Monthly Archives: October 2013

Core Shots – Strength Training for Ski Season

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Before I lived in a place where I could be on snow seven to twelve months per year I had to get my fix in a one-week ski trip that was less like a vacation and more like a skiing Tour De France (sans dope).

Year-round snow on Timpanogos, September 2011.

Year-round snow on Timpanogos, September 2011.

We would race to make an early flight to Salt Lake, ski bell-to-bell for six days or so, and try not to get snowed in up the canyon the last day so we could sprint back to the airport.  In reality we needed a vacation when we got back.

After a rude awakening our first year we started to think about getting in some kind of ski shape prior to landing on snow. Now that we live at the source and ski almost year-round on skinny, fat and PHAT skis we still think about staying in shape for that first day on snow. And truth be told, even Bode Miller and his team of downhill pros spend a good deal of their off-season doing dry-land training.

If you’re like most ski vacationers you probably do some other athletic activities during the year, and perhaps those things get you ready for the big ski trip.  Or maybe you live in ski country and ride your bike all summer and have no arms or core. But what if….you hate the gym, want to save your pennies for those $10 hamburgers slope-side and don’t need some skinny, perpetually motivated, annoying fitness professional cheering you on while you do pushups? Then this is for you.

Hiking for turns in the Alta backcountry on Halloween 2011

Hiking for turns in the Alta backcountry on Halloween 2011

Disclaimer: I am not a personal trainer, I don’t have a degree or professional experience in this area. What I do have is: a lifetime of needing to strength train and also hating gyms, a huge background in cycling and a small background in Nordic skiing, twenty-seven years of alpine skiing, eight years of ski vacations plus four years living in ski country, and a system that works to strengthen the muscles used for alpine skiing. Every year I’ve been working on this I have seen improvement. And I still don’t go to a gym. And I don’t do Crossfit either.

Equipment: Weights (an Olympic bar and free weights are great, but varied barbells will work), medicine ball, fitness ball, inflatable balance discs, pull-up bar, a step (like that old Reebok aerobics thing in the back of the garage gathering dust). If you do belong to a gym you can probably find most of these things in the fitness area. If not, these items will set you back anywhere from one to three months in membership fees at a gym, but they are yours to keep. You can find it all at Dick’s, But don’t google that at work.

Philosophy: Alpine skiing hammers your quads. But it also relies on balance, which comes from core strength. Additionally, people commonly forget about the upper body in skiing. Once your hands get behind you it’s all..ahem..downhill from there.

Hoofing it through a Memorial Day blizzard, 2011.

Hoofing it through a Memorial Day blizzard, 2011.

Arms and shoulders get tired from pole plants and risk injury from strange falls. Protecting them with a layer of muscle gives them the strength for that little knuckle drag or tree grab. Because I know, you never fall. Neither do I. Never once.

The workout: Each exercise is done for 30 seconds followed by 30 seconds rest.  Correct form is always preferable to speed; as you get stronger your speed will improve while your form stays consistent.  Start with one circuit and work your way up to as many as you can.

Math Moment: If there are 12 exercises, each taking 30 seconds with a 30 second rest, it takes…..12 minutes to do a circuit. We max out at three, and have seen excellent results. So 36 minutes of effort for an awesome ski trip.  If you have a training watch that can be programmed, set it up to beep at you every 30 seconds. Otherwise get a big clock or count or something. You get the point. The exercises are listed in an order that allows certain muscle groups to rest while working on the other, but they can be done in any order and even with a ski buddy.

The Exercises:

Twisting squats - place the weight, don't twist the body.

Twisting squats – place the weight, don’t swing out of control from side to side.

Twisting squat: Extend your arms, start in a squatting position and slowly rise and twist side to side. This works your obliques and quads in a dynamic motion related to skiing.  Alternate sides on each rep and don’t swing; place yourself in each position solidly.

 

Pushups: Alternate one hand on the medicine ball and the other on the ground. This varies the angles to hit every part of your shoulder and it also gets you in the gut.

Pushups on the ball with alternating sides.

Pushups on the ball with alternating sides.

Can be done on your knees “girl style” and eventually as full pushups. Keep your back flat. Starts out easy and begins to suck at the 20 second mark. Hang in there.

