’s enough time to do everything but not long enough to make you more tired.
  4. Hear what others might be doing or eating the night before or the day of and change things. Just stick to your nutrition plan. Practice your nutrition plan prior to race day as well.
  5. Ask the nutrition vendors what you should eat race day, you should know what you are already eating prior to race day. It’s ok to ask for recommendations on what to eat next time, or if you have any specific problems with nutrition. This is a great time to ask these questions.
  6. Don’t ask which flavor is the best. We get this question quite a bit and it’s very hard to answer as everyone has different tastes. For example if I say “peanut butter chocolate” and you hate peanut butter, it’s not a good choice for you, but good for others. A better question is whats the most popular instead. That way you’re still finding out what might be “good” but it’s a more direct question.
  7. Exclaim loudly that you hate anyone’s products whether it be ours or another. This is just rude to the vendors. I thank you for offering your love of our products, but not at the expense of being rude to others. And if you have criticism, please let me quietly know, I can pass it on.
  8. Put any food in your mouth and then ask what’s in it. If you have an allergy or intolerance, ask before you taste. We most likely know, or will check for you. And better yet, check packaging. One time I had someone eat something that might not be considered to have peanuts in it. After someone ate a bar, they then asked about peanuts. And yes, we had peanuts in them. Thankfully they spit it out.
  9. Ask for full size samples when we are cutting things into pieces. We don’t have enough for everyone to have one full size. And often people think we will have product left over at the end of an expo. As vendors, we have other expos and we transport them to the next one, we don’t “need” to get rid of them as people often think.

Post race food area/vendor area:

Set up pre race


  1. Grab water and other food even if you aren’t hungry/thirsty right at that moment. Often you don’t feel like wolfing down your bagel, but 30-60min post run, you’ll be hungry. Plus you need to fill up with carbs/protein and re-hydrate.
  2. Thank the volunteers. I am not a volunteer, I get paid to work at events. Saying thank you is nice, but it’s the others that are there from 6am-2pm (or longer) and are volunteering that appreciate thanks. Also, this applies to race course volunteers.
  3. Share and be courteous post race. Volunteers and workers are here to help you, not be mean or jerks. So if they say, “keep moving down the finishing chute,” they are just trying to keep the flow of traffic moving nicely.


  1. Be rude to volunteers or others working
  2. We know you’ve had a hard race and we commend you, but please don’t give us attitude or throw things at us. Here is what I mean. Everyone deserves to get nutrition post race. We rarely have enough for every athlete to have more than one. So, if there are bars on the table and we ask you to just take one, it’s to make sure that the runners behind you have product available to them as well. Don’t think we are doing this because we are mean, or that we don’t think you deserve more. Just please take one, there is usually other things to eat. If we see you take 4 and we ask you to put them back, there is a reason. If everyone took 4, there wouldn’t be enough for later finishers. If you don’t agree with our decision, please don’t throw the product back at us. It isn’t nice and we are just trying to be considerate of others.

Ok, the last two don’ts are a bit of a rant. It really upsets me when athletes think that they are entitled to take more products then we have. If at the end of the race there is extra, then it’s ok to have more. But until everyone gets something, how is that fair for the later finishers? And since they were out there longer, they might need the nutrition more than early finishers. Plus, I don’t think athletes realize that we pay to be at the expo, plus we give away quite a bit of product. Yes, you paid for your race entry, but we paid too. But let me also say that there are a vast majority of very gracious athletes.

Until I worked on this end of the race expo and finish line area, I didn’t realize how things worked. I have been guilty of eating too many things, walking around too long and letting the stress of the expo effect me. Live and learn right? The takeaway from this post is that when dealing with others at races and expos, be respectful and kind.  Hopefully the rest of the tips will help you out in some way as well!

PRP Lysate and the 5 Stages of Grief

I identify myself as an athlete, but for the past year I haven’t been able to (Don’t worry, I identify in other ways too). Every time someone asked “what’s wrong” or “why can’t you workout,” I had to give the frustrating “I’m injured.” And that would start the questions and people feeling sorry for me, or giving advice. And while it was all well-meaning, and I appreciate the kind words, nothing really helped. In fact, not talking about it actually helped. Maybe that’s not psychologically healthy, but it’s one way that I’ve gotten through the past year+. And I want to make another confession as I feel like I’ve been put through the wringer several times with this injury and felt like I might lose it. As a coach, I am so excited for my athletes to race well and do well. But over the past year, it’s been very hard to hear other people, not my athletes constantly talking about their races, PR’s, great training workouts, or the worst, having a slight injury that takes them out several weeks. Put it in perspective, a few weeks isn’t a lot! At the time it’s scary, heart wrenching and you don’t know what’s going to happen, but take a deep breath and stay positive. Things will work out.

