Viewing entries tagged
self care

How to do the mental health workout right

There have been multiple times in my life when I needed a run or a climb not because my training plan said so but because my spirit demanded it. Most recently I spent the holidays in the noisy west side at a house with which I was unfamiliar caring for my father who was headed for hospice care - and neither Rumi nor I were sleeping well. A few mornings that week I woke, after six or so hours of fitful sleep, and knew I needed to contact the muddy, fern-populated forest in order to cope. It was on those runs that this post milled itself.

Oftentimes when a client on my roster violates her training plan it is because she had a hard day at work, a fight with her spouse, or some other stressful situation that caused her to run farther, climb harder, or generally practice poor self-care in motion. Since we all experience critical life stressors and since most endurance athletes use their practice in order to cope, I devised this quick how-to guide.

Next time you saddle up for a run, climb, or ski with a heavy heart, I hope you find these tips useful.

Brittany Raven

How much did you sleep? If you slept seven or more hours consecutively, you’re good to go for a workout. If you slept less than seven but more than five, you’ll need to curtail the duration and intensity of your workout even more than I suggest below. If your total sleep hours were less than five consecutively or added up to less than eight in chunks of fewer than four hours each, your best bet is to skip your workout entirely and opt for a walk and a meditation instead.

Mindset: Enter your mental health training session with a mindset of curiosity and self-compassion. Over-processing events as you move will only auger in negative or obsessive mental habits leading to anxiety or depression that will persist long after the stressor ceases. During the session, be sure to cultivate an associative relationship with sensation: pain, discomfort, heaviness, or ease. Welcome Mara to tea.

Intensity and duration: In order to soothe rather than activate your already-stressed ANS, avoid Zones 3 and higher during a mental health workout. Also since the body doesn’t replenish glycogen stores well when it is under stress or has not slept well, be sure to feed yourself high-carb snacks during your workout and keep the total duration under ninety minutes.

Objective hazard: In stark contrast to my post on going solo, the bedraggled, confused, depressed, or flustered athlete has no business engaging in any sort of risky activity. Despite the obvious distraction personal upheaval poses, the nervous system of a person functioning on little sleep and under stress is not the person who makes sound decisions in the alpine. Until the life stressor subsides, settle for workouts in places you know well that are well outside of harm’s way.

Recovery: Perhaps the most important part of the mental health workout is the mindset you continue after the session concludes. Practice good self-care by having fresh cotton clothes and a recovery snack available immediately after you cease motion. As soon as you’re alone, either sit in meditation (you could use the Headspace app or a simple timer on your phone) or queue up one of these effective somatic meditations. The goal of the mental health workout is not to self-flagellate as that will only make whatever problem you’re experiencing worse; the aim is to gain perspective and maintain presence.

Be sure to join my upcoming webinar on the topic of heart rate zones to really pin-point your individual zones.

Webinar: Your Zones

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 at noon Pacific

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Transitioning into training

Following an event such as a birth, ultra, guiding season, or alpine epic, the body requires extended rest followed by a strategic re-immersion into the mental and physical stress of training. For most mountain athletes the transition period happens during November and early December given cycles of weather and optimal time for events. This should be a timely piece for you.

What constitutes an event? Great question! As the athlete grows over a series of years or decades (this does not happen quickly), what you once perceived as an event will become an intermediate training milestone. The best example I can think of is during my own training for my first hundred miler I ran a fifty miler and a thirty miler on back-to-back days - and my body did not perceive this sequence as an event. This is due, in part, to the way my body’s paradigm of work had shifted over years of ultra running and speed climbing and in part to how I conducted those long runs. The distance that once felt so taxing to me had become a simple training run. Sign up for coaching with me to learn more on these specifics as they are quite intricate.

When is best to begin training again? Short answer: it depends. I wrote a post for new moms on the infamous six-week wait and I advocate for a similar strategy when it comes to training again after any event or break from training. You are the best gauge of your body’s readiness to re-enter the stress (even if it is positive) of training. You can also begin to train at a time that you calculate back from your next big event - this time necessary for training will range from three to twelve months depending on the athlete, the event, and the amount of time you’ve been away from training. If you have not been sleeping well or have been under heavy amounts of life stress, you’re not rested and will not benefit from structured training.