Superman: Arch your back, tighten glutes, raise arms and legs. Pass the weight around your back in circles. Every few, switch directions. This strengthens your lower back (core) and works your shoulders at a unique angle. If you’re pregnant do this one standing…your baby will appreciate not being squished. If that’s not a baby in there then you have work to do.

Superman - gently pass the weight behind, switch directions every few.

Superman – gently pass the weight behind, switch directions every few.

Oblique crunch: Can be done without weights to begin with. Alternate sides while keeping legs stationary (don’t use them for help). As it gets easier try holding a weight to your chest as you crunch.

Oblique crunch can be done holding a weight or with hands behind head.

Oblique crunch.

One leg hops: Helps with dynamic strength. Spring from your ankle from one foot onto a box and land on the ground with the other. Repeat. Don’t miss the box. Or alternatively, wear shin guards.

Hop - generate power from the ankle.

One Leg Hop – generate power from the ankle.

 

 

 

 

 

Ball crunch: Isolate the upper abs by resting your lower back on the ball. Can be done with or without weights, but if you are using weights keep your arms static. It is a core exercise rather than an arm exercise. Don’t use momentum because that’s just cheating.

Upper ab crunch - very small range of motion.

Upper ab crunch – very small range of motion.

Pullup/Chinup: Hands facing you is easier than hands out. If you’re like me, and the most of these you’ve done was for the President’s Physical Fitness test in the 80’s, start with hands facing you. If you can’t do one, use a stool to start at the top and slowly lower yourself. Eventually work up to about ten, then switch to hands out. This works your core and lats for those steep hill pole plants.

Chin-up with hands facing you, Pull-up with hands facing away (harder).

Chin-up with hands facing you, Pull-up with hands facing away (harder).

Side Plank: Fifteen seconds per side. This works your obliques and lower back. Can be done with or without weights.  Make sure your body forms a straight line.

Side plank with weight. Switch sides halfway through.

Side plank with weight. Switch sides halfway through.

Ball smash: On a hard surface, bounce the medicine ball hard against the ground, follow through backwards with your hands, catch it and repeat. This helps with dynamic strength for your shoulders and skiing-wise, helps you return your hands to the front where they need to be for proper form; hands front. It is also a fantastic way to work out frustration…the harder you

Smash the ball on a hard surface and it will bounce back.

Smash the ball on a hard surface and it will bounce back.

slam, the higher the ball returns. Please don’t do this if you live in an apartment (your downstairs neighbor might maim you).

Plank: Works the whole core. Be sure to keep your back flat – no cheating. Can be done with or without weight. I didn’t post a picture because you probably know what a plank looks like and posting pictures of planking is just so 2009.

Military Press: With bar or barbells. Works the shoulders and helps prevent rotator cuff issues.  Also helps your beach muscles, but not as much as curls.

Military press - can be done with small barbells.

Military press – can be done with small barbells.

Balancing squats: Hands down my favorite. This is far more effective than a regular squat for the precise balance of skiing. It takes much less weight to be effective and it reinforces the point that skiing is about strength while balancing. You’ll expect to feel it in your legs, but don’t be surprised when your core tries to crash this party.  Be sure to use very good form and start light – these are harder than they look. Also, don’t do them drunk because you’ll fall backwards on your arse.

Squats on balance disks - can be done with just body weight to work on balance.

Squats on balance disks – can be done with just body weight to work on balance.

There. That’s it. Go do this three times a week starting now and until your ski trip. Then you can come home, hopefully with both knees and shoulders intact, and sit on the couch until you book your next trip, panic, and look at this again in October. Better bookmark it.

 

 

Stuff I Like (And Paid For*) Dryland Training Edition

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*but not necessarily full retail

Fall is in full swing in the Wasatch and I can smell ski season. In fact I woke up to about an inch of soggy graupel this morning and realized that these are the few days of the year when it is really hard to do anything. Not enough snow to ski, too much slop to ride bikes or rollerski. It was exactly freezing and we had exactly four intervals to do that really couldn’t be moved. So we went for an uphill trail run in the snow with our ski poles. It probably looked RIDIC, but it gave me a chance to solidly review a few products that I have been meaning to mention for awhile.

Booking it up to the tram at Snowbird.

