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July 2016

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Disclosure: I am a member of the 2016 Rock ‘n’ Blog team. As a member of the team, I receive entry to Rock ‘n’ Roll races and other perks. This post is not sponsored, edited, or written (in any way) by the Rock ‘n’ Roll series or Competitor Group. All opinions are my own.

Most of the Rock ‘n’ Roll races are on Sundays. When there is a race on Saturday, ordinarily it is a 5k or 10k as part of a “Remix Challenge” weekend. Seattle is a different story: the main races are on Saturday. There is NO RACE ON SUNDAY. Since this is my third year running RnR Seattle, you might think I would have that figured out in advance. Or have, you know, looked at the date on the website or something. Big bowl of NOPE. (I even wrote it into my calendar as taking place on Sunday. #fail)

Who cannot remember which day the race is? This runner!
Who cannot remember which day the race is? This runner!

Most of the time when I travel for a Rock ‘n’ Roll race, I will stay all weekend, Friday to Sunday (or to Monday, as is my plan for Vancouver this year). Due to the amount of travel I’ve had lately both for work and for personal, the fact that my 19-year-old kittyboy now turns into Angry Kitty when I leave, and my general desire to have a day before the end of the month to do laundry and clean the house, this time I decided to just stay overnight, run, and go home. “When are you flying into Seattle?” Briana asked me. “Probably Saturday afternoon,” I wrote back, “I’m super busy and I think one night is better for me.” “Really?” Briana replied, “Um, you know you’ll miss the race if you do that, right?” DOH. Briana then reminded me that I made the same mistake last year (thinking the race was on Sunday). (She got it right, per usual. Check out her event review on Mat Miles Medals.)

This year I also made a brand-new mistake: I bought two sets of plane tickets for the same trip. After Briana reminded me I’d better make my trip Friday-Saturday (and not Saturday-Sunday) I hopped over to Southwest to make a reservation. It wasn’t until I went to the website to check in for my flight that I discovered I had apparently already purchased a Friday-Sunday ticket. Oops. Thankfully, Southwest has an awesome policy where they will hold funds for you from nonrefundable tickets, and I know I’ll be flying again, so no harm, no foul.

Thursday night I stayed up later than planned for a variety of reasons, but also managed to not pack for the adventure because I was pacifying Angry Kitty (who does not like it when I move things in and out of The Ominous Things On Wheels). Hey, he’s 19 years old and has put up with a lot throughout our 15 years together, so the least I can do is let him snuggle into my lap and snore, right?

Shoe game--on point--packed in Eagle Creek gear
Shoe game–on point–packed in Eagle Creek gear

Up at 4 a.m. to put things into the weekender. One of my top travel tricks is that I have a TSA-friendly ziploc bag filled with the overnight essentials (e.g. shampoo, toothpaste, lotion) that I never unpack. I also have a toothbrush in a travel case, a detangling comb, a pair of old prescription bottles (the orange-ish see-through kind) with the labels removed that are now filled with cotton swabs and cotton balls, and a travel-designated bath pouf that live inside the suitcase. When it’s time to pack, I just have to check that the essentials are all there (and not empty) instead of repacking. Eagle Creek was nice enough to give each of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team members a few bags that make my racing travel easier–a shoe locker for the shoes and small things, a gear locker for my clean clothes, and a fold-over for the dirty clothes–and I’ve got packing the things down to a science. (For the curious, this is the Pack-It Sport line.) Off to the 6: 30 a.m. flight at 5:30, and I was the last person to board the plane.

How tired was I? I was very excited to find a mini-sunblock spray to pack. For a race in Seattle.
How tired was I? I was very excited to find a mini-sunblock spray to pack. For a race in Seattle.

Two hours is barely enough time to catch a nap. I tried.

One thing I love about Seattle is there is pretty much no need to rent a car for the race. LINK light rail goes right to the airport, and downtown is criss-crossed by a variety of bus lines. I bought a reloadable Orca card (the better to not have to worry about keeping cash on hand for bus fares) and stuck $20 on it. It was a short LINK ride to Pioneer Square, which is exactly one block away from the Courtyard Marriott on Second Avenue (aka my Seattle home away from home). This is the second year I’ve stayed there, and I really love the x02 rooms (702, 802, etc.) because they are quiet and have a ton of space. Of course when you show up at 9:15 they don’t have your room ready, but they will store your luggage.

I hopped a north-going bus to meet up with Lillie Goker, a running buddy of mine who lives in Seattle. (We conquered Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco together in 2014.) She and I had brunch at this great breakfast place called Roxy’s Diner. I tried to find it on Google Maps, but it isn’t there. (Instead, look for Norm’s Eatery & Ale House, which is right next door.) After a night of really no sleep, it was great to relax over an eggy scramble with tater tots and a bottomless cup of coffee. We don’t get to hang out nearly enough, either.

Big race, big expo
Big race, big expo

Lillie lives nearby, and after a quick tour of her new digs, and a brief stop to hack some Ingress portals, she drove me over to the race expo. If you park in the parking structure, you end up entering the expo from the back, as opposed to entering where bib pickup is like you do in other cities. So we wandered through a little of the expo before we got to registration. The patterned totes from the Edmonton marathon were super cute, so I accepted one even though I’m unlikely to run it this year. (The race calendar is full. Maybe in 2017?)