Recreational period: Following every event I am a huge proponent of my athletes (and moms) taking time to train simply for joy and for mental wellbeing. These sessions will all occur at Zone 2 or lower, last for less than ninety minutes, and, if they involve a component of weight bearing, will not require the athlete to bear down (i.e. grunt, alter breath patterns, excessively engage the core). During this time, the athlete is well-advised to focus on nourishing foods but not going overboard or continuing to eat the volume they ate at the height of the peak period. Nutrition in this period of training is perhaps even more important than the training you conduct in motion. Instead of focusing time on gym or trail sessions, renew your commitment to your seated mindfulness practice and, heck, to your sleep.

Preparing for training: With as many overworked guides with thyroid imbalances as I’ve seen in my practice, as many new moms with iron deficiencies, as many alpinists with food allergies, you’d think it would be common knowledge among athletes to get their blood and food allergy testing done prior to engaging in another round of strategic training. It isn’t! Here’s what you’ll need: full bloodwork including thyroid panel and a food allergy test if your hematocrit/hemoglobin appear low or if you have digestive symptoms. These are vital markers for any athlete to have at their disposal as they indicate both your body’s readiness to begin training again as well as its ability to properly integrate said training.

Introducing structure: In the first month or two returning to structured training, the volume, compared to your peak in your last peak, will feel deceptively low. A few phenomena are at play here: First, your body has the nervous system capacity for two to three physiologic events per year and, second, following what it perceives as an event it requires time to recharge not only the musculoskeletal system but the nervous system. Don’t rush the first month or two back into structured training as this is a key time for your body to do its hypercompensation thing and to regain some strength you might have neglected in peak training for your endurance event.

There is a lot I have not touched on here as it pertains to re-entry into training such as re-testing your heart rate zones, structuring your mindfulness practice, and how to shift your athletic paradigm over time. I hope this article has been of use to you and, if you’re curious, sign up for coaching with me to fill in the blanks.


Rest

When rest goes from being something that perches in the leftover hours between work and sleep (and houscleaning and child-rearing and volunteering and commuting, and so on, ad infinitum) to being something that you claim for yourself, it becomes more valuable and tangible. The very act of making specific plans helps make a goal feel more realistic and accessible, and gives you a clearer sense of its value. Deliberate rest is not a negative space defined by the absence of work or something that we hope to get up to sometime. It is something positive, something worth cultivating in its own right.
— Alex Soojung-Kim Pang "Rest"

Meg Reburn BScH RM client interview - Mistress Yinness

Trigger alert: If you have a history of disordered eating and/or body dysmorphia, skip this episode. I care about your health.

 
You helped me see how I can bring more yin into my practice as an athlete.
— Meg Reburn

Topics discussed in this episode:

3:20 The great generalist
4:30 Nutrition + hormone balance
6:25 “How long did you go without menstruating?”
8:57 On processing trauma
9:25 How Meg and I worked together
11:25 Yin practices while in motion

 

More about Meg:

Meg's website

Meg's Instagram

 

Related posts:

Meg's guest post

Menstruation doping

Why rest? By Lydia Zamorano

Client profile series

Rest, Recovery, and Athletic Performance According to Your Element

Happy Friday readers,

In 2012 I was a full-time athlete and full-time desk job haver and I was out of balance. My gut was pissed after a recent trip to the Andes and Patagonia, my mind was mush because of my over-programmed life; I felt like I was constantly stealing time from one activity to give to another and I had no concept of self-care.

Upon discovering that I had brought yet another amoeba back from South America, I began seeing Dr. Liz for weekly treatments. Together, we applied every medical trick in the book to squash the little gut demons. Along the way, through our journey involving acupuncture, herbs, pharmaceuticals, counseling, and osteopathic work, I began to contact my internal balance point for the first time. Dr. Liz likes to say that once you get a glimpse of your balanced self it is really uncomfortable to be out of balance again and that certainly rang true for me.