Booking it up to the tram at Snowbird.

Salomon Crossmax XR Trail Shoes

I’ve had this pair for two seasons now and although I am not a runner and use them intermittently, they are my go-to trail shoe. I have terrible feet and orthotics for everything, so I choose a neutral shoe that has some cush and I still complain. But I complain less in these.

Fit The lacing system is their proprietary “Quicklace” system. It’s easy for me to use when I am half-asleep, jumping out of the car with freezing hands and looking to get moving ASAP. Although it might seem like it is harder to micro-adjust than laces, I actually think it’s sixes; I can adjust them to feel good even on my terrible low-volume, crooked, gnarly feet. So that’s a plus.  I tend to have a small ankle and larger forefoot and this shoe fits me well even with my orthotics. I could probably find a shoe that is a little tighter on the ankle, but that’s not a Salomon problem, it’s a me problem.

Boing These are trail shoes and I have used them on the road before too. They have plenty of cush for the push on dirt, snow, grass, even asphalt if that’s what you’re into. Actually, if you’re into that, get a road shoe. But for mixed media, these will do the trick. Think of them as a cross bike for your feet. It is not a minimalist shoe by any means (and that’s just fine).

Tread I ran uphill in wet snow today and didn’t slip once. I would call that a pass.

Weight My best time scaling Snowbird Summer Road on feets was about 1 hour and 5 minutes. That’s 3000 vertical feet in 7k. And I was wearing these, which is why I mentioned all that. They are nice and light.

Durability I have had them two summers and a winter. I might use them for running once or twice a month, but I also wear them around all over, hike in them sometimes, etc. Let’s face it. There are runners who are serious and keep two (or more) identical pairs and rotate them every day and never EVER wear them to the grocery store or anything, and then there are the rest of us. Running is something I do to train for Nordic skiing, but it is also something I tend to avoid. They were dirty today from my last time on the trail, but the snow made them look like new. No stitches are amiss, the tread looks good, the lacing system is fine and the foam is still squishy.

After two years they still look this good.

After two years they still look this good.

Overall When they started making shoes the Salomons were not my first choice. They have consistently improved this shoe to the point that now they are my number one choice for trail running and cross training for everything. And I have a newer, cleaner pair that I wear around because they are nice looking and easy to get on and off with a baby in one hand and all her crap in the other. I give them a five beer rating (out of five).

Bliz Pace Cross Country Glasses

These glasses are intended for cross country skiing, but I have been using them this summer for trail running.

Fit This model is designed for “small faces”. The “Pursuit XT” model is the larger equivalent. I chose the smaller of the two because I am small. Pretty simple. There are regular earpieces and a strap that attaches instead, and I have mostly used the adjustable elastic strap. It fits very well with a hat or headband since these were intended for skiing. The lenses provide full enough coverage for my eyes, and since I wear contacts it is important that they not be blown out. They also feature

So happy to be done running. But our eyes are happy in Bliz glasses!

So happy to be done running. But our eyes are happy in Bliz glasses!

a removable piece on the forehead that is padded. Again, it works well for its intended purpose with hats and headbands. You can even flip the glasses up on your head if you need to.

Performance They are very light and work exceptionally for trail running because of the elastic strap. Road running too, but I try and stay away from that.  I used them once with a helmet to rollerski and they didn’t mesh as well with a helmet. They still performed well, shielded the wind and resisted fogging. There is actually another model of Bliz called the Velo that are more suited to fit with a helmet. I can say with certainty after today’s snowy run that they will be great for cross country skiing, which is their aim. The only time I had any fogging was if I stopped, and it is easy to prop them up on your head for a second. As soon as I got moving they cleared.

Lenses Mine came with two pair; pink and smoke with mirror. The smoke are dark enough for our sunniest of days. I wore the pink on my run today because it

Mine came with two pairs of lenses, the solid earpiece and the elastic strap, which will be my go-to for cross country ski season.

Mine came with two pairs of lenses, the solid earpiece and the elastic strap, which will be my go-to for cross country ski season.

was overcast, and just as we left the car the sun came out. We were in snow in the woods, and the pink still reduced the glare, but I was happy to have them because it was still not full sun.

Overall I will race in these this season for sure. The elastic band is the selling point for me; it really works well for any hat-related activities. Good enough for some really fast Norwegians, good enough for me. Five beers.