I realized I was being petty if I de-friended people, but honestly, it can be overwhelming painful to hear day in and day out about others fantastic season and training. And I think that means I’m fallible, and human. I would never wish this on anyone else, but if you’ve ever felt these feelings, I hear you.

If you’ve ever had an injury, I think you can understand that when you take away a huge part of your life, it’s like a huge hole cut out of yourself. During the past year I’ve gone through the 5 stages of grief several times. You might think in the grand scheme of things that an athlete being injured isn’t a big deal, and you’re right. It really isn’t. There are horrific things in the world, but let me tell you that athletes can and do experience grief. The 5 stages are

  1. Denial and Isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

And I’ve seen them all, but until I met Dr. Victor Ibrahim, I didn’t hit the 5th stage. When you’re injured keep reaching out to doctors until you find one that you trust, that listens to you and that doesn’t make you feel like you are crazy. And that goes the same with other things in your life, don’t settle until you are comfortable. Until Dr. Victor, no one could give me a definite answer to what was wrong. So how can you accept something you don’t know. Once we realized that I had a torn hamstring with a sciatic nerve fused to the hamstring, I was able to accept my injury and we started a series of PRP injections and neural dissections. That was 5 injections ago and I had one more today. Hopefully this one does the trick! My percent healing felt like this:

#1-no noticeable difference

#2-30% better

#3-50% better

#4- 85% better

#5-90% better

#6- Here’s to 100% better!

Normally it takes 3 PRP injections, unfortunately I also had the nerve issue, so I required a bit more effort.

Getting prepped for my injection. These gowns are stunning.

Getting prepped for my injection. These gowns are stunning.

I will speak very highly of Dr. Victor here  and if you are in the Mid-Atlantic and can’t figure out what is wrong, go see him. Besides being a fantastic medical doctor, he knows how to instil calm into you, teach you patience and keep your spirit positive. If your injury continues, he’ll keep at it until he’s figured it out and helped you. Normally I am very positive, but I had been feeling beat down. But, being positive is a huge part of your recovery. You must try to be positive because your body and mind are connected. I’m not an expert, I just believe that in my heart.

So what was this 6th injection I had? It is called PRP Lysate and is a bit different from just a PRP injection.

PRP Lysate is an even newer procedure than PRP. There isn’t a lot of information out there about it, but here is my explanation of it. Like PRP, your blood is drawn. Then, it is centrifuged to draw out the white blood cells. The platelets are broken down/fragmented and then there is an enzyme added. It is then injected into the injured area and helps to break up the scar tissue.

Dr. Ibrahim injecting the lysate into my hamstring using ultrasound guided imagery

Dr. Ibrahim injecting the lysate into my hamstring using ultrasound guided imagery

Look into the center of the screen, it looks like a black boot. The toe of the boot is the lysate going in

Look into the center of the screen, it looks like a black boot. The toe of the boot is the lysate going in

The other really cool thing about today’s injection is that Dr. Victor just got a new ultrasound machine. I’m not a connoisseur of ultrasound machines, but the Hitachi Noblus is the creme of the crop of ultrasound machines. It’s not even on the market yet. The way that I think of it is, you can get a normal MRI. Or, if you need a higher resolution MRI for clearer pictures with a 3T MRI. This machine even allowed him to see my sciatic nerve pulsing which for those of us science geeks, is fascinating. Here is a shot of the machine.

The Hitachi Noblus

The Hitachi Noblus, the wonder machine!

So, after this afternoon’s injection there are only positive thoughts. Soon I will be back to working out, I will be able to run/jump and be back to the athlete I once was. Maybe even better due to the fact that I am so appreciative of my body and that I may not always have the ability to train. So, bring on the Facebook posts or your mega runs, killer bike workouts or even your fantastic winter snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I’ll be back, slowly but surely. And Dr. Victor’s office moved to a new location. I took a picture of their office sign as I am terrible with names. Their office is in the middle of Capital Hill, and we even had a view of the Capital. Walking around the “hill” after was great. Unfortunately it wasn’t very far, but still a beautiful day, and a positive attitude for the future.

Neuromuscular Activation and Dynamic Stretching

Happy Daylight Savings! I’m kind of kidding here. I look forward to “springing forward,” but it also seems to mess things up for a few days. But in a day or two, your body is back to normal. Flying across country East Coast to West Coast and West Coast to East Coast is definitely a bit tougher on your body. Maybe I’ll do a post on how to best survive jet lag, especially from a destination race standpoint. But today I want to touch on Neuromuscular Activation (NMA) and Dynamic Stretching.

