Strength & Speed


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Not All Sandbags are Created Equal

Posted by Strength & Speed on January 14, 2018 at 10:50 AM

Over Christmas I asked Santa for sandbags that I can use for my own training and for training clients. Santa was kind enough to bring me two models Brute Force Training bags, The Athlete and The Strongman bags. That being said, I paid for these bags and Santa was kind enough to wrap them for me then give them back. Now let’s get down to the good and bad of these bags


Price: I am not going to lie these things are expensive, at least on my budget they are. Right now as I am writing this review you can get the same to bags as I bought for $130 and $160 on the Brute Force web site. This seems expensive for an empty bag with handles and a couple of empty fill bags inside. However, when you compare this price to other sandbag type training tools on the market targeted towards Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) enthusiasts the price may be cheaper, depending on size. Also, with the Brute Force bag you control the weight inside. So as you get stronger you can make your bag heavier while other bags on the market will make you pay for another $130+ bag.


Durability/warranty: Each bag is made 100% in the U.S.A., which as a vet I find kind of cool. The bag itself is made from a similar material that military duffle bags are of. Which if you have seen of the abuse those bags get put through that should be an indicator of how tough these bags are. In case you do damage your bag Brute Force will repair the bag if it falls under their warranty, which covers “normal wear and tear, zipper issues, manufacturing defects and generally anything else (… ) within reason”. When you receive your bag included is a care sheet that outlines what you should and should not due with the bag in order to keep the bag in as good of shape as possible. Basically don’t drag it across rough jagged surfaces and don’t set it on fire (apparently someone did that).


Versatility: About the only thing I can’t do with these bags is max out on a lift, but I also didn’t buy the biggest bag. Furthermore, single rep max lifts are usually not the point of sandbag training. For most of us using sandbag training it is to get ready for a specific obstacle in an OCR race or to use the dynamic load as a different way of training as opposed to the static nature of barbells and dumbbells. I have yet to go truly heavy with my bags, but even with only 45lbs in the bag lifts like cleans and even curls take on a whole new aspect of core training. If you are unfamiliar with sandbags, basically think of the weight as a pendulum you now have to control and absorb as opposed to a barbell that provides a more rigid and controllable object.

One major difference between a Brute Force sandbag and others in the OCR world are the handles. And to be quite honest, the handles are one of the main reasons I went with these bags over others. Brute Force attaches not one, not two, but nine handles to their sandbags (unless you opt for the bag with none, but that’s your choice). Each set of handles is positioned to be able to give you a different grip for different lifts and exercises, which makes them a much more versatile tool in anyone’s workout regimen. As a certified personal trainer I feel that the handles make the bag much more beginner friendly. More handles lead to more exploration as to how to best use them. If you have a bag with only two straps coming off of the ends, it can be more difficult to find the best ways to use it. Also with all of those handles included on the standard bag you are saving money. Other bags will make you pay around $30 for an extra attachment that you have to configure yourself.

Lastly on the topic of versatility we have the load itself. As I talked about earlier you can put as little or as much weight in each bag as you want (each bag is rated for a certain range of weight). Which is a nice way of saying you have to go out, and put the sand in the bags yourself. If you want to buy the sand it is roughly $4 for a 50lbs bag of play sand. So for my 2 sandbags I used 4 of the included fill bags and 150lbs of sand for a whole $12. With those three bags I have four fill bags with 25, 35, 45 and a 55lbs respectively, this is where the true value of Brute Force bags comes in. I can load all of those bags up in my one Strongman bag and go get a killer workout, OR I can now use four different weights with my clients across a range of abilities and strengths. The fill bags take about 15 seconds to switch out.


In closing I am a HUGE fan of these sandbags. While yes the upfront cost is steep, the value of Brute Force Sandbags over other sandbags in the OCR market is astounding. Whether it is the ability to make the weight personalized, or the usefulness of the different handles Brute Force Sandbags are definitely my choice for sandbag training for OCR. Check out all of their gear at www.bruteforcetraining.com I don’t have a promo code to give you because this was not a sponsored review, I’m just a fan of their product.

