Try focusing on foods with fewer than 5 ingredients, this will ensure foods are not processed and full of additives and artificial ingredients. A rule of thumb; If it can be plucked, hunted, fished picked or had a mom, eat it! It’s that simple, this way you wont be consuming any processed foods, its eating clean foods in their truest, most natural form. When reading ingredient lists on a package, ask yourself if you would find each ingredient by itself on a store shelf or in your kitchen. If the answer is no, back away. Opt for foods that are rich in nutrients and not empty calories. You will be surprised on how much better you feel after eating clean for a few days! Have fun with this one, and you will be surprised on how much money you actually save, clean eating doesn’t have to be expensive.more
Dave Marks, LCPC
When have we mindfully meditated enough? When will we find peace with what is on our minds? When have we observed what worries us long enough? After meditating and trying to be mindful of what I really feel, why do I still feel down?
These are questions that I frequently hear and have heard in this past week. The truth is that practicing mindfulness doesn't mean that we no longer will feel down, or feel "bad" feelings. Some life situations are just that big. So, in a way there's no real end point that we can know.
But, as we practice we become more aware of what we really do feel, and we stop spending energy to avoid those feelings and can begin to accept what we feel. In many cases, we will then feel much better.
I know that once I turn towards what I really feel, I find that I can accept what there is to accept and move forward in whatever way that is. There's a peace that comes from this.
Honestly, this has surprised me as some of what I've accepted in my life wasn't according to the "script" that I have in my mind, it wasn't something that I wanted....more
Dave Marks, LCPC
I was asked by one person, what exactly is it that we're supposed to do to be mindful? What is it that's supposed to happen? The question is one that I so relate to and so reflects how most of us are in the modern world. We live in a world where we are used to doing things, used to making things happen. Yet, we're not so used to letting things be, to letting them develop or come to us.
Even the best, most popular, writers that I know don't say what to do, how to make things happen. They say that when we consistently focus on our breathing, mindfulness will naturally arise. But for someone still very much starting to learn to be mindful that can be frustrating as it doesn't tell us what to do. It's passive and I'm used to taking control! To doing! Hmmm...here's something different already.
Early on, I too wondered about what to do to be mindful. Honestly, the doing part is to witness our breathing, our thoughts. To notice. To observe.
Mindfulness does come, the well known writers are right, and as it does we develop a new way of relating to ourselves and the...more
Need to detox from sugar? Sugar binges happen to the best of us. Birthdays, holidays, Halloween… heck, even just a stressful day can throw you off your clean-eating game into a spiral of candy and sugary treats. Sugar lights up your brain’s reward centers like a Christmas tree, which feels great…until the next day, when the sugar runs out and withdrawal settles in. Sugar hits all the same brain regions that addictive drugs do, and while it’s melodramatic to compare sugar to cigarettes or cocaine, you’ll still have to deal with pretty heavy cravings while your body gets itself back into balance.
Refined carbs like sugar cause systemic inflammation, that taxes your energy production in two ways. First, sugar impairs your mitochondria, so your body makes less fuel overall. Second, your cells have to spend a lot of their energy dealing with the stress of low-grade inflammation — the result of too much sugar — meaning you have less energy to put toward living your life. Sugar also causes a sharp decline in testosterone, which makes you feel lethargic. Be ready to weather a...more
By Robbie Ventura, VQ Founder
I love the holidays for many reasons, but the biggest and best reason is the realization of how many special relationships and connections we have. At this time of year, these relationships and connections take priority over focusing on fitness or working on building the business.
For me, the holidays allow time to refocus on the importance of family and friends while providing the right atmosphere for reflection. Right or wrong, this is how I am and I am sure many of you feel the same about this time of year. Sure, it’s busy and we want to get things done so we can enjoy our free time a bit more. At the same time, the stress of business and productivity is reduced for at least a little while. Please make sure that you embrace this time and allow yourself to ease up on the "training regimes." Give yourself permission to lose a little fitness if it means you gain quality time with people you love.
