Friday, March 8, 2019

Book Review: A Still Quiet Place for Athletes

A Still Quiet Place for Athletes: Mindfulness Skills for Achieving Peak Performance & Finding Flow in Sports & Life, by Amy Saltzman, MD.

Amy Saltzman knows a thing or two about psychology and athletes. She's an internal medicine-trained MD who has oodles of experience working with kids, teens, and adults on mindfulness skills, runs a holistic medicine & mindfulness coaching practice, and former competitive cyclist, now recreational cyclist-runner-yogi-snowboarder. I've followed her doings online for years, and was stoked to read her book when it came out last year (excuse the somewhat belated review, because, you know, life...)

Who This Book Is For: arguably, any athlete. That's probably not helpful though. So here is who I would recommend this book *most* for:

(1) Those who are bad at mindfulness at baseline. My own research shows that individuals who score on the low end of dispositional mindfulness scales ("trait" mindfulness) show the largest functional and structural brain changes after mindfulness training. Need to test yourself? You can score yourself on the Mindful Attention & Awareness Scale here. It makes sense that a book that targets mindfulness skills for peak athletic performance is going to be the most helpful for athletes who are starting out with low mindfulness skills.

(2) Younger athletes.

The Mental Training Reboot Series: 8 Reasons to Turn off the Tunes While Training

#Throwback: this was my most-read AND most controversial article for TRS almost four years ago. I still stand by everything in here - in particular, we've seen a boom in mental training programs for athletes, including professional NFL and NBA teams meditating, and the development of the m-PEAK program. I'll admit to turning on music during tough interval workouts on the trainer more often than I used to - most often when workouts are happening after cognitively fatiguing 12 hour shifts. The pool and everything outside remain moving meditation sessions :)
Walk into any gym and you’ll probably see a slew of people mindlessly churning away on ellipticals, treadmills, and stationary bikes. 99% of these people will be plugged into some sort of device. Walk into your average triathlete’s pain cave, and you’ll see the same thing: Netflix on in front of the trainer. Headphones on the run. Underwater headphones in the pool.
Somewhere along the line, we lost the ability to entertain ourselves without an external stimulus, and it’s hurting our race performances.
What? Hurting my race performance? Maybe. Here’s why you might want to ditch the headphones:

1. “Mental training” is the next frontier for endurance athletes.

Everyone knows how to physically prepare for competition. Some maybe better than others, but particularly at the top, everyone’s in great shape come race day. More and more, what separates 1st from 5th isn’t that extra tempo run you did, it’s how you held up psychologically when the race pain hit, particularly in endurance events. Mental skills will give you the edge.

2. Most likely, when you get to race day, you’re not going to have that distraction.

I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t have Netflix on the course, and while a road race might allow headphones, I’ve yet to see a triathlon that does. Now what? Oh hello, thoughts…I have to do this for 12 hours??

Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Winter Cycling Survival Guide, from a self-proclaimed winter-phobe

Do you hate winter?
Are you always cold?
Do your fingers turn funny colors in the cold?
Have you been rescued mid-ride because you lost the ability to brake or steer or do other key things due to numbness and/or shaking?

This is me, unfortunately. I used to just hate the cold. Especially after I moved away from Vermont, where the prettiness outweighed the fact that it was -20. In Pittsburgh I got away with not riding outside in the cold, because there was slush or ice all the time, it was dangerous at baseline to ride in that city, and I only had a road bike. Flash forward and with gravel and much less precipitation in the mid-south, I found myself with no excuse. And subsequently entered mild hypothermia territory a few too many times.

Through trial & hypothermia, I finally feel good about my ability to not die whilst riding a bike when the temp dips below forty. And while I still wouldn't say I love winter riding, it has more to do with the fact that it takes so long to put on all this darn stuff than the actual temperature.

1. Bar Mitts

These giant, dorky, neoprene things are my best friends. They create tiny warm houses for your hands. No matter what gloves, mittens, or glittens I tried, nothing has ever kept my hands warm below forty while biking or running. I put these on my bike for the first time last winter and immediately did a 50 mile ride in the high 30s. I have used them down to 20s with a normal pair of gloves on. My hands may be Reynaud's-y to start, but once some heat accumulates (or with the addition of hand warmers at the start), they'll regain circulation and stay that way. The downside is obviously limited access to your bars. I can comfortably hold my hoods and brake, but can't really grab the drops, even over the bar mitts due to the shape of the neoprene (it doesn't exactly collapse under your hands). Additionally, if the temp warms up, it's not exactly easy to transport them home if you remove them. Way too big and bulky for jersey pockets or your average top tube/bar bag.

2. Pogie Lites

Enter Pogie Lites. The fine folks at Bike Iowa make them, so supporting Bike Iowa is the first plus. These solve the problem of access to all parts of your bars, and also being able to pull them off, roll them up, and stick them in your pocket.

They keep my hands much warmer than I expected. I used these at Spotted Horse, where it was 30s-40s and raining the whole day, with a pair of mechanic's gloves and surgical glove base layer under them. My hands got numb-ish a few times but remained functional and out of the painful-numb zone. For a cold-handed person, they thrive between 40 and 50 degrees, but are workable down to 30. I happened to only have these on a 22 degree icy ride in Stillwater in November, and they were insufficient. There was a bail-out followed by a painful rewarming. Overall I love them for the versatility and convenience as long as it's not ridiculously cold out.

3. Lake Cycling Boots