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(all images from Brute Force website and social media channels)

Jared Renyer

Jared Has a B.S. in Fitness & Wellness and is a Certified Personal Trainer. Jared was a college athlete competing in both soccer and track. Since beginning OCR in 2014 Jared has competed in numerous races, he qualified for OCR World Championships in 2016. Jared finished in the top 50 in the 30-34 age group on the OCRWC short course, he also completed the 15k standard course completing each obstacle and keeping his band. Jared is a member of Team Strength and Speed as well as the owner of JRen Fitness

Facebook/IG @JRenFitness


 

Are cramps seizing your performance?

Posted by Strength & Speed on December 16, 2017 at 5:05 PM

Exercise induced muscle cramps are often multifactorial and one intervention may not always immediately solve the problem. Unfortunately, there is no strong research behind the definitive cause and most of the recommendations come from expert opinion and/or athlete anecdotes. The theories regarding cramping are related to poor hydration/electrolyte imbalances and nervous impulse “misfire” that prevents a muscle from relaxing. In the past athletes would use pickle juice or mustard to alleviate cramps and noticed improvements almost immediately. This was credited to the sodium content but newer research indicates that this would not be an adequate amount of time for sodium absorption. Exogenous electrolyte consumption can take upwards of one hour for absorption if provided under optimal conditions. New discoveries suggest that certain flavors (like those present in pickles and mustard) trigger a neurological impulse that negates the misfire which allows for the muscle to relax. When it comes to preventing and treating cramps, the best approach is to incorporate all interventions.


General recommendations:

1.) Warm up effectively

2.) Pace yourself and do not push beyond thresholds experimented with during training for too long

3.) Stretch thoroughly and remain limber days prior to a race

4.) If you do cramp, stretch immediately and pursue myofascial release techniques


Nutritional recommendations:

1.) Maintain hydration for days leading up to the event

a. Do not wait until the night before the race to achieve optimal hydration

b. If dehydrated 2-3 days prior to an event, do not chug down water in high volumes. Increase water consumption by 8-16 ounces three times per day (with or without meals). Tapering will also serve to prevent normal fluid losses from reduced volume of training.

c. Urine should be relatively clear with a very slight yellow coloration. Once this has been achieved prior to the race, hydrate to match losses and maintain hydration status.


2.) Hydrate before, during, and after racing

a. Before: 16 ounces 2 hours before and then 8 ounces <30 minutes before

b. During: Enough fluid to prevent >2% weight loss during exercise

c. After: 16-24 ounces for every pound lost during exercise

d. Volumes may be subject to change depending on race length, temperature/humidity, and altitude


3.) Marginally increase electrolyte consumption days leading into the race and have an electrolyte rich meal the morning before a race

a. Example: oatmeal with peanut butter, banana, and a pinch of salt

b. If this is not possible, consume a sports beverage one hour prior to start of competition

i. Gatorade (or other equivalent product), Hammer Endurolytes, or Nuun electrolyte tablet


4.) Consider carrying a single serve packet of mustard or dill relish on the course for emergency cramping. These condiment packs can be found at most restaurants and grocery stores.


-------------------------------------------------------

Luc is a registered dietitian with his M.S. in Nutrition and certifications in personal training and wellness coaching. Luc hones his professional skills through counseling athletes/fitness enthusiasts and through his career as a clinical dietitian at East Carolina University. As a member of the Strength & Speed Development Team, his main hobby is competitive obstacle course racing with notable appearances at Obstacle Racing World Championships (2014-16) and a 50 mile completion at World’s Toughest Mudder 2013. Luc can be followed through his Facebook (www.facebook.com/lrlabonte) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/lrlabonte_ms_rd_ld/) accounts.

