Introduction: In this episode: how to stay fit when you’re stuck at home, when is the best time to stretch? What to do about hypoglycemia, is juice okay after a workout, how many calories are in a pound of fat? How to stay fit on a road trip, shin splint tips, what to do about stress factors, keeping track of laps while you’re swimming and how to recover from an Ironman triathlon.
Ben: Hey, this is Ben Greenfield. I’m going to start off by saying something that many of you probably already realize but some of you may not, and that is that you can listen to this in your portable mp3 player. You can actually download it automatically via iTunes if you want to, and put it in your audio player, listen to it while you run, while you bike. If you have one of those cool underwater mp3 players, while you swim. While you lift, while you drive in your car if you’re careful, and during all sorts of other activities including cleaning, doing laundry, cooking. All sorts of ways that you can get smarter about fitness and nutrition. We’ve got some quick special announcements today including one really great one about Web cooking classes and a free Webcast that’s coming up and then we’ll move on to this week’s Listener Q and A. You guys sent me tons of great questions this week. We actually don’t have a featured topic or a special interview this week. I have some really great ones lined up. I wanted to focus on the Q and A today including a really good question about how to stay fit at home. So with that being said, we’re going to move on to this week’s special announcements after a brief special message.
Alright folks, let’s start with that announcement I made about the free Webcast, cooking class Webcast coming up. Some of you may remember Chef Todd who did a whole series of videos a couple of months ago – a series of seven free videos that taught you how to sauté, how to make a pizza, how to cook at home, how to do all sorts of cool things. Chef Todd is a really great teacher. He’s a great educator when it comes to showing you how to cook and he’s actually doing a Webcast now which is a free video Webcast. You don’t have to be technologically savvy to figure out how to attend a Webcast. It’s just a simple link that you click on and it opens up. Chef Todd tooling around his kitchen on your computer live. And you can sit there and ask him questions and interact with him as he shows you how to cook. And the actual topic of this Webcast he’s doing is how to use fresh seasonal ingredients to cook fast, nutritious meals in five simple steps. I’m going to put a link to that in the Shownotes as well as a special video from Chef Todd. So you do not want to miss out on that Webcast and just go to the Shownotes for podcast number 99 and you’ll be able to see that link from Chef Todd. In addition, some other links that are up there that you’ll see will be a link to the brand new Marathon Dominator package if you’re interested in getting ready for a fall marathon. This is the time to grab that 16 week prep program that takes you from your couch to a marathon or even from already being a marathoner to being a very fast marathoner. If you haven’t yet tuned in to the Quick and Dirty Tips network, that’s another really, really cool podcast I do. It’s only five – maximum 10 minutes long. The last episode was on how to make your muscles bigger. And each week, it’s essentially just a very quick and short quick and dirty podcast on how to do certain things in fitness. How to slim down and shape up. So I’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes as well. If you like either of the podcasts, that one that I just talked about or this one that you’re listening to now, go to iTunes and leave a ranking. Finally there are www.bengreenfieldfitness.com T-shirts now available and all you have to do is donate to the show and I will send you a T-shirt, free shipping. I usually throw a bunch of goodies in there as well. You may be interested in a group trip to Thailand that I am doing this winter if you are a triathlete. If you are interested in that, again go to the Shownotes for this episode. Episode number 99 and you’ll be able to see the link to that. So, those are all the special announcements and we’re going to go ahead and move into this week’s Q and A. Remember, you don’t have to actually write down any of the announcements or anything that I talk about in the Q and A, because I’ve done it all for you over in the Shownotes. So go over to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com, click on the Shownotes for episode number 99 and everything I talk about will come out right there in front of you so you can go explore on your own at your convenience.
We are one episode away from the 100th episode and that means that for that 100th episode, I will only be responding to audio call-in questions. So that means that the only way you can ask a question this week is to call toll free to 8772099439 or you can Skype to user name Pacific Fit using the free software from www.skype.com. You can also reach me via email at [email protected], but I won’t be answering any email questions this week. Just the call-in listener questions. Something a little fun, a little new for that podcast episode number 100. So we’re going to start off with a question from listener Rod.
