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Mountain Runner Joseph Gray Wins 13th National Title

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Published on TrailRunner.com

Written by Nancy Hobbs & Lin Gentling. Photos by Richard Bolt.

Today’s USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships in Hayward, Wisconsin, saw a familiar face in Joseph Gray winning his 13th national title.

The 33-year-old from Colorado Springs, CO, bested a competitive field to take the win with a time of 1:10:11.

Joe Gray leads at the start of the USATF 1/2 Marathon Trail Championship.

“I haven’t done the trail half marathon champs in a few years,” said Gray, who in his first running race in Wisconsin, led from start to finish besting his nearest competitor by 41 seconds.

Joe Gray looking back at mile 6

“The course combined two of my favorite sports, cross country and trail running,” said Gray. “I just really dug the course, it was really cool. This was kind of a dream come true to run a tough cross country-esque course. It was a really fun experience.”

Read about the rest of the race at TrailRunner.com

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Why Don’t We Improve Sometimes? Running Lessons From An Olympian

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This post was written by David McNeill for Runner’s Tribe – an SOS HYDRATION partner. 

Too often in my career, I have walked off the track querying my performances; wondering why I ran so poorly when training pointed to something better…or wondering how on earth I ran as fast as I did when preparations had been poor.

The latter scenario has never been so much a concern as it has been a blessing. But in the case of the former, I was always left wondering what it is I did to sabotage my performance; why, despite my best intentions, my performance didn’t improve from one race to the next. I’d like to say the days of unpredictable performances are behind me, but I am human, and I am sure unexplained performances lie in my future. At some point or another, many of us have run a great race, fed off the motivation of that performance in preparation for the next race, and then run poorly that next time around. Why don’t we improve sometimes? Why don’t races always live up to expectations? What is it we do to sabotage training and performance gains?

 Being overzealous is one factor. While it is sometimes easy to equate harder training with better performance, we sometimes jump the gun, and think training harder is the only answer, when often, the first answer is to be consistent. Imagine giving a lemon a squeeze, and getting some juice out of it. Rarely do you get all the juice out of the lemon with a single squeeze. More juice is yielded when we start to wring the lemon. Just as we wouldn’t fetch another lemon before we’d squeezed all the juice out of it, sometimes, we need to keep training consistently before we start training harder.When we prematurely start to train harder, the balance between stress and adaptation is shifted, and we do not recover and adapt at the rate at which we are stressing our bodies. When we train consistently after already seeing improvement, subsequent improvement with the proverbial wringing of the lemon is actually a product of our body’s ability to recover faster and more fully from training, so that we adapt quicker and more completely with each training session. Of course, the time comes when the lemon is dry, and you will need to fetch another. Learning when to be consistent and when to train harder represents the art of coaching and training.

Overcompensating for small hiccups in our preparation can also bring us undone. When we miss a session or when a session doesn’t go well, we sometimes feel the need to compensate by squeezing the missed training into a smaller window of time, or pushing harder than usual in the next workout. This ends up being detrimental in two ways: one is that often, in our haste, the body is not fully recovered from the illness or niggle that initially caused the hiccup when we overcompensate our training. Secondly, by temporarily training too hard or too frequently, we upset our body’s sensitive balance between stress and adaptation. Compensating often has the opposite effect we seek when a niggle, an illness, or a time constraint disrupts our training. Instead of catching ourselves back up in the training we miss, compensating drives us further from where we are trying to get, and sabotaging our ability to improve, even when gains have otherwise been made. But as is the remedy for the hiccups we experience when our diaphragm spasms, the key to navigating hiccups in our training is to take a deep breath; not to compensate, but to accept, recover, and move on. While a hiccup may hinder our progress marginally, compensating irrationally can hinder our progress substantially. Stay cool.

McNeill winning the 2015 Zatopek:10: Pic RT

Another factor that can curtail improvement with training gains is the perception that running faster gets easier with more training. “Train hard, win easy” is a deceptive saying. With training, our capacity to physically endure oxidative stress and the build-up of metabolic by-products improves, but it’s still uncomfortable, and the closer to our physical limits we approach, the more perceptible this discomfort is. While running equally fast may get easier with more training, running faster continually necessitates submitting to discomfort. When we ignore this truth, we can end up blaming everything from our training, to our diet, to our sleep for a lack of improvement, without every questioning our resolve at the crossroad between comfort and discomfort come race time. At the outer margins of our human capacity, when improvements become more marginal each time we get better, increasingly, our improvements rely on our ability to endure more discomfort for longer, than on our ability to get physically fitter. When our supply of lemons dwindles at the limits of our human capacity, we are spending a lot more time wringing out those lemons. We are trying to get the last drop of juice out of them before contemplating fetching another lemon; before contemplating training any harder, and increasing our injury risk. Wringing the last drop of juice out of a drying up lemon is a kin to enduring more discomfort at our physical limits – the juice is there, but we must work for it and endure it, unlike the first early squeeze of a fresh lemon.

I myself am guilty of all three sources of sabotage. And when I have performed better than my training indicated, it was probably because I was a little underdone rather than overdone. Avoiding sabotage is both a delicate mental battle we have with ourselves, and a carefully learned art that comes from experience – both our own, and our coach’s. The best combatant to sabotage is thinking less, and listening more. Most often, sabotage happens when we make irrational decisions – when we are over motivated, when we are thrown off by the unexpected, or when we are overconfident. Half the battle is recognising when we are over-motivated, overconfident, or thrown by the unexpected. The second half of the battle is finding someone you trust (i.e. a coach), and seeking a dose of perspective!

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Which sporting event has the most extreme energy expenditure?

in BLOGS/RECOVERY/RUNNING/TRIATHLON/Ultra-marathoning/USA by

Written By Asker Jeukendrup for mysportscience.com
Follow Asker on Twitter @Jeukendrup

It is often said that the Tour de France is perhaps the most gruelling endurance event on the planet. The same is sometimes said about Ironman. We saw in my previous blog that energy expenditure in the Tour de France averages almost 6000 kcal per day for 3 weeks (5).  It has been measured that energy expenditure can be as high as 9000 kcal per day. How does this compare to other sports? Is this really the most extreme sport? Is it Ironman… Or is there another event?

In the literature we can find energy expenditure values for a number of events and I have tried to find the highest values for energy expenditure in the literature. If someone knows of other papers that report extreme values please let me know and I will update this list.