3rd Strength & Speed Development Team Window Now Open

Posted by Strength & Speed on December 6, 2017 at 9:40 PM


Strength & Speed is opening the application window for their 3rd S&S Developtment Team. Both years have been successes including athletes getting their first sponsors, several becoming ambassadors for brands and many hitting new PRs including first Ultra-OCR win, first win, first cash podium, most podiums in a year and more.  To check out some of the athletes from the last two years, check out the Teams page.


Unlike Pro Teams which often provide larger benefits like free access into races spanning multiple states and other perks, the biggest benefit of this team is access to knowledge for improvement not published elsewhere. Upon entrance into the team you will have small group access to personal trainers, a nutritionist, OCR professionals and other sponsored athletes. As part of the Development Team, you will get unprecedented access to knowledge includes training information, workout templates and guidance when applying for sponsorship.



Additional benefits of the team include name/S&S score on the website, a couple of items of free apparel, marketing support, discounts not available to non-team members and the opportunity to expand you influence in the OCR world. As S&S gets perks they are allowed to share, those discounts, free items and free entries are passed along to the team. Companies want athletes that not only provide them quality finishing results but also have an outlet for spreading their message. Being a part of Strength & Speed gives you an established platform to spread your desired message to a larger audience rather than trying to build something on your own from the ground up.



Getting sponsored by a larger company is not an easy task and it requires significant work. The athletes at Strength & Speed have already solved a lot of the challenges associated with this process. If you do not need training advice but just knowledge on how to get sponsored, the Development Team will also help you with that.


Apply today by filling out the information below and sending it to [email protected] as AN ATTACHED WORD DOCUMENT if you are interested. We are not necessarily looking for the best athletes, just those with a strong desire to succeed. Application window closes on January 15, 2018:


(Cut and paste the below into a word document and fill out)


Name:

Is this your first year applying?:


Major Goal for 2018:

Minor Goals for 2018:

Races for 2018:

2017 Race Results:

Race Highlights from 2016 or Earlier:

Social Media Sites (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube/etc.):

Other Relevant Information You Think We Should Know:

Other Sponsors (if applicable):

Possible Interests in Expanding Influence (interested in writing articles, reviews, videos or other ideas?):


(Reference Criteria section of the website for below information.  Proof of score not required at the time of applying.)

Strength Score:

Speed Score: 



Top Comic Book Stars that are PED users

Posted by Strength & Speed on November 24, 2017 at 9:45 AM

1. Captain America

      As if there was ever a doubt…Captain America, the superhero created using drugs. Captain America’s “super serum” is real, but modern day people call it steroids and human growth hormone. They literally inject him with this stuff and he goes from skinny to jacked. While actual performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) require more work, the concept is still the same. Even my favorite group of nerds over at Dorkly agree with me. Check out this video:

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9VylAHKVkg

2. Bane

     Batman’s juiced up, back breaking enemy is definitely on drugs. Instead of “super serum” he calls it “Venom”. I’m assuming that it is a mix of steroids, HGH plus probably a couple of other things. Maybe that singlet is hiding the gynocomastia around his nipples. I would say Bane is a pretty open and shut case too.


 

 

3. The Incredible Hulk

     While not quite as bad as the top two injecting themselves to achieve their massive physiques, I am pretty sure gamma radiation would fall be banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) if it gave you super strength instead of just making you sick and giving you cancer. At 7 ft. tall and 1040 lbs. I do not think there is much grey area there (unless you are Grey Hulk….nerd pun!)

1000+ pounds with chest striations and veins?


 

4. Batman

     Alright Bruce Wayne is not on the definite list, but I’m throwing him up there as very suspect. I mean the guy runs a billion dollar company, fights crime almost every night and still has time to train to be in top shape? Something has to give. He probably says they are “for recovery” like some of the baseball players were citing. Definitely suspect….luckily there are not drug tests to enter the Justice League.