The beginning of our treatments in 2012 also marked the beginning of this business and my slow transition away from my harried life in the city. My days of working hard at a desk job for a few years to save for an expedition, going on said expedition, and returning to the desk sick, tired, and broke were over; I was determined to find a permanent way to be in the hills while making time to grow a business and, eventually, to have a child. Together Dr. Liz and I discovered some amazing ways to work with my Metal constitution in order to bring my over-worked body into balance.

I will be forever grateful for her gentle, thorough approach and I'm so excited to share an informative guest post from her with you today.

Brittany Raven

PS: Be sure to listen to our audio interview!


Use the Wisdom of Chinese Medicine to Improve Your Training

Guest post by Dr. Liz Carter

A sure-fire way to up your training game is to learn more about yourself. Specifically, your own internal motivations, behavioral tendencies, and stressors. The 5 elements of Chinese medicine - wood, fire, earth, metal, and water - are the perfect tool for the deep introspection and growth that’s necessary for self-improvement.

Chinese medicine posits that we are reflections of nature and nature is a reflection of us, so it is possible to look to our natural environment in order to understand more about ourselves. If we are Metal, we’re like the mountains, if we’re Water we’re like a river or the sea. Pretty amazing, right? It’s even more amazing when you realize how accurate it is.

We each have two elements that influence and shape us the most (MN Note: I am Metal/Fire!), but we are able to access all five to a certain extent when we’re in a healthy state. The elements can show us so many things about ourselves, like how well we can go with the flow of life, why we’re awful or awesome and planning, and what kind of athlete we are.

How do you find out your elements? You might be able to tell what you are just from my descriptions in this blog! For a more professional option, you can see a 5 Elements acupuncturist who will diagnose and treat based on your elements. Make sure they are trained in 5 Elements, as the majority of acupuncturists are trained in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine which is not at all traditional, but that’s another discussion).

You can also check out my 5 Elements Personality Test that will tell you your two elements and provide you gobs of fascinating stuff about your core self, like what motivates and depletes you, what belongs in your life and what you need to let go of, and how to stay true to your foundational values. Use this link for $20 off.

 
 

All right, let’s get into these elements and what they mean for your performance and recovery.

 

Wood

Performance:

Wood elements are workhorses and generally very robust in terms of athletic ability. They’re naturally drawn to movement because it relieves this angsty, frustrated, irritable feeling they are the prone to (more than any other element), so they’ve most likely been physical or athletic from a very young age. Movement acts as their main coping mechanism for stress and they often prefer more intense forms of exercise in order to really break up their stagnant energy. Wood elements are very logical and great planners, so they can stick to routine easily (sometimes a little too easily) and they love problem-solving and new, intense challenges.

Rest and recovery ability: challenged

Wood elements are not good at rest and recovery. With movement as a primary mechanism for stress relief, they turn to it often, even when they’re depleted. There’s a lot in this world that causes them to be irritable and stressed -- crappy foods, environmental toxin exposure (fabric softener should be banned!), alcohol, people who don’t think in a logical manner, and more. Wood people can become addicted to movement as a result because it gives them such relief and if something feels good they may ask themselves, “Why would I stop?”

Pro Tips:

The key for wood is to find balanced movement because it’s very easy for them to overdo it and make themselves vulnerable to injury. They’re used to feeling invincible with movement, so they really have to stay in touch with themselves and their abilities and not get wrapped up in assuaging this daily irritation with movement as their only tool. It’s crucial that they explore other ways to generate movement in their lives, like journaling or creativity, and start reducing the mental, emotional, and physical irritants that cause their unrest in the first place.

 

Fire

Performance:

Fires love freedom and spontaneity, so they’re jazzed to take on new challenges in almost any realm. They’re very lighthearted, free-spirited people that like to collect experiences. They have a relaxed and casual attitude about life, which often means they’re excellent athletes. They don’t have preconceived notions about their abilities many times and they’ll try anything. Fires are definitely a “why not?” type of mindset rather than a “why?” type of mindset. The key for fire is fun. Something has to bring them joy and offer them connection to others for them to want to participate. Fires love to be around people (even the introverted ones) and get great joy from social experiences, athletic activities included.