There is a report of a male distance runner covering ∼100 km/day for 1,000 km (1), He averaged around 6,000 kcal/day.

Another report describes 2 elite cyclists averaging around 330 km/day for 10 days and expending 7,000 kcal per day (2)

There is also a report of a team of elite cyclists expending 6,500 kcal/day who covered nearly 4,900 km in 6 days during the Race across America (RAAM) (3).

Similar values were also reported in cross country skiers during intense training (6,000 kcal/day) (6).

Dr Mike Stroud, a Polar explorer and researcher, measured energy expenditure in man-haulers over several polar expeditions during the 1980s and 1990s (7). Before these studies the very high energy costs of polar travel on foot appreciated. During a modern-day, one-way expedition to the South Pole that repeated Scott’s route (“Footsteps of Scott expedition”), an average of 6,000 kcal were expended every 24 h. Mike Stroud himself together with Sir Ranulph Fiennes crossed Antarctica by foot and expended on average nearly 7,000 kcal/day.

During this crossing there was a period of approximately 10 days, while ascending to the plateau, during which they averaged nearly 11,000 kcal/day).

A recent study by Dr Brent Ruby and Colleagues (4) compared measurements at Ironman Hawaii (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26 mile run (3.8km; 180km and 42km respectively) and the Western State 100 (a 100 mile (160km) ultramarathon). Energy expenditure during the Hawaii Ironman averaged 9,040 kcal (plus or minus 1,390 kcal). In the Western State energy expenditure was as high as 16,310 kcal (plus or minus 2,960) but of course the duration of this event was more than 24 hours on average (26.8h).

It is clear that daily energy expenditure can be much higher than the reported average of 6000 kcal per day for the Tour de France cyclist. Values can be even higher than the extreme values reported during the longest and hardest days in the Tour.

What make the Tour de France unique though is that these extreme energy expenditures are achieved within 4-6 hours of racing per day and also that this is sustained over a period of 3 weeks.

Most other sports with extreme energy expenditures achieve their high numbers by exercising more hours per day at a lower intensity and sometimes by eliminating sleep.

Which is the most extreme sport? Difficult to say… would you rather do a day in the Tour than a day crossing Antartica, or running a 100 mile race in the heat without sleeping?

 

References 

1. Eden B, Abernethy P. Nutritional intake during an ultraendurance running race. International J Sports Nutr 4: 166–174, 1994.
2. Gabel K, Aldous A, Edgington C. Dietary intake of two elite male cyclists during 10-day, 2,050-mile ride. Int J Sports Nutr 5: 56–61, 1995.
3. Hulton A, Lahart I, Williams K, Godfrey R, Charlesworth S, Wilson M, Pedlar C, Whyte G. Energy expenditure in the race across america (RAAM). Int J Sports Med 31: 463–467, 2010.
4. Ruby BC, Cuddy JS, Hailes WS, Dumke CL, Slivka DR, Shriver TC, Schoeller DA Extreme endurance and the metabolic range of sustained activity is uniquely available for every human not just the elite few. Comparative Exercise Physiology, 11(1): 1-7, 2015.
5. Saris WH, van Erp-Baart MA, Brouns F, Westerterp KR, ten Hoor F. Study on food intake and energy expenditure during extreme sustained exercise: the Tour de France. Int J Sports Med;10 Suppl 1:S26-31, 1989
6. Sjodin A, Andersson A, Hogberg J, Westerterp KR. Energy balance in cross-country skiers: a study using doubly labeled water. Med Sci Sports Exercise 26: 720–724, 1994.
7. Stroud M, Coward W, Sawyer M. Measurements of energy expenditure using iso- tope-labelled water (2H218O) during an Arctic expedition. Eur J Appl Physiol 67: 375– 379, 1993

Nick Willis Wins 5th Avenue Mile

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By Rich Sands, @sands
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (10-Sep) — Experience counts on 5th Avenue.

Jenny Simpson and Nick Willis proved that here today with emphatic wins down the famed New York City boulevard. Simpson scored a record sixth title at the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile shortly after Willis notched his fourth victory in the event, staged by New York Road Runners on a picture-perfect day.

With the temperature at 70 degrees, low humidity and a generous wind at their backs, both the men’s and women’s professional races were exceptionally fast. Willis broke the tape in 3:51.3 while Simpson clocked 4:16.6 to equal the venerable event record set by PattiSue Plumer back in 1990.

PHOTO: Nick Willis of New Zealand and Jenny Simpson of Boulder, Colo., after winning the 2017 New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

In the men’s race, defending champion Eric Jenkins and Robby Andrews took the early lead for the opening downhill blocks. Craig Engels and former Oregon star Edward Cheserek, making his professional debut, joined them on the front line as they hit the first quarter in about 59 seconds. As the course flowed uphill, 800-meter specialist Drew Windle jumped out front, eager to snag the $1000 bonus given to the first runner to hit the half mile. He dueled with Engels and even dipped at the marker to hold a tiny edge as they came through in 1:58. (Alas, Engels would take home the prize, after Windle faded badly and didn’t meet the requisite 4:00 finishing time needed to collect.)

Engels opened up a gap on the field during the third quarter as the road sloped down, but he was swallowed by the pack shortly after the three-quarter mile mark (2:56). Brits Chris O’Hare and Jake Wightman surged ahead, but Willis smoothly positioned himself towards the center of the pack, before launching a perfectly timed kick in the final 100 meters to grab the win.

“I think I ran over one of the manhole covers with 30 [meters] to go and I was already at my max so I was worried that I was gonna fall over there,” said the 34-year old New Zealander, who previously won this race in 2008, 2013 and 2015.

PHOTO: Nick Willis of New Zealand wins his fourth New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City in 3:51.3 (Photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

O’Hare (3:52.0) held on for second, ahead of Ben Blankenship (3:52.3), with the next five runners separated by only three-tenths of a second and a total of 19 men clocking sub-4:00 times.

“We had a really strong field, so I knew that I’d have to use my experience on this course to run my best,” said Willis, who had run conservatively in the middle of the pack for most of the race. “I knew I had to wait and wait and wait and wait and be the last person to make the move. The finish line always looks closer than it really is, so I used the 1500-meter mark as my gauge to when I really got into fifth gear. I was able to slingshot off of them right at the end and thankfully it was enough.”

