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Cyclocross Season

It’s that time of year again; the season between summer and winter when bike riding temporarily loses it’s identity. It’s a tricky time of year. The weather can be all over the place, North American road and triathlon races are by and large finished and it’s hard to know what kind of bike you are supposed to ride or whether you are supposed to ride at all.

Your road bike is a bit of a prima donna; it likes warm weather, clean streets and the energy of a good group. Your tri bike is even more of a snob, craving long open stretches of road in the blazing sun, you can’t even think about taking that out in the fall months without serious attitude. Your mountain bike is always eager to go out but it craves the trail networks, some mud and a few decent jumps. Granted the fall months are great for this but what if you just want to get out and do some long consistent riding?

Well there is a solution and it’s the cyclocross bike. Yes it’s totally fine to justify the purchase of yet another bike. If you already have three then why not four? Four is a nice round number if you’re a cyclist. You cover off all your conceivable bases unless of course you live in a city whereby you will probably need to purchase a really cool cruiser bike for those trendy jaunts about town.

Cyclocross has grown significantly in North America over the past few years. A good example is a small weekly race series here in Victoria that started several years ago with attendance around 15 people. Now there are close to 100 people ever week who race around various parks in town as the sun is setting on cool fall evenings.

Cyclocross offers the perfect balance between road riding and mountain biking and is ideal for semi off road adventures. Cross bikes typically take the shape of a normal road bike with a few small tweaks including a higher bottom bracket for greater clearance and tires that literally cross between road and mountain. Similar to a road bike, they are thin but with small treads like a mountain bike.

The main benefits to riding a cross bike at this time of year are numerous. You can access any type of road or bike path or just stay on the road. You won’t be moving as fast as when you are on a road bike so generally cooler conditions don’t affect you as much. Cross bikes generally have more clearance for fenders which is a good thing if you are planning on doing a fair bit on the road in wet conditions. In places like Victoria where we ride all winter most people are on cross bikes for this reason.

Cross bikes are typically cost effective unless you are fanatic about the component group you chose to run. Usually the frames are a little heavier and the components are not so high end so you can get into it for about a thousand dollars, which is not bad in todays often high-priced bike world. If you are really thrifty you will realize that your cross bike can essentially be transformed into a road bike with a $50 tire change and voila you’ve got a bike for all seasons.

So if you are sitting there thinking of all kinds of lame excuses why you can’t ride this fall why not dig into the cross scene? Most bike companies have cross bikes in their line up at very reasonable prices. Who knows, you’ll probably venture out onto some roads you would never dare touch with your road or triathlon bike. Have fun!

A change can be as good as a rest- by Jasper Blake

When considering training for any sport there is truth in the idea that a change can be as good as a rest. 

There is no question that changing your environment periodically is good for your mental state, which inevitably translates into more productive training.  Many people will migrate south for the odd week to soak up some sun and train in a different environment.  But what if you cannot spare the $1-$2k it’s going to cost for such an adventure? 

There is a simple solution.  Making a few small changes to your regular routine throughout the week can be as good as going on a camp or taking a rest.

Here are SEVEN simple ways you can spice up your winter training months.

1) Changing Pools

If you live in a larger city with more than one pool or aquatic center, try swimming at a different location once per week.  The pool may be the same size but the simple change in stimulus can be good for your motivation.  Light conditions, smells, temperature of the water, even the subtle difference in paint color on the bottom of the pool can be enough to freshen things up.

2) Change bikes

Winter training doesn’t always have to be on a computrainer or winterized bike.  Mountain biking is possible in many areas especially in the absence of snow.  But even with snow it’s possible to ride a fat tired mountain bike if you run tubeless tires with very low tire pressure.  The sound the tires make on hard packed snow is enough to jazz you up significantly

 3) Cross Train

The winter months are a perfect time to cross train.  Yes even in a sport like triathlon it is possible to cross train.  Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, even downhill skiing can benefit your fitness. 

 4) Try night activities

Winter days are short which can either be a source of doom and gloom or something you embrace.  Many winter sports areas provide lit venues for activities when it’s dark.  After a couple of hours on cross-country skis in the dark, hot chocolate tastes very good.

 5) Change Running Routes

Contrary to popular belief you don’t always have to run the same routes.  One of my favorite workouts during winter months is doing an urban adventure run.  I try and run on streets I have never been on.  The city you live in can be as new and exciting as the trails you run on in the summer.  You would be surprised how many new streets and subdivisions you can discover on a long run.

 6) Training Groups

You don’t always have to do bike trainer workouts in your garage by yourself.  Chances are there are dozens of other individuals in your area who are sitting in their garage at the same time by themselves.  Group trainer sessions can be a great way to get people together for an hour of good work.  Time flies when you are hammering it out with other people.