Stuff I Like (and paid for*)

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*I did pay full retail for this product

Cloth Diapers – The Sane Way

I was taking out the trash about three months ago and I became overwhelmed by the hugeness of the bag of diapers our petite baby churns out in less than a week. I guess I had considered options other than disposables, but time and sleep had escaped me.  When I finally took a breath (and had a solid night’s slumber) I decided to look into the world of cloth diapers.

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Baby M sporting her gDiaper.

To my not-so-surprise, I found out that the Breastfeeding Mafia (militant breastfeeders) overlap with the Cloth Diaper Commies.  There are about a bazillion brands of diapers, most resembling the complexity of a Rubik’s Cube to snap on the baby. Everyone has an opinion. Some are made by WAHM’s (work-at-home-moms, not George and Andrew’s fabulous 80’s pop band, thanks auto-correct), some are “one size fits all” (you haven’t met my baby) and some are, well, seemingly impossible to wrap your head around (or wrap around a squirming baby). And the Cloth Diaper Commies seem to wear these things like a badge—the more difficult the system, the more time consuming the washing and the cheaper they can be obtained, the better. They write about having “six of the Bunnybutts, four Charlie Potatoes, a couple Poo Catchers,” etc. (all names fabricated).  Some of these folks are buying them used. USED!!! It was difficult to do real research. But that’s kind of a sign of the times I guess.

As I looked into costs and environmental impact, I found a bit of seemingly credible information regarding the hidden costs of cloth diapers. You see, these cloth diapers take water and energy to wash. If you have a regular style washer it fills up every time. Now if you go through, say, 18 diapers in two or three days, they won’t come close to being a full washer load. So you either need to own so many cloth diapers that it makes a full load (and store them dirty in between— think about that) or you are wasting a ton of water.  A HE (high efficiency) washer doles out water for small loads, but it still takes water and energy.  I don’t need to explain why you might want to wash diapers by themselves in hot water.

But still, the thought of that huge bag of disposables in the landfill haunted me.  And the “green” disposable diapers inside a plastic garbage bag really didn’t seem like a better solution. Also, they are wicked pricy.

No pants needed when you're g'd.

No pants needed when you’re g’d.

After lots of web surfing I found gDiapers. Now it’s important to understand that this brand kept coming up as the most hated brand by the Cloth Diaper Commies and Breastfeeding Mafia.  It drove my curiosity. And finally my wallet.

I purchased two of the gDiaper gPants, which are the outer layer. They come with a snap-in breathable but waterproof pocket (I call it the poo-catcher) and then your choice of a hemp/fleecy strip of absorbent material or a disposable fiber over stuffing pad. They do a great job describing how it works on their site here. It was the flushable option that really drew me in; these liners are compostable but also flushable. FLUSHABLE! You tear them open and shake out the fuzzy stuff and flush.  We were a little concerned about the fiber outer layer, so we put that in the trash. It is about the same amount of material as a paper towel. But you can flush them if you trust your toilet.

After the MDOD (messy diaper of the day) I put a disposable liner in a gPant and Velcro-ed it to M’s cute bum (ick, I know). When she needed a change I ripped and flushed.  Life was good.  I ordered six more here.

Certainly I was afraid of what every parent would be at this point: POOP!  But the first time poo happened, the poo-catcher caught it all. I bought extras of those and they snap right out and wash. That happens maybe once a day.

Next I tried out the fabric liners. Not to give TMI, but usually I can predict that one MDOD, after which we can switch to the cloth for the day.  When those get wet we rinse and throw in a pail to be washed at a later date. If I wanted to use them full-time, gDiaper makes a disposable sheet that sits on top. We had a successful MDOD on one of those too, no issues.

Easy to organize - snap-in liners, diapers and inserts.

Easy to organize – snap-in liners, diapers and inserts.

We’ve been using these for about three months and have phased out all disposables except at night, and that’s only because we are trying to use up the diapers we bought.  When those are gone we plan to use a disposable liner over a cloth liner at night.  Right now we double diaper at night for “overflow”.