A two-time Olympic medalist in the 1500, Willis placed a disappointing eighth at the recent IAAF World Championships in London. “This was a great way to finish what has been a pretty trying season for me with a lot of hiccups with injuries along the way,” he said as he points to the 2018 Commonwealth Games in April where he is likely to move up to the 5000-meters.

Simpson took a more assertive strategy than Willis, immediately going to the front of the women’s race. A pair of Brits, Laura Weightman and Jessica Judd, quickly joined her up front through a 62-second opening quarter.

Nobody seemed terribly eager to snag the halfway bonus, so Judd made a last-second decision to go for it, splitting 2:10 and picking up the extra cash (which she says she’ll put towards her upcoming vacation to Hawaii). She continued to force the pace until Simpson and Weightman caught her about 200 meters from the finish. The American cruised home comfortably, with Weightman taking second in 4:17.6 and Judd holding off a late-surge from Brenda Martinez for the final podium spot, 4:18.3 to 4:18.4. In a mass finish similar to the men’s event, 16 women broke 4:30.

“This race can be really different if the wind is at your back or in your face, and the road can be really uneven, and so just knowing how to time yourself and know when to look up at the finish and when not to look at the finish is really important part of timing it right,” said Simpson, who took silver in the world championships 1500 last month, the fourth international medal of her career. “So over the years I think I’ve just gotten it down to a science. And the beautiful thing is, with 5th Avenue, when the road is clear it’s pretty much the same every year, so I know where I want to put in my surges.”

PHOTO: Jenny Simpson of Boulder, Colo., wins her sixth New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City in in 4:16.6, equaling the event record (Photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

This was Simpson’s unprecedented fifth straight victory down 5th Avenue, dating back to 2013. Her first win came back in 2011, but despite all that success, she knows she’s going to be challenged. “The first quarter mile you’re headed downhill and there’s always this sense in your mind that maybe it’ll feel easy,” she admits. “And then it doesn’t. And then you think, these girls are gonna make me run so hard this year. As I get farther into the race I believe more and more, the crowd gets incrementally louder and louder and I just can’t let people down.”

Simpson will resume training after a 10-day break, and this fall she’ll take her first vacation since 2010 when she and her husband, Jason, spend a week in Hawaii prior to the wedding of her friend Emma Coburn, who finished ninth on Sunday.

Both Willis and Simpson earned $5000 for their titles, which capped a day of 23 heats featuring a record 7664 finishers over a variety of age groups and abilities in the 37th running of the event.

Forget the post workout ice bath – study suggests hot water, instead

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Written by Alex Hutchinson for The Globe and Mail 

The epitome of the hard-core, no-pain-no-gain approach to training is the post-workout ice bath. After pushing your muscles to their limits, you soak them in teeth-chatteringly cold water to speed their recovery before the next gruelling workout.

But there may be a gentler, more soothing path to greatness.

A recent study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports suggests that swapping the ice tub for a relaxing soak in a hot bath can trigger performance-boosting adaptations that mimic how the body adjusts to hot weather. That is particularly valuable for those training through cold conditions – a Canadian winter, say – for a springtime race where the weather can be unexpectedly hot.

Better yet, hot baths actually feel good, points out Neil Walsh, director of the Extremes Research Group at the Bangor University in Wales and the senior author of the new study. “A hot soak is comfortable for aching limbs,” he says, “and there are other supposed health benefits – think Roman spas.”

Walsh’s interest in the topic dates back to his days as a competitive road cyclist. “I’d always taken a hot bath after a long training ride, and it didn’t make sense to me as a physiologist why a cold bath would be helpful.”

The idea that hot baths, beyond being pleasant, might actually boost performance stems from recent research into heat adaptation. After one to two weeks of exercising in hot conditions, your core temperature will drop, your sweat rate will increase and you will produce a greater volume of blood plasma, all of which will enhance your ability to perform in the heat.

A controversial 2010 study from researchers at the University of Oregon suggested that the same process of heat adaptation could also enhance endurance in cool conditions. This idea remains hotly contested (it was the topic of a debate in the Journal of Physiology last month), but the study spurred interest in more convenient ways of triggering heat adaptation.

An Australian study last year found that four days of 30-minute postrun saunas at 87 C produced a large increase in plasma volume.

It’s important to replace the fluids you lose during heat adaptation. SOS works just as rapidly as an IV Drip. Try it here today 

Still, not everyone has easy access to a heat-controlled treadmill or a sauna, so Walsh and his colleagues wondered whether a simple hot bath could provide some of the same benefits. They recruited 17 volunteers to run for 40 minutes on a treadmill for six consecutive days, followed each time by a 40-minute bath submerged to the neck. Ten of the volunteers were assigned to hot baths at 40 C, while the other seven took “thermoneutral” baths at 34 C.

By the end of the study, the hot-bath group had a lower resting rectal temperature by an average of 0.27 C, their temperature stayed lower during exercise and they began sweating sooner. Their performance in a five-kilometre treadmill trial improved by 5 per cent in hot conditions (33 C), though it didn’t change in cool conditions (18 C).

These are compelling results – but it’s worth nothing that the baths were pretty intense. On the first day, Walsh says, only four of the 10 hot-bath volunteers were able to complete 40 minutes, though nine of the 10 were able to complete it by the fifth day of adaptation. He and his colleagues hope to test less-onerous protocols in future studies: “As little as 20 minutes in the hot bath may be necessary to provide heat acclimation,” he says, but “this needs confirmation.”

So, will hot baths replace cold baths as the default postworkout soak? That depends on who you are, physiologist Trent Stellingwerff points out. Olympic endurance athletes such as those he works with at the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific in Victoria already have extremely high blood-plasma volumes, so hot baths may not provide enough of a stimulus to make any difference. Non-elite athletes, in contrast, might see a bigger benefit.

For now, there are few firm conclusions to be drawn. But if you are training through the winter for an event with potentially warm weather, a few hot baths seem like a low-risk insurance policy.

“I definitely felt the heat when I ran the Ottawa Marathon [in late May] in 2009,” Guelph-based marathoner Reid Coolsaet recalls. “It wasn’t even that hot, but I wasn’t used to it at all.”

Coolsaet plans to use a steam sauna to help him prepare for the expected heat of the Olympics in Brazil this year, though the late-summer timing of the Games means that he will not need much help getting used to muggy conditions. “Luckily,” he says drily, “the weather in Guelph in July and August is comparable to that in Rio.”