 

      Do I really care my super heroes are doped up? No not really, but I think it is good to look at things from more than one angle instead of just accepting things at face value. What do you think? Did I miss any known super hero or super villain egregious PED users? Comment below or on the Facebook post that led you here.

 

Using the Cube Part 4: Intensity and Supporting Exercises

Posted by Strength & Speed on October 2, 2017 at 11:10 PM

This is the final article in the series. The first one covered a general overview, the second one covered crushing (open and closed hand), the third one talked about pinching (open and closed hand) and now to complete the cube we will talk about intensity along with supporting exercises.

Intensity

Working on intensity it just a matter of working your rep schemes for any of the above training tools. If you want to improve your 1 rep max strength you are going to follow very low reps, such as five and below. If you want to work on endurance, you are going to follow higher reps, like 8-20. Both are important for OCR. While most obstacles are primarily endurance focused, 1 rep max strength is also important as demonstrated by anyone who has grabbed an extra wide bar on a rig but failed to have the strength to hold on.




Supporting Exercises

You may be thinking, where do all those wrist curls and reverse wrist curls come into play for grip strength? Exercises like that will strengthen the forearm, which help stabilize the hand providing power and muscle balance. Bottom line is you still want to finish off your grip strength focused workout(s) with some standard forearm curls, reverse forearms curls and weighted wrist rotations to ensure you have covered all the facets of grip strength. Just like with pinch grip training, if you are going to purchase grip tools, focus on crushing tools first before buying items that focus on support muscles. Items like:

Heavy Hammer II or Wrist Reinforcer: These are basically an adjustable dumbbell but you can only add weight to one side, making what resembles a weighted hammer. Where it differs is the handle is thicker than a normal handle so not only is it training those supporting muscles but also working your crushing open hand grip.

Twist Yo’ Wrist and One Wicked Wrist Roller: Both are variations of a piece of gym equipment I rarely see anymore. They involve twisting a spool (Twist Yo’ Wrist) or a bar (One Wicked Wrist Roller) with a weight dangling from a rope. As you twist the rope gets wrapped around the spool or bar pulling the weight higher. These definitely burn the forearms as the weight reaches closer to the top and fatigue sets in.

Wrist curls, Reverse Wrist Curls and Wrist Rotations: Finally, using standard dumbbells, or if you have them available thick bar dumbbells, wrist curls and reverse wrist curls are great to finish off your forearm training. These are great for a final forearm pump at the end of your workout. Adding in some rotations while holding a weight, helps build endurance in those supporting muscles along your forearm. While most people can go pretty heavy in wrist curls, reverse wrist curls and rotation will require you to drop the weight significantly due to the smaller muscles involved. You can even use a thicker barbell to further stress your crushing open hand strength.




 

After four posts, we have covered the eight facets of grip strength in depth. If this did not satisfy your quest for the ultimate grip strength knowledge be sure to look at www.Ironmind.com and think about ordering their publication MILO. Specifically be sure to check out the June 2016 issue, which has an article by me. In those articles I list one of my favorite grip strength workouts for Obstacle Course Racing, which uses a mix of Ironmind store bought products and items found around the gym.   If you have ever raced and failed an obstacle due to inadequate grip strength, then you are not going to want to miss these training tips. MILO is the only place this specific workout has ever been published since my book had already gone to the publishers by the time I developed these techniques. Do not miss it.

 

Using the Cube Part 3: Exercises for Pinching & Intensity

Posted by Strength & Speed on September 18, 2017 at 11:05 PM

Pinching

Last article I covered crushing, which is the main prime mover for grip strength related to Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). Crushing is where you should spend the majority of your effort and the majority of your money when purchasing grip tools. However, having good pinching ability is still relevant for a couple of reasons. First, it creates a well-rounded athlete. Second, you never know what the course designers are going to throw at you.