The best way to prepare for this is to get a little ahead when the opportunity presents itself and bag some bigger days while the gettin’ is good. Often times there is a calm...more
Dave Marks, LCPC
How has the breathing practice gone for you? Are you practicing becoming mindful of your breathing? Of how you walk, of how you eat, or even of how you hold a pencil? Are you practicing witnessing your thoughts and returning to your breathing? Are you practicing daily?
A friend I bike with complained that she was having trouble with foot cramps. I asked her to notice if she tightened her foot when biking. She found that she was and said that she has never noticed this before. We miss so much of what's really going on in our lives.
As you do mindful practice, you will experience fleeting moments of relaxation. Moments when the mind may be quiet or still for a moment. Keep going, with time these moments will grow. You will become better too at merely witnessing moments in your life rather than experiencing the heart ache, stress and worry that so many of us feel today.
There is so much that we do in our lives without really noticing it. Learning to be aware, to be present offers us so much.
As we cut through our self-deception, we start to encounter feelings...more
Melissa Bowman, MS, RD
Your challenge this week is to focus on recovery nutrition.
What do you think is the most crucial time of a training session? Is it the first few minutes, the very end, the warm-up, or somewhere in the middle of your workout that is the most important? It may surprise you to know the most important time is the 30 minutes directly after your workout is finished. The time from your warm-up to the conclusion of your workout is obviously important. Improper form, too low an intensity, too high an intensity, unsafe behavior, and other factors can ruin the effectiveness of a workout. But even if do all of that perfectly, you can still negate the benefits of a workout by not using the 30 minute window following your workout to replenish nutrients lost during your training session.
The latest research on nutrition for endurance exercise points to the following to consider when developing a post recovery nutrition protocol:
1) The “window” of time when nutrition is most effective for recovery
Recover fastest by consuming...more
Research has shown a positive correlation between the increase in digital technology use over the past 20 years and an increase in the average weight. One of the things we know is that the more screen time you use, the more you’re going to weigh. That doesn’t mean that the screen is causing your weight gain. What’s causing your weight gain is the increase in sedentary behavior and the increase of unconscious eating because you’re distracted. So those two key features are happening simultaneously.
If you are worried about your weight, paying more attention to what you eat, not less, could help keep you from overeating. Multitasking—like eating while watching television or working—and distracted or hurried eating can prompt you to eat more. Slowing down and savoring your food can help you control your intake.
Try going on a digital fast, at least during meals this week. To avoid this unhealthy combo, try not to put electronic devices on the table when you eat and keep the TV off. Not only will this help you with weight loss, it can increase...more
Dave Marks, LCPC
Last week I said the simplest thing: "Be in the present". Yet though it is simple it is not actually easy. Not easy at all, and for many of us, we actually try to not be present, not even in our lives.
Distraction is one of the most common themes of our times. Alcohol, food, drugs, t.v., fighting, day-dreaming, shopping, lying to ourselves...the list goes on. All serve to distract us from our immediate experience. Especially from "messy" feelings and emotions. We build these walls basically because we feel our inner heart is too vulnerable.
What makes mindful practice so powerful is that it is a pathway to be present in our lives, now.
Developing our breathing, as we talked about last week, is a key to do this. Our breathing becomes an anchor point for us in the present. One that we can always come back to when we become distracted or caught up in our own script of how life is or is supposed to be.
By doing this we begin to build awareness.
By building awareness this we become observers, we come to find that we can accept the present as it is, our...more
I joined VQ in May 2016, having moved back to Chicago from Minneapolis. I had been a member of a group riding club there and wanted to continue. VQ was recommended to me, so I signed up for a class package online. When I showed up that first Tuesday evening, I immediately knew I had found a good spot for myself. I could sense the camaraderie and felt very welcome right away. This was a group that would help me push myself to improve my skills and stick with it. I switched to a membership a couple weeks later.