If you do decide to try hot baths this winter, bear in mind that heat puts additional stress on the body. For starters, stick to 10 minutes at no more than 40 C (a standard upper limit for hot tubs), and get out immediately if you feel dizzy or nauseous.

Hydration On The Run

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Adapted from Matt Fitzgerald

Hydration during running is not as complicated as you may have been led to believe.

When you run, you sweat. The more you sweat, the more your blood volume decreases. The more your blood volume decreases, the harder your heart has to work to deliver oxygen to your working muscles.

Sounds dangerous, but it’s really not. Runners almost never experience dehydration levels sufficient to cause major health consequences. But normal levels of dehydration will make you feel uncomfortable and cause you to slow down.

Drinking while you run will limit these negative effects of dehydration. But what should you drink, how much, and when?

SOS can be compared to an IV drip. It works just as rapidly but is safer and cheaper at combating mild to moderate dehydration. Try it here

In the past, athletes were encouraged to drink as much as possible during exercise, or at least to drink enough to completely offset dehydration (that is, to drink enough to prevent any decrease in body weight during exercise). However, it is now understood that this is bad advice, for two reasons.

Firstly, it is possible to drink too much during exercise. Forcing yourself to swallow more fluid than your body really needs while running may cause gastrointestinal distress, and in extreme cases it can cause a dangerous condition known as water intoxication, or hyponatremia. Secondly, research has shown that drinking to completely offset sweating offers no advantage with respect to performance or body temperature regulation compared to drinking by thirst.

The new exercise hydration advice is in fact to drink according to your thirst. As long as you keep an adequate supply of a palatable drink accessible during your runs, you will naturally drink enough to optimize your performance if you just drink as often and as much as your thirst dictates.

Dehydration only affects performance in workouts lasting longer than an hour, so you don’t have to drink during workouts that are shorter than an hour. However, you can if you like.

Shades of Gray: The Story Behind Trail Runner Joseph Gray

in ATHLETES/RUNNING/SOS PRO'S/USA by

Written by Brian Metzler for Trail Runner Magazine

How Joe Gray has become one of the world’s most exceptional trail runners.

When the blast of a starting gun sent the runners on their way in the first wave of last summer’s Pikes Peak Ascent in the town of Manitou Springs, Colorado, Joe Gray was nowhere to be found.

As Andy Wacker, Eric Blake and other top competitors sprung from the starting line of the fast wave, Gray, one of the pre-race favorites, was uncharacteristically scuffling with his bag of gear behind the hundreds of recreational runners preparing to start in the second wave.

One of America’s most iconic trail races, this historic 13.3-mile tussle sends runners up the eastern side of Colorado’s most famous mountain, soaring a leg- and lung-busting 7,815 feet to the lofty finish line at 14,115 feet above sea level. In a race like that, there’s plenty of time to make up ground, but, for an intense runner like Gray, there’s no time to lose either.

Joe doesn’t race without his SOS Hydration

As the frontrunners were already speeding up Ruxton Avenue on the way to the Barr Trail, Gray zigzagged through the crowd, hurdled a barrier and crossed the starting line with the final runner at the back of the first wave. His instincts took over and he hammered the significantly uphill first mile on the road in about 5 minutes 30 seconds, dodging runners in pursuit of Wacker, a notorious fire-breather who was off to his typical fast start.

As a runner, the 33-year-old Gray has earned a reputation as being one fierce and focused dude, one of the most relentless competitors on the international trail-running circuit. Starting the race with a 30-second deficit was a fluky hiccup in an otherwise astounding year for Gray—and it proves those things happen even to the best runners—but it only inspired him to go harder.

“He has kind of a Prefontaine mentality about him that says, ‘When you do something, you do it all-out, 100 percent,’” says fellow Colorado Springs trail runner Peter Maksimow, who would go on to finish sixth in the race that day. “He went by me about 90 seconds into the race, and he was just flying. He might have been going too fast at that point, but that’s what Joe is all about.”

Joseph Gray
Taking the win at the 2015 Mount Washington Road Race, Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of Joe Gray Collection.

It goes without saying that Joe Gray is one of the best trail runners the United States has ever produced. He’s a seven-time recipient of the U.S. Mountain Runner of the Year award and has competed for the U.S. at the World Mountain Running Championships a record nine consecutive years—a still-current streak punctuated last September by winning the individual world title and helping the American men earn their first team gold medal.

Yet, looking at Joe Gray only through the lens of running misses most of what he is all about. The intensity and meticulousness he exhibits in training and racing permeate other aspects of his life. Most notably, he likes spicy food, he loves his Seattle Seahawks, he’s keen on forensic science and he’s a passionate firebrand when it comes to topics he believes strongly in.

He’s not a hothead or an agitator, but he’s not afraid to stir the pot on his social-media channels when something bugs him. He has a graduate degree in criminal justice and a bachelor’s degree in sociology, which explains why he likes to chime in on hot-button issues like performance-enhancing drug use, prize money, runners who chase fame and glory instead of hard-fought victories and, especially in the past year, domestic issues in the U.S.—including racism.

Keep in mind, he’s one of the country’s very few elite-level African-American trail runners and the only athlete of color to represent the U.S. at the World Mountain Running Championships. He’s experienced the sour side of prejudice, both overseas, but especially in the U.S.

“Oh, yeah, I’ve felt that sting,” says Gray, who prefers not to repeat some of the names he’s been called. “We still have issues in this country, more than most people are willing to admit. One of the reasons there aren’t more African-American distance runners or trail runners is because there aren’t as many opportunities. That’s just a fact.”

Gray says African-American distance runners haven’t had the same chances to develop at the high-school, collegiate or pro levels for numerous reasons. He wants to help change that (there’s perhaps a strange bit of irony in the notion that Gray mostly trains with ex-pat Kenyan runners in the American Distance Project in Colorado Springs). But he doesn’t dwell on any of the ugly realities he’s encountered or play the race card; instead he just focuses on living his life to his own extremely high standards—values forged by his dad, Thomas, a career Army man, and mom, Donna, a staff-action control officer—with whom he remains very close. They are like his best friends and talk almost daily.

Joe Gray on a run on his backyard trails, Palmer Park near Colorado Springs. Photo by Fred Marmsater.

Intensity aside, those who best know Gray say he’s also as soft and gentle as a teddy bear, a real happy-go-lucky family guy who’s humble and yielding in deference to his strong Christian faith.

