Embracing a body built for distance (not speed)...
Rock what you've got!
There WILL Be Chafing! (Advice for New Endurance Athletes)
Since I have no events to share with you over the next few weeks, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned over my past years in cycling and triathlon. I’m not a pro, by any means! But I’ve learned a thing or two, sometimes by making — you guessed it — mistakes. Wearing ill fitting gear can rub you the wrong way… literally. So, here goes… and please share your advice, too!
Get the gear right. Don’t be afraid of the spandex. Everyone else is wearing it, too. Just be sure that you get the proper fit. I’m notorious for buying things too small — or perhaps they shrink over time when washing and drying? Perhaps I think I can “exercise my way” into that smaller size? Either way, I’ve been the victim of tri-shorts that rubbed and rubbed over the course of a long race. Not fun. NOT FUN!!
Looking good, but my gear is rubbing me the wrong way!
Triathlon tops are cut that way for a reason. See this photo above? Although I did totally look like a badass in my black sleeveless cycling top that day, by the end of my 13.1 mile run, the back of my triceps had been rubbed raw by the extra fabric. (Speaking of looking badass in race photos… stay tuned for next week when I’ll talk about this!)
I’ve found that I LOVE bib shorts for cycling! In the past they have mostly been sold to men, but slowly more bib shorts are being sold on the women’s side. What do I mean? A normal cycling short for women just pulls up to your waist, but then there is the potential for the “gap” in between your pants and your top. You might be stuck wrestling pulling something up or pulling something down for coverage. But bib shorts are brilliant because they have material that goes up around your shoulders and holds it all in! And when I say “holds it all in”... I mean my (sometimes more than others) generous belly. Yes, it makes it a little trickier for bathroom stops, but I say the extra coverage is so worth it.
What’s under there? Cyclists don’t wear underwear with their cycling shorts. This is in an effort to keep any extra seams from your underwear from rubbing and causing chafing. Cycling shorts are padded with a chamois. The chamois is helpful when you’re on long rides to keep your bum from getting sore. But if you ride a lot… riding enough miles to condition your butt to sitting on the seat for long periods is the best defense against saddle soreness. If you just can’t imagine not wearing underwear… I have seen cycle liner shorts and athletic underwear with flat seams. But if you’re going for long distances, honestly, ditch the underwear. You’ll be happier in the end. (Ooooh, get it? In the end?) And also, products like “Glide” and “Chamois Butter” are your friend. Use them anywhere you think you might have rubbing. And use the BEFORE you need to.
You’ll get samples to try in your race packets!
Yep, tri-shorts ARE different than cycling shorts. Cycling shorts have a big chamois for lots of padding. Triathlon shorts have a much thinner pad. This is mostly so that when you get out of the swim and onto the bike in a triathlon, you don’t feel like you’re wearing a big wet diaper and you can dry off more quickly.
Sometimes, I pee my pants when I run. Yep, you heard it here. I’m a mother of two. And even though I haven’t had my children recently, I still have problems with a little leakage. I remember my very nice doctor mentioning that something could be done to fix that problem… but honestly, I haven’t had the guts to pursue it. I don’t have a solution to this… do you? Maybe the person who invents running gear with a removable insert will be my hero! I’m picturing a slightly padded, washable insert that can go into a fine mesh that rests against your skin (and causes no chaffing). Hear me Nike? Under Armour? Get on it.
And with that said… please make great looking gear for BIGGER women. I’m tired of following girls wearing adorable running tops or skirts only get up on them and see it is from a yoga/athletic store (which I won’t name) that I know for sure does not have anything that I can fit in that is not a headband. A friend of mine said it best, “I found that sport stores make clothes that are only for fit people, not people trying to get fit.” Amen, sister. Amen.
Gotta hold in the girls! Now I don’t have this problem because I’ve been blessed (or cursed depending how you look at it) with an “A” cup, but I have seen many women run past me on the jogging path fighting with themselves (you know what I mean). A lot of motion from their chest… and it just looks painful. Our local Team LUNA Chix hosted an event with Title Nine this past summer that included an athletic bra fit. I’ve heard a great athletic bra for those more well endowed can change lives! One company that comes to mind is Moving Comfort. They have a sports bra finder on their website. If nothing else, view a well held pair of “girls” as making you more efficient on your run.
You don’t have to win… you just have to finish!