Since pinching is less relevant to OCR, I would spend my money first on crushing products and improvise for pinching products. However, if your birthday wish list still has a couple of empty spots on it, here are some options:

Closed Hand:

Blockbuster Pinch Grip: The Blockbuster Pinch Grip is essentially a block with an eyelet at the bottom, which allows it to be connected to a loading pin or a pulley machine. Just as with any attachment, this can be used an a pulley machine to turn any of your exercises into a pinch grip exercise such as upright rows, one arm triceps pull-down, one arm lat pull-down, lateral raise, reverse lateral raise or front raise.

IMTUG: IMTUG are what appear to be mini-grippers. However, IMTUG are not grippers for children, they are smaller versions of their big brother Captains of Crush (COC) that are designed for individual finger strengthening. By using only a couple of fingers on IMTUG you can improve your pinch grip along with strengthening individual digits. Just like COC, there are various levels to test your pinching ability. Unlike COC, the IMTUG are rated differently so just because you can close an IMTUG No. 3 do not think that you will be able to close a COC No. 3.

Pinching thin plates together: Without buying any fancy equipment you can still train pinch grip by plate pinching. Pinching two plates, whether they be Olympic style bumper plates or the standard barbell plates (you will probably max out at 25 lbs. plates for both, style of plate and exercise dependent). These can be used for low carries, holds for time, shrugs or upright rows. All work muscles in your upper body while simultaneously enhancing your pinch grip.

Open Hand:

Hub: The hub is designed after the center hole of a York 45 lbs. plates. Although you can still find gyms with York plates that allow for hub lifts, most people I have met cannot lift the 45 lbs. plate initially. By purchasing the hub you can incrementally work your way up to the 45 lbs. goal using either the loading pin to add weight or a pulley machine.




Titan’s Telegraph: If you are looking or a piece of equipment that just does pinch gripping, then Titan’s Telegraph is for you. The machine looks like a giant telegraph that you add weight to and practice pinch griping closed. If the little IMTUG gripers are not doing it for you, this will take training to the next level and allow you to find tune the amount of weight you are adding to your pinch grip training.

Pinching thick plates together: If you do not want to spend the extra money, pinch grip training can be accomplished by pinching plates together. To work your open hand pinch grip try using thicker plates whether that be thicker versions of standard plate loaded weights in your gym or the rubberized Olympic plates. Just like training with thinner plates while pinch gripping, these can be used for low carries, holds for time, shrugs, upright rows or even lateral raises.

 

With many options for pinch grip training from Ironmind and around your gym, a well-rounded training routine using all aspects of the cube will help advance your grip strength. Although not the primary grip facet used for obstacle course racing (OCR), you should not neglect pinch gripping in your training. After all, the world of OCR is constantly changing and the only real limit is the imagination of the course designers.

 

Using the Cube Part 2: Exercises for Crushing

Posted by Strength & Speed on September 4, 2017 at 10:55 PM


If you missed the last post about Ironmind’s methodology for training, be sure to go back and review it now. Now that you have a basic understanding of the 8 facets of grip strength, we will examine some of Ironmind’s more popular products to help you improve specifically as it relates to Obstacle Course Racing.

Crushing:

Closed Hand:

Captains of Crush (COC) Grippers: COC Grippers take gripper training to a new level. These are not the cheap grippers you will find a sporting goods store where you can do 30 repetitions while driving your car, these are serious training tools that require concentration and time spent in the gym, just like any other exercise. They provide strength along a full range of motion by stressing open hand crushing at the beginning and closed hand crushing at the end. They come in various strengths from Novice (rated at 60 lbs.) to Number 4 (rated at 365 lbs.). I recommend purchasing 1.5 or lower since I have yet to meet someone in person that can consistently close a Number 2.



Little Big Horn: Little Big Horn is an attachment that is shaped like the point of an anvil. This unique shape provides closed hand crushing training by presenting an odd shape to grab. This can be used not only for low rep near max lifts for strength improvement, but can also be used as an attachment to a pulley machine for endurance focused training.

