Friday, August 29, 2014

Core strengthening

With the Beast only a week away, core strengthening is the key to a strong finish.  You may be wondering, “How are my abs going to help me?”  Core strengthening is frequently used in the general population, although what does it really mean?  Core strengthening focuses on more than your abdomen; it includes strengthening the muscles of the pelvis, lower back, hips and even the diaphragm.  

An obstacle race course such as the Beast consists of climbing walls, ropes, large piles of sand, walking across nets, crawling through pipes and scaling across monkey bars.  At first glance, participates may think that these obstacles primarily require upper and lower training and neglect the core.  But a strong core provides a solid base, allowing the arms and legs to function with precision while working in sync.   

Core strength is important for walking across rope ladders and climbing events. The core prevents the torso from rotating and allows individual limb movement with a fixed torso and controlled movement at the hips.  Running in sand for 10 miles is a challenge all by itself, although a powerful core can be the world of a difference.   Strong hips and pelvic muscles stabilize the lower extremities leading to improvement in balance and flexibility, allowing each stride to be effective.  With a weak core, lower extremities are constantly adjusting to the disorganized trunk movement.  With a ground surface such as sand there is an increased potential for injury.  A strong core is essential in crawling courses, by coordinating movement between the spine, arms and legs.

Here are some core exercises that are great for the advanced athlete:  Performing 2-3 sets with 10-12 reps, 3-4 times weekly. 

Prone Bridge:  Trunk and pelvic muscles. 

The goal is to maintain a straight line on tiptoes and elbows.  Hold for 30 seconds.

Seated Russian Twist: Abdominal muscles

While seated on the floor with feet lifted off the ground, the medicine ball is rotated from side to side.  This exercise can also be performed while seated on a physioball. 

Side Plank:  Muscles of the entire core particularly lower back and the deep abdominal muscles

Lie on the right side with knees straight out.  Lift upper body on the right elbow and forearm.  Raise hips unit body forms a straight line.  Hold for 30 seconds then repeat on left side. 

Do not be afraid to dive into these core exercises.  There are multiple variations for different levels – from easy to difficult. 


Afzal H. Khan, MD
Saint Vincent Sports Medicine Resident

Friday, August 22, 2014

Evaluating Sports Performance Products

Sport gels, drinks and/or gus are a big part of many athletes’ lives.  They can be an integral means of replenishing key nutrients and/or hydration while exercising. The difficult part can be finding the right product for you. In the months leading up to an event, it is important to try different products so as to determine your response and tolerance to them.  What works for someone else might not work for you.

*Tip: Optimize your performance by investigating what products will be offered on the day of your event and at what point during the race so you may attempt to mimic these circumstances in your training especially if you are not planning to bring your own sustenance to the event.  Here’s a link to the Beast map detailing the location of nutrition and hydration stations:

Sport gels are a combination of sport drinks and energy bars that can deliver you the fuel you need to sustain your energy levels while competing. Most sport gels include carbohydrates and possibly caffeine but don’t include fat, fiber, fluid or protein. Sport drinks can provide you with key electrolytes, sodium, potassium and fluid you may have lost from sweating. 

Here is a brief comparison of some popular sports drinks:
                Cytomax: This product is available as a powder or ready-to-drink and provides endurance athletes with electrolytes and 14gm of carbohydrates per 8 ounces.
                NUUN Active Hydration: This product is available in a tablet formulation that is meant to be mixed with water.  While it contains electrolytes, this product does not contain carbohydrates and may not be appropriate fuel for training > 60 minutes unless combined with a source of carbohydrate.
                Gatorade or Gatorade Endurance: This drink has been a long time favorite of many athletes with 14gm of carbohydrates per 8 ounces along with sodium and potassium. Gatorade Endurance also includes magnesium and some calcium to help further replenish lost nutrients.

Below is a brief comparison of some sports gels:
*Tip: In order to optimize carbohydrate absorption and prevent gastrointestinal distress, every 32 g of the products below should be consumed with 10 ounces of water.
                GU Energy Gels: With 100 calories, 25g of carbs, 50mg of sodium, and 40mg of potassium these gels can be a great way to sustain energy levels during training > 60 minutes.
                Clif Shot Energy Gel: With 100 calories, 25g of carbs, 40mg of sodium, and 30mg of potassium these gels are yet another great way to sustain energy levels during training > 60 minutes.  However, in order to optimize carbohydrate absorption and prevent gastrointestinal distress, every 32 g of this product should be consumed with 10 ounces of water.

Also some popular sport chews available include:
                PowerBar Energy Gel Blasts: With 30 g of carbohydrates/6 piece serving, this product should be consumed with 12 ounces of water.
                Clif Shot Blocks: With 24 g of carbohydrates/3 piece serving, this product should be consumed with 10 ounces of water/serving.
You’re not alone! A sports dietitian can assist you in designing a personalized plan that considers your individualized energy needs and preferences.


Leslie Lawton, RD, CSSD, LDN, CDE
Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics
Saint Vincent Hospital