Going long. You might think you’ll never be able to run more than a 5K. You might think you’ll never be able to swim, bike, and run one right after the other. You might be thinking you’d never be able to bust out a double century bike ride. But with the proper training, you can. Endurance events are all about taking the time to condition your body. There’s a rhyme and a reason to “long runs” when you’re training for your first ½ marathon. There’s a rhyme and reason for spending time “in the saddle” when you’re training for a long bike ride, like a century (100 miles). I say you can because I have. And I feel that if I can… anyone can. Get a hold of a training plan and follow it. And if you want to start being active in something out of your comfort zone… find a local Team LUNA Chix group in running, cycling, triathlon or mountain biking. These ladies are experienced and ready to answer ALL your questions. I hear many people comment they think the Chix are a professional or a closed group. They are not. They are women just like you and me who have done events of all different lengths. Their workouts are very welcoming and very FREE. And the excellent clinics they organize cost little and raise money for the Breast Cancer Fund.
Join the club. If you’ve caught the triathlon bug and plan to do more than four triathlon events in a calendar year, its worth it to become a member of USA Triathlon. When you register for an event, you will need to buy accident insurance for the event. (It’s required to race.) You can purchase a “one day license” when you register for the event for $12, or you can purchase a USAT membership that is good for a year for $45. Your membership goes beyond the insurance to include gear discounts, USA Triathlon magazine, and much more. Check out the USAT website for the details!
Also, I learned through a Team LUNA Chix Alumni member, Leslie, that race insurance exists! Just imagine you’ve entered to run in an event that costs you big bucks. Half-marathons can cost $80 or more, marathons and long distance triathlon events well over 100 bucks! Or say you’ve entered in a big race, but then your training doesn’t go as planned, you get hurt, sick, or something else… it hurts enough not being able to participate in the event, but then losing your entry money hurts, too. Watch this super cute video by Leslie and her sister and check out the 365 Competitor website to see if your race can be covered.
Do you have more questions? Let me know! Be sure to visit the Team LUNA Chix website and click on their Advice and Tips tab.
Now get out there, be active and HAVE FUN!
Several years ago I became hooked on cycling and triathlons. But as a competitor in the "Athena" category for women over 150 lbs., I've sometimes felt a bit hampered by the extra weight that, despite all the exercise, I just can't seem to shake. No more. I'm embracing the body I've got as I train for my first full marathon and work towards my ultimate goal of one day competing in an Ironman race -- on my own terms and at my own pace. Perfection is overrated anyway.
Gear Check with Catherine Pendrel
Team LUNA Chix Pro Mountain Biker Catherine Pendrel shows us exactly how she travels. See what’s in her gear bag on her grueling rides, and learn what you might want to carry with you!
Join a group, stay motivated.
We’re all in this fitness thing together. One surefire way to stay motivated is to work out with a friend or join a group, like a local team LUNA Chix, that meets to run, cycle, swim, whatever. Not only is more fun to exercise with some pals, it also gives you a sense of obligation to get your butt out the door on even the nastiest days.
Drinking while cycling.
When you’re on the bike, 12 ounces of water every half hour is a good rule of thumb, so make sure your bike has room for a couple of bottles. For longer rides where you’re not planning to stop (woo hoo!) you’ll want to kick your gear investment up a notch with a large hydration pack.
For long races, change is not good.
For an endurance race like a triathlon, fueling well is essential, but DON’T eat or drink anything during the race that you haven’t already practiced with during your training. Think of long training sessions as “race simulations” for your fuel plan on the big day. This will help you avoid indigestion and “potty issues”.
Triathlon fashion tips.
While having a lot of clothing options is great for a weekend in Vegas, in a triathlon you really want to shoot for something you can wear throughout the race to make transitions as easy as possible. Tops and shorts specifically designed for triathlons are a great choice—they’re made to go into the water, on the bike, etc.
To clip, or not to clip…
Clip in pedals are a better choice for power efficiency, but they can be a bit intimidating for newbies. Go with flat if you are really uncomfortable, you can always switch to a clip in pedal later. If you do get clips, it should only take a few rides to master how to quickly twist your foot out.
Turbo charge your run.
If you always practice at the same pace, you’ll always run at the same pace. You need to do intervals if you want to get faster. Start with 30 seconds hard every five minutes and work your way up to five minutes hard and five minutes easy. Play AC/DC, Jack Johnson, AC/DC, Jack Johnson…
Running requires patience.
If you are really new and running doesn’t come naturally to you (and really, it doesn’t come naturally for most of us!) start with a combination of running and walking. Run for four minutes, walk for one. Keep repeating this until you get to 30 minutes and then add in longer phases of running the next time you work out.
Building endurance for a triathlon.
If you are ready to try a tri, each week of training you’ll want to do one longer workout in each sport, to build up your endurance.
Be kind to your knees.
Running on dirt trails provides the best cushion. Concrete is the worst because there’s no shock absorption. Asphalt is somewhere in the middle. Choose wisely if you have problems with your knees.