The booth featured the same graphics as the tote
The booth featured the same graphics as the tote

Then Lillie helped me take a selfie (which I guess makes it not-quite-a-selfie?) with Elba Benzler, race director for Blooms to Brews (and a guest on Runner of A Certain Age, the podcast I now co-host, for a pre-race interview).

In case you missed it, I ran Blooms to Brews this year and LOVED it!
In case you missed it, I ran Blooms to Brews this year and LOVED it!

He’s also got a new event cooking, the North County Wine Run (first running: September 24, 2016). The medal is gorgeous, epic, and functional–so naturally I asked for a demonstration!

Have you ever seen a race medal that does THIS??
Have you ever seen a race medal that does THIS??

After picking up bibs and shirts, Lillie decided to call it a day and headed off to whatever it is that people do when they are not fixated on running. I stayed behind to wander the expo a bit before teh 3:00 #werunsocial meetup. (Actually, first I cased the joint to find an outlet to charge my phone.) Because I had decided that I was NOT going to buy anything at the expo, Nuun had to go and have a Seattle-specific water bottle. Guess who bought some more Nuun? I know, I know, way to stick to my resolve, but it’s something I use regularly, and it isn’t like it will spoil quickly. Besides, I was running low on cherry limeade. Then I came across the CEP booth, which tempted me with a good sale (I resisted) and a $10 copy of Meb for Mortals (I caved).

Seaplane, Space Needle, Guitar, Skyline...and green! How could I resist?
Seaplane, Space Needle, Guitar, Skyline…and green! How could I resist?

The #werunsocial meetup was a great time, as always. I am always glad to see Briana, Carleeh, Sarah, Carlee, Brian, Linzie…you get the idea. I remember I was so nervous at my first meetup that I forced myself to go talk to everyone about Run 10 Feed 10, and i was so nervous doing it that I accidentally gave the same spiel to one group of people twice! D’oh! Since then I’ve figured out that the cool kids are really nice, and I’ve made a bunch of friends. It makes travel to races even better, because I can always look forward to “running” into at least one of them. Pro Compression sponsored the meetup and donated some prizes, and after we took all the selfies there was barely enough time for me to hit my hotel for an all-too-brief nap.

Post-race, rocking my Pro Compression socks in BibRave Orange with A Major Award!
Post-race, rocking my Pro Compression socks in BibRave Orange with A Major Award!

I capped off the evening with dinner at Buca di Beppo, a pretty standard pre-race carb-fest for sure. This time the dinner planning landed in my lap, and I kept changing the number of seats on the reservation. In the end we had more seats than people (though in San Francisco it was the other way around, so I never know how it will shake out). I was quite happy the bus landed just a few blocks from the restaurant, as it started to drizzle as I was leaving the restaurant. Once I hit the hotel, I’d love to say I slept like a log for the few hours I had left to sleep. I didn’t. I’d love to say I love it when I’m sleepless for two nights in a row before a race…

Flat Bain, pre-Seattle
Flat Bain, pre-Seattle

All good Seattle stories end with coffee…and in the second half of this race review, you can enter to win some of your very own!

Disclosure: the prize for this giveaway will be provided by siggi’s (legally: The Icelandic Milk & Skyr Corp.). Everything in this post is my own creation unless otherwise indicated. The folks at siggi’s did not preview or edit this post, it’s all me, baby!

A few years ago I stumbled on siggi’s and fell in love. Since then, I’ve learned more about the siggi’s story, and even met Siggi himself! As I’m writing this from Oakland, California I’m just one week out from the third IDEA World/Sweat Pink BlogFest, which siggi’s has sponsored for the past two years. Actually I SHOULD be in Indianapolis at FitBloggin’ and FitSocial 2016–which siggi’s is also sponsoring this year–but as you may have heard, Southwest had a little computer issue, and that left me stranded. Oops. In any case, I am thankful and happy to have siggi’s sponsor these events for health and fitness bloggers. I’m even more thankful they make a protein-packed, yummy skyr.

But back to the story. A few years ago I fell in love with siggi’s. At that time, siggi’s had one product: Icelandic style skyr, a strained non-fat yogurt. I wish I could tell you the story, but I honestly do not remember how it happened! I do remember two things.

set up for tasting
Set up for a recent skyr tasting

First, I was very impressed by the ingredients list. Here is the ingredients list from the peach flavor in front of me:

pasteurized skim milk,

peaches,

cane sugar,

fruit pectin,

live active cultures

That’s it. Five ingredients, and I know what each one of them is and why it is there. (The package has a list of the live active cultures, in case your nerdy streak runs deep.) This was around the point that I started to get more picky about my food. While I still indulge in some items that are absolutely, inexcusably, 100% junk food, I’m trying to be more conscious of eating more whole foods. I really liked that siggi’s doesn’t have any artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or artificial anything else. I also really loved that there isn’t a ton of added sugar. The peach skyr sitting in front of me (150g serving size) has 11g of sugar, and 14g of protein, for example. Compare this to other yogurts and you’ll see how awesome this is.

