Add the Magical Power of Cracked Pepper to Chow Bags

pepper-630294_1920

We will frequently have chow bags ready for athletes at a chow station, and this is an important message: we ALWAYS use a coarsely ground pepper and not a fine pepper, because fine pepper actually can irritate the throat or create a sneezing or coughing episode. 

But the healing powers of cracked pepper are so important to endurance athletes that we want to give you a couple of ideas so that you can add them into your everyday life and not just in Trail Driving.

Here are 10 of the best ideas for using cracked pepper:

1) Toss white ground pepper in fruity trail mix to give depth of flavor. The crunch of the other things and trail mix also hide coarse ground pepper. 

2) Add to brewed tea to get a nice “bite” and drink on the route, and if you’re adding other nutritious benefits it will help the body absorb those too. Double win! 

3) Pizza is delicious at any temperature and adding some into a rucksack is a nice change. Pepper will help keep burping to a minimum. 

4) Morning salad is a real thing! Just twist some pepper on the top to get those nutrients working faster into the bloodstream and not burden the body trying to break down a heavy protein.

5) Sandwiches are always a delicious treat and adding cracked pepper as you would any condiment also hides the coarse grit. 

6) Cracked pepper plays well with brown sugar, so it is a great extra dash to put into oatmeal clusters or homemade granola bars.

7) Molasses cookies have such a tasty buzz, and a little bit of cracked pepper will give a calming on the sweetness of the cookie and meld it with a darker, deeper taste. 

8)  Dehydrated meats and jerky are cosmic alliances with cracked pepper. 

9) Oddly, black pepper goes great with strawberries! Add strawberries to a salad with a dash of pepper – that travels well! 

10) Edamame is lovesick for cracked pepper, and that goes well as a snack on the trail.

Be sure to share with us any of your sacred pepper tricks for fueling yourself or other athletes.  

Trail well!

 

 

Using Pepper as a Tool

pepper-1769145_1920

I add pepper to as many items as my athletes will agree to, usually making it a nighttime event, but I will add flecks of it throughout their endurance activities.

The key in this bit of advice is “fresh ground peppercorns.” Just plain pepper can lose its potency very quickly – most people have a can of pepper on their shelf for more than three months.

Whole peppercorns can store indefinitely, and it’s the hard kernel part of the pepper that has the most benefit.

No matter the color of the peppercorn they all will have the same benefits, it just depends on what flavor that you want. Peppercorns are actually a fruit that grows on a vine, and all colors have the same health benefits…green, black or white.

I do want to put a health alert out there for pink peppercorns – they are actually a NUT and will cause a nut allergic reaction. White, green and black peppercorns are my recommendation.

You don’t need to start eating handfuls of pepper, a pinch is enough as a serving. If you’re controlling what an athlete eats for a 24-hour period, it’s easy to get a BIG pinch into their diet.

Pepper is not only an anti-inflammatory but a carminative and what is impressive about that is that it pushes gas DOWN, not up. And that is critical if you have an athlete that gets nauseous, or does not enjoy fueling right away in the morning. An evening meal with fresh pepper will have beneficial agents the next day.

The number one reason I like it on the trail is that it increases bioavailability, AKA the ability for nutrients to get absorbed.  So, it’s a standard add on to salads, greens, veggie smoothies, and even a sandwich.

When athletes are craving salt I just need to add a little pepper and I’ll get a double dose of support. White cracked pepper is especially fantastic on nuts and trail mix.

A little known fact is that pepper also promotes sweating, which is a crucial tool for an endurance athlete.

If I have intrigued you in any way on the topic of pepper, I encourage you to read this link written by the masters of pepper at the Spice Jungle. Spices in general are actually quite interesting.

Trail well.

Managing Blood Flow in the Body

redistributionofbloodflow www.learn.sdstate.edu

If you are doing a repetitive sport for hours on end, every athlete will have places on their body where blood will start to pool, and those places will need to get moving so that the body can function at a higher performance long term.  

Commonly affected areas are hands, legs and feet. Blood pooling in these areas will not only change the circulation in the body, but it will also be a ticket to stiffness both that day and the next day. 

It’s helpful to simply put an athlete in a different stretching position that allows gravity to escort the blood to a new place, or rest the athlete in a different position, or have them choose to switch athletic gear. 

A common question to ask is “Are there any areas of your body that are feeling a little numb?”

If this is a seasoned athlete they will naturally move to try to free up that area for movement.  