Rod asks: I’m nearly 40 and I’ve never had to work hard at my fitness to stay in reasonable shape. I’ve never been overly concerned with how much muscle I have, but I can’t afford to get a gym membership so I’m thinking some anaerobic fat burning exercises would be good. I’m often in with my kids so I want something cheap I can do around the house. Would you recommend body weight circuits combined with skipping and perhaps a run once a week?
Ben answers: Well, it’s a great question Rod. And one of the issues is that body weight exercises work fine for a home workout circuit. Anybody who’s listening to this podcast for any extended period of time or has visited the Web site know that I’ll recommend things like pushups, squats, lunges, crunches, all sorts of body weight exercises. There are a ton of other bodyweight exercises that you can view on the free exercise video and photo database I have over at www.pacificfit.net. But the thing with the body weight exercises is they can get a little bit boring. So having some extra activities you can do can be pretty helpful when you’re trying to motivate yourself to stay fit. So some of the things that I keep around my house include the following. I have elastic band tubing. The kind with handles on it, so I can attach that to a door knob and I can do rows, I can do shoulder rotation type of exercises. I can attach it to a bedpost, tie one into my feet and leg kickouts, leg kickbacks, leg kickin, leg kickout and I can also stand on it and do curls, kneel on it and do triceps extensions, all sorts of exercises you can do with a simple elastic band and tubing. In addition to that, there’s another type of band called a Mini-Band that you can use to attach one leg to the other leg near the ankles and you can walk around with a Mini-Band. You can do front walks, back walks, side walks. Even when you’re cleaning your house, your kitchen, just tooling around, if you have that band attached to your feet – great hip and butt workout and gives you a little bit of cardio there having to walk around with the elastic band basically giving you resistance against your legs. Another thing that I have around the house is a stability ball so you can do pushups with the stability ball, squats, you can do crunches, pikes, all sorts of exercises. I just put up a video a few weeks ago at my YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/bengreenfieldfitness where I demonstrate a more advanced exercise called a corkscrew that you can do on a stability ball. But in addition to your elastic band and your Mini-Band I would definitely have a stability ball. Many of you have seen me exercise with something called a gym stick. You can do curls, upright rows, you can do – man there’s literally hundreds of exercises you can do with a gym stick. Again over at the YouTube channel you can see me demonstrating a bunch of gym stick workouts. If you go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and do a search for “gym stick” you can read more about it, but basically it’s like an aluminum tube with elastic resistance bands attached that you can get at varying levels of resistance and tons of at-home workouts you can do with a resistance band. If you really wanted to do pull-ups or pushups, the perfect pull-up or the perfect pushup apparatus are both really good for giving you some equipment that you can use to give yourself a little bit higher range of exercises and a little bit more rotation for your hands when it comes to doing pull-ups and pushups. I don’t have those because I actually live nearby a park where if I wanted to do pull-ups, I’ll run down to the park and do a workout that has some pull-ups in it. But if you wanted to install a pull-up bar at your home, the Perfect Pull-Ups work really well for that. Other pieces of equipment that can be of use at home can be a Bosu Ball. A Bosu Ball is like half of a stability ball that you can stand on and balance. You can do pushups with it, you can do squats, you can stand on it and do normal exercises that you would do with a dumbbell, like you can stand on the Bosu Bell and do dumbbell curls or dumbbell presses. Then the last piece of equipment that I have around is a yoga mat just so your carpet and floor doesn’t get sweaty. So your back doesn’t get scarred. But essentially a yoga mat is something you can use not just for yoga but abdominal exercises, anything where you have to lie down on your stomach or your back. So, a lot of different types of equipment. One of the least expensive places to get all this stuff would be a Web site called www.performbetter.com and I’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before on the Web site but I do have a page at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. It’s at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/benrecommends and it’s just a list of a lot of the little things like I just discussed that I recommend to people for fitness. So I’ll put a link to the “Ben Recommends” page after your question, Rod.