Silver Bullet (and Silver Bullet Disc): Using a COC Gripper with the Silver Bullet accessory you can change COC Grippers from low repetition maximum strength training to primarily endurance focused. Closing the gripper with the silver bullet in between the legs of the gripper allows you to hang weight from it and hold the gripper closed for time.

Any other thin bar training options (such as a normal dumbbell or barbell): This does not require specific tools but anytime you grab a bar in the gym, that is crushing closed hand training. Whether that involves regular pull-ups or standard dumbbell farmers carries, you are working crushing, closed hand and endurance.

Open Hand:

Rolling Thunder: Rolling Thunder is a thick bar attachment where the center can rotate. The standard method for using this is attaching it to a loading pin and doing one arm deadlifts. However, it can also be used as a handle for almost any exercise you would normally use at the pulley station from one arm lat pull downs, to reverse grip tricep extensions to single arm curls.




Eagle Loops: These are fabric loops for your fingers that attach to a dumbbell or pulley machine. By putting your fingers through the loops, it forces your hand into an open hand position while exercising. They can be used for lat pulldowns and cable rows, but they can also be attached to a dumbbell for things like bent over dumbbell row. Using less than the full four fingers in the Eagle Loops can help target individual fingers along and in focus on specific parts of your forearms.

Endless Loops: Although endless loops are not a tool that can be used by themselves for grip strength training, they can be used to build a rig. By looping the sewn heavy duty fabric loops over the crossbeam of a pulley machine and adding in different grips like rings, climbing holds and ropes, it creates a mini-rig in your gym. This allows you to practice traversing from one side to the other and then back to the beginning. The medium, long or extra-long loops are going to provide you with an appropriate length of material to ensure you can tie a girth hitch over the crossbeam and on the attachment.

Any other thick bar training options including Olympic Husky Handle Dumbbell Bar: Whenever you grab any thick bar or oversized handle, it is also working open hand crushing strength. This can be accomplished through a special bar or simply by doing pull ups on different objects like the crossbeam of a pulley station, support structure of a squat rack or the top of the Smith machine. Basically look around the gym and be creative when choosing where you plan on doing pull-ups.

This Is just a sample of crushing grip training options using a mix of store bought equipment (from www.Ironmind.com) and objects already in your local gym. Not everything needs to be purchased to enhance your grip strength training, but having a couple of products with you in your gym bag can help take things the next level. Finally, as you continue your grip strength journey, be sure to be creative and find your own awkwardly shaped objects and techniques for training your grip.

 

Using the Cube Part 1: Ironmind has Solved Grip Strength Training

Posted by Strength & Speed on August 15, 2017 at 10:50 AM

One of the things I have been telling people about Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) is that although the sport itself is new, the problems facing the athletes are not new. So when looking to improve various aspects of OCR I look towards other sports to solve the problems at hand. For improving endurance for events like World’s Toughest Mudder (24 hr OCR) I look to ultra-runners. For maintaining a lean physique with low body fat but quality muscle I look towards the bodybuilders. So when it came time to improve grip strength, I look towards the people who turned it into a sport on its own, Ironmind.




Ironmind is a website for serious grip strength training. In fact it is so serious they have competitions that revolve around the various aspects of grip strength including but not limited to the ability to bend nails, close grippers, hold grippers closed for time and a variety of lifts using what I call non-standard holds. One of the key aspects of Ironmind’s training methodology is the Crushed to Dust Cube. This cube provides eight different facets of grip strength broken into three categories:

Prime mover: Crushing (majority of power provided by four fingers)

Vs. Pinching (majority of power provided by thumb)

These prime movers can each be broken down into open hand or closed hand positions.

Crushing: The primary force holding the object is coming from your four fingers and not your thumb.

Closed Hand: Used when finishing off a gripper, grapping a thin monkey bar or carrying a jerry can with a thin handle

Open Hand: When lifting a thick bar, carrying a weighted bucket, grabbing a thick monkey bar, or the top of a wall

Pinching: The primary force holding the object is coming from your thumb rather than your four fingers.

