Friday, December 21, 2018

Recovery and NSAIDS (Ibuprofen etc)

Dr. Gabe Mirkin's Fitness and Health e-Zine
December 23, 2018
NSAIDs Interfere with Exercise Training
To strengthen a muscle, you have to take an intense workout that damages muscle fibers to make them feel sore on the next day. This is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Then you take easy workouts for as many days as it takes for the soreness to lessen before you take your next intense workout. Even if you do not compete in sports, you should use some form of "stress and recover" to strengthen your muscles and keep them strong. You can tell that you are damaging muscles when you exercise vigorously enough to feel burning during exercise and DOMS in those muscles 8-24 hours later (Str & Condit J, October 2013;35(5):16–21). Only when the soreness decreases should you take your next intense workout. The soreness is caused by injury to the muscle fibers themselves and when muscles heal, they are stronger than they were before the soreness occurred (J Strength Cond Res, Feb 2003;17(1):197–208).

Non-Steroidal Pain Medications (NSAIDs)
Some athletes and exercisers use pain medication, such as ibuprofin (Advil, Motrin) and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), because they think it will help them to recover faster from muscle soreness so they will be able to do more training and become better athletes. NSAIDs do not prevent DOMS (Brain Behav Immun, Nov 2006;20(6):578–84). Even if they did prevent DOMS, using them would increase your chance of injuring yourself because you should use DOMS as a signal to tell you when you can safely exercise intensely again (Clin J of Sprt Med, 2002;12(6):373-378). A review of 41 research papers showed a slight association between the use of NSAIDs and reduction of injuries, but the difference was nearly the same as what you would expect from use of placebos (Am J Sports Med, Mar 2017:363546517697957).

Reasons for Not Taking NSAIDs for DOMS
NSAIDs are supposed to reduce pain by blocking inflammation, and inflammation is unlikely to be a cause of DOMS since it does not decrease in any way after years of exercising (Front Physiol, 2015;6:424). Earlier studies have shown that NSAIDs:
• do not significantly prevent DOMS (Brain Behav Immun, Nov 2006;20(6):578–84)
• may not block DOMS at all (J Sports Sci, Mar 1999;17(3):197–203)
• do not help muscles to recover faster (Appl Phys Nutr and Metab, 2008, 33(3): 470-475)
• may delay muscle recovery (J Bone Joint Surg Am, 77:1510-1519, 1995)
• may block some of the muscle growth that makes muscles stronger in the short term (American Journal of Physiology, 2002;282:E551-556; 2011;300:R655-662)
• may cause short-term weakening of bones and tendons (J Bone Joint Surg Am, 77:1510-1519, 1995)

What to Do When You Have DOMS
You can stop exercising when you have DOMS if you want, but you will become stronger if you take easy recovery workouts while your muscles are still sore. Athletes do not usually plan to take off workouts during recovery, even though resting when the muscles feel sore will allow muscles to heal faster than if you exercise at low intensity. Exercising at low intensity during recovery will cause your muscles to become more fibrous and resistant to injury when you stress them in your next intense bout of exercise. If you are a runner, run faster two or three times a week and much more slowly when you feel soreness on the days after running fast. If you are a weightlifter, lift heavy weights once or twice a week and much lighter ones on the following day or days when your muscles feel sore.

What Does Not Decrease DOMS
• cryotherapy, homeopathy, ultrasound or electrical current devices (Sports Med, 2003;33(2):145–64; Phys Ther Sport, May 2012;13(2):101–14)
• glutamine or arginine supplements
• stretching (Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2011;(7):CD004577)
• Epsom salts
• drinking extra water
• compression garments
• massage therapy (J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, Feb 1997;25(2):107–12)
• vitamin D supplementation, unless a deficiency needs to be corrected (hydroxy vitamin D below 20 ng/ml)

How to Prevent Injuries
Before you start an intense exercise program, you should have exercised regularly for many months, be in good shape and not have any health conditions that might cause exercise to harm you.
• Try to set up your exercise program so that on one day, you take a hard workout that damages your muscles so they feel sore on the next day. Then take easy workouts for as many days as it takes for the soreness to go away, and then take your next hard workout.
• When you are training properly, your muscles will feel sore every morning. If they don't feel better after a 10-minute warmup, take the day off.
• When your muscles start to feel heavy or hurt, stop the workout.
• If you develop a localized pain (one side only) that worsens as you exercise and does not go away when you slow down, stop the workout immediately.