Rod, you did have a follow up question asking about the effect that beer has on training. How much difference would a few beers once a week make? If you’re trying to shed your body fat from 6% down to 3%, something like beer would make a difference but if you’re having a couple of beers a week or maybe three or four beers a week, yes, it’s empty calories, extra carbohydrates. There’s some gluten in there. If you’re gluten intolerant, slight dip in testosterone from the alcohol consumption. But again we’re talking about very, very small effects from a minimal amount of beer per week. It kind of goes along the same lines as having a glass of wine every now and again with dinner. You’re not holding yourself back tremendously. The little tip I would give you is to understand that if you’re going to drink a beer, then cut whatever meal that you’re consuming that beer with by about 150 calories or so to account for the calories that you’re consuming from the beer. But unless you’re having multiple drinks then it’s really not going to have that much of an effect on your hormonal levels or your fat loss.
Chuck asks: I was wondering about the best time to do static stretching. I know to warm up for a workout with dynamic stretches, so is static stretching best after workouts? If I exercise in the afternoon or the evening, would it be a good idea to stretch again later that night?
Ben answers: Well, what Chuck is referring to when he says “dynamic stretching” would be stretches that take a joint through a range of motion. Like instead of doing a stretch for your hamstring by reaching down and touching your toes, you’d do a stretch for your hamstring by swinging your leg back and forth rapidly ten times. That’s a dynamic stretch. What research has shown is that static stretching – the type that you stretch and hold can actually reduce the force capacity of a muscle. So if you do it before you weight lift or before you go for a run, technically it could reduce your exercise capacity or your speed or the amount of weight you can lift. If you do a dynamic stretch, it doesn’t really have that effect. A series of rapid arm swings or leg swings. So what you would do is you would do the dynamic stretches prior to your workout and you would do the static stretches to assist with removing inflammation, to assist with your cool down, to help you be a little bit less sore afterwards because there won’t be as much blood pooling or calcium leakage right after your workout. Now, if you were going to stretch again later in the day – for example if you exercise in the afternoon or evening, then you would stretch after that workout as well if you wanted to. Again, a cool down walk with a few more arm swings is really going to give you the same thing as a static stretch would. But if you have poor flexibility, if you’ve been experiencing things like pain on the outside of your knee from inflexible IT bands or you’ve been experiencing pain in the front of your shoulder from an inflexible posterior shoulder then static stretches can definitely make sense in that situation. What I personally do is I get up in the morning and I stretch, and before a workout I’ll do a little bit of dynamic stretching and then before bed, I’ll try and hit the foam roller for a few minutes because the foam roller can really kind of relax the muscles. It’s like giving your massage right before you go to bed. So, that’s the way that I do it. But you’re on the right track there, Chuck. So great question.
Now listener Robert had a very interesting question. As a matter of fact, because it’s such an interesting question, Robert I’m going to give you a free membership for one month to my Body Transformation Club where I’ll send you a postcard every week with fitness tips, nutrition tips and a link to a secret video page that I put up with even more recipes and exercises and thing that I don’t release to the public at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. So email me Robert if you want a free code to join that club. Here is your question.
Robert asks: I have been diagnosed with hypoglycemia. The query is whether it’s been caused by my faulty eating habits over the course of the years while doing endurance sports, I don’t know. Would you elaborate on the difference between reactive and exercise-induced hypoglycemia? At the end of March I experienced an unprecedented status being constantly down, devastating fatigue and lethargy on a daily basis, dizziness, sluggishness despite having changed my eating habits. For what it’s worth, I’m about to turn 36 this June. Is this middle-aged something related? I have been able to handle the hypoglycemia fairly well but I am wondering what is causing my body to react differently.