Closed Hand: When gripping a thin object like a barbell plate

Open Hand: When you pinch a thick object like bumper plates

Each of these four options can be trained using two different modes of intensity.

Intensity: One Rep Max: Used when grabbing an awkward shaped obstacle or powering through a tough obstacle like the Platinum Rig.

Endurance: The ability to repeatedly use the above techniques over the course of a race, whether that be a 8 mile Spartan Super, a 6.5 hour Battlefrog Xtreme or a 24 hour World’s Toughest Mudder.




The two different intensities multiplied by the two different hand positions of the two different prime movers creates 8 total facets of grip strength. Additionally a supporting role is played by the wrist/forearm and the extensors to stabilize the hand. By doing thing like wrist curls and reverse wrist curls it specifically targets these supporting muscles.

For obstacle course racing, we want to focus on primarily crushing by doing both closed hand and open hand work. This is due to the variety of objects we grab over the course of an event from extra wide bars, tops of walls, thin monkey bars and objects used for farmer’s carries. However, in order to be well rounded some pinching work should be incorporated because you never know what obstacles the course designed will throw at you. While this may still be confusing for some, in the next post I will give you specific exercises associated with each and tools you can make or purchase to enhance the 8 facets of grip strength.

 

The Overlooked Nutrient at the End of the Alphabet

Posted by Strength & Speed on July 31, 2017 at 3:05 PM

Between running mileage, skill work, and dedicated strength training, diehard obstacle course racing (OCR) athletes have a lot on their plate (both training and dietary wise) for peak performance. Along with this, the sport is characterized by obtaining ideal body composition to improve strength-to-weight ratio. Inadequate intake of certain micronutrients secondary to caloric restriction for weight loss in combination with fluid/micronutrient losses (I’m talking about sweat… and a WHOLE lot it!) can become disastrous. I can already tell what you are thinking… “Oh, not another article on iron, sodium, potassium, B-vitamins, blah-blah-blah.” Although all of these nutrients are important, today the focus is on an often overlooked nutrient that can largely impact your health and exercise performance. Cue zinc.


 


Zinc deficiency, a condition that is not well known or addressed by the OCR community, is quite common in endurance athletes. Dietary practices adopted by endurance athletes may lead to suboptimal zinc intake in up to 90% of athletes. Although zinc deficiency is associated with poor immune function, metabolic function, macronutrient metabolism, and wound healing, there are several other sports specific implications. These include decreased peak work capacity, decreased oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide output, and decreased muscular strength and endurance. In fact, there is research that has indicated that suboptimal zinc status is associated with decreased training mileage for distance runners. In some circumstances a suboptimal zinc intake will be mistaken for an iron deficiency due to the temporary mild symptoms similar to zinc deficiency. After all, inadequacy of both minerals will result in decreased endurance performance for runners. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may not hurt to visit your physician to conduct lab work and then fortify your diet with this mighty mineral. 


The recommended intake for most athletes lies between 11-15mg/day (dependent on sport, weight, gender). Optimal absorption can be obtained through avoiding coffee with zinc-rich meals. Zinc absorption may be increased when paired with green tea. Foods rich in zinc include but are not limited to: various beans, peas, eggs, legumes, meats, fish, poultry, nuts, shellfish, wheat germ, and whole grains. Zinc found in animal-based foods are generally more bioavailable and easier to absorb. It is not uncommon for vegetarians, females, or athletes undergoing caloric restriction to require a dietary supplement to meet their needs. If relying on a supplement, avoid consuming multiple mineral supplements in one meal (especially iron); these minerals will compete for absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. Often times a well-rounded diet and generic multivitamin supplement (when taken with a meal) will meet the needs of even the most competitive athletes. Standalone zinc supplements are generally not required and may result in toxicity (>40mg/day). Always make sure to check with your physician before starting any new supplement practices.