Although he’s a physical specimen of an athlete with an imposing look—tall and lean, sinewy and strong, with a starkly shaven head—he mostly conveys a soft, accessible demeanor. His brown eyes appear tenacious and piercing when he’s racing or talking about a serious subject, but soften when his contagious, wide smile lights up his face—which is often among friends and fellow runners. The impression you get when talking to Gray is that he’s unyieldingly authentic.

“He’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met,” says Nancy Hobbs, the USA Track & Field Mountain, Ultra & Trail Chairwoman for the past 15 years, who has known Gray since his initial unsuccessful attempt to make the U.S. Mountain Running Team in 2007 not long after getting out of grad school. “I’ve watched him grow up, both as an athlete and as a person. He can be very focused and very intense when it comes to running, but he’s not just focused on running. He’s very opened-minded and is always open to trying new things and learning about things.”

Perhaps what has really rounded him out as an upstanding guy was marrying his longtime sweetheart, Christy Mills, in 2014. They met in high school back in Lakewood, Washington, and remained friends in college while away at different schools, Joe initially at the University of Portland before transferring to Oklahoma State and Christy at Washington State. (Joe was a good basketball player and runner in high school, who became a national-caliber cross-country and track runner in college.)

The longtime attraction—and Joe’s self-admission of finally growing up a bit—eventually led them to start dating in 2010.

Uprooting their lives to move to Colorado and start their married life together away from family and longtime friends has helped forge a special synergy, which Gray admits is another factor to his competitive progression. Christy has played a big role in helping him secure and manage sponsors as he pursues running as a full-time career over the past five years.

Sophisticated foodies Christy and Joe in their Colorado Springs kitchen.

“She’s been everything to me,” he says. “She’s rabbited me in workouts, she’s hiked water up the trail for me, been my agent, been a friend and been there when things ain’t so good.”

“Joe is obviously very competitive, but it’s not to the point that he’s annoying to be around. If a race doesn’t go well, he’s not sulking around the whole time,” says Christy, who is a claims adjuster at the United Services Automobile Association in Colorado Springs. “He has a good balance between a very serious athlete and a normal, laid-back person.”

The two love to travel, are sophisticated foodies who are handy in the kitchen and have become passionate gardeners. Joe especially enjoys cooking spicy foods he’s sampled while at different races around the world, often with some of the many varieties of hot peppers from their garden. Christy was a competitive rower in college and for many years afterward, but she’s given that up for cycling races since moving to landlocked Colorado.

Along with his mountain-running team streak, Gray has excelled in many other races in the United States and around the world, for example, a victory in the 21K Iztaccihuatl Skyrace that climbs 15,800 feet in Mexico, a runner-up showing and American record time at the historic Sierre Zinal 31K village-to-village mountain race in Switzerland and, of course, what turned out to be a dominating win at the Pikes Peak Ascent last August.

After starting off the back, Gray caught Wacker in the second mile of the race, and by the 4.3-mile split at No Name Creek had gapped him by nearly two minutes. True to his aggressive racing style, he kept charging and led by more than three-and-a-half minutes near the midway point at Barr Camp and won with an eight-and-a-half-minute margin in 2:05:28—the fastest time in 21 years.

“At Pikes, he went by me and I was like, ‘Yeah, man, go for it,’” says Wacker. “He was in such good uphill shape that I just knew he was gone.”

Although Gray is mostly known for his trail prowess, what makes him special as a runner is that he’s one of the country’s most prolific racers and isn’t afraid to throw down in just about any discipline. His success extends across all types of running—cross country, road running from 5K to the marathon, snowshoe racing and all varieties of trail running, including short and steep mountain races, vertical kilometer uphill courses and even ultra-distance races up to 50K.

“I really admire his versatility,” says Wacker. “It shows that he’s a great athlete and no matter what kind of running obstacles you throw at him—if you put a mountain in front of him or if you put snowhoes on his feet or if you put him on a flat road—he’ll be competitive.”

A look at Gray’s initial 2017 results gives a glimpse at his competitiveness and versatility. In early February, he placed ninth at the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Bend, Oregon, covering the muddy 10K course amid a stacked field in 31:04. Later in the month he won the 2017 World Snowshoe Running Championships in Saranac Lake, New York, covering the slippery, slushy 8K course in 28:24. Then, on March 4, while competing in a Team USA jersey, Gray placed third in the 8K North American/Central American/Caribbean (NACAC) Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton, Florida—the 21st time he’s represented the U.S. in international competition.

For Gray, running over hill and dale seems to come naturally. But he also works hard at it and definitely doesn’t take a single step of his progression for granted.

“I always enjoyed playing in the woods as a kid and I like being out in nature, so it makes sense that I found trail running,” says Gray. “But there have been some moments in my career when I’ve been on top of some mountain and it feels very surreal, and I think, ‘Wow, my life could have been so different,’ and, ‘I don’t deserve this; I’m not worthy of this life.’ But in the end, I know I’ve worked as hard as I can for everything I’ve done and am appreciative of where I’ve been.”

In 2013, Joe and Christy decided to move to Colorado Springs so Joe could reap the benefits of living and training at altitude and running a diverse array of trails every week. But perhaps the biggest catalyst for his progression has been the guidance provided by coach Scott Simmons and the opportunity to train with faster runners.

Simmons had guided numerous elite track and road runners through the years from the collegiate to the pro ranks in his American Distance Project (ADP) training group and, since 2010, honed his chops further with famed Italian marathon coach Renato Canova.

But, he had never coached a trail runner before Gray.

“In our first conversation, he made me feel like maybe I wasn’t ready to be coached by him,” Gray recalls, furling his brow and tilting his head. “I felt almost insecure and disappointed and upset at the same time. It hit me personally and I thought, ‘I kind of want to work with this guy and prove him wrong.’”

That initial tension and intrigue, along with the ensuing synergy they built, has helped catapult Gray into another level of fitness, confidence and, ultimately, race results. Simmons challenged Gray to become faster on the track and roads from 5K to the marathon, but, just as importantly, he hammered home the value of rest and recovery, helping to eliminate the detrimental effects of overtraining that had plagued Gray earlier in his career.

Training with the likes of Hillary Bor (the 7th-place finisher in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Rio Olympics), Lawi Lalang (a 13:01 5K runner) and Augustus Maiyo and Sam Chelanga (both 1:01 half-marathoners) has proven to be invaluable. For example, Gray has regularly done 5 x 1-mile repeat workouts with the ADP averaging 4:35 per mile and hard 6 x 5-minute sessions with just two minutes rest.