I had been athletic and very active in high school and college, but had let it go when I got busy with work, kids, etc. I often complained that I was just too busy to get back into it in any purposeful way. Then I was laid off--or “between jobs” as I preferred to think of it--and had no excuse. I got my hybrid bike off the rack and started riding, feeling very proud of the 5-10 miles I would do on a daily basis. Before I knew it, I was riding 25-30 miles five days a week and loving how it felt. I needed that sense of purpose each day and the feeling of being...more
By Jason Schisler, Director of Coaching
For most athletes, we’re now in the “off-season” timeframe. This part of the year is often characterized by less focused training, a less rigid diet and the accompanying loss in fitness and increase in weight. Many are also procrastinating on the start of their indoor training in the hopes that summer will swing back through for one last blast before we succumb fully to the icy chill of winter.
Robbie has talked in the past about how most working athletes don’t really need time off in the off-season because the load they accumulate over the course of the season just isn’t enough to really require a physiological break. Significant losses in fitness can take place in as little as two weeks without training. In a month, fitness can be reduced 20%, and it’s a very precipitous slide from there on. The further fitness drops, the longer it will take to return to your former glory.
While it may be true that most of us don’t really need a full break, a phenomenon I’ve often observed over the years is that even highly motivated athletes hit a bit of a wall around this time of...more
Dave Marks, LCPC
Over each of the weeks of the Off Season Challenge, I'll be writing thoughts and tips about mindfulness.
While each week will convey a particular skill or aspect of mindfulness, I really want you to think about each skill as being a link in a chain; week by week we'll build the chain. This chain can help you change your performance as an athlete and as a person.
Like most skills, such as swimming or dancing, mindfulness takes time and practice to develop. It becomes stronger and more effective with practice.
If I asked a swim coach what the most important part of becoming a great swimmer is, they would tell me practice, practice and some more practice. Similarly with mindfulness.
So, for our first week, I'll define mindfulness and offer a basic way to start practicing.
Mindfulness is a meditation technique that brings one's attention to the present moment, without judging, denying, solving, etc.
By developing the skill of bringing one's attention to whatever is happening in the present moment, simply observing it, we start to change how our...more
Everyone makes goals. We are told from an early age to set and achieve goals. Some may even be familiar with the saying, “SMART” goals—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. What is poorly understood, however, is how to set process goals, short-term goals and how to create systems that enable them to reach their long-term goals. The problem with outcome, or long-term goals is that they merely provide direction, but do not by themselves lead to actionable steps. In fact, it is quite possible that long-term goals have the opposite of the intended effect on a person’s behavior and motivation. It’s easy to get discouraged when a long-term goal is so far away that it seems nearly impossible to reach. That’s why it’s important to understand the detailed steps involved in helping a person reach their goals.
Before embarking on a life-changing journey, it’s necessary to reflect on WHY you want to do it. Dig deep and take time to reflect on why you want what you want, and how you will get there. Some common goals such as “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to...more
This may be a strange way to start my story and journey with Vision Quest, but it all started after I got hit by a car at the end of a 40-mile solo ride, about a half-mile from my house, on November 8, 2016. The key word there is: solo.
On the day my left leg developed an intimate relationship with the front of a Mercedes C-Class, I had been cycling on and off for about ten years. At the time, my primary focus was running and I competed mostly in 5K and 10K races, sprinkled with some duathlons and one miserable Olympic-distance triathlon. I learned two things from that time: that I am a miserable swimmer and that I love cycling. Slowly but surely, more of my personal time was being dedicated to cycling.
That said, I had no idea what I was doing in terms of training. I ramped up my volume--mostly solo with some group rides peppered in--then got a cadence meter and a crappy little bike computer. I saw some improvements, but after a while I hit a plateau. I didn’t pay much attention to it as I just enjoyed being out on my bike. I love the speed that I...more
Jason Schisler, Director of Coaching
Bikes have gears. They have been around for a long time. They are fantastic! It used to be that you only had a few options, but you were grateful for them. Now, modern bikes may have between 10 and 30 different gearing options (with some overlap), allowing the rider to dial in the preferred speed, cadence and power output.
Have you ever seen another rider, usually--but not always--a recreational rider, slogging away, struggling to make it up some modest incline, while mashing on the pedals and rocking the upper body all over the place in an attempt to find some extra power? Do you then look down and notice the hardest gearing combination? Do you wish you could tell the rider there’s an easier way to get there and all it takes is a flick of the finger or a twist of the wrist?