No weird stuff in the ingredients means I'm happy to share
No weird stuff in the ingredients means I’m happy to share

Let’s compare strawberries to strawberries. A serving of siggi’s strawberry skyr is 150g, and contains 11g sugar, 16g protein, and 120 calories. (I picked those data points because they are important to me.) Data from the respective manufacturer’s websites:

  •  original Yoplait strawberry, serving size not listed on website (currently has 18g sugar, used to have 26g; 6g protein; 150 calories
  • thick ‘n’ creamy Yoplait strawberry, serving size not listed on website (28g sugar, 7g protein, 180 calories
  • Greek yogurt Yoplait strawberry, serving size 150g (18g sugar, 11g protein, 140 calories)
  • Dannon creamy strawberry, serving size 113g–note smaller serving size (12g sugar, 4g protein, 80 calories)
  • Dannon Oikos Greek strawberry, serving size 150g (18g sugar, 12g protein, 120 calories)
  • Chobani (fruit on the bottom style) strawberry, serving size 150g (15g sugar, 12g protein, 120 calories)

I’m not picking on these guys–they are no better or worse than any other brand, store brand, etc.–those are just brands that immediately popped to mind when I thought of yogurt. I didn’t even bother to compare other “fruit on the bottom” styles to siggi’s, or the dessert flavors (i.e. anything with “pie” in the name) as those are a hot mess of sugar…and let’s not mention the yogurt marketed to kids with cartoon characters on it. Seriously, you might as well hand your kid a Snickers. Now sometimes you WANT a dessert, and I’ve been known to pick a certain coconut cream pie flavor of yogurt instead of a pudding…you make your own choices 🙂

My very favorite, as I love all things pumpkin spice and fall!
My very favorite, as I love all things pumpkin spice and fall!

The “not a lot of sugar” brings me to the second thing I remember: the taste! One of the things I liked about the initial wave of Greek-style yogurts is that they are thicker than what I will call mainstream yogurt; I also liked that the initial offerings of those yogurts didn’t seem as sickly sweet as mainstream yogurt. My first taste of Skyr blew my mind! It’s thick and smooth and creamy. If you open a container and hold it upside down (don’t squeeze!) it is so thick that it will stay in the container. When I eat it, I feel like I am eating something of substance–and not just because of the 14g of protein–because it has a creamy mouth-feel. While you don’t have to chew it (it’s yogurt), it feels more satisfying to me than mainstream yogurt, more like a solid breakfast. I learned it takes four times as much milk to make a serving of siggi’s as it does to make a mainstream yogurt.

IMG_0821
As seen in my local grocery!

After I decided I loved the products–seriously, I said “goodbye!” to the rest of the yogurt world and haven’t looked back–I became a member of the inaugural siggi’s Culture Club. Each month we had a challenge to focus on, all about sharing the love of siggi’s. I took coupons for freebies to my yoga students and they universally loved siggi’s. My current favorites are seasonal flavors: pumpkin in the fall, and strawberry basil in the summer. Other flavors in the siggi’s family include peach, raspberry, strawberry, pomegranate & passion fruit, blueberry, orange & ginger, vanilla, mixed berries & açai, and (of course!) plain (with no added sugar). All of these come in single serving cups, and the vanilla and plain come in economical 24 oz. packages as well.

Whole-fat milk skyr is even thicker and creamier
Whole-fat milk skyr is even thicker and creamier

siggi’s now makes other products in addition to the Icelandic style skyr strained non-fat yogurt, including a low-fat mile skyr (2%milkfat), whole-milk skyr (4% milkfat), filmjölk (a drinkable yogurt), and tubes (a kid-friendly to-go product with 5g sugar and the same five basic ingredients). I haven’t tried anything but the skyr yet, though I’m stalking my local retailers for the others.

But enough about my experience, here’s a chance to win your own!

The fine print: There is ONE prize, which consists of coupons for free siggi’s. If you eat one a day, it’s a 30-day month’s worth. After I contact you, you’ll have seven days to claim it; at that time you must provide your mailing address so I can send it to siggi’s and they can send you the prize!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received free samples of MeStrength because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like.

Psst! Want a discount on MeStrength? Through September 30, 2016 you can get MeStrength for 25% off by using the code bibchat716 at the MeStrength online shop.Click To Tweet
Sampler pack of all the flavors
Sampler pack of all the flavors

Runners today are lucky to live in a world with unlimited hydration options. Do you like flavored or unflavored? Liquid, powder, tablet? Single serve or bulk? Sugar, monkfruit, stevia, sugar alcohols? Carbs? Caffeine? Electrolytes alone, or in combination with fuel/protein/something else? Pre-workout or post-workout? Strawberry, grape, lemon-lime…we could be here for awhile. Anyway, you get the point.

MeStrength is hydration with creatine. “Creatine?” I can hear you asking. “Isn’t that something that 1970s musclehead lifters use?” Au contraire, and that is the focus of this review.

(If you want to read about all the details that make MeStrength a fine product–such as the attention to detail in the manufacturing process, or how the electrolytes are isotonic which is the same as they exist naturally in your body–you can head to the MeStrength website. There are too many specifics to cover in my one little review.)

What is Creatine and Why Should You Care?

Let’s start at square one. “Creatine is a nitrogenous substance, derived from arginine, glycine, and methionine, found in muscle tissue.” Your body makes it in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. It is part of creatine kinase, which is an isoenzyme found in muscle and brain tissue that catalyzes the formation of ATP (remember that from high school biology?). Creatine is present in HIGHER amounts after muscle injury, which should make it very interesting to anyone involved in sports training, since part of what you do when you work out (and race) is break down muscle tissue (that’s injury).