Under Simmons’ tutelage, Gray has set strong new PRs for the 5K (14:12), 10K (29:03) and the half-marathon (1:03:42, which qualified him for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon). He also won the individual title at the U.S. Club Cross Country Championships 10K race in 2013, set a new American record with his second of three straight wins at the gruelingly steep Mt. Washington Road Race in 2015 and has won three of the past four U.S. Mountain Running Championships.

While the ADP crew keeps adding world-class road and track runners, it’s Gray that is often ending the group’s workout reps with something extra. For example, after finishing each rep of an 8 x 800-meter workout in about 2:10 on a flat dirt loop last fall in a Colorado Springs park, Gray could be seen jetting off into the woods to finish with a stout uphill effort on a singletrack trail.

Plus, he still gets plenty of legit trail running with local mountain stalwarts Maksimow, Zach Miller and Alex Nichols, among others, and also spends some days and nights training in the 8,500-foot environs of the small mountain town of Woodland Park.

“Joe is the expert on the trails and knows what he has to do to excel out there,” Simmons says. “But training with our guys … he’s not quite on the level they are as far as 5K, 10K or half-marathon times go, but when he does workouts with them, he’s right there in the thick of it. And the faster he’s gotten, the more he’s been able to apply that to uphills and downhills and longer races out on the trails.”

Gray en route to a podium finish at the 2015 U.S. Mountain Running Championships, Mount Bachelor, Oregon. Photo by Joe Viger.

Heading into last year’s World Mountain Running Championships in Albania—which was staged on a grueling 12.5K uphill course with 4,500 feet of elevation gain—Gray was in the shape of his life. Outwardly, he was hoping to improve upon his fifth-place effort at the 2015 championships in Wales, but quietly and inwardly he says he wanted to win. Still, as much as he was laser focused on his own race, he made it a point to keep his younger Team USA teammates motivated, inspired and loose when they arrived in the small mountain hamlet of Sapareva Banya in the days leading up to the race.

“Joe is such a competitor, but he’s such a leader, too,” Wacker says. “He’s been there so many times. He was very confident and had this calm, cool demeanor, and I think that helped everybody get focused on what they had to do.”

When the race started, Gray burst out to the lead and continued to run from the front through the 4K mark. That’s when he noticed teammate Hayden Hawks was just behind him, followed by a slew of other Team USA jerseys. Inspired, Gray pushed harder and gapped the field a bit, holding off a challenge from Mexican runner Israel Morales. Gray was still in the lead with about 3K to go when Ugandan runner Robert Chemonges challenged him on a flatter section just before the final climb.

“I was hurtin’ and riggin’ pretty badly, but I was still confident and knew I could still win at that point,” Gray says.

Gray surged again, but so did Chemonges, this time with a younger Ugandan teammate suddenly running alongside of him and literally pushing him with his hands up the steeper sections. Infuriated, Gray yelled, “You can’t do that,” and looked around to see if anyone else saw what was going on. Determined to outrun the cheater, Gray surged again as they approached the final ascent. But with 200 meters to go, Chemonges, who was still being aided by his pacer, made a push that Gray couldn’t match.

After crossing the finish line in second place, Gray went straight over to confront Chemonges, but the Ugandan tried to play it off like it was no big deal, and so did his coach. Although he was absolutely livid, Gray switched his focus to cheer on his own teammates and then was sequestered to provide urine samples to comply with IAAF drug-testing protocol.

No one among the American contingent ever officially protested—mostly because of a lack of photo or video proof—but fortunately a race marshal and other teams did, and Gray was eventually awarded the win.

What was even more heartening to Gray, though, was hearing the final team standings announced. Thanks to Gray’s victory—as well as strong efforts from Hawks (fourth), Brett Hales (seventh) and Wacker (20th)—the U.S. edged Italy by a single point in the lowest-score-wins standings, 32-33, and earned the Americans their first team title in the 32 years of the event.

Photo by Fred Marmsater.

“Overall, I was pumped and had the race of my life. I felt that I attacked the course and was able to crush everybody,” Gray says. “The guy’s cheating took a little bit of the sweetness out of it, but I knew I could sleep at night knowing I did what I did with my own strength and integrity. But, honestly, winning the team gold medal is one of the biggest highlights of my career.”

So what’s next for Gray? He’s an odds-on favorite to make his 10th straight U.S. Mountain Running Team on June 3 at the Cranmore Mountain Race in New Hampshire, and that will give him a chance to defend his world championship on July 30 in Premana, Italy. Unlike last year’s uphill races, this year’s championships will both be held on up-and-down courses.

Can he make a serious run at Matt Carpenter’s 24-year-old Pikes Peak Ascent record on August 19? In 2015, he eclipsed Carpenter’s mark on the daunting Manitou Incline—the ungodly steep 0.9-mile converted cog-wheel rail trail up the lower flanks of Pikes Peak—and his effort in winning the Ascent last summer shows he’s got a chance. But the trail has changed a lot since 1993—it’s more rutted and slippery in many places. Gray is the first to admit it’s a stout record, and he’s still four minutes away from getting a sniff at it.

“To me, it’s all about racing and running faster than I did before,” Gray says. “I think the authenticity of racing allows you to have respect for yourself for years and years to come. Whereas if you did it for something really fleeting like fame or money or even going for a record, those things go away, and, in the end, they don’t really have any density. You can tell the guys who love what they do, because they’re consistent.

“I’m not in it for fame. I love what I do.”

Want to try SOS for yourself? Click here and see what all the fuss is about!

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Magnesium and Muscle Cramps

in ATHLETES/BLOGS/RECOVERY/RUNNING/TRIATHLON by

Anyone who has suffered from a muscle cramp during or after exercise understands that it’s definitely something worth trying to avoid.

For those who have been lucky enough to evade them, a muscle cramp is a sudden, involuntary, painful contraction of a muscle. These symptoms generally ease off within seconds to minutes but are often accompanied by a palpable knotting of the muscle. While magnesium does play many important roles in the body, unfortunately the prevention/reduction of exercise-induced muscle cramps is not one of these. It is easy to be confused considering the heavy marketing for magnesium supplements and the prevention of cramps, but to date the scientific research suggests that there is no strong link between exercise-induced muscle cramps and magnesium supplementation.