So what are neuromuscular activation and dynamic stretching?

Neuromuscular Activation (NMA):

* I copied and pasted this from one of my word documents and I can’t seem to get the font exactly correct on this

  • The communication between the nervous system and the muscular system, or the neural recruitment of muscle groups in a sequential order that is key to injury prevention and optimal performance
  • By replicating the same movement pattern as the activity you are about to engage in, you are priming yourself for exercise.
  • Specific movement patterns leads to greater amounts of force and power produced
  • Move from easier exercises to more complex exercises-spend 5 min on NMA prior to exercise
  • You’ll want to do 2-3 sets of each exercise of at least 10sec each

Dynamic Stretching:

  • Is stretching with movement of the muscles and the joints in the specific manner in which you are about to engage in exercise vs static stretching which is where you bring a muscle to its end point and hold it in a stretch for 20+ seconds.
  • Increases range of motion, blood and oxygen flow to the muscles
  • 20-60 sec per exercise
  • Do not use jerky movements or stretch beyond what your body wants to move in though

What’s wrong with Static Stretching and should you ever do it?

Static stretching has been found to decrease power and force if done before exercise and it has been shown to promote instability at the joint. This in turn can lead to injury. That sounds scary, but it still has benefits post exercise. After you’ve finished a workout, static stretching will help to lengthen your muscles (that were tightened during exercise) and even improve balance and relief stress.

Without realizing it, I started doing nma and dynamic stretching while growing up swimming. For the swimmers out there, remember arm circles, using swim bands prior to practice or meets or even the vasa trainer. I personally think that these can help any exercise that you participate in, but in a sport like running where there are so many injuries, I would say to try these prior to running. Since I still have a torn hamstring/injured sciatic nerve, I recruited my husband to be the demonstrator for me. Thank you Brett! We went to the park down the road to do both nma and dynamic stretching, in the order that I would like runners to go in, and with pretty good form 🙂

NMA #1, Balance and Hip/Glue engagement

NMA #1, Balance and Hip/Glute engagement


High Knees/Skipping

NMA #2 High Knees/Skipping

NMA#3, Butt Kicks

NMA#3, Butt Kicks

Dynamic Stretching #1, Front Leg Swings

Dynamic Stretching #1, Front Leg Swings


Dynamic Stretching #2, Side Leg Swings

Dynamic Stretching #2, Side Leg Swings

Dynamic Stretching #3, Soldier kicks with reach

Dynamic Stretching #3, Soldier kicks with reach and calf raise

Dynamic Stretching #4, Walking Lunges

Dynamic Stretching #4, Walking Lunges

Dynaminc Stretching #5, Walking Quad stretch with calf raise

Dynaminc Stretching #5, Walking Quad stretch with calf raise

More specific directions:

1. NMA #1-balance and hip glute engagement. Balance on one leg and lift your leg up to parallel. Hold for 5 seconds, then push the leg back into extension, engage the glute and hold for another 5 seconds.

2. NMA #2-High Knees or Skipping. Walk either lifting up your knees or skip, driving the knees up.

3. NMA #3-Butt kicks. Kick your feet up towards your glutes, engaging your hamstrings, gastrocnemius and glutes.

4. DS #1-Front leg swings-You can hold onto something if you need to, and swing your leg forward and backward engaging the hip flexors and glutes.

5. DS#2-Side leg swings-Crossing your leg in front of your body, kick your leg out to the side, then back across your body

6. DS#3-Soldier kicks-Raise up on your toe to engage your gastroc, and kick your leg forward reaching out with your hand towards your foot.

7. DS#4-Walking lunges-While walking, perform lunges making sure to keep your knees back over your ankle. You can also add a butt kick or and overexagerrated step out to further engage the glutes and hip flexors

8. DS#5-Walking quad stretch with calf raise-Raise up on your toe, and reach back and grab onto your foot/ankle and bring heel up towards your glute. Keep knees in alignment.

You can also youtube or google other NMA and DS. And next time you go out for a run, try these and see how you feel. You might not feel any different right away, but you’ll find you will have better workouts and races over time. You might be embarrassed to these, but please don’t be. Once you realize the benefits, you’ll realize that there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Eating on the Road….Best Choices

When I first took my job at PowerBar, do you know what one of my first thoughts was? Along with “I’m so excited, what an awesome job, and I’m going to miss Brett and Rogue while I travel,” it was “Oh no, how am I not going to gain weight while traveling so much.” For someone who is recovering from an eating disorder, this was a big worry. And surprisingly, it didn’t turn out to be as big of a problem as I thought it might. I often travel 4 days a week sometimes spending 2-3 nights in a hotel, and sometimes I get to be home each night. For those days on the road, it just takes a few steps to ensure you are eating healthy on the road.

photo_3[1]Plan Ahead:

Eating healthy on the road just takes a bit of planning.