Tips for Recovery from a Hard Workout
• Eat as soon as possible after an intense workout (J of Sports Science, Jan 2004). It doesn't matter what you eat (Am J Clin Nutr, Jan 2017).
• Go to sleep for 1-3 hours as soon as possible after an intense workout. Muscles recover faster when you are asleep.
• Avoid NSAIDs; they may ease pain but will not help you to recover faster (PNAS, June 27, 2017;114(26):6675 - 6684).
See Recovery: The Key to Improvement in Your Sport

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Is it a stretch to stretch?

Some may disagree but this article is interesting ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Rain bad, snow good

What to do

So it rained.   (sad face)  Now Windsor is closed.   BHP still wasn't mechanically groomed and Grand is more sandpit than ski trail.  You've gotten your early season fitness going but now you can't ski.  What can you do?

  • if you have access to a gym with a ski erg try doing intervals of 30 seconds with enough rest to recover.  It's surprisingly exhausting .  If there's no ski erg the row.... same thing: intervals.
    Warm up for 5 minutes then go as hard as you can for 20 to 30 seconds with a minute of rest in between.  Work your way up to 45 seconds to a minute of hard effort while reducing the rest period in between.  Once your power diminishes (as measured in watts) end the workout and try for more next time.
  • Run.  Even if no one is chasing you.  Running increases endurance and is about the only activity that has cross activity benefit.  Your fitness is relative to the activities you use to obtain it but running helps with almost any sport.
  • Weights specific to skiing.   Use a low cable with an ankle strap to push a weight away from you to strengthen your driving leg.   Use a high pulley with a couple of long attachments to improve your double poling.
  • Fat bike.   Cardio is cardio when it comes to being active and staying lean.   It doesn't translate as well as running does but it will keep your legs active and your lungs working.   The Oak Ridge trail in BHP is groomed for fatbiking in winter as well as a trail in the Nimowin Road area of the park.  Grand Beach has an extensive fatbike trail groomed by an enthusiastic local.
  • Run stairs.   Oh golly,  I hate running stairs.  It is brutally hard but has SO MUCH BENEFIT for cardio training.  I usually run up 6 flights, walk down 4 then repeat until I've had enough, (which is sometimes 1 flight, ha ha)
  • Watch videos about ski technique.  You can learn a lot from watching someone very good at what they do.   Try getting yourself video'd as well when we're back skiing again.  What we think we're doing in our minds and what our bodies are actually doing is sometimes very very different.
  • Organize a day trip to a place with snow.   Riding Mountain, Giants Ridge, Brandon?   
  • Most of all do the snow dance.  
  • Skate.  Like on ice.  Real ice with those goofy shoes with blades on them.   It's the closest thing to real skiing. 
It takes some creativity to keep your fitness when the season grinds to a slowdown... but with a bit of effort you can minimize the training losses until it snows again....
Email me your other tips at

Also; I'd like to hear your trail etiquette tips for a future them to the same address please...

Saturday, December 8, 2018

With the weather becoming colder it becomes a little more complicated and involved to dress for skiing to stay warm and dry.   Which is essential because who wants to be cold and wet? 

When it’s quite cold you’ll probably want to have about 3 layers on your torso and/or legs.   I’m going to outline what I do because I know it works for me. 

Base layer:

I hesitate to recommend brands, but I use the MEC T1 and T3 base layers most often.  I am amazed at how a fabric that I can see through can be so warm, but they are and often I simply use one of these plus a Nordic ski specific jacket.
The intent of the base layer is to remove the moisture from your skin and migrate it out and away.   Staying dry is the key to staying warm.

Middle layer:

Some people call this the insulating layer.  I find I only need a middle layer when it’s extremely cold and I’ve observed over the years that what works best for me is a thicker base layer with a thinner fabric as the middle layer.   The thick fabric at skin level absorbs the moisture created while skiing and transfers it to the middle layer where it can evaporate.

