As I transition into the quiet time before a storm of movement on yet another multi-year project, I have been revisiting my own advice on the art of the taper.
Tapering involves a relaxation and turning inward of the mind, body, and habit; it may last from a few days to six weeks depending on the event. During my various tapers for rock projects, expeditions, alpine climbs, and long runs I've developed a few transferrable strategies to make sure I'm well-rested and prepared for the big event.
Timing: Training to hard too early before your intended event can be just as detrimental to event-day (or month) performance as not training enough in advance. Finding the right balance of loading on the volume and backing off, track your various tapers and performance during events religiously. Reflect critically after the dust has settled following each event. You will, in time, learn the proper amount of time your body needs to rest before each event. A note: the time and type of taper necessary will vary within the athlete based on the kind of event undertaken. For example, I taper differently for an ultra than I do for a climbing objective.
Rest: Allow your body to cycle into as deep a state of rest as the event requires. For an endurance event, allow yourself to go to the state of rest where you're peeing a lot, sleeping more than normal, and don't feel motivation to train. Ideally, the body cycles through this state and back into an impatience for movement and more normal sleep patterns prior to the event. In addition to what one might normally think of as rest such as less training and more sleeping, try to eliminate excess items from your calendar or take a couple preparatory days off from work. Time away from stress, even productive or good stress, is necessary to allow your mind to prepare.
Insulation: Perhaps the least-practiced and most important part of tapering. To allow the most regenerative pre-event experience, this introvert avoids excess social contact, introductions to new people, new experiences, and most media during the taper period. Take a social media vacation in advance of your event - and delete the dang apps off your phone so you don't cheat. According to the event, it may also be nice to insulate oneself from the cold in order to prepare for some extended time out in the elements - this provides a time of coziness to harken back to when chilled to the bone and moving. This period is a safe island isolated from the intensity of training and event.
Reduce inflammation: Remove all alcohol, drugs, and food allergens from your diet - for real. The one exception to this tip is cannabis. If your body relaxes under the influence of CBD or canna, indulge at this time. It is preferable to ingest it in tincture or edible format. A couple supplements that can smooth the path to anti-inflammatory state are this one and a regular ol dose of turmeric.
Self-care: Good self-care is always a key to high athletic achievement, but becomes acutely so in this final period. Through your final massage and acupuncture visits, note your body's energetic tank filling, perhaps even track it in your training journal. Depending on the seriousness of the event, consider updated blood work and a visit with your primary care doctor to be sure everything is in prime order. Continue your meditation practice, even deepen it at this time. Use delicious, whole foods to nourish the body and mind. For my clients who are in the know, the Owl Eyes exercise is indicated at this time.
Reaffirmation: In your meditations and lucidity sessions, visualize the exact sequence of your project, fly over the mountain you're about to climb, or let your feet touch the bends in the trail you'll travel. Feel yourself strong and vital as you complete your event and imagine the states of mind you'll need to cultivate for each stage of performance. You've committed to preparation for this event now review the goal and your path. This practice helps me see how far I've come and instills in me greater confidence in my ability to achieve the impossible.
Logistics: Practice packing for your event well in advance. In the process, you'll likely note a few items that could use repair or that you still need to purchase. This is cruicial for expeditions and self-supported events. Review your map or itinerary - the physical one and the topo in your head. As you conduct these final preparations, take a few shakedown runs, climbs, or rides just to keep the qi moving.
Recovery: Recovery begins with pre-event preparation. Clean your space to prepare for your return home. Collect your favorite recovery foods - even consider preparing them so they are ready to eat at the end of the event. Bring your most comfortable post-event clothing. On expeditions for the time between getting off the mountain and returning to the US, I find it nourishing to have a few touches of home like nice street clothes or my favorite chocolate. For endurance events, I have a favorite pair of lush sweatpants that I only wear post-run and find myself looking forward to during the event.
I hope you've found this useful. If you'd like to learn more, visit my Coaching page and sign up for a consult on the topic of recovery. Resting is a vital element of athletic progression and I'm happy to lead you through these steps.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Jalal ud in Rumi
The mass hysteria we feed as part of our fear of the wild within only disables our relationships with the more-than-human. Allow me to explain.