Rest and recovery: detached

Fires tend to lose their ground easily. They get caught up in the moment, especially if there are other people involved, and they stop paying attention to their own internal signals. They’re the type who jump first and ask questions later. This can get them into lots of pickles, including massively overdoing it with training or events and injuring themselves. If they had stopped to consider the consequences for a second they could have averted the mess. But with their go-with-the-flow attitude they can usually recover gracefully and will absolutely love telling the crazy story later to their friends.

Pro Tips:

Fires have to stay grounded and in touch with themselves, otherwise they open themselves up to injury. If they’re chronically scattered, either on the trail they’re running or in their training schedule something’s bound to take a turn for the worse. Speaking of schedules, fires are not a fan. They feel stifled with too much structure, so a healthy training plan involves switching things up a lot and trying new routes and activities. While exercising, it can be helpful to set a timer every 10 minutes as a mental checkpoint to assess what’s happening in your body and make sure it’s still within your limits. Another way to ground is by communing with nature. If you’re running on a trail, stop at the large trees, feel their bark, take a moment to wonder and check in with yourself.


Earth

Performance:

Earth elements aren’t typically drawn to ultra-athleticism, but they can certainly be talented athletes. Earth enjoys comfort and nurturing others. So they often like to stay in their comfort zone and will only push themselves out of it if they’re doing it for someone else. So if a good friend is really into ultra running, maybe they’ll consider it. Earth is also very sensitive, in-tune with themselves, and grounded, so they can push themselves hard, but they’re not going to make progress as fast as other elements who might regularly push beyond their boundaries. Earth’s training would naturally include more down time and rest. Earth people are very uncomfortable with conflict so they generally dislike competition. They’d rather have everyone get along and they’ll extricate themselves from situations where people don’t.

Rest and recovery: good

Earth knows how to stay grounded and in touch with themselves. I mean, they are literally the ground in the natural world! So they understand how to rest, recover, and nurture themselves better than any other element. But athletic culture doesn’t really support these traits so they often don’t feel particularly welcome. They don’t need to be first or the best, just supported and in harmony with others.

Pro Tips:

Earth elements need to make sure they are training for themselves, not a friend or a trainer/coach. They need to feel good about what they’re doing for themselves, otherwise they’ll grow to resent the others they feel are pushing them too hard. In essence, they have to learn to speak up for their needs. And sometimes earth needs a kick in the pants to push themselves out of their comfort zone to make progress.

 

Metal

Performance:

Metal elements are very adept athletes from the structured, regimented, very focused perspective. They love details, planning, and analysis, so they’re the data nerds, tracking everything meticulously. Wood can do this too, but not usually to the same level. You need discipline, structure, focus, and determination to be a great athlete and metal elements have this in spades. They also have a very strong spiritual side and tend to find great meaning in the pursuits that deeply define their life. They have an affinity for beauty and aesthetics so being active outside in nature can be very soothing.

Rest and recovery: challenged

Metal elements can get very rigid and dogmatic about their schedule because structure is their comfort zone. They start paying more attention to their schedule than they do their own internal cues. They are also perfectionists, so they put immense pressure on themselves to stick to their schedule and make sure their data is trending the right way. Their determination and focus can blind them to what they actually need.

Pro-Tips:
Metal elements need to back off the internal pressure they put on themselves to achieve and allow for ups and downs in energy and training. We are not linear robots; the body has natural rhythms and we need to respect them. Metal elements have to learn to listen to their bodies rather than adhering to an arbitrary training schedule. In other words, if you’re tired, rest.

 

Water

Performance:

Water elements are drawn to extreme sports and adventure because they are thrill seekers. They really enjoy pushing their limits and finding that adrenaline rush. For a water, there is a deep-seated fear of their ability to survive, so they will push harder and harder to prove that they can. There are a lot of water athletes out there because the athletic mindset and community mirrors their natural tendencies. It builds them up and praises their extremeness, their love of competition, and their daringness. Water elements also seem to have massive energy reserves, like a wood, and can push beyond normal limits. All elements can do this, but water does this routinely and pathologically. At the base of all the bravado is fear and insecurity.