Creatine is considered a non-essential nutrient. Precision Nutrition defines a non-essential nutrient as “food-based nutrients that either the body can make itself, assuming adequate nutritional intake, or nutrients that aren’t needed for normal physiological functioning.” Creatine falls into this category, along with glutamine, the other non-essential amino acids, caffeine, and green tea extract.

Creatine is also one of the best-studied potential supplements. According to the Precision Nutrition textbook (see Resources section), there are over 500 published studies on creatine supplementation. When I did a search in PubMed specific to creatine and exercise, I found 414 studies (and remember, PubMed doesn’t index every published study). Oh, and in case you have Olympic dreams, creatine isn’t on the World Anti-Doping Agency banned substances list.

Highly portable MeStrength
Highly portable MeStrength

Let Me Drop Some Science On You: ATP and Energy In the Body

ATP is adenosine triphosphate; basically that’s adenosine (A) with three phosphate molecules (P) attached. One of the ways the body makes energy is to break the bonds that hold the A to one of the P, creating ADP (adenosine with two phophates) and P (just the phosphate, all by itself); the body then regenerates the ATP, basically recycling it. This all happens through the ATP-PCr system. Creatine kinase breaks up phosphoecreatine (PCr) into two parts, creatine (Cr) and phosphate (the same P we’ve been discussing), by breaking the bond that holds them together. That creates both energy from breaking the bond, and extra P that can be used to make more ATP (by combining with

The body stores about 80-100 grams of ATP, which is enough to fuel maximal exercise–think crazy hard sprint–for a few seconds. When you engage in intense exercise, the body’s natural supply of PCR only lasts about ten seconds. Once that system is maxed out, you MUST slow down–your body can’t carry you faster.

Creatine Benefit #1: Improved Muscular Performance

If you train hard, doing the type of high-intensity exercise that is dependent on the ATP-PCr system (hill repeats? strength training?wind sprints?), and would like to add lean muscle mass, creatine supplementation can help you. (In contrast, if you do low-volume or infrequent exercise, or always run in the very comfortable jog-zone, creatine isn’t likely to offer you many benefits.)

Supplementing with creatine improves your performance in a very specific way: “By increasing the intramuscular creatine pool, more creatine (and PCr) will be available for high intensity, short-bury muscle contractions. Research has shown that higher concentrations of intramuscular creatine are linked with improved force during maximal contraction, and improved staying power with high intensity exercise.” (74) In other words, adding creatine helps your hard training by letting your body continue to recycle the ATP, and that gives you strength and longer endurance (for the high-intensity periods like sprints or lifts you can improve your staying power past the usual ten seconds).

Creatine Benefit #2: Improved Muscle Recovery

If you’ve read anything about training or worked with a trainer, you’ve probably heard about the SAID principle which states that the body responds to training with Stragetic Adaptation to Imposed Demands.  In other words, if you repeat an exercise over time your body will get better and more efficient at doing that exercise. (This is also the reason why you eventually burn fewer calories doing the same workout, and why trainer Tony Horton’s programs all vary exercises instead of sticking with the same program over and over; he calls it “muscle confusion,” but let’s be real: your muscle isn’t confused, it’s just getting better at performing something it has rehearsed many times.)

The body’s responses to training include increases in stored ATP and increases in stored PCr. The more you engage in high intensity exercise, the better your body adapts to using the ATP-PCr cycle to fuel the system, and the faster it can do it. This has an additional benefit: “Increasing the rate of creatine phosphate resynthesis during intense exercise appears to lower blood lactate accumulation and ammonia levels, both byproducts that inhibit peak performance output,” according to research cited by Elliott Reimers (see Resources below).

Translated into everyday language, that means two things. First, in doing high intensity exercise, your body recovers faster so you can spend less time resting  between intervals. Second, your final recovery may also be easier (as your body will have less muscular waste product–lactate and ammonia if you supplement with creatine). There is at least one study that shows creatine supplementation can help with recovery following injury.

MeStrength

Packaging. MeStrength comes in individual “stick” style packets, making it portable and easy to use while on the run (or at the gym, if that’s your schtick–see, I’m funny!). The instructions say to mix with 20 oz of water, though if you happen to have a water bottle that only holds 16 oz (as I did during one test), it just ends up with a slightly stronger flavor, and you can always add more water later. As with any supplement (and pretty much any other consumable product I can think of, from canned tomatoes to toilet paper), buying the larger package is more economical.

Usage. While I initially thought of MeStrength as a pre-workout because that provides the benefit of pre-hydration and available extra creatine within the body, it also works well as an in-workout hydration product. Given the study showing creatine can aid recovery, and I don’t know anyone who is properly 100% hydrated following a hard workout, there is also evidence it would make a good post-workout/recovery beverage.

Ingredients. Setting aside creatine, what’s in it? MeStrength contains five electrolytes: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. Personally, I find this superior to the hydration products that rely exclusively on sodium and potassium. I’m a sweaty girl, and I’m sure I lose ALL the electrolytes during an intense workout. It’s definitely better than consuming only potassium (which can cause cardiac issues in some individuals) or just sodium (which makes some of us feel water-logged but still thirsty).

The other ingredients are citric acid, natural flavor, vegetable and fruit juice for color only, and stevia (for a touch of sweetness).