It might not be apparent to the casual Instagram follower, but every single time I run, climb, ski, fish, or spend time outside with my daughter I do so alone, unarmed, and in wilderness (not a State Park or some other peri-urban forest). This thriving wilderness that we call home is full of cougars, bobcats, moose, deer, eagles, bears, and we interact with these neighbors one-on-one many times per week.
Every single run I take I tread where Moose passed mere minutes before, I’ve been followed by Cougar more times than I can count (three times that I know of this last winter alone), and this winter I had the privilege of being followed by a bobcat. I’ve run WITH four moose individuals including one with a calf, one big as fuck bull, and one when I was twenty alone in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The first time a cougar followed me I was alone on snowshoes near Grand Park on Mount Rainier at the age of sixteen.
Every encounter with a furry friend in the woods inspires in me a deeper awareness, an understanding of the truth that I am very small and very insignificant, and that ‘wild’ animals are, in our cultural consciousness, the veritable monster under the bed. Never once has a ‘wild’ animal so much as looked at me askance in the tens of thousands of hours I've spent alone in the woods but do you know what animal is aggressive to me on the reg? Dogs, peoples’ shitty, misbehaving, off-leash dogs. I like to stay away from peopled trails.
As the frequency of my encounters with the wild increases, they become a still-remarkable but entirely normal part of our daily movements in the woods at home. I prefer the kind company of cougar to the unpredictable nature of humans or their dogs any day of the week.
All this to say one thing: If the more-than-human scares you, go walk in a mall - leave the wilderness to those of us who appreciate it and can handle feeling small.
Hey forest freaks,
As the temps climb up near the 90s here - holy cow! - I've been feeling the heat in my afternoon runs. Thought it would be useful to re-post my article from last autumn reporting out on heat conditioning! There are a lot of myths out there about women being unable to acclimate appropriately to heat - and that is simply not true.
Lotsa links to scholarly articles in here so go down that rabbit hole.
On April 20th, 2017 I took my first shirtless run of the season. On May 2nd, 2017 I told my IG followers that I was going to undertake purposeful heat training for the summer. On September 18th I next wore a shirt on a training run.
This was a hot summer. I clocked over thirty runs at temperatures exceeding 95F - ten in a row over 100F. Adding to the heat was the impenetrable smoke which forced me to wear a ventilator on runs through all of August and part of September. The ventilator, much as it did an excellent job of filtering the smoke, also acted as a hypoxia-inducing mechanism by limiting the in-flow of oxygen as I went.
I'll back up and also confess: I have historically loathed the heat often telling friends and clients I'd rather be hypothermic than even a little warm. However, after choosing the Methow Valley as home, I had to befriend the heat if I intended to keep running - and I intend to keep running.
So back in May I suspended my loathing of the heat long enough to devise a loose program of heat acclimation intended to increase my tolerance. As I researched how to acclimate to heat, I found a litany of other benefits of heat training: increased tolerance of cold, increased VO2Max in hot and cold conditions, and training adaptations similar to those I have experienced at altitude. The mechanism for all these useful changes? Increased plasma volume (a la pregnant blood doping!).
For the month of May, I purposefully waited until the hottest part of the day (which was around mid-eighties) to do my runs two days a week. On those days, I took it easy but made myself keep running in what felt like sweltering heat for at least ninety minutes. On those runs I was sure not only to refuel but to rehydrate and to pay attention to my micronutrient intake as well. As May's temps ratcheted up in June, I felt more comfortable running in the heat already. During the month of June I tacked on to the end of every hot run an ice bath in whatever creek or river was nearby. I also began to do a hot epsom bath after one run-ice bath combo per week.
Beginning in the end of June and early July, my body started performing really well in the heat. I still took my hardest and longest runs at higher elevations and at cooler times of the day but by that point in the summer I was running four or five days a week in temperatures exceeding 90F. After every run beginning in mid-July I did a full-body ice bath in the Chewuch River or Deer Lake.
At the end of July the Diamond Creek Fire flared up a few miles from home dumping an obscene amount of smoke into my little river valley so I began to wear a ventilator (read more on running in wildfire country). Not one to complain about challenging conditions I chose to view my ventilator as yet another cardiac challenge to my strengthening system. Through all of August I ran at least four of my runs per week in the ventilator in temperatures over 95F - and damn did some of those runs feel tough.