The verdict?  These are awesome and here’s why:

Easy. They Velcro on.  A friend of mine was recently relating a babysitting tale to me about another friend who was using a one-size-fits-all snappy diaper. She didn’t feel that she knew how to close them and would give up and use a disposable when she was watching the kids.  Bottom line: we have been able to use them with all the grandparents with no hassle because they are easy to use. Grandparents even! What’s the point of using cloth if it’s so complicated that people will give up and use disposables?!

Hybrid option. The disposable inserts are the best of both worlds. The outer pants get reused for a day or two without washing because nothing gross touches them. The pocket inside gets reused a few times for wet diapers because you can give them a quick wipe. Or it snaps out and is washable. The disposable liner gets flushed.  A week’s worth of trash for us now looks like what a day’s worth used to. But we aren’t using much extra water and energy because the outer parts can be washed in the regular cold cycle with her clothes (remember, no poo touched them).

Portability. When we leave the house I bring a second assembled diaper. For changes on the go I just take one off and put the other on. I also bring extra disposable liners. If we’re out, they flush in a bathroom or can go in the trash. I know that many cloth diaper folks still rely on disposables out and for babysitting, but with these you don’t have to. We have changed M on the side of a mountain with these. No problem.

An entire week's worth of diaper garbage - with baby for scale. And technically we could have flushed this too.

An entire week’s worth of diaper garbage – with baby for scale. And technically we could have flushed this too.

Cost. No lie, the start-up is more. For about $200 you can have enough parts to diaper with these full time. That includes six pants that come with the snap-in liner, six extra snap-in liners, eighteen cloth liners and a pack of disposables.  The disposables, when bought in the bulk 84-pack, cost about a penny more per use than disposables at Costco. And they are very, very absorbent. In fact, our baby used to fuss the very second wetness touched the disposables. She fusses far less now. I believe the liners are free of chemicals and gels, but they still work great. No rash, no fuss.

Cuteness. You can’t put a price on this one. It’s hot out, and we can just put a t-shirt and one of these on her and go. They come in fun colors and patterns and look like little pants.

Velcro is to the back. I’m not going to dare her, but it would probably be hard(er) for her to, um, free herself with this design than if the closure was to the front.

Fit. I’m not buying the “one-size-fits all” claim. I’ve seen what some of those diapers look like and poor M would have had so much extra material around her she wouldn’t have been able to move.  Not to mention that I’m sure they wouldn’t have held tight on the legs, which of course means the dreaded MDOD might have leaked. gDiapers come in Newborn, S, M, L and XL, and the inner parts come in two sizes; Newborn/S and M/L/XL.

Great customer service.  I realize it isn’t a WAHM company; it’s slightly bigger than that, but still small. They have online chat with educated users who can help you answer questions from their experience.

Auto-ship. You can set up to have the liners auto-shipped at regular intervals. Because even though Babies-R-Us sells them, their display is very small and they don’t seem to stock a ton of product. Or maybe you don’t even live close to one.  The shipping is free and they just show up.

Drawbacks. They are more expensive to use than disposables. I’m thinking of it as an investment in a better world for her later. Also, because there are four sizes you have to buy new outer pants when they outgrow them. However, the Newborn and Small take the same snap-in liner and inner liner as do the M, L and XL. So once you get into M you are set with your liners.

They look great when M is flying her hippy flag!

They look great when M is flying her hippy flag!

We didn’t use these as a newborn, and frankly, I’m not sure how that would go with any cloth system. MDOD is more like MDOH (messy diaper of the hour) with the tiny babies, so who knows. I will say that if I had it to do over I would at least try it. gDiaper recommends using the disposable (flushable compostable) liners for newborns rather than cloth; a much more achievable goal than cloth every ten minutes!

I’m not sure why there is so much gDiaper hate out there on the message boards, but then again, I’m also not sure why there is so much bad grammar. We’ll never know. What I do know is this: if you’re environmentally concerned and moderately intelligent, the gDiaper is a great option for those who truly want to reduce waste, but don’t want to spend every spare moment of the day dealing with diaper logistics. And did I mention they are cute?

UPDATE—We are now 19 months into baby #2. We are using all of our original gDiaper outers and a combination of original and replaced fabric liners. This time we gDiapered from the time we got home from the hospital. Life is good, expenses are much lower, and many of our diapers have been handed off to a friend for a third life.