  • Citric acid exists in nature in fruits and vegetables, and is often used as a preservative. It also occurs in the citric acid cycle, part of the metabolic processes in humans (and other living things).
  • Natural flavor has a very specific meaning in the administrative code relevant to the FDA:  “[natural flavor] means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.” Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 21, Section 501.22 MeStrength is a vegan product, so the natural flavor does not come from meal, etc. You can safely ignore all the fear-mongers who claim the term natural flavor is a way to hide mystery ingredients in food.
  • Vegetable and fruit juices for color only means the small amount of juices present do not add nutrients (or calories) to the product.
  • Stevia is a sweetener/sugar-substitute that comes from the plant Stevia Rebaudiana. It has a slightly bitter aftertaste so it isn’t usually used as the sole sweetener, but I didn’t notice any bitter aftertaste in MeStrength.

Taste & Opinions. Overall, I liked the taste of MeStrength, with my favorite flavor being fruit punch. (That’s almost always my favorite flavor in supplements. Something about how much I loved Hawaiian Punch as a kid.) It isn’t super sweet like, say, full-strength Gatorade or Powerade. As I mentioned above, there isn’t a bitter aftertaste. I’m willing to bet those who complain they don’t like the new Nuun formulations due to the stevia won’t even notice it in this product. I also like that this product separates hydration (electrolytes) and supplementation from fuel. I tend to need hydration at a more rapid rate than fuel, and my stomach cramps if I rely on a two-in-one product. This way I can use MeStrength by itself, add it to a fuel product, or consume separate fuel (like actual food!)

Fruit punch is my favorite!
Fruit punch is my favorite!

Resources

The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, Certification Manual, second edition. John Berardi, PhD; Ryan ANdrews, MA, MS, RD. (All of the material in quotation marks above is from this textbook, numbers indicate page numbers.)

“All About Creatine.” Ryan Andrews

“Body Fuel: Creatine Myths” John Berardi, PhD

“Does Creatine Impact Recovery & Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?” Elliott Reimers

My search on PubMed returned 414 results on July 12, 2016. (Search terms: “creatine supplementation and exercise performance”)

 

Where have I been for…the entire month of June and the first half of July? Sometimes when I go a long time between posts, it is for predictable reasons—I have a full-time “day job” (which sometimes wants to place higher demands on my time) or I’m out running races and have prioritized DOING THINGS over blogging about them—but other times it is not.  Co-schedule reminded me today that I haven’t posted in weeks. It’s not for lack of ideas (there are a dozen partially-drafted posts in my queue, I have dozens of great giveaways to run, and my post reviewing MeStrength and why you would want to supplement your electrolytes with creatine is now an entire week overdue). I’m having a hard time forcing myself to sit down and write, and it’s not because of writer’s block. Nope.

Here’s the problem.

I’m injured.

Got cheese to go with my w(h)ine?
Got cheese to go with my w(h)ine?

As a fitness instructor, yoga teacher, and nutrition student, I’d like to think my nutrition and exercise choices should get the credit for my overall health. For example, I’m rarely sick. When I log time off from work as sick time, it’s usually because I’ve developed a headache (also rare, but unavoidable due to lingering effects of a car accident in which I broke more than a few bones). Yoga has taught me to know my body very well, and I recognize the earliest warning signs that I might,  maybe, possibly be a few days away from illness. When that happens, I take immediate course corrections: drink more water, add more sleep time, eat more vegetables, take a multi-vitamin, otherwise take action that feels appropriate to the situation. Usually I shake it off before I even get sick. This is a giant blessing, and I am thankful for the knowledge and space to execute it in my life.

For most of my life I’ve also rarely been injured, save for catastrophic events like the aforementioned car accident. (That put me out of commission for over a month, and then for subsequent months I wasn’t able to operate at full mental or physical capacity. I really hated that.) I was rear-ended twice during the time I lived in Austin and that messed up my left shoulder, so it requires some maintenance, but it usually doesn’t bother me (and when it does it is usually because I have been slacking on my maintenance.) Like every runner or  fitness pro, I encounter the occasional muscle strain or sprain, but up until now they have also healed pretty quickly after application of the appropriate remedies (things like rest, ice or heat, modification of specific exercises or workouts, foam rolling or other SMFR, and a little patience). I try to take body breaks throughout the day instead of staying in a static desk-sitting-position all day, and same for when I drive.

So as I sit here writing the first part of this post at IDEA World—the largest gathering of fitness professionals in the world, a veritable candy store of workouts—I’m incredibly frustrated and angry and mad and sad and grumpy and whiny (“It’s sooooo UNFAIR!!”) that I’ve developed an injury that doesn’t want to make peace and go away. Worse, I can’t figure out exactly what I need to do to make it go away, and my schedule (work and life) has kept me from getting to a specialist.

Earlier this year, I had some pain in my glute/hamstring tie-in on my left leg. After I ran long, or spent most of the day on my feet, I’d find myself with a big lump of a pain on the back of my leg. After Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco (April) I had the massage pro at the VIP tent work on that and nothing else; he immediately knew exactly which spot I was trying to describe because he found a giant knot there that would not release. I made an appointment with  my chiropractor (she’s also a yoga teacher and a distance cyclist, and is amazing with a variety of modalities) who figured it out and fixed it. Basically, my pelvis was misaligned so that my left hip was more forward than it should be, and that misalignment was forcing the muscle fibers in one spot (where I was having the pain) to do more work than they should. Overworked and maxed out, those muscle fibers rebelled. She put my pelvis back where it should be, and the problem went away.

Or so I thought.