Outside layer:

This is where you want your wind proofing to be.   Choosing a breathable fabric that doesn’t allow a cold wind inside can be expensive, but a good ski jacket is worth the money.   Most have a section in the back of non-windproof fabric to allow moisture to escape. 
You know you’ve dialed in your layering perfectly when your skin is dry and the inside of your wind layer has frost on it…


Hand flexibility is important while skiing.   Don’t wear a heavy mitt that infringes on your fingers ability to flex.  Even though poling should be done with force from the forearm based at the wrist (Ask someone who knows what they’re doing to show you how to set up your straps if you’re unsure.  There is a right and a wrong way to do it) you’ll still need to bend your fingers to control the poles travel to the front position.   Skiing specific gloves seem expensive but when you consider you’ll probably use them for multiple seasons it amortizes well.

Head gear:

A toque or balaclava that blocks wind but minimizes sweat works best.  Choose something light and easy to remove or put back on.  Using a buff and a toque combination keeps your neck warm and if you double up at your ears you should be toasty warm without being too warm. 
In extreme cold or windy conditions, I use downhill ski goggles.  They work to a point but tend to fog up after a while.  This is still better than looking like you’re hung over because your eyes are bloodshot and dry.   It is possible to get frostbite on your eyes, which burns.  Protect them from the wind.

Legs and feet:

Layering your legs seems to be less of an issue for me.  I find I usually need 1 less layer on my legs than on my torso.   Bike tights work, especially if they have a wind proof front and again, the MEC T1 and T3 base layers work excellent.
One thing specifically about your feet.  Racing ski boots are made to be thin and light.  Not warm.   No matter what I always bring dry socks along to put on just before I start my ski.   It makes a considerable difference.

Other areas: (ahem)
(We’re mostly adults here.   We have a working knowledge of how we’re made.   This is for information so don’t be offended….  Men:  Some people use socks, some people use a thin toque, some people stick a glove down there and some people use specially knitted pouches.   An extra layer there makes things a lot more comfortable on colder, windy days.)  

Experiment with layering techniques so you learn what works for your level of exertion and sweat production.  A lot of cycling clothing can double as ski clothing... Obviously, you’ll have different strategies for different temperatures and workouts.   The goal is to be warm and dry at the end of your workout and if you’re not, then you’ve probably over dressed

Although I’ve mentioned MEC in this post, please do be aware that all the local bike shops that sell skis also have clothing for sale for skiing.  And someone on staff will likely also be a skier who can help you decide what to purchase to stay toasty warm while enjoying the only true sport in the world: Nordic Skiing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Club Calendars for Adult Programs

Here we go!

Our Adult Programs officially begin on December 11th!

(you can click on the picture to get a larger version)

All sessions are at Windsor Park Nordic Centre
All start times are 6:30

New this year: Bring a Friend (and get their trail pass covered) - starts January 24th.

Please try to make it out to all of the instructional sessions for your technique -- each session progresses to the next and we don't want you left behind!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The beginning of the Season…

So maybe you’ve been going to dryland training regularly and feel pretty good about your beginning of the season fitness.   Or maybe you do your own dryland training and have good overall fitness.   You could be a runner or lift weights or any number of things that can help prepare for “on snow” training…

But now it’s the beginning of the season.   So, you head out and rattle off a decent ski.  Next day you feel a little stiff and can tell that you did something new.   By later that day you start to wonder if you perhaps went a bit too hard… and shortly after that you begin to realize that “OH MY WORD I CANNOT MOVE MY LEGS!!!”  because it hurts.   Like a thousand drills are boring through your muscles.   It hurts as if your blood is boiling inside your veins.   It hurts so much that you do that stiff legged “don’t bend your knees because you can’t” strut but you can’t bend at the hip or waist either so you thrust each leg forward as if it’s made from a 2x4 and there is no possible way you could climb stairs; you’re not even sure you can sit down.  
Yeah, that hurts.  But it doesn’t have to…