  • Bring water and snacks with you that will help you stay on a healthy track. Think veggies like carrots, peppers, cucumbers, fruit like apples, oranges, pears or a banana. Also, remember a bit of fat and protein, try nuts or a 2% mozzarella string cheese. Bring a cooler if you need to, to keep things cold and fresh.
  • If you’ve been to where you are traveling before you’ll know which restaurants or eatery’s you’ll be close to. If you’re traveling to a location you haven’t been to before, do a bit of homework and see if there is something you could eat. If not, bring a cooler and throw in lots of healthy choices.
  • If staying at a hotel, chose one that has healthy breakfast choices, plus a good workout area. Skipping breakfast isn’t a good idea, plus it will get you off on the right foot. My hotel choices are generally Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn and both have oatmeal (with no sugar added unless you do), eggs (scrambled and hard boiled), fresh fruit and yogurt. All good choices.
  • Know your weaknesses. Occasionally I stay at the Hilton Double Tree, and they want to give you these delicious warm chocolate chip cookies every time you walk in. Those cookies are in the 300 calorie range and that can add up quickly. If I’m craving chocolate and I don’t have any dark chocolate with me (poor planning) then a lot of hotels have sugar free hot chocolate packets. Those work to curb the craving for delicious cookies.

Where to Eat:

There are so many choices for eating while on the road. You have high class restaurants, chain restaurants, fast food restaurants and grocery stores. Don’t laugh, grocery stores are the BEST!

  • My absolute favorite place to eat while on the road is a good grocery store. To me these include Wegmans, Whole Foods, Farm Fresh, Harris Teeter and even Giant. Places that have fresh vegetables and healthy prepared foods are awesome because there are so many different vegetables, hot and cold salads, etc. Yes, you can definitely go astray eating at a salad bar, but if you bypass the bad stuff, you’ll have a fantastic meal.
  • If you’re headed to a remote area (I’ve been there for a few races), there usually tends to be a Subway around. If your choices are McDonalds, convenience store food or Subway, go to Subway. At Subway you can make a salad or chose a whole wheat veggie/lean meat sandwich. And pile on the veggies. Their salads are actually pretty good.
  • When you’re with a group and they chose a restaurant that isn’t exactly what you were thinking, it’s ok. Go, and have fun, you’ll be able to find something. Most restaurants have a good variety of salads (just watch the dressing and anything fried) vegetable broth based soups and grilled vegetables, meat or fish. Just ask for no butter, and ask for grilled veggies or a salad for a side. Some restaurants even have calories listed by each entrée, this is very helpful.
  • If you’re on a long drive and you need a snack, or need to get gas, there are some good choices at the  7 Eleven. You can usually find trail mix, mixed nuts and even fruit.

Don’t be nervous that you’ll fall off your training nutrition bandwagon when you travel, just plan ahead and look for healthy choices and you’ll be fine.

To Rest or not to Rest?

Old man winter seems to have struck again, at least in the Mid-Atlantic. We are in the midst of snowstorm 5 for the winter. Normally this area might get hit once, but this year has been pretty rough. Admittedly, I love the snow, so I don’t mind. And I work from home if I can’t get and drive, which is nice. But along with the winter storms, comes winter colds/viruses, the flu, and other not fun ailments. When you put a type A athlete together with a virus, things don’t usually mesh. Along those same lines, when you put an athlete together with a little nagging pain, it’s not good either.

So, how do you know when to say “I’m good to go and exercise,” or it’s time to give it a rest? It’s hard to know what to do, and it’s even harder to actually do it. Especially when the answer is rest. There is no cold hard science for this either, it’s a combination of knowing yourself, trusting yourself or your coach and what has worked in the past. I’m also not a doctor, so go to the doctor if you need to. And sometimes you will need antibiotics, which will help you to get better faster and can only be gotten through a doctor’s prescription. Or possibly, you’ll need orthotics, a PRP injection or even surgery.