The big car accident cracked some vertebrae in my lower spine. While I assume they’ve basically healed and aren’t causing any trouble on their own, that experience taught  me a lot about how the low bank and pelvis are related to each other. After the knotty-hammy-glute-tie-in issue earlier this year, I’ve tried to be much more careful about my daily habits with my low back and pelvis.  You probably don’t think about this much, but just as habitual exercise causes changes in muscle size, strength, composition, and power, your daily habits affect your low back and pelvis. Consider the placement of your pelvis and low back when you sit at your desk (or on your sofa), when you drive, when you stand in social/business settings, when you sleep.

The vast majority of office workers have terrible sitting posture. Specifically, they (we) sit in chairs in a way that allows the low back to pooch out, reversing the natural lumbar curve (it normally curves into the body, not out and away from it). Or sit with one leg crossed over the other, tilting the pelvis to one side while simultaneously reversing the low back’s curve. Or worse, sit on one foot. (The upper body suffers similar evils: forward-leaning computer-screen head, downward-facing text-message neck, typing posture with shoulders rolled forward and the upper back’s natural outward curve turned into a veritable dowager’s hump.) At home I have a small rectangular pillow that I use as a lumbar support because otherwise I tend to melt into the couch like a blob.

It’s been difficult for me to observe the driving posture of others (beyond the few people I know who drive with an exaggerated version of desk postures). At some point I noticed that when I slide into the driver’s seat, I tend to sit on the seat in such a way that my right hip is higher than my left. (This is easy to do because most car seats are not flat, but are sort of curved/butt-shaped.) As soon as I noticed this, I made a point to sit myself squarely in the seat before putting on my seatbelt or turning the key. On long drives—which I sometimes make for work—I find myself adjusting my left leg, from stretched out and slack to foot flat on the floor, to compensate for the constant tension in my right leg. I try to stop regularly to get out of the car for a “body break”—a few stretches, maybe some jumping around a bit to keep my blood circulating, etc.

Standing posture is particularly interesting because you can very easily watch this. I can’t generalize as to all people, but I’ve noticed several repeat patterns. For example, men with big guts tend to stand with an overarched low back or with an exaggerated anterior tilt to the pelvis (the hip bones much more forward than the pubic bone). This makes sense, since your center of gravity is “off” from its natural default position when you add a keg where the six-pack should be. Women wearing heels often have a similar pattern in the low back/hips/pelvis. I’ve also notice many people—myself included—tend to stand with their weight primarily on one side, hips shifted over. This stance is event more exaggerated in people wearing a backpack with just one strap on (not a cross-body bag, but a traditional two-strap backpack). In fact, on any day when I am observing bodies, it is only a minority of people who are standing with decent posture.

Sleeping is another habit that it’s rare to observe others, and I mostly have my own experience to go on. Sleeping flat on my back feels unnatural to me and I can’t seem to fall asleep that way. Sleeping flat on my stomach makes me over-arch my low back and exaggerate the anterior pelvic tilt, so much so that I can feel the strain on the little muscles attached to the spine in my low back. I prefer to sleep on my left side—which is now painful—with a second pillow in front of me and between my knees to keep my hips in order.

Warning! Cases of w(h)ine ahead!
Warning! Cases of w(h)ine ahead!

So whyyyy is my left hip so angry at me?! It is incredibly frustrating to know that I take better, thoughtful care of my body than most humans and still be in pain, and not know the cause. When I first noticed my left hip acting up, it felt stiff and achy and I noticed I had been doing more desk-sitting than usual; so I tried mobilizing and movement. I took stretch breaks for the muscles around the hip complex and tried to add movement. It was still a little sore when I hit the road for the Across the Bay 415k &12k, and I figured I’d be able to run-walk most of it. I started in Marin with 1 minute intervals, and by the time I hit the lead-up to the Golden Gate Bridge, I knew that wasn’t going to be a plan. I was too tempted to try to add speed. Yet at the end of the race–most of which I walked–I was in so much pain I wanted to cry, and I spent the rest of the day sleeping

It could be the TRX class I took, or it could be a movement I didn’t even notice. It could be a continuation of the prior dysfunction in my pelvis. It could be tight tissue (the SMFR class I took at IDEA helped). Whatever the cause, it is incredibly annoying. As I write the end of this post, I’m just back from IDEA World, where I sat out all of the amazing workouts: a BlogFest workout with Gunnar Peterson, Boot Camp with Todd Durkin (Todd freaking Durkin!), a barre class, a BeachBody Live mashup…I also resisted the temptation to physically play at the expo: no TRX, no ActivMotion bar, no cycling (and Real Ryder was there!), no Lebert, no circuits, zip, zilch, nada. At least I’m “adulating” well (I didn’t do anything I knew would make me feel worse).

But…my chiropractor is out of town, I was unable to make an appointment at the substitute I know, and as I was making a sports massage appointment someone else booked it faster than I did and POOF! (Okay, I used some not-blog-appropriate language when that happened.) I’m off to FitBloggin’ in a day, and I’m in a world of hurt. So me, the rarely-to-never-injured, will spend the two best fitness conferences of the year mostly sidelined due to injury. The disappointment is palpable here, folks.

Tell me, have you been sidelined by an injury? How did you deal with it? Got advice for me?

 

Disclosure: I received raspberry Ultima sticks and a lemonade Ultima canister because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like. All opinions are my own.