Everyone has their own plan to get going each season.  I’ll tell you what I do and if it works for you then fantastic, feel free to copy it.   I know it works because I do it every year and have none of the “my muscles are lava” pain…
My first ski is for about 15-20 minutes.   About 3 km…Short, easy pace.  Often without poles to get my technique back.  Within 3 days I will ski for about half an hour.   Maybe a 5-k loop with a little bit of double poling.   Within 3 days of that I will be out for an 8 to 10 k excursion and I’ll start to push the cardio for a few minutes at a time.   About 3 to 5 days after that I’m expecting I’ll be able to do 15 kms at a decent pace and from that point on I feel I am ready for the season.  Scale this up or down to your normal amount of skiing…It is as simple as this.
And if you do go too hard the first time out and end up in accidental unplanned semi traction because your muscles are punishing your silliness believe it or not the best thing to do is go skiing again.   Getting some blood pumping through those anger muscles will flush out the waste products that are causing the pain.   Ski for about 1/3 the time you did the first time and by the next day you will feel noticeably less sore.
Do note that I have no formal training as a physical trainer.  These suggestions are what I have found to work for me over my 40 years as a skier and should be taken as suggestions only.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hey skiers,
Sorry for the late notice, but no dryland tonight -- it will be too hectic there with sledders!

Also, this Friday at Windsor Park, we will have a snow shoveling party at 7pm with treats provided afterwards (plan for a hour or so of shoveling!)

(More info on winter club activities coming very soon!)


Shoveling party at windsor park Nordic center

Looking for a Friday night party this week?

Bring a friend and a couple of shovels to Windsor Park Nordic Centre TOMORROW night 7:00PM.

Après shovelling cafés and hot chocolate on the house. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Never give up....

Steve's in white.  Esther is in red.  Howden is a half mile back and Mohr is lost somewhere.  Floyd forgot there was a race that day and I was too lazy to enter.   (just teasing everyone)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Interval training ...

(Posted from Dr Gabe Mirkins email newsletter)

Why Everyone with a Healthy Heart Should Do Interval Exercise
Athletes use interval training to make themselves faster and stronger, and everyone with a healthy heart can benefit from this technique. A typical interval workout for non-competitive exercisers would be a session of jogging, walking or cycling in which they:
• Warm up by moving slowly for about 10 minutes,
• Pick up the pace until they feel a slight burning in their muscles (this usually takes 10-20 seconds),
• Slow down as soon as they feel this muscle burning, and go slowly until the burning is gone and breathing is back to normal.
• Alternate picking up the pace for 10-20 seconds and slowing down until they have recovered, then cool down and stop the workout whenever their muscles start to feel tight or tired.

A fit person should be able to do between 10 and 20 repetitions of these 10-20 second bursts in a single workout. For non-athletes, these intervals do not have to be done at 100 percent effort; 60 to 80 percent effort is sufficient. People in good shape can often work up to 50 or more of these short intervals before their legs tire.

The burning can come from acidity caused by a buildup of lactic acid in muscles, and accumulating lactic acid in your muscles makes you more fit, can help to prevent diseases and may even prolong your life.

Intervals to Increase Endurance
When you exercise, your muscles burn sugar, fat or protein in the presence of oxygen to produce energy. If you exercise so intensely that you become very short of breath and your muscles can't get enough oxygen, lactic acid accumulates in your muscle fibers. An older disproved theory was that lactic acid interferes with a muscle's ability to contract, so you feel tired. However, more recent research shows that muscles contract more efficiently when lactic acid accumulates in them (Science, August 26, 2004).

Electric currents cause muscles to contract. This electricity is generated by cell membranes causing potassium to move inside cells and chloride ions to stay outside. With vigorous exercise, potassium ions accumulate outside cells. When large amounts of potassium ions accumulate outside cells, electricity is not generated and the cells cannot contract. Another ion called chloride accumulates outside cells and prevents potassium from getting back inside cells. Lactic acid removes the chloride, so it is easier for potassium to get back inside cells. Lactic acid increases the ratio of potassium inside cells to the amount outside, and this helps the muscle contract with more efficiency.

Interval training teaches your muscles and liver to use lactate for energy much faster than just doing continuous training (Am J Physiol, 1983;244:E83-E92). The faster you can use up lactic acid,
• the more quickly you relieve the acid burning in muscles that slows you down, and
• the faster you can go because lactate requires less oxygen than even sugar does.