85-90 leg strikes per minute (count on one leg) is what you want to aim for to work on improving your running speed and time.
Be a stronger swimmer.
To improve your swim performance, practice rotating from the hips, and dragging your fingertips on the recovery. Use a kickboard to focus on strengthening your leg. A pull buoy and paddles can help you work on your arms.
Land with your foot flat.
If you land on your heel when you run, you’ll put a lot of strain on your knees. Landing on your toes strains your calves. Land with your foot flat, and more importantly, land it under your body for good momentum and shock absorption.
Let’s get this (cycling) party started!
Looking for a group to ride with? If there’s local LUNA Chix team in your area, you’ve already found a great way to connect with other women who ride. You can also find out about groups at your local bike shop, in cycling magazines, or just ask other cyclists—they usually know.
Glide out of your wet suit.
Wet suits can leave nasty hickey burns on your neck, and really, who wants to explain that? Before a long swim, lather your neck and ankles with Body Glide and you’ll be much more comfortable while swimming and get your suit off with ease. Plus, you won’t have to show up at work the next day looking like you’ve been mauled by a vampire.
Another great way to stay motivated? Enter an event. Whether it’s a charity ride for a cause you really care about or a competitive race, having a goal to work towards can really give you that extra push to pull on your workout gear and go.
Riding with turtles and hares.
Whether fast or slow, ride with people you know! It’s more fun that way. Fast friends will push you a bit more, which is great if you’re prepping for a race, and you can draft off them on big climbs. If you’re the quick one, get out in front and give your less experienced friends a break!
Have you checked your tire pressure and brakes? Did you give your bike the once over to make sure nothing’s cracked or otherwise out of whack? OK, now you can go.
Chasing those elusive zzzz’s.
Hard-core trainers will tell you that 8-10 hours of sleep a night, plus a daily nap, is optimal while training for a big race. Back in the real world, those of us with busy jobs or little kids can only dream about this much. Shoot for as many hours as you can and stick with a consistent schedule—quality rest will help your muscles repair and protect your immune system.
If your knees are sore after a ride…
It could be that your saddle is too low. Try putting your saddle at a height where your knee is soft, but not locked at 6 o’clock.
Cycling time, optimized.
If you have an hour or less and want a good cycling workout, crank it, sister! You can go high intensity by hitting steep hills hard or by going out with a riding group that challenges you speed-wise and hanging on as long as you can. If you’re feeling really feisty, get out in front and “take pulls” every chance you get. Just don’t forget to warm up for 15 minutes first.
Keep those hands where they belong.
On your bike’s handlebars. Road cyclists don’t use hand signals much, aside from pointing out hazards like potholes or rocks. It’s also polite to indicate a turnoff. Otherwise, give a yell if a car is coming or if there’s a need for a quick stop.
Let your bike do the work.
When riding off road, your bike should be moving more than your body. And unlike road cycling, you’ll need to use your upper body as much as your legs to absorb those bumps. And don’t forget to look ahead… that way your body will have a chance to anticipate changes in the terrain, like that tree.
Tired muscles need a little TLC. Massage is great as a recovery aid, and working out extra hard is the perfect excuse to indulge. Yoga is also wonderful for increasing flexibility and focus. Distance runners can benefit from 8-10 minutes in an ice bath. If you are brave enough to take the plunge, have a tall Starbucks on hand.
Say no to saddle sores.
Think only cowboys get saddle sores? Nope, they’re also a problem for cyclists. Finding the right bike saddle can help, but if you ride long enough, you’re occasionally going to end up with a sore butt. A good chamois cream can help soothe those sores, but many bikers swear by a cow utter cream called Bag Balm. Who cares as long as it works!
Cyclists are drafting when they line up behind one another to conserve energy. The rider in front breaks the headwind, those behind get a break. Mastering this move can be tricky: the closer you ride to the person in front, the better the draft, but you also risk a pile-up! While learning, stay at least three feet away from the tire ahead.
Building tri strength with “bricks”.
A “brick” is a workout where one activity is directly followed by another (a bike ride + run, for example.) Training this way 1-2 times a week is a great way to gear up for a triathlon.
New to the dirt?
Go out on easy unpaved roads or wide fire trails with a more experienced friend who can show you the ropes. Relax your arms and legs, and let the bike do the rest. And remember, there’s no shame in getting off and walking for a stretch if the terrain gets hairy.
Dust off that road bike.
Been a few years since you’ve cycled on the road? Before snapping on your helmet, take your bike to a local shop for a safety tune up. At minimum, have them check tire pressure, brakes, the chainring and gear shifts to make sure everything works and that all connections are snug. Now you can feel the wind on your face without worrying about your brakes giving out!