Rest and recovery ability: most challenged

Waters more than any element don’t know how to rest. They will push themselves to the brink of collapse. I’ve also seen other elements do this, but because water people live in the extremes, they tend to crash harder and take longer to recover. Water’s don’t want to admit their own limitations so they try to control their bodies. They are the essence of the “push through the pain” mentality of athletes because they truly believe they are the masters of their body’s signals.

Pro Tips:

Water elements have to learn to slow themselves down and listen. The body is wise and is always sending you information and you have to pay attention. You can’t always overrule it. Take a step back from the push and try slower activities. Let go of the fear that’s pushing you and embrace more calm and joy. Fear is our most powerful driver and has the strongest grip on water elements out of all the elements. But it can’t be turned on 24/7 otherwise waters will burn out and injure themselves. Work toward a sustainable practice with slower, more gentle and peaceful activities integrated in.

 

I hope this post gave you a little more insight into yourself and what you need for rest and recovery. As you may have noticed, most elements are challenged in their ability to slow down and recover. This difficulty is highly influenced by our own cultural biases and especially the athletic culture of pushing-doing-going-never-stop-until-you-die. 

When your elements are balanced, it’s much easier to disengage from these behavior tendencies (which are actually defense mechanisms) and toxic cultural influences and really get to the core of yourself and your own needs. When the slate is cleared, you start to see yourself in the mountains, rivers, trees, ground, and sparks of life surrounding you in nature and the universe.
 

I neglected my self-care again

a pause on the KCT, cr. David Moskowitz

a pause on the KCT, cr. David Moskowitz

the practice of self-care is a constant awareness; we must regularly return to core rituals that nourish us.

one-third of my mission and my engagement strategy with clients for the past five (almost six!) years is the practice of self-care. though I understand and heartily preach the benefits of strategic rest, paring down unnecessary activities in one’s personal life, time alone, meditation, eating well and often, and getting enough rest, sometimes I don’t practice what I know to be true.

my recent bout of work and personal travel, though inspiring, drained me. you know why it drained me? I neglected my self-care.

for the last ten days I did not take the time to cook beautiful meals for myself. I meditated but only short, requisite sits, not the long somatic work I am in need of at this time of my life. I didn’t do my mat work. I ran in shoes that fit me poorly and ignored the pain of the blisters they gave me. I spent joyful time caring for my beloved tribe of people but, aside from some euphoric desert runs, didn’t spend time on myself.

most importantly: I didn’t spend a single day alone. for me alone time is crucial for my recovery process and to recharge my creativity. my spirit requires a heavy dose of lonely in order to do its gnostic work; to give without resentment to my baby; to show up with total presence for my friends, family, and clients.

self-care, in pop culture parlance, is often mistakenly equated with this 'treat yo self' phenomenon. especially women are told to get their nails done, to buy a new outfit, to get dressed up, and these superficial, consumerist gestures are considered to be caring to oneself. perhaps these actions, done with presence and appreciation, can be caring gestures but self-care doesn't have to cost a thing. self-care also often does not have an external representation of having been completed - mostly because completion is not the goal with a practice.

the practice of self-care is a constant awareness; we must regularly return to core rituals that nourish us. this balance is not static, it is not 50/50, it is not attainable so that we can forget about it having accomplished it once and for all. like any practice, self-care requires us to learn, to un-learn, to regress, then return to what we know of ourselves and do the simple hard work again and again.

so today, tomorrow, and part of the next day I am taking to be almost totally alone, holed up in my little cabin, caring for myself.

in wellness,

Brittany Raven

Parenting at the Vertical World

at the gym, Rumi is nine months old

at the gym, Rumi is nine months old

i went into labor nine months ago while climbing at Vertical World Seattle. now Rumi Wren likes to join me for fitness and climbing sessions there.