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It’s summer, which means I need to up my hydration game. (Sadly, wine doesn’t count.) That’s part of why I asked to be one of the BibRave Pro Team members to test the new and improved formula of Ultima; I’m always looking for variety in my hydration game.  Ultima sent me a 30-serving container of lemonade, as well as a box of raspberry individual stick-style packets. Ultima is a hydrating electrolyte beverage, NOT a fuel product. There are no carbs, proteins, or fats in Ultima (and therefore nothing for your body to use as fuel). Ever since I learned you can separate hydration from fuel, I’ve been a huge fan of taking that approach. First, since I sweat a lot (especially in the heat!) I need hydration more often than I need fuel. Second, separating hydration and fuel allows me to fuel with real foods and fat-containing foods, such as peanut butter. Third, the science is with me on this one: gastric emptying (stuff leaving your stomach and getting into the other parts of your body) is slowed by the addition of carbohydrates. (See resources below.)

First Thing’s First: How Does It Taste?

Flavor: Raspberry. If you’re like me, you need your hydration (and nutrition) to taste good. I can’t count the number of people who don’t drink enough water because “the water where I live tastes bad” (or some variation of that excuse). There are plenty of hydration options I don’t like because they are too sweet, too sour, too salty, taste like old socks, etc. To me, the raspberry flavor smells like a red popsicle. It has a pleasant taste that I like enough to both look forward to drinking while out running, and to drink at my desk to encourage me to stay hydrated. While it is sweetened in part with stevia, I had to try very hard to taste the stevia. At least one of the BibRave Pro team members  (Heather from Heather Runs Thirteen Point One) loathes stevia and gave up on her prior hydration when the stevia flavor in the new formula got to be too much for her. (Note: I do not have this problem. I also like cilantro. That said, I’m sympathetic to those who have the genetic disposition that makes cilantro taste like soap. Perhaps there is a similar thing for stevia?)

Can you see why I thought this cute little scoop was too small?
Can you see why I thought this cute little scoop was too small?

Flavor: Lemonade. Since the raspberry Ultima I received came in sticks, it was easy to measure. (Cut one open, dump it in the glass, boom.) My lemonade Ultima came in a tub. By the way, I LOVE this. Thirty servings fit in the palm of my hand! This is a bonus to me because it means Ultima doesn’t hog a lot of pantry space and is travel-friendly. Of course a smaller package is also more environmentally-friendly (e.g. uses less plastic in the packaging, takes less fuel to transport, etc.) and a bulk package is less expensive than individually wrapped sticks (cost is about $0.66 per serving instead of $1 per serving). If you buy the larger canister (90 servings) the cost goes down to around $0.33 per serving. Anyway, when I first pulled out the teeny-tiny scoop I thought for sure it was too small to be the actual serving size, and mixed a heaping scoop with water. Bad move! It tasted like a non-gritty Country Time Lemonade mix! WAY too sweet! When I actually used the scoop to measure a level scoop–the real serving, and it seems tiny–it came out much better. The taste is lemonade, but a sweetish lemonade, not a sour/tart one. It’s not overly sugary, and I bet it would make a nice margarita when mixed with tequila.

Other flavors. Ultima also comes in orange, grape, cherry pomegranate, and “toddler berry punch” (which as the name implies, is intended for kids–a useful thing to have in your arsenal when your kid is getting dehydrated due to vomiting and diarrhea, for example). I’m using the BibRave discount to buy a big tub of cherry pomegranate the instant it comes back in stock.

Raspberry after initial mixing (the clumps around the sides dissolved too)
Raspberry after initial mixing (the clumps around the sides dissolved too)

Mouth-feel. I hate gritty drink mixes. Many powdered drink mixes seem to not fully dissolve, leaving little sand-like particles floating around in the drink (and this makes me crazy). Initially I was afraid that might be the case for Ultima, but it turns out I was just being silly–like most powders, if you mix Ultima in ice water it isn’t going to dissolve very well. Oops. When I tried very cold water (from a pitcher that had been refrigerated overnight), I put the Ultima in the bottom and poured the water over the top. This time, some powder rose to the top almost like bubbles. A quick swish with a spoon and they were gone. The resulting beverage was translucent pink, and smooth like water. The very bottom of the glass had a small amount of undissolved solids, but that didn’t bother me (though the very last sip had a tiny bit of a granular texture, it wasn’t sandy, and overall didn’t bother me–plus when I’m running I almost never get all the way to the bottom of the bottle before I refill).

What is NOT in Ultima?

Ultima’s website and packaging spend quite a bit of space on what is NOT in Ultima. Since that may also be important to you, here’s a list:

  • No sugar
  • No calories
  • No artificial flavors
  • No artificial colors
  • No GMO ingredients (Non-GMO Project verified)
  • No gluten (certified gluten-free)
  • No animal products (certified vegan)
  • No caffeine
  • No added maltodextrin (the natural flavors have a tiny amount)
My Ultima arrived all wrapped up like a present!
My Ultima arrived all wrapped up like a present!

What is actually IN Ultima? A bunch of things.

You probably know you lose “salt” when you sweat, especially if you are a salty sweat-er (you can feel the grit on your face when you are done). Many people rely on salt packets when they run, but this is a mistake (outside the scope of this article, read the science-y bits of the article cited below). The short story is that you need to replenish ALL of the electrolytes you lose through sweat. (Did you know you sweat out iron too, especially in hot weather? That’s also a blog post for another day.)