Although that example is extreme, it draws attention to something that many athletes may not ever give much thought to: the proper cadence for different types of riding. Many riders new to cycling will adopt a relatively low cadence, around 60-70 rpms. Lance Armstrong helped to popularize a higher...more
Robbie Ventura, VQ Founder
As the warmer weather sets in, many of us increase our overall training volume by adding more time to our weekend exercise. This is a good thing for the most part, but we must consider the fatiguing effects of this extra volume and increase the emphasis on recovery. Our weekly routine of cycling intensity and strength work remains the same, but we're adding significantly more hours on the weekend, increasing our volume. This has a big impact on our bodies and energy systems.
One mistake many athletes make is not considering the recovery needs of this extra volume. Even though we have great weather approaching and ideal training conditions, be careful with how quickly you ramp up your weekend activity. Put together a plan that increases slowly over the next three to four weeks. Your body can handle small increases in overall volume, but if you're bound and determined to ride significantly longer after the frustration of bad weather and uncertainty of how long it will stay nice, you may want to cut back some of your weekday training intensity to accommodate for your bigger...more
Not all that long ago, the prevailing opinion in sports science was that you needed to replace 100% of your sweat losses to maintain your performance when exercising.
That would imply that during an Ironman, ultra-running race or long sportive, some athletes should be aiming to drink as much as 64-96oz an hour! That’s a hell of a lot of drinking. In fact, it’s beyond what is physically possible for most people.
The general “drink, drink, drink” marketing messages coming from the sports drink industry in the 1980s/90s has been blamed for driving the worrying increase in cases of hyponatremia (ill health - or even death in extreme cases - caused by the over-consumption of fluid) seen in amateur sports. In fact, a study conducted at Ironman Frankfurt a few years ago found that as many as 10% of finishers had hyponatremia to some extent, which will have impacted their performance at best.
Aiming to replace all of your sweat losses during exercise is unnecessary. In fact, trying to do so could lead to an increased...more
Hyponatremia is a medical term describing low (hypo) blood sodium levels (natremia – Na is the chemical symbol for sodium).
There are a few different causes of the condition, but the one of interest to athletes is when dilution of sodium levels in the blood is driven by excessive drinking. This can be made worse by the loss of sodium in sweat during prolonged exercise.
Data on the prevalence of the condition in Ironman finishers suggests, scarily, that over 10% of athletes have hyponatremia at the end of a race!
Why is hyponatremia bad?
Maintaining blood sodium levels within a healthy range is critical to homeostasis and optimal bodily function. When blood sodium levels drop below this ideal range, initial symptoms can include...
When people talk about hydration, most of the time it's about what and how much athletes should drink during exercise.
These are clearly important questions, but your performance is also massively influenced by how hydrated you are when you start exercising in the first place. Drinking a strong electrolyte drink to optimise your hydration status before long, hot or really hard training sessions and events can significantly improve your performance.
We call this "preloading" and the practice has been widely studied in the last 20 years or so, both with astronauts and athletes. Whilst there's not a completely bulletproof consensus on the subject - there rarely is - there's strong evidence that taking in additional sodium with fluids before you start sweating is effective in promoting increased acute fluid retention and in improving endurance performance, especially in the heat.
Once you begin sweating you're generally going to be fighting a losing battle against fluid and electrolyte loss, so starting off properly hydrated can be extremely beneficial. When you're...more
- Everyone loses a different amount of sodium in their sweat, from as little as 200mg per 32oz of sweat to as much as 2,000mg per 32oz!
- This is largely genetically determined. So, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to hydration just doesn’t work.
- Most sports drinks (Gatorade etc) contain 200-550mg of sodium per 32oz, whereas the average athlete loses about 950mg per 32oz!
- Maintaining the sodium levels in your blood is crucial to performing at your best when you’re sweating for long periods.
- Sodium helps you absorb and retain fluid, which keeps your blood volume up, reducing cardiovascular strain and fatigue.
- It can also help you avoid cramp.
- Just drinking water when you’re sweating over long periods dilutes your sodium levels, which can really impact your performance and could lead to hyponatremia. A recent study found 10% of athletes had hyponatremia at the end of an Ironman!