While oral magnesium does not appear to have any beneficial effects in athletes with adequate magnesium, supplementation may improve performance in individuals with a diagnosed deficiency. Those undertaking a high volume chronic training load (e.g. long distance runners) or those with a restricted energy intake may be at risk of magnesium deficiency, although this is not common and you should always get this checked out with your GP before supplementation. It is worthwhile noting that the intestinal absorption of magnesium varies depending on how much magnesium the body needs. If there is too much magnesium, the body will only absorb as much as it needs. So how much do I need? I hear you ask. The recommendations suggest that adults consume a range between 350 and 400 mg/day as the upper limit. Most individuals who are eating a healthy well balanced diet will be acquiring the required amount of magnesium through wholefoods. Good food sources of magnesium include vegetables, legumes, fish, nuts and whole grains. For example, 30g of brazil nuts provides ~100mg, and ½ cup cooked quinoa provides ~50mg of magnesium.

1 litre of SOS Rehydrate provides 20% of the recommended daily intake of Magnesium

Ok, so what does cause cramps and what can I do to avoid them?

What we do know about cramps is that the main risk factors include; family history of cramping, previous occurrence of cramps during or after exercise, increased exercise intensity and duration, and inadequate conditioning for the activity. This explains the classic example of cramping on race day. During a race you’re typically working at a higher intensity than normal, and often over a longer duration than during training.

From a nutrition perspective, glycogen depletion (insufficient carbohydrate) or low energy availability can also contribute to fatigue and therefore cramping. This highlights the importance of getting your nutrition and fuelling plans for long sessions and races spot on.

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Running Clean in a Sometimes Dirty Sport: Joseph Gray – World Mountain Running Champion

in ATHLETES/BLOGS/RUNNING/SOS PRO'S/USA by

As a youngster, long before I had dreams of being a fast runner, my first sport was basketball. Growing up, my competitive side was sparked by the influence of watching my father, and I quickly learned winning was not something that came easy.

I mimicked everything I saw him do when he practiced on our backyard hoop: his shot technique, dribbling, all the way down to the shoes he wore. I learned that Pops was dedicated and intense, and you could see in his eyes (especially during competition, even friendly one-on-one pickup games) that he intended to win, exerting every ounce of energy he had ‘til the end.

That defined competition for me.

I followed his lead, bringing my own dedication and intensity when I would challenge my friends and go toe to toe in a game of one-on-one. When we were kids, we used what we were born with. Sometimes you had a natural advantage over another—whether it was height, weight, quickness, agility or just pure desire to succeed. Thanks to my father’s influence, hard work was usually the deciding factor for me, as most young kids were not extremely dedicated or even motivated to push themselves to the limit in the name of improving the craft of their favorite sport.

As I got older and found myself competing in a new sport, much was the same. Once I became a distance runner, I found that being devoted and working diligently could lead to amazing outcomes. Still, accomplishing goals became difficult and, at times, failure was more frequent than success. I thought this was something that happened to us all, even the crème de la crème. Again, referring back to my father’s example, I believed the only way to continue forward was to work harder.

Early in my high school career, though, I began to hear stories of athletes using “medicine” to gain advantage over their competitors. Initially I paid it no mind, thinking: “How could medicine help you, unless you are sick?” Little did I know, this medicine was not being used to treat the sick, but rather to unnaturally boost red blood cells in healthy athletes. The medicine I had heard of was EPO, and it had been around for years.

I came across stories of the great German cyclist Jan Ullrich, whom I was a huge fan of at the time. The fact that a human could hold such a high level of power over such a long period of time in a cycling race was astounding. Being that I was making my shift into endurance athletics, seeing such a performance was inspiring. Watching Ullrich gave me the idea that maybe one day I could accomplish endurance feats just as insane. I had no idea he was cheating by using banned substances. The very day I stumbled upon various articles concerning Ullrich testing positive for doping, my impression of amazing performances blurred. Many performances of my favorite athletes at that time led me to start questioning whether they were using the gifts they were born with—or giving the genetics they were born with a boost to achieve success, win races and earn money.

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This was a devastating moment for me.

It was probably comparable to the moment when a child finds out Santa Claus isn’t real. I started to think certain feats in distance running that I wanted to achieve were also unattainable. My personal goals seemed unreal now. Confidence fled the scene like a criminal.

At the time, many thoughts crashed my mind, even thoughts of the benefits and how remarkable of an athlete I could be if I too chose to cheat. Would it be worth it? What would my family think if I headed down that path? What would I think of myself? How could I sleep at night knowing I would be cheating? What would my health look like 10 to 20 years in the future?

But none of it felt right, and I never went down that road in my high school career, college career or now in my professional career. Turns out Pops’ example was spot-on for me. Stay true, keep working hard and you will find success.

I actually think most athletes are competing clean, but that’s what helps expose the ones that are doping.

As a professional athlete, you hear stories, rumors of athletes cheating or those that cheated in the past. You notice patterns in training in relation to performance for athletes who test positive for banned substances. I had even met athletes in my past who had doped in their careers. Hearing their stories of glory, only to be pained later in life with the notion that they didn’t compete fairly was more than enough reason for me to avoid that path. Many of these athletes I have come across have had health issues of somewhat unknown origins. I’m talking about cancers, diseases and other ailments—with some linked to drug abuse with products such as EPO, steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. If that wasn’t enough to deter, reading the stories from the few who were caught about how their lives changed drastically following the skeleton in their closet being exposed also served as a strong reminder of the negativity that follows a cheater’s lifestyle: Losing close friends, not being able to compete in the sport you love, seeing the look loved ones gave you following a positive doping test. All these things were a reality and a possibility.

As a professional athlete you can weigh the good and bad and, in my eyes, the bad far outweighs the good when it comes to doping. I’m not oblivious to the fact that many people have different value systems and beliefs. It would be ignorant to believe that principles that I value, which deter me from doping, are also valued by every other athlete. There are many athletes who do not care about the dangers of doping, or the negative aspects that will tag along in their lives long after they’re done competing.

I came across one such an athlete early in my professional career. My first experience losing to an athlete who later failed a doping control test was one of the most frustrating moments in my life. I had raced this athlete in the past and had never lost to him or seen him post stellar results. We toed the line in a half marathon on a crisp morning in California. He was aggressive from the start, but none of the guys in the lead group seemed concerned as we all expected him to drop back. But this day he was different. He was not coming back easy; in fact, he was continuing to distance himself from us halfway through the race. At first thought, I figured maybe he was injured or just out of shape when I had raced him in the past.