Ben answers: So when your body is hypoglycemic – basically that is low blood sugar. If you take somebody who has insulin insensitivity which is something that we’ve talked about on this show before – somebody whose body isn’t very responsive to the hormone insulin and so rather than storing blood sugar the way that they’re supposed to, they have very, very high circulating levels of blood sugar and high circulating levels of insulin because their body just doesn’t do what it’s supposed to with sugar. Well hypoglycemia is kind of the opposite problem. It’s almost like you’re too sensitive to insulin. Your body just takes all the sugar and stores it right away and your blood sugar levels drop too rapidly. It can happen after a meal. That would be what’s called postprandial or reactive hypoglycemia. And typically what happens is you eat, your body produces a ton of insulin. You’re super sensitive to it. Your blood sugar has dropped, you become hypoglycemic and you experience a lot of the dizziness, the sluggishness, the lethargy that Robert is complaining of. With exercise-induced hypoglycemia, it’s a little bit different in that what you’re doing is you’re burning through your blood sugar stores, and essentially your body isn’t releasing sugar the way that it’s supposed to. It’s usually related to the production of a hormone called glucagon which kind of does the opposite thing that insulin does. It makes your body able to break down muscle glycogen and liver glycogen and get it out into the blood stream. So it’s kind of a glucagon issue and insulin oversensitivity issue. So as far as it being related to some of the issues that you’re experiencing, there have been interesting studies done on exercise-induced hypoglycemia. Interestingly, the glucagon hormone that I just talked about is something that can be affected negatively – can be decreased by overtraining or high levels of endurance training which you’ve been doing. Now the idea behind that is when it’s done normally, it’s supposed to spare your use of carbohydrate and increase your use of fat. But, if you’re hypoglycemic – in your case you’re essentially not freeing up enough blood sugars to actually give you energy, it sounds like during rest or exercise. So the other thing that can happen when you’re exercising, when you’re engaging in a lot of endurance training is your body produces a large amount of something called insulin like growth factor, which again is something that can serve to prevent the hypoglycemic effect of your free insulin growth factors. But what happens when you’re overtrained and you’re doing lots of endurance exercise is that the insulin growth factors which again are going to really influence your sensitivity to insulin and again cause that drop in blood sugar – your sensitivity to those is going to increase and your insulin like growth factors are actually going to decrease a little bit. So, if you have that overtraining heavy, heavy amounts of endurance training going on then essentially you’re setting yourself up hormonally to experience more of that hypoglycemia. Especially if you are overtrained. Now, a couple of other things are that your age is that which – a lot of people actually begin at 27 or 28 – a lot of people are going to experience a decrease in testosterone levels. In men that’s called andropause and decreased testosterone can affect both blood sugar regulation as well as thyroid activity, and so that would be another consideration for you – is not only to think about whether or not you’re overtraining from an endurance standpoint but whether your testosterone levels are going down as well. Then the other thing that I would look at in your case would be your actual dietary intake. Are you at a level of dietary intake that is too low? Especially from a carbohydrate perspective? Are you constantly glycogen depleted? I don’t know how many carbohydrates you’re taking in. But if you’re being very, very careful in terms of how many calories you’re giving yourself that could be another issue. I’m not a doctor. If I were in your shoes, what I would do myself is I would rest and eat. Basically I would give my body a few weeks of just relative recovery, light amounts of physical activity and refueling, eating. Maybe even bumping up the body fat levels a little bit and getting yourself re-set, re-boot so to speak. Now, there may be deeper medical issues at play here. One of the people I really recommend you get in touch with would be the person whose opinion I respect the most on matters of everything from thyroid to hormones, testosterone and that’s Dr. Roby Mitchell. He’s a triathlete himself. One of the nation’s top natural physicians. And he’s been on the show three or four times. You can hear his podcast by going to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and doing a search for “Roby Mitchell.” You can visit his website at www.drfitt.com. I would absolutely look into talking to Dr. Roby Mitchell if you want to investigate this more from a medical standpoint. So great question, Robert.
Kim asks: I’m running 60 to 90 minutes for six to ten miles. Is the homemade green juice a good recovery food? (She says her homemade greens uses romaine lettuce, spinach, lemons and grapefruit.) I run in the morning and prefer to drink this after a run and then not eat until about two hours after I’m done running.