 7) Get in the weight room
A block of training in the weight room during the winter can be a good thing for many athletes.  Although it’s not for everyone, some basic strength and stability work often proves to be highly beneficial.  The weight room itself is often as new to endurance athletes as the type of training done in a weight room.  New incoming stimuli force us to be more alert and more engaged.  This often means we will get more out of the experience.

What We Can Learn From the Winter Olympics- Jasper Blake

Probably the biggest lesson we can take from the winter Olympics is that there are literally dozens of great sports that can keep us fit during the winter months. Triathletes often get stuck in a rut during the winter months and forget that there are other great ways to stay fit in the snow.

I was fortunate enough to enjoy a day of skiing in Whistler during the Olympic games and I can tell you I am incredibly sore from one outing. I was amazed with how vigorously my core and back muscles were worked during a day on the downhill slopes, not to mention my quads!

Other great sports that are perhaps more relevant to the aerobic athlete are cross country skiing and if you are fortunate to live in an area with an oval; speed skating. The cross over from cross country skiing and skating to cycling and running is remarkable. Take Clara Hughes for example, Olympic medalist in both cycling and speed skating. Many sports compliment each other and as Canadians I truly believe we should take advantage of and embrace the opportunity to participate.

Classic cross country skiing is said to transfer very well to running and skate skiing and skating compliments cycling very well. Many national level cyclists play in recreational hockey leagues during the winter. It works similar muscle groups, is a great interval type workout and is incredibly fun.

So use the Olympic inspiration from the last two weeks and get outside into the Canadian winter, you won’t be sorry!

Adam Campbell- Sub 2:30 marathon runner

adam22“So everyone is looking for the magic formula – how do I get faster and what can I take to improve my performance? The answer to these questions is easy.  Train more and train faster.

However if you are going to buy into that little motto, then you need to make sure that you are recovering between sessions. I think it was the US marathoner and Olympic medalist Deena Kastor who said “there is no such thing as over-training, just under-recovering”. A key element to recovery is through diet. Anyone who tells you otherwise is an idiot. How could diet not affect performance? It is the building block for your cells, muscles, bones, blood…As a hard training athlete, you are also more likely to leach essential nutrients and minerals from your body as you stress the system.

I have always enjoyed pursuing physical challenges, from Ironman racing to running marathons.  My new love and passion is mountain running. When I began training for the Jungfrau marathon, an uphill marathon with over 5000 feet of elevation gain, I knew that I would need improve my ability to recover if I was going to be able to handle the workload and stress of training for such an arduous event. I was fortunate enough to come across 7SYSTEMS at the beginning of my prep for this race and with the help of 7SYSTEMS I was able to complete my biggest run mileage ever, and proceeded to have the best ever finish by a Canadian at a mountain running world championships.

So if you care about your health and you care about your performance 7SYSTEMS is more than worth a shot.”

Adam Campbell is the 2007 Canadian Mountain Running Champion and has a 2:29 marathon personal best.  He is currently at law school studying to become a lawyer.

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Linda Wagar

linda-marathon1“In January 2008, I had an opportunity to try a product that is meant to help endurance athletes.  I have a body type that has a few issues, and I was intrigued by how this supplement was different from others, and how it might be of help to me.  My approach has always been preventative. When I set a goal, I like to achieve it, and feeding my body what it needs, and preventing issues is a fine balance. I had not run long distances in 2 years, and with my plans to run a marathon in May and a 50K endurance run in July, nutrition would have to be a priority in my life. As fate would have it, my diet was not the best in April & May.  My training surprisingly went quite well. I know the supplements helped me not only with stamina but with my recovery.  I was able to go beyond my physical limits, and the realization that there was no residual pain, no inflammation, and very little tightness.  This was my reward: in July I turned 50K into 53K and felt like I had gone for a nice long 6 ½ hour run. I attribute this to taking 7 Systems.

I recommend it for high performance athletes or for runners, like myself, who wish to make nutrition a priority no matter what sport they choose to embrace. My 51 year old body thanked me for taking in 7 Systems and rewarded me with a performance which was beyond my expectations. This former couch potato is happy and I can only imagine what I could do if I was disciplined enough to take them religiously every single day.”

Linda Rainville Wagar
Ottawa, Ontario

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Anthea Seeton

“I have taken the product and I really loved it.  I found out about it on line while preparing for a 30 day Bikram challenge.  All my fellow yogis had all sorts of cramping, stiffness, etc., that thanks to 7SYSTEMS I didn’t suffer from.  I am off to do teacher training in Palm Desert for 9 weeks and decided instead of putting together my own supplement program that I would take the 7 systems.   I don’t take it all the time, but for those times when I am pounding my body it is amazing.”