early the morning of 23 May 2016, I felt the excitement of the early stages of labor. stoked to dig into the work of laboring and birthing at home, I set about finishing the last details of my work and training before the contractions intensified. that morning I met Laurel Fan for a coaching appointment. by timing my questions for her between contractions we made it through the meeting - a few times we even paused to feel my belly tighten with contractions and to ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ with amazement.

after walking home from the cafe where Laurel and I met, I gathered my gym climbing kit, put on yoga pants and top, and wrangled Babydaddy for one last pregnant gym session. knowing I’d soon be in too active of labor to climb well, we sped off to Vertical World which was a ten minute drive from home.

we had a surprisingly good session. I climbed eight pitches between contractions, belaying him uncomfortably because at that point it didn’t feel awesome to stand still. after the eighth pitch we paused so I could spend some time in the lead cave visualising my first postpartum leads. knowing my next lead would be just days away, being that I was already in labor, I sat for ten or twenty minutes looking up at the route on which I’d begin. I bouldered the start, I tried to remember the feeling of whipping, I envisioned myself confidently clipping draws, and I remembered the distinct mixture of fear and exhilaration inherent in leading at my limit.

during my ninth pitch of the day a whopper of a contraction hit. I asked Babydaddy to dirt me, quickly peeled off my harness, and announced I was ready to give birth so we should go home. Rumi was born twenty-four hours later on my bedroom floor, 24 May 2016.

on 27 May 2016, I tied in to the sharp end for the first time since November 2015. as I sailed happily off the wall, whipping a good fifteen feet, I giggled maniacally and thanked myself for the faith I had in myself to continue my upward progression throughout pregnancy.


I COACH PREGNANT AND POSTPARTUM ATHLETES SO IF YOU LIKE WHAT YOU'VE READ HERE, SIGN UP FOR COACHING SERVICES MONTHLY OR A LA CARTE.

The two wings of adrenal fatigue for athletes

As I dig in to work with yet another chronically overtrained client, I'm compelled to share my simple approach to coaching through adrenal fatigue. 

First, let's back up. What is adrenal fatigue? Adrenal fatigue is an amorphous set of symptoms resulting from a chronically-taxed adrenal system. When the body lives in its fight-or-flight (sympathetic) nervous response for too long without a break, it exhausts its hormonal response to stress thus becoming disregulated. This disregulation can cause chronic fatigue, extreme weight gain or loss, thyroid disorder, increased propensity for musculoskeletal injury, and a suppressed immune system. On a subtler level, those suffering with adrenal fatigue might report a lack of appetite, increasing anxiety, less motivation to train, and emotional volatility. Essentially, the body in this fatigued state becomes unable to cope with stress.

The athletes with whom I work generally have adrenal fatigue originating from one or both of the following:

  1. Trauma

  2. Overtraining

Clients with a heavy load of multigenerational trauma or with a history of abuse, neglect, or other attachment issues often exhibit signs of adrenal fatigue - even without having overtrained. This happens because people with a higher nervous system set point often have a hair trigger response to stress. These athletes are victims of sexual assault, descendants of genocide survivors, those raised in extreme poverty, those who were adopted or fostered as children, and people with absent or uninvolved parents. Though they might maintain a reasonable training load, they are often functioning in an activated nervous state without knowing it. 

In our work together, clients exhibiting this wing of adrenal fatigue learn the tools and tricks of controlling and calming one's autonomic nervous system. Over a series of several months these clients begin to report increased awareness of their surroundings, reduced phobias of being alone/in the dark/etc, and they begin to heal long-term injuries and nagging yet unspecific illnesses.

As I've written about extensively before, overtraining in our yang athletic culture is all too pervasive. Pushed by Western society to 'conquer', to 'push through it' we lose track of our body's intelligent cues to rest. Clients dealing with long-term overtraining often present with adrenal fatigue - the condition that finally makes them stop and rest. Overtraining is often coupled with dysmorphic body image issues and/or eating disorder. Would you believe that about 75% of my clients, male and female, self report having had or are currently amidst an eating or exercise addiction? 