-Luc LaBonte, MS, RD, LD


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Luc is a registered dietitian with his M.S. in Nutrition and certifications in personal training and wellness coaching. Luc hones his professional skills through counseling athletes/fitness enthusiasts and through his career as a clinical dietitian at East Carolina University. As a member of the Strength & Speed Development Team, his main hobby is competitive obstacle course racing with notable appearances at Obstacle Racing World Championships (2014-16) and a 50 mile completion at Worlds Toughest Mudder 2013. Luc can be followed through his facebook (www.facebook.com/lrlabonte) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/lrlabonte_ms_rd_ld/) accounts.

What the Tour De France Can Teach Us About Elite OCR

Posted by Strength & Speed on July 10, 2017 at 4:35 PM

As we watch the largest sporting event in the world, the Tour De France, I like to try and pull lessons from other sports into Obstacle Course Racing. As a warning, if you know nothing about cycling, you may not understand good chunks of this article, but I encourage you to read anyway. The principles are still important, you just will not get the comparisons.



Not Everyone Gets to Win the Grand Tour: There are around 180 riders that start the Tour De France every year. I consider myself a cycling fan but could probably only identify about 30 of them by name. There are racers who work their whole lives and come away with a stage win at the TDF or maybe just a stage win at a different lesser known stage race like the Tour of Qatar. Cycling fans may think, “Who cares who won Stage 3 of the Tour of Qatar?” The winner of that stage cares because he busted his ass for that win. The lesson to learn here always try to reach higher but at the end of the day be happy with what you achieve. Not everyone can podium at the OCRWC. You should be proud of your competitive accomplishment whether it be a podium at a local OCR, an age group placing or just a personal best. Although you should be proud, you should never be completely satisfied. This ensures you always have the hunger to go back out there and strive harder to reach higher goals next race/month/year.


Go for the Points: One man keeps winning the green sprinters jersey at the TDF (Peter Sagan), but he usually is not the one that wins the stage sprint. How does this happen? He plays the game well, is consistent and goes after points. If you are not the fastest, you can still achieve some other goals through points systems. Spartan has a points ranking and previously OCRWC and the defunct BattleFrog had a points ranking. Consistent strong efforts and finishes can get you high up on that leader board. Try going for a new PR on the leader boards as a different type of goal that you can be proud of.



Specialize: The TDF has sprinters, climbers and all around riders. Not everyone in the peloton is good at every aspect of the race. As an OCR athlete, feel free to specialize. If you never run more than 5 miles, why are you trying to compete at the Ultra-Beast or World’s Toughest Mudder? The same goes in reverse. If you know you have great endurance but poor speed, maybe you should stick to events like the Beast, Shale Hell 8 hr or 24 hr and Toughest Mudder. Guys like Junyong Pak and Ryan Atkins who do well at ultra distance and short races are a rare breed. Not everyone has to be good at every distance. Take a look at Cassidy Watton, her specialty is stadium sprints and she dominates without trying to enter events like WTM.


Go for a Jersey: Just as cyclists specialize, they also only go for one jersey at the Tour De France. Some go for the Green Sprinters jersey, others the Polka Dot Mountain jersey and of course some are aiming for the Yellow GC jersey. Typically, athletes only go for one of these. If you are racing an event like WTM, which has different color bibs like a sprint bib, black ops bib and overall mileage bib, it is probably best to set your sites on one. Rarely does the winner of the sprint bib walk away with a overall high mileage (Wesley Kerr you are the exception that proves the rule).



Enjoy the Tour De France as cyclists compete in what I consider the most grueling endurance event on the planet. While I have run OCRs for 7 days straight as part of OCR America, the thought of cycling around the country of France makes me nauseous. Even with all the doping scandals that have rocked the cycling world, these are still incredible athletes that go through three insane weeks of cycling every year. Some even do it multiple times a year at races like Giro D’Italia and Vuelta A Espana. Put on your spandex, saddle up and enjoy the ride.

 


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