One of the easiest items to try is to get that athlete in a reclining position and let gravity work on their behalf. 

The body is an efficient tool and usually will redistribute blood within five minutes. 

As always, pay attention to your athletes and give them as many medical alert tools as you can before the event so that they can participate in their own care.

Sharing blogs like this so that they can watch for their own signs of distress is almost like having a race prep meeting! 

Trail well.

Image courtesy of http://www.learn.sdstate.edu

Humor on the Trail

ryan mcguire emotions

This is a personal requirement, because sometimes it’s really tense for the athletes and humor is a delicate but helpful tool.

I remind people the reason I use humor is because it’s going to give them a shot of dopamine to laugh. A little bit of laughter on that trail can give them a punch that can help them get through times that are strenuous or mentally challenging. I will frequently add this in my night-before Trail Driver meeting. I also invite them to make me laugh.

I also remind them about how to use humor on the course. Nothing can be more irritating than a clown when you are crashing mentally, so I remind people to use humor in ways that are thoughtful and not demeaning.

Just sending a smile to someone who is crashing will sometimes force them to smile back at you. Even that smile will help them come out of what may be depression on the trail.

A kind word and a big smile can go a long way, but a fairly awful joke that makes you laugh can stick with you for miles.

Laughter is medicine and it’s also a fabulous painkilling drug.

Trail well.

Finish Line Carbohydrates

smoothie-1572597_1920

The 30 to 60 minutes after an athlete finishes a course are really important, and many athletes actually feel ill at that point.

When taking care of your athletes, I often give them information before I start trying to shove nutrition down their throat. When I know that we are on our second to the last stop of the day, I traditionally remind people that we will have a recovery tool available for them to eat at the very end and that it’s important for them to try to eat it, even if they are not feeling particularly great.

It is the carbohydrate and protein combination that is truly the elixir of rapid recovery.

Even a small amount of carbohydrates will aid their ability to recover immensely. The rules are fairly easy, you’re going to want about a gram of carbs per 2 pounds of body weight.

The addition of protein will really allow those muscles to start healing. An athlete can take in anywhere from 10 to 20 g of protein at the end of their event.

This is absolutely not the time that you want to try to give them something fatty. The body will not know what to do with that and it can actually make them feel sick.

The fastest way to get all of that in is as simple as a glass of skim milk. My secret weapon is to house a delicious smoothie in the coolers.

They don’t need to slam that beverage, they can just take a cup and sip on it slowly. If they are eligible to eat a cracker that’s great, but just slowly sipping that recovery elixir will really improve their strength immediately.

One of my fondest memories is handing my husband a glass of chocolate milk at a forced rest time at mile 54. He got slaphappy and almost looked drunk from how happy his body was to get protein and carbs. He was only going to mile 60 but it had been a really long day. And in the 30 minutes after getting protein and carbs in, we watched all of his body really start to come alive and his muscles were already starting to utilize that fuel.

For those of you who are managing athletes on a regular basis, you will get to know how their minds work and you will start to put in tools that will help them achieve their final goals.

My point in taking care of the athlete after they finish the finish line is that it is still part of the race. Recovery is as critical as any others set point on the course. They must be able to play again.

Trail well.

Stress Fractures Are Annoying and Preventable!

modman

Over the years I have met a ton of endurance athletes, and one thing that they all have in common is their own personal list of annoying injuries. Many people have a war story to go with each injury on that list.

All you have to do is say to an endurance athlete “pulled hammie” and you will watch their whole body scrunch in reaction to how painful that is in real life and how annoying it is to manage the recovery.

Stress fractures not only hurt, but they are traditionally really annoying because it takes so long to heal bones. Hobbling around on crutches, keeping legs elevated, or having an inability to put weight on that region for any athlete is super-duper, big sigh, frustrated kind of annoying.

Taking steps in advance of an endurance event to avoid stress fractures is the “pay attention” advice for the athletes reading this article. This blog series is really focused on the things that happen on the trail and how a support team is going to react to those events, so I will focus on what to do after the injury has occurred.

The chances of a stress fracture for endurance athletes is high, especially for athletes that are pushing their muscles to the very limit. A normal athlete has between a two and 20% chance of having a stress fracture. An endurance athlete will most likely have one at least one in their personal list.

The reason a stress fracture happens is the muscles themselves become too tired to do the work. In order to pick up the impact of the work being performed that the muscles can’t manage, it directs that stress to the bones.