Since many of the ingredients are familiar to the average person as “something from the periodic table” or “a chemical,” I thought it might be helpful to understand what each of these ingredients does inside the body–yes, every one of the main ingredients in Ultima already exists inside your body AND is critical for it to function at peak performance. I’ve included a quickie description, but also a link to that nutrient’s page on the Precision Nutrition Encyclopedia of Food. That way you can read more about food sources for that nutrient, as well as more than the examples I’ve given of problems that a deficiency may cause, and find out where that item lives in your food/diet.

The name in parenthesis is the form found in Ultima. (That way if you are as nerdy as I am, you can use your Google-fu for more information, and compare the bioavailability of various forms.) Potassium, for example, can combine to form many chemical compounds including potassium chloride, a common substitute for regular table salt (sodium chloride). In selecting the forms to include in Ultima, the creators tried to use the form that your body can most easily access and use (known as the most “bioavailable” form).

  • Potassium (potassium aspartate)
    • Essential mineral
    • Electrolyte
    • Assists in keeping the proper electrochemical gradient across cell membranes; this is important for nerve impulse transmission, cardiac function, and muscle contraction. The proper electrochemical gradient allows nutrients into the cell and waste products to exit. Deficiency can cause cardiac problems and muscle cramps. Read more.
  • Magnesium (Magnesium citrate and Magnesium aspartate)
    • Essential mineral
    • Electrolyte
    • Helps your body metabolize fats and carbohydrates, involved in DNA and protein synthesis, plays a role in wound healing. Deficiency can cause hypokalemia (deficiency of potassium in the bloodstream).  Read more.
  • Chloride (sodium chloride)
    • Essential mineral
    • Electrolyte
    • Like Potassium, assists in keeping the proper electrochemical gradient across cell membranes (see above); also aids in the digestion and absorption of many nutrients. Deficiency can cause low blood pressure and weakness.  Read more.
  • Calcium (calcium citrate and calcium ascorbate)
    • Essential mineral, and the most common mineral in the body
    • Electrolyte
    • We all know it plays a role in healthy bones and teeth, but did you know it also regulates nerve impulse transmissions, muscle contractions, and hormone secretions? Deficiency can cause skeletal problems (e.g. rickets, osteoporosis), among others. Read more. 
  • Selenium (amino acid chelate)
    • Essential mineral
    • Helps create antioxidant balance in the body, works in concert with certain proteins and enzymes. Deficiency can lead to problems with cartilage development/formation, among other problems. Read more.
  • Zinc
    • Essential mineral
    • Helps with growth, development, neurological function, reproduction, and immune function (that’s a lot of different things!); acts as a catalyst in some chemical reactions within the body; forms/sustains cell structure; regulates genetic expressions, signaling among cells (including in the nervous system), and release of hormones. A zinc deficiency can slow wound healing. Read more.
  • Phosphorus (potassium phosphate)
    • Essential mineral
    • Yes, this is the stuff on match tips (but please don’t go eat them!). It forms bone structure, plays a role in energy transfer, helps with hormone production and enzyme production, signals cells, and facilitates binding site activity for hemoglobin. Deficiency is pretty rare. Read more.
  • Sodium (sodium chloride)
    • Essential mineral
    • Electrolyte
    • Often painted as the dietary bad-guy, sodium is something you lose through sweat, and replacing it is important! Like Potassium, Sodium assists in keeping the proper electrochemical gradient across cell membranes. It also regulates extracellular fluid (fluid outside of your cells) and is key to blood volume and blood pressure. A sodium deficiency spells race day disaster: nausea, vomiting, disorientation/confusion, cramps, headache, and fatigue. Read more.
  • Copper (copper citrate)
    • Essential mineral
    • Pennies might not be made of it anymore, but copper does help make up some neurotransmitters and the myelin structures that coat your nerves. (No copper? Nervous breakdown, ha ha!) Copper helps with collagen and elastin structures, and helps with protein synthesis and cell energy. Deficiency can cause anemia that doesn’t respond to iron treatments, and cause imbalances/deficiencies in your white blood cells. Read more.
  • Manganese (manganese citrate)
    • Essential Mineral
    • Electrolyte
    • Tiny but mighty? That’s manganese. It helps metabolize carbs, cholesterol, and amino acids (the building blocks of protein); it helps the antioxidant enzymes of the mitochondria (the “powerhouse” organelles inside your cells). Deficiency is rare. Read more.
  • Molybdenum (sodium molybdate)
    • Essential Mineral
    • Acts as a cofactor (a substance required for enzymes to do their jobs) for the enzymes in the carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles; also helps with metabolism of drugs. Read more.
  • Chromium (chromium dinicotinate glycinate)
    • Essential Mineral
    • Enhances the effects of insulin and assists in metabolism of glucose and fat. Deficiency (predictably!) can cause impaired glucose tolerance and elevated circulating insulin. Read more.

There are some additional ingredients that vary by flavor (for example, beta carotene exists naturally in oranges, so it is present in orange flavor). You can read Ultima’s description of their ingredients on their website.

That’s The Basics. You’ve probably now learned more than you ever needed or wanted to know about Ultima, but in case you need more, do go to the website: http://www.ultimareplenisher.com/ The website can tell you where to find Ultima in stores near you, but the code BIBRAVE2016 which gets you 35% off plus free shipping will only work on the Ultima website.

Selected References:

Happy Running! NERD OUT!!