Ben answers: The green juice would not be good post-workout, Kim. The stuff that you’re making at least. Because you’re getting your anti-oxidants and you’re getting your carbohydrates with the grapefruit. But there’s really not that much protein in that drink. At least not enough to replenish a longer endurance training session especially a run, muscle-damaging run like the one that you’re doing. I would include if you could maybe some nuts with that. You could include a little bit of protein, like you could put a couple of scoops of a hemp protein or a pea protein if you want to stick to that vegetable profile in the juice. But, I would definitely up the protein intake because although you’re getting some of the things your body needs after exercise, there’s not enough amino acids in a little bit of spinach, romaine, lemons and grapefruit to give you everything that you need post-exercise. So get a little bit more protein in there in that homemade green juice that you’re making.
Chris asks: I’m curious about how many calories are in a pound of body fat. Most of what I’ve heard says that a pound of body fat his equal to about 3500 calories. But if one pound is 450 grams and 450 grams x 9 calories is 4050 calories; how does that make sense?
Ben answers: Well, here’s the deal, Chris. Nutritional fat is different from body fat. So fat nutritionally does have 9 calories. But fat in your body actually has closer to about a little over 7 calories. Actually 7 ½ calories. The reason for that is that adipose tissue or storage fat in your body has things in it other than fat, and it contains some protein. It contains a little bit of connective tissue and it contains some water. So, that’s why when you’re talking about weight loss in the body, for every pound of fat that you want to burn, you actually only need to burn 3500 calories, not 4000 calories. Because the fat is mixed with the water, the connective tissue, and the proteins. So kind of a little bit of a math issue there. But that’s how that works. So, and then Chris has another question.
Chris asks: Do you have any recommendations for how to take on a multi-day road trip and stay fit? I’m thinking about stopping every 90 minutes or so to walk around and maybe to go for a short bike ride, but beyond that I’m not sure how to keep my legs from getting stale from sitting on my butt for so long.
Ben answers: Absolutely, Chris. You know walking can help. Stopping and walking, generally some type of movement every 60 to 90 minutes is going to help tremendously. When you’re on an airplane and you’re trapped on the airplane, say in a window aisle and you’re sitting next to maybe a 350 pound individual who’s fast asleep and you just are stuck there, then that’s a case where you can do neck circles and butt squeezes and arm flexes and foot lifts and all the little things to help increase blood flow a little bit. But when you’re driving and you have control of when you stop and when you go, in addition to walking, you can do jumping jacks. That’s one of my favorite things to do. Every time I stop and pump gas or stop at a grocery store or convenience station, I’ll do 100 jumping jacks. That’s just the rule that I follow when I’m on the road. Body weight squats would be fine too, if you have trouble jumping around. Walking of course is great. Usually it’s a little less intensive than doing jumping jacks or squats. So sometimes you have to walk a little bit longer to get the same calorie burning metabolism inducing effect. But that can help out quite a bit as well. In addition to that for staying fit on a road trip, making sure that you’re not eating things that are going to leave you feeling sluggish and tired, staying away from any of the carbohydrates that come in packages. Going after more of the fresh vegetables, brining some carrots, some celery, cauliflower, sugar snack peas, crunch vegetables that aren’t going to spike your blood sugar level so much and leave you kind of sluggish. Proteins can do well also as long as you limit your intake, because you’re sedentary, you’re driving. So don’t do a ton of Trail Mix. It’s high calorie but you really have to limit consumption. That’s one of the issues with Trail Mix. It’s so easy to go through – easily a small can of Trail Mix or a small bag of Trail Mix is over 1000 calories. So you have to be really careful with the Trail Mix and know how much of it you’re taking in and limit your consumption of that. And other fitness trips for staying fit, this is something that you may want to think about if you’re a little bit more of kind of a CrossFit style person, if you’re really going after getting incredibly fit – this is something that I’ve done as well. You can stop at rest stops and push your car. I’m totally not kidding here. You can literally – if it’s a more empty rest stop, you can put your car on neutral and from the driver’s side, not from the back because you don’t want to lose control of your car, you can push your car around. You would be pretty danged surprised at how hard it can be to push your car for two minutes. Again, this would be for if you’re a little more fit individual. But that can work as well. The car pushes. So that will give you a little bit of ammo to work with.