The majority of stress fractures that I have seen on the road really happen in the areas of the feet and the legs.

The athlete will know that they have a fracture because they have a pain that is traditionally getting worse, it will have a lot of swelling, and it may end up with a slight bit of bruising, but it will be first noticeable by pain. You’ll also know it’s a fracture when the pain is reduced as soon as any weight is lifted from the area or it will  immediately start to feel better from rest, and then spurs back as soon as motion or weight is applied to that area.

The hop test- have the athlete hop on the one side where the pain is. A stress fracture will deliver a pinpoint sharp pain.

Your best option is always to STOP-REST-ICE. If you are a trail driver, 100% of the time my advice is to have the athlete pulled off the course, and I will tell you very few athletes want to be pulled from the course. They will endure huge amounts of pain to not leave the course.

My advice to the athlete in a situation like this is to give them as much information as you can about where you think their injury is or where it is heading. Invite them to discontinue what they’re doing if it is causing them pain. In this case if it is a fracture they could actually double the amount of time that they will be unable to perform and be recovering.

Because this type of pain can often look like many other things that are not as critical, like shin splints, you really need to pay attention to the swelling, and how the pain changes when the area has weight taken off of it. When you have pain that is in the muscle tissues, it will start off REALLY screaming. If it is a bone pain, it will get progressively more painful as they move.

There are many athletes that will choose to continue on and bull their way through a stress fracture just to meet those goals. For those crazies, try to wrap the area tightly, give ibuprofen and a sturdy warning. That is all I can offer that will be accepted.

I will leave you with an odd fact, and that is if your athlete was also an athlete as a child, orthopedically they are less likely to get a stress fracture as an adult. And that has to do with the placement of the hip being different in athletic development of children.

Here is that random fact link.

Trail well.

Multi-day Endurance Events: Setting Up Camp for the Hotel

 

mikebird

Trail drivers for events that are longer than 50 miles in a day or over a series of days have the extra task of managing morning and evening needs of the athlete on top of managing the endurance part of the athlete’s event.

You will often be working in tandem with two people in the supply gear wagon. To support endurance athletes to get through an event that is multi-day, it really is helpful to have a second person or second vehicle. If you are supporting a team, that can mean preparing for transferring the athletes at the end of day and managing medical needs throughout the day.

When I say managing medical needs, sometimes that is simply having called in advance to the towns that you are moving through and knowing if there’s a massage therapist available, or having one that can be delivered to the hotel at the end of day.

The preparation for the hotel is usually that the trail driver themselves has a larger room where all of the athletes can come to to get needed care either immediately or throughout the evening.

It is also the room that you will prepare for the next day, clean up from the existing day, and make the largest mess in.  You will always need the Trail Driver’s room to have some amenities like a bathtub, be near an ice machine, have extra towels, and an extra trash receptacle. It is also going to be a very good idea to prepare to leave the cleaning staff a cash tip in the morning, because those rooms will take them longer to clean. I would plan on about five dollars per athlete usage.

Ordering ice in advance is the best idea – you will want to order a case of ice prior to 1 PM, because every hotel at 3 PM has rooms that are now checking in and that is when the most ice is pulled out is from 3 to 7 PM. Ordering ice ahead guarantees you will have enough.

Preparing ice baths: I do have a different blog post on just the basics of an ice bath, but you want to prepare for ice cold water, about 50° that the athlete is in and out of in eight minutes.  If you are icing for the purpose of managing muscle tears, then have them come in right off the road and go directly to the ice bath so they can dip in and out multiple times, and have a bed that can manage them cooling down naturally.

You will need about 10 additional towels per athlete if you are ice bathing or soaking over an evening. They will need them to cover the floor, to cover themselves, to lay over the bed. Ten towels is really how much more work you’re leaving for the hotel per athlete. If the hotel does not have a way for you to order additional towels, your next option is to go to the pool area and use pool towels.

Ordering hot food: many times these events are going through small towns and are in hotels that don’t have restaurants attached to them. Someone will have to find out what the dinner plan will be and find out how to pick that food up and have it brought back to the hotel.

Having a nutritious and healthy meal at the end of the day will absolutely make the difference in how the morning is going to go, and it is also your time to pre-order food for the morning trail.

Lights out and lights on, putting those athletes to bed as quickly as possible with a full meal and all their medical needs met will give them more recovery for the next day. The fastest you can get them to bed and into a full body recovery the more they’ll have for the road the next day.

Trail well.