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.