Lee asks: I am a relatively active person. I go to the gym four or five times a week doing both cardio and weight training. Recently when running on the treadmill, the left and right side of my shin bone became sore and tight particularly on my left leg. Even when starting the cardio with a casual walking pace to warm up my legs, once I run for ten minutes the muscle tissue on each side of my shin bone becomes sore and tight. Do you have any advice as to what is causing this or how to prevent this?
Ben answers: Sounds like classic shin splints to me. Again, I’m not a doctor but everything you’re saying suggests shin splints. The fact that you’re getting more on your left side suggests that your left leg may be longer – a leg length discrepancy can be an issue with shin splints. Technique is one thing you can look at, whether you walk or you run, if you’re really doing a heavy heel strike, that can cause the shin splints quite a bit because you get that stopping motion of the ground against your foot – that breaking motion requires more absorption of shock from your shins if you land on more of your mid to front foot, then you’ll decrease the shock absorption requirements of your shin a little bit. Calf flexibility is a huge issue. So many people focus on strengthening their shins, strengthening their legs, running correctly but don’t address tight Achilles or tight calves. Doing standing and yoga type of stretches for your calves can help out quite a bit. A standing stretch would be for example putting your toe against the wall and leaning into that toe and then pushing the knee in towards the wall. So the bent standing calf stretch can help. A yoga stretch, a great example would be the down dog. Great stretch for stretching the lower leg and improving flexibility there. Warming up, you’re already doing but make sure that you’re not just warming up by walking. You’re also warming up by stretching your ankles, doing ankle circles. Foot circles can help quite a bit. If you’re an over-pronator, that can really aggravate shin splints especially if you’re not wearing shoes. That would actually assist with stabilizing your body or your foot from going into over-pronation. So an over-pronation shoe or an over-pronation orthotic can help out quite a bit. And then one of the things you can do to strengthen those muscles in the front of your leg is you can literally lean with your bag against the wall and lift one toe up towards your head while keeping your heel on the ground and then return it down and then lift the other toe up and return it to the ground and do that in rapid succession back and forth from foot to foot. That Marathon Dominator program that I talked about, there’s actually a video that comes along with that for controlling shin splints. But that’s one trick that I recommend to my clients is that shin strengthening exercise I just described. So, hope that helps, Lee. And best of luck with those.
Mike asks: I have a question about chronic stress fractures. I’m 44 and was training for Corti’lane Ironman. Things were going well but two weeks ago my left thigh started to hurt. I have a history of stress factors so I had a bone scan. Sure enough my left femur has a stress fracture midway between the knee and the hip. I’ve completed two other Ironman races. Both were done on stress factors. I’ve had four stress factors in the past three years. I’m out for this year but I guess the question is do I have to give up long distance running events?