Brad Cunningham – Ultra Marathoner

brad-in-water“The reason we train is to see if we can be better than our former self. In order to be better we need to do things differently than we have done before. For me, that was moving beyond just running all the time. I started to pay attention to the details that affect performance, like diet and recovery. 7SYSTEMS helped me become better.  I found the world of supplements to be confusing and expensive. The 7SYSTEMS team made that world simple for me. Everything I need is in one packet – simple, portable, and smart. Now I’m getting everything my body needs in order to be better than it was before, while saving money at the same time.  What I like about 7SYSTEMS is that it’s designed by athletes. These are people who have done what it is I am trying to do, and they have found a way to simplify the confusing world of supplements.   One packet per day, that’s it! And everything is covered.   The difference between average and good is training.   The difference between good and great is details. 7SYSTEMS has helped me take care of the details.”
Brad Cunningham is an ultra-runner, coach and teacher.

Tips for Running in Winter- Jasper Blake

“Crap it’s cold”

We are a tough breed up here in Canada!  We spend almost half the year dealing with the wrath of winter.  Icy roads, fierce winds and abominable snowmen are a few of the challenges we face.

Running poses an interesting dilemma; stay inside or venture out.  This decision is quite obvious with the other two sports.  Swim in a heated indoor pool, not a lake.  Bike on a turbo-trainer or a set of rollers and get your head around some hours pedaling hard and not actually going anywhere.  When it comes to running you can spend time on the treadmill, but after having gone nowhere on your bike it is great to get a change of scenery.
So, as my dear mom would say, out the door you go young lad and jolly well enjoy the day that is provided for you.  Good advice, but keep these simple guidelines in mind.
Dress for the weather conditions.  You need to keep your muscles warm – particularly if you are on the flip side of being a kid which is probably most of you.  Consider wearing tights under track pants or the combination of short tights and compression socks to keep warm.
Warm up properly.  In the winter make sure that you warm up and cool down more slowly than in the summer.  Cold muscles equal tight muscles and tight muscles can lead to minor pulls or tears.  Ease into runs, especially harder workouts.
Run if it drops below minus twenty; consider the treadmill or an indoor running track.  Winter can stress your immune system.  Suddenly exposing your lungs to forced inhalations of crystallized, frosty air is like throwing gas onto a tire fire.
Wear three socks if you are of the male variety.  I am quite serious about this, there is nothing worse than running 30 minutes with a tail wind, getting all warm and sweaty only to turn around and face the wrath of the winter gods on your nether regions.  Many a time have I been caught out on runs where a headwind greeted me on the way back and a third sock was all I needed to maintain sanity.
Get inside immediately after runs so you don’t get chilled.  If it is particularly cold, consider starting and finishing your runs inside.  If you are running with a group that stretches or does some core exercises after the run, find a gymnasium or a living room so you don’t get chilled.
Remember to keep drinking.  Cold weather can be deceiving.  It may seem as if you’re not losing fluids during a workout but trust me, you are.  Remember to stay hydrated; it’s just as important in the winter as it is in the summer.
Invest in proper footwear.  Obviously stick to the shoes that are best for your foot and running gait but look into something with additional tread or grip particularly for snowy and icy roads.  I often run in a cross country shoe through the winter months as it offers more traction than a normal shoe.
Run on busy roads.  Road shoulders become smaller in the winter and visibility can be extremely bad at times.  Pick routes that have cleared sidewalks so you can avoid the road all together.  Remember that roads are icy and cars can be less predictable.  If you have to run on a busy shoulder I strongly recommend running towards oncoming traffic so you can pay attention to what the cars are doing and do a navy-seal dive into the snow bank if required.
Invest in some reflective running gear.  Winter days are short and darkness comes on quickly.  If you want to be safe, be seen.
Wear layers.  Yes, you’ve heard this before but tail winds can feel warm and headwinds can feel very cold especially when you start sweating.  Layers allow you to adjust your clothing choices if need be.
Experiment with alternative forms of winter activities.  Winter is one of the best aspects of Canada if you take advantage of it.  There are dozens of aerobic sports that take place in the winter months and many will translate fitness very well to running and biking.  Skate skiing is said to compliment cycling very well.  Cross country skiing (the classic version), and snowshoeing can compliment running.  Both of these activities present the opportunity to get out into the woods.  Keep in mind that where aerobic fitness is concerned, your heart and lungs don’t know the difference between activities so the cross over between sports can be very effective.  Not to mention the mental break from the other sports.  It is also another chance for you spandex lovers to wear some tight clothing in the off season.