"Women Are Not Small Men"

“…everything that we know in nutrition and sports science and ex-phys is based on a male model.” - Dr. Stacy Sims.

One of the most eye-opening podcasts I’ve listened to this year is an interview with Dr Stacy Sims on TrainingPeaks’ CoachCast. As a coach, I’ve always known that men and women react to training stress differently, but Dr. Sims makes it clear that the differences are much deeper than I imagined. 

Get Happier and Fitter at a Training Camp

It’s snowing or raining and cold. You’re sick of the trainer inside and wearing tons of layers outside. Maybe it’s time for a training camp. Whether with your team or riding buddies, a late winter training camp is a great way to kick your fitness into high gear and start working on that biker tan.

Camps generally work best when you head to warmer climates like the south or southwest. The sun and warmth will do wonders for your mental state, especially after the long hard winter we’ve had this year in the midwest. And if you head somewhere hillier than your hometown, you’ll build great climbing fitness in a shorter amount of time. 

For those of us who ride dirt too, a warmer destination may be the first time you’ve been on dry singletrack for months. Our local trails were unrideable for weeks due to wet conditions.

One of the best and obvious things about training camp is you have more time to train, but something often overlooked is you have more time to rest. Without work, kids, and the other demands of normal life, you can spend most of your time off the bike just sitting around recovering. And recovery time is when the adaptations from your training really occur. 

If you go with a team or friends you don’t ride with regularly, camp is a good time to reconnect and build camaraderie. The friendly competition in the group is also a great motivator to push harder than you normally would. 

One caveat though: don’t push yourself so hard you that you overtrain. If a camp is longer than about 3 days, you should build in some recovery time - this could be seeing the sites in the area you’re visiting to an easy ride to a local coffee shop. The rest of your camp will go a lot better if you’re not completely wrecked before it’s even over!

Here’s a great video by GCN about Training Camps:

From my series: Your Body is Smarter Than You Are: Inflammation

Ice Baths and Anti-inflammatories

When it comes to exercise recovery, there has always been a lot of emphasis on reducing inflammation. Ice baths and ibuprofen were considered beneficial to faster recovery and reduced soreness. 
However, more and more research has shown that inflammation is your body doing exactly what it needs to do in order to heal faster. Which always seemed logical to me - more blood flow around damaged muscles speeds the rebuilding of muscle cells. I think one reason these practices proliferated and are still extremely common is that they do reduce pain. So by that logic, reduced pain = faster healing. Unfortunately, the pain relief just masks what is really going on with your body (meds are very good at this!). 
My advice: if it really hurts, take the meds or sit in an ice bath - severe pain is not helping you recover either. Maybe a better alternative is to take a warm bath, which feels better and will also speed recovery. Caveat - an actual injury is another story and topic for later. But for normal soreness from exercise, let your body do it’s thing.