Ben answers: Really depends Mike. There are people who are certainly more prone to stress fractures based on their biomechanics. If you’re a naturally heavy, very muscle bound person and you’re carrying a lot of weight and doing a lot of impact-based activity that you weren’t really designed to do from a genetic standpoint, then that can definitely have an effect on increasing your risk of stress fractures. If you have low bone mineral density, if you’re losing a lot of minerals – there is a test. Bioletics does a test called the NTX test where they’ll look at what your mineral loss is – that can be another issue. If you’re losing a lot of minerals or if you have low levels of bone building nutrients or minerals like magnesium and calcium. That can definitely be an issue as could an acidic diet, meaning high caffeine, high alcohol, high carbohydrate levels. All of which require your body to leech calcium from the bones to stabilize those acids that you’re consuming. Because calcium is very non-acidic. So, a lot of different underlying factors behind stress fractures. If your diet is perfectly sound, and you have all the minerals in your body that you actually need, then we start to look at your genetics and your biomechanics. By genetics, is there a way that we can actually maybe cannibalize some of your extra lean muscle? Decrease your body fat? Get you light to the point where you’re not actually causing so much stress to your bones while you’re running? And then from a biomechanic standpoint, are there things that we can do, for example, we just mentioned the heel striking when running. Are there ways that we can change your biomechanics so that you’re placing less stress on the bones that are susceptible to stress fracture? Then you can also increase bone density through weightlifting. But the paradox, is that extra muscle that you’re carrying while you’re running going to actually increase the amount of shock that your bones are having to absorb rather than actually help you build bone density. So a few different things to consider. I wouldn’t necessarily until you’ve taken into consideration and gone after some of the things that I’ve talked about, completely give up on long distance running. If it comes down to the point where your skeletal system just isn’t built to support distance running – I’ve heard some sports medicine physicians suggest that. It’s usually with females but I’m not convinced that that’s the case. It’s usually more of a training or nutrition or biomechanics issue than it is a genetics issue.
Jeff asks: Please give me some tips to help me not lose my swim lap count in the pool.
Ben answers: Jeff, there are a few different techniques that you can use. One that I’ve had people use before is you keep an object next to the pool side. So for example like a swimming paddle or a buoy or kickboard, and every time you complete a lap you stop briefly, move it over just slightly like over to another tile beside the pool or somewhere you can keep track of where it’s been moved. Then you do another lap and you move it again, and when you get through with five laps, you move it back to where it started. So each time you’re basically using that as almost an abacus to keep track of where you’re at. Another thing that you can do is you can make sure that you go up to a certain number and then go back and start counting over again. So, for example if you’re going to swim 40 laps, don’t count from one to 40. Count from one up to five and then do that eight times and then just keep track of the number of times you’ve counted from one to five. That can work really well rather than having to keep track of every number from one up to 40. And then the other thing that you can do is there’s actually a swim lap counter. It’s a watch that you wear that senses when you turn and when you change direction. I’ll put a link to that swim lap counter – I wrote an entire article on it sometime ago at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. I’ll put a link after your question so you can check out that article that I wrote and look at the swim lap counter which is again just like a watch that you wear while you’re swimming.
TM asks: I’m participating in the Ironman Corti’lane in two weeks. My question is how much time do I take off afterwards and how intense do I train when I start back to training?
Ben answers: Well, this is an interesting question because it’s so highly variable from person to person. You do get some athletes who will do back to back Ironman weekends. I know of one guy who does close to a dozen Ironman events per year and does just fine. Granted that’s basically his training, is doing Ironman. So he doesn’t do a lot of high volume training from Ironman to Ironman event, but still that’s a lot of Ironman events for someone to do, and that’s something that you’d have to build into over a long period of time. So if you’re a more experienced athlete, you can get away with doing more races, more Ironman events, but as far as typical recovery time for the average person for Ironman you’re usually looking at about one to two weeks before you’re really able to exercise again without experiencing stiffness and soreness or without increasing your susceptibility to injury. You’re usually looking at anywhere from four to six weeks before you can really go fast and go hard again and do something like a race. Now, there was an interesting study of 42 male athletes who did Ironman. In that study, they actually looked at some of the blood samples and some of the markers of muscle damage and systemic inflammation. So there are certain things that show up in your blood that can indicate that you still have inflammation going on. Creatine kinase is one really popular one that’s looked at. Cortisol is another one that’s looked at. And in this study, they looked at those values one day, five days and then 19 days after Ironman. Within a day, cortisol levels had already started to drop from where they were right after the race. And within about five days, most of the systemic inflammation had started to subside. But still even 19 days after the race, there were a couple of markers still left. Creatine kinase and myoglobin were still around in the bloodstream 19 days after the workout had finished. So what this means is that five days after, you’re okay from a biochemical standpoint to go out and start exercising again and maybe subjecting your body to some low grade inflammation – easy run, easy bike ride, easy swim, that type of thing. But 19 days is a little over two weeks. Two and a half, three weeks before your body really has completely cleared all the inflammation out from having completed the Ironman event. And usually the harder that you go, the longer it’s going to take to recover because the more stress you’re able to put on your body. It’s interesting because you’ll see some people – especially like pros will completely collapse at the finish line because they have literally given it everything that they’ve got. Technically they may take a little bit longer to recover from that. Whereas some people, you’ll see them cross the finish line and because they did the race in 16 or 17 hours, a little less damage to the body. And if the nutrition is attended to after an event like that, then they can bounce back fairly quickly.