As the heat persisted through the first weeks of September I began to feel markedly more at ease in the triple-digits. I found myself looking forward to runs on hot days and even found myself not feeling overheated on my last hot hot run on September 14th.
Now, as the cold rolls in and the ground I now run on is covered with snow, I feel more well-adapted to running in freezing, damp temperatures, too. My body feels like it is using much less energy than in past seasons keeping me warm despite being vastly leaner this autumn versus years past. And dammit if I'm not pining for those sultry runs in the smoke with Moose.
So after four months of shirt-free, sweat-heavy, hot AF runs I'm pleased to announce: I loved it! Truly. After a lifetime of not performing well in the heat I now miss my hot 4pm runs on sun-exposed dusty trail. I'm also performing better in the cold this autumn AND feel my overall cardiac capacity increased. Now let's see how that heat training translates to high altitude movement - I'll keep you posted.
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It isn’t about pushing harder, it is about learning to listen to your body. Your innate power and wisdom might surprise you.
This e-course will provide you with the most current peer-reviewed evidence to empower you to make educated choices about your pregnant and postpartum movement, training, and self-care.
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Pregnancy is the greatest performance enhancement known to (wo)man <pass it on>
My grampa first took me fishing on an alpine lake in Montana when I was about seven, I was enthralled watching trout rise from untold depths in perfectly clear water. My mom tried to get me into fly fishing on the Green River Gorge in Washington as a teenager, it didn't stick. It wasn't until I moved to the Methow Valley that I found tenkara and really got fishing. I self-studied allowing my interactions with water, wind, bugs, and fish to shape my technique on the tight side streams and turquoise high lakes.
Within that first season I found myself presenting flies to trout at some of the most remote gems in the Pasayten Wilderness and the Okanogan Highlands. In order to squeeze a quick fishing session in on these remote lakes, I began strapping my tenkara rod to my running backpack stashing the rare kept fish in a ziplock bag flopping in my pack on the way back home to add to my breakfast. When it came time to make a permanent home in the valley we chose a sweet cabin within a three minute walk of two stellar trout holes, allowing me to fish twice a day all summer long. No matter how many times I witness it, the rise still captivates me.
In partnership with the Okanogan National Forest and with the support of Tenkara USA, I now offer the first and only guided run-fish-run trips.
Happy Monday, readers,
I have a beaut of an episode for you today. Last week Kim and I sat down to reflect on her skiing, climbing, running pregnancy. In our concise conversation Kim drops all kinds of inspiring wisdom and highly-relatable stories about finding her love of climbing during her third trimester, learning to listen to her body, and how she applied her experience mountaineering to the event of birth.
This empowering conversation charged my batteries and I hope you gain a charge from our conversation too.
PS: This is a picture of Kim snowshoeing on Mount Rainier when she was 41 weeks pregnant!
Topics discussed in this episode:
2:45 All about Kim's pregnancy
5:46 "My body had its own story"
7:33 What CAN you do?
10:19 "My body is my partner"
11:45 Committed productive pain (MN Note: I got stoked!)
16:20 On summoning your own power
20:45 The research Kim found useful
23:48 Postpartum power
25:45 On setting boundaries
28:17 One piece of advice for pregnant athletes
Competition, whether in sport or business, is an artificial struggle contrived to make you believe in scarcity of love, resources, happiness, and ego-transcendence. Do not bow to the old guard; they maintain this structure to keep you in check, to limit your wild and sourceless power. By engaging in a competitive paradigm, you have bought into someone else’s vision of what your journey should constitute, you have been distracted from the point.
Comparative structures of achievement inherently divorce us from an experience of ‘with’, ‘through’, and ‘among’ by convincing us that we are ‘over’, ‘above’, and ‘against’ - this is a fallacy robbing each of us of our movements’ gnostic potential. When we compete we stop listening to our own wise voice and the voice of our shared body: the earth. If I was more concerned with someone else’s idea of how an elite athlete runs than with my own spirit’s journey in the forest, I might have missed this fresh bobcat track in the snow.
Though I prefer to do my ambulations sans people, you might choose to toss away the competitive paradigm of sport in a tight, co-creative partnership on the rope or in a pack of fellow forest freaks on the trail. The choice is yours. I challenge you to dismantle the anxious hungry ghost of comparison in your own mind today.