After talking with him and others who lived near him, I found out that was not true.

This runner had been healthy and been training consistently for years with good but not great results. And here’s something you need to understand: Unlike the world of recreational running, injuries or lack of fitness are not usually factors in the elite ranks. Why? Professional athletes do not improve so drastically due to the nature of their lifestyle, family or work scenarios, which might play a role in their ability to train. Most pro athletes typically have the opportunity to prepare and train hard for extended periods of time, especially for races with a good amount of funding/prestige. They toe the line when they are ready, hoping to achieve optimal results. But top-tier contenders rarely show up out of shape for a high-level race.

That’s why the phrase “the athletes always know” rings true even before coaches, administrators or the media start asking questions or pointing fingers.

Typically athletes within the same tier know who the most likely dopers in their sport are. We know how our competitors are training, so when we see something fishy from someone whom has been on the racing scene awhile, we naturally become suspicious. When you see a monumental improvement from an athlete you’ve known for some time who wasn’t injured or was not merely out of shape most of their career, you immediately scratch your head and wonder.

Following the race I described above, many of us who had been beaten that day were left in shock without much to say about what we had just witnessed. During my cool-down run with a few other runners, the chatter started to heat up. A few athletes were questioning how this guy improved so greatly over such a short period of time. Where there is smoke—especially that much smoke—there is usually fire. Sure enough, time went by and one of his training partners was busted for EPO use. A little more time passed and the athlete who lit us up in that half marathon was busted for the same. It was a huge disappointment and also gave me a twinge of discouragement.

I knew I would wind up eventually receiving more prize money from that race, given the disqualifications. I also began to contemplate the use of PEDs myself. The moment of glory coming across the finish a position higher was stolen from me. Money couldn’t give me that moment back. This guy was not someone who should have been capable of even placing in the top 3 in this race, yet he destroyed the field. This left me briefly contemplating the benefits of PEDs. I was tired of having money taken from my pockets without the certainty that every athlete ahead of me was clean.

Before even investigating how to purchase performance-enhancing drugs, I sat there and asked myself a series of simple questions. Why am I in this sport? What do I want from this sport in the long term?

I loved running not solely for the competition or winning, but also because of the exploration and camaraderie behind it. When I’m older I want to be able to look at my career and say, “I won this race or ran this time with the gifts God blessed me with.” There is nothing more satisfying in my opinion than knowing that you’ve worked hard to earn every goal, gift, victory and personal achievement you collected with natural ability and work ethic. Anyone can cheat, but not anyone can work hard and handle intermittent failures only to rise again.

I always admired the athlete who could consistently compete with the best rather than the athlete who rarely competed with the best but once in a blue moon dominated the field. Not anyone can be consistent. Dopers usually aren’t consistent. The ability to be consistent requires a never-ending commitment to being your best and requires a strong mental state.

When you cheat you are basically succumbing to the idea that you have a weak mentality. Weak-minded athletes look for an easy way out, shortcuts or even excuses to underachieve. I’m confident that a study covering the relationship between mental toughness and doped athletes vs. clean athletes would conclude that dopers have mental instability to go along with a weak mentality. The answers and revelations to those simple questions reaffirmed who I was and were more than enough to leave me satisfied with my natural abilities and never taking the steps of crossing that road to cheat.

Sport is a gift that we are able to share with our community. Through sport we can show respect and admiration for others who also share the same passion. Doping is highly anti-sport, anti-community. If you truly love a sport and what it brings you, why slap your peers in the face and piss on your sport by cheating? I mean, after all that, who are you supposed to enjoy the sport with?

I compare my love of the sport to my passionate endeavors in gardening. I can’t truly call myself a gardener if I simply plant fully grown pepper plants from a store and skip the nurturing process from seed to plant. When you love your sport—in my case, running—you even love the struggle of being out of shape, the struggle to accomplish goals, even the days where you might have a bad workout as you become motivated to work harder. Taking short cuts only leads to an artificial feeling of happiness. A cheater cannot truly be happy with their feats because, deep down, they know they are dirty. In the end, as an athlete we have to live with ourselves, and our internal thoughts impact our lives far more than external appreciation from other athletes, media, rivals and supporters.

So, to truly be happy with what you accomplish and plan to achieve in sport, you must respect sport and the community surrounding it. Being genuine is simply being natural and pushing yourself to reach your potential. When you have to cheat to go beyond what is natural, then you have lost touch with the moral, ethical and existential fabric that holds sport together.

Keep it clean my friends, and run strong!

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via MotivRunning.com

Food v Supplements

in BLOGS/RECOVERY/RUNNING/TRIATHLON by

We all know a fast-food competitor, the person who, despite using a drive-through burger after training as their version of quick recovery nutrition, continues to run well.

This same person is likely to take vitamins and other supplements because they know their nutrition is below average. Those who prioritise optimising their nutrition as part of their training regimen simply shake their heads at this attitude, while others might copy the practice thinking it will deliver them the same results!

What needs to be understood is that talent plays the greatest role in an athlete’s performance. Talented athletes certainly appear to get away with poor nutrition, particularly when there is little depth of talent in a field. However, the difference between winning gold or finishing a season undefeated, can come down to millimetres or milliseconds – and that kind of difference can be achieved with optimal nutrition. Professor Ron Maughan of Loughbrough University, UK says it best:

“A good diet will not make a mediocre athlete into a champion, but poor food choices can turn a champion into a mediocre athlete”.

Sports Nutrition Pyramid

The role of nutrition in exercise

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) position stand is that the use of supplements does not compensate for poor food choices and an inadequate diet”. Reinforcing this importance of food, researchers have found that athletes eating a diet rich in nitrates from vegetables (not supplements) for just 10 days were able to enhance their exercise performance, compared to when they were eating their usual diet.

It is clear that active people would benefit most from consistently eating a nourishing whole foods diet, rich in a variety of whole foods. However, there may be situations where supplements may be beneficial to complement (not replace) a good quality diet and provide a suitable option for the very active – for example players who have very high energy needs and struggle to eat enough to meet their sports nutrition needs or travelling athletes who do not have access to their usual food preferences.

For busy athletes, eating something—particularly in the recovery phase—is better than having nothing. While it is important to be careful not to double up your recovery nutrition needs and don’t dismiss whole foods in favour of sports supplements, the use of convenient prepackaged sports supplements may be helpful in achieving performance and sports nutrition goals.

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