For Colds/Viruses/Bacterial Infections:

  • My rule is, if the illness is at the throat or above, you can exercise. If it’s below the throat, you have to rest
  • If you have a fever, you have to rest. A fever means your body is fighting something, and if you push your body to exercise while it is already fighting an infection, it has to work harder.
  • The exercise must be done at an easier level, as long as it is tolerable and you feel ok. Stop if you don’t. This is not the time where if you keep pushing, you’ll start to feel better. In fact, it’s the opposite.
  • Viral infections can’t be treated with antibiotics, so you just have to let them run their course. Most times you are looking at 5-10 days to feel better. However I’ve known people to be sick for 2 weeks, up to a few months (with mononucleosis).
  • Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. Most people are also looking at the 5-10 day range.
  • Once you are sick, you usually need at least double that time to feel back to normal. So, if you are sick for 5 days, it can take 10 days till you feel like you are back to your normal workouts and intensities. And it’s not a case of, you just aren’t working hard enough, your body went through a lot and it takes time to heal
  • So, if you want to get better faster, rest, rest and rest. With plenty of sleep and liquids. Don’t prolong being sick, just to squeeze out another workout. Working out sick will not improve your fitness.

A good example of this is with my husband Brett. A few days ago he came home from school saying he didn’t feel well. Typical head cold symptoms of dizziness, headache, congested nose, etc. I told him to rest on the couch, and made him some cocoa. Cocoa makes everything better right? The next day, he said he was feeling better and decided to go running with a group in Baltimore. I suggested he rest. He went to the group run and enjoyed a free beer after. He came back and within an hour said “I feel worse.” So long story short, he was sick for another few days, with two days of not being able to leave the couch. Could he have gotten better sooner if he just rested? Probably, but I can’t be sure.

Nagging pain/Sudden onset of pain/Flaring of an old injury:

  • I’m a conservative coach. This means, if you have any of the above, it’s time to stop. The worst thing that can happen is if you decide to push through a pain and you make it worse.
  • If it’s a nagging pain, it’s time to stop doing the things that cause the pain. Rest from doing the exercise until it’s gone away, then slowly continue from there.
  • If it’s a sudden onset of pain, stop right away and think A. Did I just pull/tear something or B. Did I just step on something weird, am I wearing a new pair of shoes, etc. Depending on your analysis, it’s most likely, stop what you’re doing, and depending on your body, slowly start again to see if the pain is still there, or just stop. Sometimes you’ll get a sudden pain, then it will go away 10sec later and never come back. You have to analyze and see what happens.
  • If after taking an NSAID, resting, icing, compression (RICE) doesn’t seem to relieve it, seek help from a PT, chiro, massage therapist.
  • If you’ve flared up an old injury, same thing. RICE, plus an NSAID. Then, seek help from a specialist or slowly start to build to see if resting was enough.

The worst thing that you can do if you have injured yourself, re-injured yourself, or just pushed through pain, is cause further damage. There is a time to push through pain and a time to stop. You have to learn what types of pain are good, and what types of pain are bad. Sometimes it’s not easy to tell, other times it’s not. When you’ve got leg burning pain while running uphill, this is good pain. When you have a sudden sharp pain in your hamstring while running uphill, this is not.

In addition, coming back to soon after injury can be just as bad. It is so tempting to want to come back. You think,
“I’m losing my fitness, I’m gaining weight, I’m being a baby, I’m not tough enough,” etc. You have to put your ego aside, and let you body heal. In my case, I wonder what I could have done differently with my hamstring.

I injured it cycling, and I immediately stopped. I took an NSAID, iced and sought help from a PT. They said I had strained it and to rest it for a week or two. I did just that, plus I bought a thigh compression sleeve. I had a big race coming up and wanted to be ready. After a few weeks, the pain was better, but not gone. They said as long as there was no severe pain, I could continue my training, and I did. Unfortunately, I should have done something differently. Whether that be ask for a second opinion, get an MRI, not do my race, etc. I’ll never know. But I thought I did the right thing, and even though I did, or I thought I did, it didn’t heal. In fact, what started off as a strain might have turned into a tear. Or possibly I had torn it from the beginning. I’ll never know. But what I do know is, nothing is more important than finding out the cause of the pain. As I coach, I’ve seen a lot of injuries. But, I’m not qualified to diagnose. So, if you have an injury, I’ll send you to a PT to get things checked out. I’d rather we nip something in the butt, then let something drag on and get worse.

This might make me conservative, but I’d rather you get checked out then injure yourself further. In fact, a word I like is Prehab. Prehab is when you seek out a specialist before you get injured. Most runners and triathletes have a weak area. This area is most commonly the glutes. We don’t use our hip stabilizers enough, and this can cause weak glutes. This is just one common weakness. But, going to a PT for an assessment, prior to starting a endurance program can be a great idea, and cause less heartache down the road.

So, before you push through an illness or pain, think about what the consequences might be. It’s often better to rest, then it is to push through. Everyone knows endurance athletes are very tough, both mentally and physically. This is not the time to prove it.