Interval training has been used in all endurance sports since the 1920s. George Brooks of the University of California at Berkeley showed why interval training can increase endurance (Am J Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, June 2006). A major fuel for your muscles during exercise is glucose (a sugar). In a series of chemical reactions, glucose is broken down step by step, with each step releasing energy. When enough oxygen is available, the glucose releases all of its energy until only carbon dioxide and water remain; these are blown off through your lungs. However, if you exercise so intensely that you can't get all the oxygen you need, the chemical reactions stop at lactic acid which accumulates in the muscles and spills over into the bloodstream. Lactic acid makes muscles acidic and causes a burning feeling that forces you to slow down. Thus lactic acid helps to prevent severe muscle damage by slowing you down when you run low on oxygen.

When you slow down after each intense interval, you catch up on your oxygen debt, and your body uses lactic acid as its most efficient source of energy for muscles. Muscles require less oxygen to turn lactic acid into energy. When your muscles produce lots of lactic acid, they can use this chemical for energy. This allows you to move faster and stronger for longer periods of time (Sports Medicine, 2006;36(4):279-91). Anything that helps muscles to break down lactic acid faster will increase your endurance and allow you to move faster when you are tired (Fed Proc, 1986;45:2924-2929). Lactic acid can also be used by your liver to make even more sugar to feed your muscles during exercise.

Intervals to Make You Stronger
You cannot enlarge a muscle and make it stronger unless you damage muscle fibers at their Z-lines with vigorous exercise. When the muscles heal, they become larger and stronger. Interval training allows you to exercise more intensely than continuous training and therefore gives you a stronger training effect by causing more muscle fiber Z-line damage that results in increased strength and greater oxygen debts that give you greater endurance. You can tell that you are damaging muscle fibers because the muscle feels sore the next day (delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS).

How Intervals Help to Prevent Disease and Prolong Your Life
A regular exercise program helps to prevent diabetes, heart attacks, and cancers. Interval training can make your exercise program even more effective because it helps to lower high blood sugar better than continuous training by making cells far more sensitive to insulin (Int J Sports Med, 2015;36:209-14).

Vigorous exercise also increases the number, size and efficiency of mitochondria in your muscle cells (Sci Rep, Jun 23, 2017;7(1):4191). All of the cells in your body (except mature red blood cells) have anywhere from a few to thousands of organelles, called mitochondria, that turn the food that you eat into energy. Muscle cells need a lot of energy so they have lots of mitochondria. Nerves don't need a lot of energy to transmit messages so they need only a few mitochondria. When you exercise so intensely that you can't get all the oxygen you need and you become short of breath, you increase the number, size and efficiency of mitochondria in cells everywhere in your body (J Physiol, 2010 Mar 15; 588(Pt 6): 1011-1022). Accumulating evidence shows that this helps to prevent obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and certain cancers. It helps to explain why exercise may increase memory and nerve function. Exercise also helps to reduce the loss of mitochondria in cells that occurs naturally with aging (J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 2006;61(6)534-540; Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, April 2007). See More Mitochondria for Better Athletes

Start Gradually
If you have not been exercising regularly, spend several weeks exercising at a casual pace. Try to exercise every day and exercise until your legs start to feel heavy or hurt and then stop for the day. You may go for five minutes on one day, and have to take the next day off because your muscles feel sore. You may have a progression of five minutes on one day, then zero on the next day, then 10 minutes, then three minutes. Gradually you should be able to work up to being able to exercise casually for 30 minutes every day and not feel sore. Then you should be able to start your interval workouts. Start out with just a few of the 10-20 second pick-ups and gradually work up to ten or more repetitions.

Do not try to do interval workouts more than two or three times a week, and not on consecutive days. Each time you do interval training intense enough to damage the Z-lines of muscle fibers, you will probably develop a soreness 6-24 hours after you finish exercising. Physiologists call this Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). If you exercise intensely when you feel DOMS, you are at increased risk for injuring yourself. Skip a planned interval workout if your legs feel heavy or hurt from a previous workout.