In order to recover, these clients work with their mental health professional concurrent with me. We begin to reframe the concept of yin athletic practices as part of the athlete's job. Again, over the course of several months, these athletes begin to dig themselves out of their deep energetic hole to rise again like the Phoenix.

By partnering with Seattle-based acupuncturist and ND, Dr. Liz Carter, and bodyworker, Alex Sollek, I work closely with my clients to allow them to simultaneously rehab their adrenals AND continue to progress on their path of mountain endurance.


 

I am offering a one-hour Zoom session on the topic of the Autonomic Nervous System for Athletes on 29 Nov 2018

Eat well: nutrition strategies for endurance

harvesting grouse, Okanogan Highlands, 2016, cr. Ashley Feerer

One of the most common questions I get is: "How do I eat properly during my next event?" The answer begins long before event day.

Fueling for endurance is scientific and it is an artful practice in self-knowledge.

Food resistances and allergies: As a starting point, the athlete must be aware of any dietary restrictions she might have. Severe resistances and allergies can result in low hemoglobin or severe gut irritation - both chronic issues that can stifle the growth of an endurance animal.

Self-knowledge: Given your values, where you live, and what you crave your diet may look very different from my diet. For example, I have a close friend living in California and when we run together she packs a nutrient-dense vegetable juice flask while I tote venison sausage and sheep cheese. There are as many ways to accomplish nutritional solvency as there are individual people.

working hard to eat well, Aconcagua, 2012 cr. Chad Kellogg

Before: As the athlete prepares for an event, it is her job to learn to fuel on the move during training sessions as simulation for the event of choice. Additionally, the months (or years) pre-event are well-suited to lavish self care in the form of optimized post-run or -climb or -ski refueling. Arriving on event day over fueled and under trained is preferrable to the inverse - which may result in ketosis or musculoskeletal injury.

During: While in motion, the fuel must continue. Based on an intimate understanding of the specific athlete's anaerobic threshold, VO2Max, pace, heart rate, and preferences nutrition is programmed specifically for the training session or event in question. This balance of carbohydrates, fat, protein, aminos, sodium, and a plethora of other values varies from day to day and event to event even for a single athlete. During our coaching engagement, we can determine the best food for you to consume throughout your endurance practice's lifecycle.

picking a sweet one off a tree in my yard-orchard, Methow Valley, 2016

After: Post-exertion nutrition is perhaps the most important (and the simplest) aspect of endurance-specific nutrition. There are two windows during which the athlete's worked body is most receptive to nutrient replenishment - and the consequences for ignoring those windows will make themselves apparent on your next sluggish run or ride. Our coaching engagement will provide you with the concrete calorie ratios and time windows for refueling post-event.

But what do you eat, Brittany? A lot of people in my community ask this. I am Celiac and prefer to keep my dairy consumption minimal. My family and I hunt much of our own food; when we shop for the rest we choose local and organic every time. My daily staples this season are oats, seasonal fruit (chomping an apple from my tree right now), fresh-ground nut butters, homemade breads, venison, grouse, salmon, trout, root vegetables, squashes, warming cardomom chai tea, stout greens, high-quality walnut oils, homemade bone broths, and a lot of fermented delicacies. I drink no alcohol and rarely consume added sugars. However, I'm known to splash a generous amount of apple cider vinegar into whatever fizzy thing is in my glass. 

Beyond the dogma (and the fads): You may have tried a restrictive diet, one that uses no evidence nor specific knowledge of your body to tell you what foods are 'off limits'. This is at best ineffective and at worst can manifest a latent eating disorder. If a climbing partner or trainer espouses the bounds of a diet that sound more like a game of Risk than a delicious menu, it is best to steer clear.

 

Using my evidence-based approach to training, performing, and recovering with sound nutritional content and timing, you will improve your performance and decrease susceptibility to illness or fatigue. Click below to sign up for nutrition-specific coaching - and stay tuned for more on this deep topic including words about supplementation, plant-based diets, and guest posts from some smarty-pants nutritionists.