So, a question here from Brett kind of related to that also.
Brett asks: I completed Ironman St. George about a month and a half ago. Me and my buddies are really struggling to get motivated again. Training sessions seem boring. Races seem lame in comparison to Ironman. Any suggestions on how to rebound from what I hear id called the post-Ironman blues.
Ben answers: Absolutely. One of the best things that you can do is to give yourself a mental and physical break from any type of triathlon training. That’s why it’s important to be familiar or have fallback ways for you to stay physically active. Because you don’t want to let yourself get fat and unhealthy after a race, but you definitely don’t want to get into this mental ho-hum kind of slugfest with your body of putting it right back into a swim, bike and run routine. For me, and this is something that I’m actually in the midst of right now. After I do an event that was kind of a big event for me, crossed the threshold, felt great and now it’s time to take some time off, I usually turn to a sport. For me it’s a couple of sports. For example, I’ve taken up noon ball again, so I’m playing basketball and I’m back in tennis league, so I’m playing tennis and those are kind of the two primary ways I’m staying fit for the next several weeks rather than returning to a pure focus on triathlon training. So understand that being completely sedentary after you finish a triathlon is going to give you the blues just because you’re not getting all those endorphins and dopamine associated with physical activity. But going back into swimming, biking and running to get the dopamine and endorphins can also do some mental damage to you, and so the best thing to do is to find some ways to stay physically active that have absolutely nothing to do with triathlon. And then try a few months down the road to schedule something that kind of gets you back into triathlon. So you know, you finish Ironman and maybe three months later down the road you have another event planned like whether it be a 10k, Olympic distance triathlon. Some people schedule their races even closer than that. For a real tough race that you’ve prepared for for a year, I wouldn’t recommend planning a bunch of racing right afterwards because you’re not going to want to get back into training and you will get pretty sick of triathlon if you do that over and over again. So, great question. And then we’ve got one more kind of call-in triathlon related comment.
Chuck asks: Hey Ben, this is Chuck Seerick. I just wanted to give you a quick update on the Triathlon Dominator program that I’m doing. I did the International Distance Triathlon here in Hampton, Virginia today and set new PRs on my bike time. And had the race been the full international distance – the bike was actually three miles short, but my pace was faster – I would have PR-ed for my best time in an international race. But finally made it to the podium today. Got third in age group, so I’m looking forward to future improvements. Thanks again, Man.
Ben answers: Well Chuck, congratulations. Good job on getting to the podium and for those of you who also want to get to the podium or have a great way to train for Ironman, you can check out that Triathlon Dominator package at www.triathlondominator.com. And I’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes as well as everything else that I’ve talked about today. So, remember to check out Chef Todd’s free Webcast coming up. I’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes. It’s June 30th, but there is limited space in that. So make sure you get signed up and he’s giving away a free bonus gift as well along with that Webcast and be sure to leave this podcast or the new Get Fit Guy podcast a ranking in iTunes and leave a comment in iTunes to let me know how you like the shows. Be sure to check out all the details on that special trip to Thailand that I’m organizing this winter, for any of you triathletes out there. You’re prepping for a marathon? Check out the Marathon Dominator at www.marathondominator.com, and until next week when we will return to some great interviews that I have lined up, this is Ben Greenfield signing out from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com.
For personal nutrition, fitness or triathlon consulting, supplements, books or DVD’s from Ben Greenfield, please visit Pacific Elite Fitness at http://www.pacificfit.net