Shape up for cycling.
A hour long ride once or twice a week is just about right for a beginner looking to get her legs (and butt!) in cycling shape. And if you want to enjoy that post-ride high all day, set your alarm and head on out there when the sun is coming up.
Climbing with conviction.
Positioning yourself for a big climb can be tricky. Common mistakes are leaning too far forward, putting too much weight in the hands, and straining your quads. Lean back a bit so you’re centered over the saddle, let your glutes and hamstrings do some of the work, and go easy on those handlebars.
Aching arches in the morning?
Most likely it’s Plantar Fasciitis—an inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the foot that connects the heel bone to the toes. Caused by increasing your running volume too quickly, bad shoes, or poor foot mechanics, this annoying injury requires some TLC, ASAP. Slow down for a few days, do some stretches and apply ice. And see a doctor if there’s no improvement.
Training for open water.
There’s no black guideline in the ocean. To prepare for an open water swim, practice in the pool with your eyes closed. (No cheating!)
Surviving the inevitable tumble.
If you mountain bike long enough, there will come a time when you will dismount and tumble unexpectedly. The good news is that most crashes happen at low speeds, either when clipping out or on switchbacks. But if you are really moving, let go of the bike, tuck your arms and legs into your chest and try to “roll” with one shoulder in and your back to the ground.
Pain while running means one thing: STOP.
A mild pain can turn into a major injury over the course of a single run, so listen up when your body says “ouch!” Most problems can be alleviated with a few days rest. If you still feel bad after taking a break, it’s time to call the doc.
Time to go shoe shopping.
Running 300-500 miles is the perfect excuse for a new pair of shoes! Once you’ve gone that far, they lose their support, shock absorption and the wear can mess with your foot biomechanics. Might as well throw in those new wedge sandals too—you’ve earned them.
Lycra or baggie shorts?
Well, that depends on whether you are casual girl at heart or like showing off that booty! Some mountain bikers like the non-racey, looser look of baggie shorts off road, but there is one caveat: when you are bouncing around coming downhill, they can get stuck on your seat.
Try a bike ride.
When giving cycling a try, the objective is fun! Borrow a bike, keep it under an hour and don’t let your Lance-obsessed neighbor talk you into some crazy 100-mile loop. Bring a helmet, water and LUNA Bar in case your energy flags. Also important: a portable pump, tube and repair kit for flats that hopefully the more experienced friend you’ve invited along knows how to use.
Beyond the obvious helmet, no cycling woman’s wardrobe is complete without a pair of tush-friendly chamois shorts, a lycra jersey, gloves and sunglasses to deflect bugs. Any kind of soft-soled athletic shoe will work for flat pedals, but cleats are a must if you clip in. A light jacket is a great accessory for colder climates, as is a safety light when riding after dark.
Stop that stitch!
While the cause of the always-annoying side stitch is up for debate, deep, full belly breathing can help chase it away. Namaste!
Buying a mountain bike?
Before hitting the shop, ask yourself how you want to ride. If you just want to have some weekend fun in the dirt, a bike with full suspension will ensure maximum comfort off road. A more light-weight cross country bike is best for climbing and racing. And if you like tearing it up in the mud, disc brakes are must!
A bike that fits.
Like your favorite black bra, a bike performs best when it’s fitted specifically for your body type. Many pro shops offer this service, so check in with your favorite local outfit to find someone who can take measurements and help make the proper adjustments to your bike.
Saddle up your bike.
Just like a too-soft mattress can be bad for your back, a too-cushy bike saddle can be bad for your butt. Flat and slightly wide is best, with a women-specific slot up the middle. (Trust us on this one—you’ll be thankful.) It doesn’t hurt to check out what the pros use—they definitely put their tushies to the test!
Tart up your transition towel.
Triathlon transitions can slow you down big time if you’re wandering around like a doof looking for your stuff. Buy the loudest, brightest towel you can find (think 80s neon) and park your gear near an obvious signpost in the transition area. Even if your mind is still rehashing your last leg, you’ll be able to transition quick.
Ah, the simplicity of running gear…
Not much is needed to get up and running. Good shoes are essential, of course, and a running specialty store can help you with the best fit for your foot type. You also might want some socks, shorts and tops that can help wick away sweat to keep you cool. Add one iPod for cool tunes.
Fueling for a ride.
Carbs are what you want—about 30-60 grams of carbs per hour, depending on your weight and pace. This can either be in solid or liquid form (try a LUNA Bar or some Clif Shots) but be sure to eat before you are hungry. Forgetting to fuel means you’ll run out of gas mid-ride and have to call your roommate to come pick you up in her car. Embarrassing.