If you frequently get muscle cramps when you exercise or in the middle of the night, dehydration is a likely cause. If you don’t have enough fluids, your body will lose electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium. Deficient electrolytes causes muscle spasms. Drinking fluids that have electrolytes, such as Gatorade or Vitaminwater, can help.
But you don’t have to rely on expensive sports drinks to get a healthy dose of electrolytes. My favorite electrolyte beverage is a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in water. And besides getting electrolytes from drinks, I also I like to add a splash apple cider vinegar to veggies or salads. What’s so special about apple cider vinegar versus other vinegar? It’s not pasteurized which means it keeps the nutrients of apples such as potassium, calcium, pectin and acetic acid.
Last Sunday I rode in L’Etape du California, a stage of the professional cycling tour of California that is opened up for non-professionals to ride. This year the course was from Livermore to Mount Diablo. 91-miles with almost 11,000 feet of climbing. A big day for even the best riders.
This year my regular ride buddies decided not to enter. Riding with friends helps spur me along when I want to give up, which happens for me in every big ride. I was worried about that urge to give up, but I was determined to do the ride solo.
Looking around at the starting line I got nervous. Last year there were upwards of eight hundred riders; this year less than 200 of which maybe twenty women. All the other riders all looked road hardened and serious. Gulp.
I determined my goal needed to be staying in the middle of the group. I know from reading about cycling that riding in the main field, or peloton, can save as much as 40% of one’s energy when compared to riding alone. So I wanted to not be dropped by the group. To do this, I would need to ride much faster and smarter than in previous races.
Shortly after the race began, the riders formed pacelines with their teams and clubs. Pacelines are when one rider follows an inch or two behind the other, hopping right on one another’s back tire. This way riders can cooperate and draft each other to ride at high speeds. The rider in front does a greater share of the work in maintaining the pace, then drops to the back when tired and a new rider leads. That strategy worked pretty well for me until the first real climb: a 10-15% grade for several miles.
By about 50 miles into the ride I was alone in the desert, in full sun, with the temperature approaching 90-degrees. A defining moment. I knew I could quit. The next water stop was only 10 miles away. I could say ‘Well, I tried. Better luck next year.’ But I didn’t quit. There was a little spark inside me that told me to carry on. It was just a spark, but it was enough. My spark kept me riding for another 4 hours to complete my ride in a total of 8 hours and 39 minutes.
During the ride, I kept reminding myself how lucky I was to be able to try, to be healthy enough to push my body and mind, to be able to “dig into my suitcase of courage,” as they say in cycling.
The fun is really in expanding how I know myself. Doing something when I don’t know whether or not I can. Attitude is the foundation that drives behavior, and behavior creates meaning. Meaning is necessary for high performance in all aspects of life.
Every day is an opportunity to change, to grow, to create meaning and purpose. Where can your spark take you? What can your spark help you achieve?
Ride on. Right on!
The film Forks Over Knives explores the benefits of eating a whole-foods plant-based diet, which means ditching processed food, refined sugar, meat and dairy whilst trading them for all fruits, legumes and vegetables. It questions the “normal” american diet and links heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, cancer and countless other serious health ailments directly to what we put in our bodies. The film brings to light the years of scientific and clinical research of Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn as well as following real patients who adopt a whole-foods plant-based diet to treat their serious medical conditions. The astounding changes that the real patients experience is mind-blowing: from losing weight, increased energy, dropping cholesterol levels, to one patient no longer taking 9 daily medications.
Could food be the only medicine that we need? Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn believe so. Both doctors are knowledgable and inspiring as they walk the viewer through their many triumphs and obstacles in promoting what they believe: that food is medicine and eating the right food can keep one heathy and disease free.
The film also interviews an over 70-year old trialthete, an MMA fighter, and a fire department in Texas; all of whom eat only a whole-foods, plant-based diet – debunking the myth that an animal-free diet can’t provide the essential nutrients for an active human body.
Forks Over Knives wants to challenge us to rethink our food choices, to look at food as a way to better our bodies and the environment as opposed to feeding a craving or treating ourselves to that bowl of ice cream.
“Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” – Hippocrates
Recently one of my students who is in her seventies said, “If you want to age well, you cannot stop doing anything– not even for a second! I’m doing more now than I was 15 years ago.” Every week she comes in for a Pilates workout with me. At home she lifts weights and TRX® trains. And twice a week she meets her friends to play a few rounds of tennis.
I believe she’s absolutely right. We need to keep active to stay healthy, and diversifying our activities creates more balance in the body.
What we’re really talking about is cross-training. Cross-training can improve your overall performance in a sport or activity, and in your daily life. Cross-training refers to combining various kinds of exercise to work various parts of the body. Really, the body likes new challenges and any one activity works only certain muscle groups. Cross-training works different muscles, different planes of motion, and best of all it adds variety for more enjoyment.
I recently started training for an annual bike race that is part of the professional Tour of California. To be completely honest, when I began training there were not enough days on the calendar before the race to train. So I decided to train differently this year. I ride as much as I can, but I am also taking CORE™ Classes, GYROTONIC® sessions, running on the elliptical, walking, and of course doing Pilates. I won’t know how my training pays off until the end of April when I attempt the bike race, however I can already tell you that my overall fitness increased at a surprising rate, and cross-training was key.
So get out there and hike, bike, run, walk, swim. AND get in here for STOTT PILATES®, GYROTONIC®, TRX®, and CORE™.
Dynamic Stretching increases range of movement, blood and oxygen flow to soft tissues prior to working out. Dynamic stretching before your workout can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. Dynamic stretching should raise your temperature a few degrees, warming you up and preparing your body for exercise.
- Many STOTT PILATES® and GYROTONIC® exercises could be consider dynamic stretches, so do you homework!
- Keep moving the entire time with controlled, steady movements.
- Never be forceful, move in a jerky manner, or mobilize to the point of pain.
- For an example of a dynamic hamstring stretch, do a light kick: Swing a straight leg forward with little explosive acceleration, gradually increasing the height.
Static Stretching tends to be what people think of as stretching. Most of us learned them in grade school. With static stretching you should feel your heart rate drop a few degrees and begin to cool you down. And are typically best to do after you exercise.
- Use your breath to softly deepen into a stretch
- Listen to your body and never stretch to the point of pain.
- Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds while emphasizing breathing, deepening the stretch on the exhale.
- For an example of a static hamstring stretch, sit on the floor with legs extended out in front of you, and gently reach for your toes.