Caution: People with blocked arteries leading to the heart can get a heart attack from intense exercise. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program or making a sudden change in the intensity or duration of your program.

If you like my eZine, please share it with your friends.
Invite them to subscribe at
Hi Skiers,

Steve has carelessly allowed me access to the blog.   WOOHOO   Now things will get weird. 

Seriously though, we'd like to see this blog page as a vibrant information center for a lot of skiing related subjects.   I plan to write about different training techniques, perhaps some destination reviews/ideas and generally provide information to help us all become better skiers.

If there's a subject you'd like to know more about or if you feel you have solid knowledge about skiing related subjects drop me an email at and we'll discuss it. 

We may even have some guest bloggers.

Until then, there is some chatter on some of the weather apps and forecasting sites about some significant snow for next weekend.     Let's hope it comes true.

I was up at Grand Beach this evening for a fat bike ride (Saturday the 24th) and I felt there was enough snow to consider using rock skis.   I was told by a local that they had seen skiers out for the last couple of weekends...

If anyone knows of places that could be skiid already shoot me an email ( and we'll pass the info along. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fall Training - Starts Thursday Sept 27th

Fall Training is every Thursday from 6:30 to about 7:30 at Westview Park starting on Thursday, Sept 27th!   Meet on the North side

The basic idea is to help people transition from summer sports to skiing

For fall training, we do some light jogging, ski-walking/striding, agility work, and some core work

Also, here are some videos from our core program that we had designed for us by the amazing coach Twila Cuthbert!

A basic plan with these exercises for getting ready for Skiing would be to very gradually build up to the video exercises (8 exercises in total) twice a week.  You could build up to the reps covered in the post over 4 or 5 weeks.

Once winter starts, its still good to do these at a "maintenance" level of at least once a week.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Let the season begin ....

Here we go - another awesome Downtown Nordic season coming up!!!

As a club, we now have adult programs, jackrabbits, and a new junior group!

Here are the details of our adult programs:

1) Optional fall training - starts September 27th - Westview Park

2) Instructional sessions - Tuesdays and Thursdays in December and early January

3) Fitness & Instructional sessions continue from mid-January to mid-February on most Tuesdays and Thursdays

Instructional Groups are at three levels:
→Athletic Beginner

Cost → $65 and includes all adult programs offered by the club
Location → all on-snow instructional sessions will be held at the awesome Windsor Park Nordic trails
Time → all sessions start at 7PM.

You must also pay Windsor Park Nordic Centre fees to ski on the trails.

Register HERE:

See you soon Snow!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Club Photos

We need to decide which photo to go with, let me know ...

The behind-the-scenes story of my Vasaloppet race last year:

Guest post by Steve Scoles – 2017 USA Vasaloppet winner

Happy New Year! And here’s to a new entry to the blog – rather than an update from myself, this is a post written by Steve Scoles. Steve and I connected in Winnipeg this past summer at the Canada Summer Games – he was commentating for the mountain bike events I was competing in. And it was the craziest thing; to meet someone new, but so connected to the ski world I’d just stepped away from, in the midst of what felt like a completely different adventure. After talking more and learning Steve’s story, and how I had unknowingly inspired change in his life, through sharing stories of my own sporting endeavours, I really felt my heart smiling at how incredibly small and intertwined the world seems sometimes.
In any case, I feel truly privileged to have been part (albeit unknowingly) of Steve’s remarkable accomplishments and am continually inspired by him, and so many other people I know who are constantly striving to do better, and become better versions of themselves. I hope you enjoy this post, it may seem like a crazy story, but hey – if you let your mind believe… There is also a great summary of the facts behind Steve’s double poling progress and success near the end of the post.

How Jenn’s Broken Leg Three Years Ago Helped Me Win the Vasaloppet
Thanks to Jenn for letting me onto her blog to tell a story about how her blog helped me win Vasaloppet this year (the USA version of the Vasaloppet that is).
The story starts exactly three years ago this week when Jenn broke her leg before a ski race in Rossland. Remember this …

Monday, January 1, 2018

DN Schedule

Here is our schedule for January and February - click on the calendar to make it larger!