Last Friday, I stepped out of my car at 10pm, wandered across a lonely, forsaken field in the outskirts of Seattle with a backpack full of paracord, a sandbag, a multitool, some chemlights, a headlamp, a compass, a couple liters of water and a few other survival tools of choice…
…and proceeded to take part in my first ever twelve hour “Spartan Hurricane Heat“, a brutal overnight crucible that includes – among other things – double 75lb sandbag carries, rope climbing up muddy cliffs, memory challenges, over a marathon of running and rucking with weight, and burpees.
Lots and lots of burpees.
In today’s article, you’re going to learn a bit more about what exactly a Hurricane Heat entails, but also discover the nitty-gritty details of the top tools and techniques I use to quickly bounce back from an event like this and to shut down inflammation as fast as possible.
Whether you want to recover faster from a tough workout, or you plan on doing something like a Hurricane Heat yourself, I guarantee you’ll find some gems in today’s post, including everything you need to know about the Hurricane Heat, my top hot-cold contrast system, which anti-inflammatory I “overdose” on as an alternative to Advil or Ibuprofen, the best topical treatment for sore muscles, and how to get rid of muscle knots when you don’t have a foam roller.
As usual, leave your comments and questions below this post (along with anything you want to know about a Spartan Hurricane Heat) and I’ll be happy to reply!
What Is A Hurricane Heat?
When Hurricane Irene threatened the East Coast and forced Spartan Race to shut down the Sunday Amesbury race in August 2011, athletes, staff, volunteers, and crew were devastated. But as Spartans, they weren’t about to quit.
After some creative planning and 9,000 emails to set up the logistics, more than 150 Spartans showed up at 5am that Saturday morning to tackle the Amesbury course with Spartan Founder Joe De Sena and Spartan employees.
Little did these brave runners know that they would be put on teams with complete strangers and forced to carry sandbags and do 30 burpees at every obstacle, whether they got through the obstacle cleanly or not. But they did not toil alone, and alongside their teammates they forged Spartan bonds of camaraderie and teamwork. That teamwork is pretty much the heart and soul of the Hurricane Heat, and it was in these hours of pouring rain, sandbags, obstacles and endless burpees that the Hurricane Heat was born.
Now, the Hurricane Heat is held early in the mornings of the race and, in the case of the 12 hour version, on the evening before. There is always a mandatory gear list and all Hurricane Heats venture on and off the Spartan Race Course at the Race Director’s desire. The goal of the Hurricane Heat is to finish as teams. There are no chips, no clock, just a Spartan-style crucible that represents what Spartan is all about…getting up when you’re knocked down and finishing what you start.
The Hurricane Heat is designed to break you down over and over again, crafting you and everybody else who shows up into a unified team, capable of overcoming the most difficult of objectives. It is specifically designed to reveal your weaknesses and exploit those weaknesses until they are strengthened.
Every Hurricane Heat is unique, utilizing a combination of the obstacles on the Spartan course and the terrain that surrounds the course. Usually there are a series of missions or challenges that need to be completed in order to succeed. Burpees are the currency in Hurricane Heats, which means that you can’t be accomplish something for whatever reason, you can pay a “burpee cost” to get you out of it (although many challenges don’t this option so you can’t bank on being able to just bust out burpees to finish your Hurricane Heat).
The Hurricane Heat comes in two flavors: a 3-4 hour version, and twelve hour version. I opted for the twelve hour, which was designed to forge the “next level of Spartans”. The twelve hour takes the concept of the original Hurricane Heat, expands it to include an element of individuality (individual challenges), and kicks everything in between up to new heights. The twelve hour Hurricane Heat was created to bridge the gap between a Spartan Race and adventure races such as Spartan Agoge (which you can read more about here). So basically, if you’ve ever wished to embark on a journey that takes you past your comfort zone, the Hurricane Heat Twelve Hour is the next stop on the adventure train.
Because there are “time hacks” and challenges you may not be able to complete, when you sign up, there is absolutely no guarantee that you will finish the course. The Hurricane Heat makes appearances at many Spartan races throughout the season, so you can check the Spartan event page here, then click “get info” to see if your race of interest has a Hurricane Heat.
So why on earth did I sign up for this thing?
As I highlight in my article “Do You Have What It Takes To Be One Of The Strongest & Most Mentally Tough Citizens On Earth?“, I’m a firm believer in inspiring others, keeping yourself young, challenging your body and brain, and constantly striving to sculpt the strongest version of yourself, and these kind of challenges are the perfect way to do it.
Completing a Spartan Twelve Hour Hurricane Heat is also a required component of attaining the coveted Spartan Delta, which is on my list of goals to complete for 2016. The ancient Spartans produced some of the strongest and most mentally tough citizens on earth, and to do this a system of training that became the envy of the known world, and a completion of the Delta is a perfect way for me (or you) to become the biggest, baddest, toughest, most mentally resilient, loyal, moral, competitive and extreme version of a human being.
Curious to see what my first Twelve Hour Hurricane Heat experience in Seattle actually entailed? Check out the album below, stay tuned to my monthly Spartan blog post for my nutrition tips to keep you fueled for a Twelve Hour Hurricane Heat, then keep reading to get my seven of my latest, favorite nitty-gritty recovery techniques…
Recovery Tactic #1: Overdose On Natural Anti-Inflammatories
In case you haven’t heard the news, ibuprofen, Advil and any other NSAID’s absolutely wreaks havoc on your liver, GI tract and kidney – especially (and quite ironically considering how most exercise enthusiasts time the consumption of these anti-inflammatories) if you consume these before, during or after exercise.
Want the research on this?
Although studies published since 2005 have investigated the safety of NSAID’s before exercise, a recent entitled “Aggravation of Exercise-Induced Intestinal Injury by Ibuprofen in Athletes” was pretty upsetting. In this study, nine healthy and trained men were studied on 4 different occasions: 1) taking a standard dose of 400 mg ibuprofen twice prior to a bike workout. 2) cycling without the ibuprofen; 3) taking 400 mg ibuprofen twice at rest and finally 4) resting without ibuprofen intake.
In each case, researchers measured small intestinal damage through monitoring plasma intestinal fatty acid binding protein (I-FABP). They also measured urinary excretion of special sugar probes, which can determine the amount of gastrointestinal permeability – a sign that the gut is becoming “leaky”.
So what did the researchers find?
While both ibuprofen consumption and working out both resulted in increased I-FABP levels (reflecting small intestinal injury), levels were higher after cycling with ibuprofen than after cycling without ibuprofen. In addition, gut permeability (“leakiness”) also increased, especially after cycling with ibuprofen – which reflected a loss of gut barrier integrity. In addition, the amount of intestinal injury from ibuprofen and gut barrier dysfunction were extremely well correlated. Based on this study, it can be concluded that exercise slightly aggravates your small intestine, and ibuprofen turns this into a significantly risky issue.
I can’t sum it up any better than the researchers who concluded that “NSAID consumption by athletes is not harmless and should be discouraged”.
So what about the popular practice of taking NSAID’s before a long event like an Ironman or a marathon to “mask the pain”?
It turns out this has also been researched.
One study found that taking 400 mg ibuprofen four hours before exercise reduced the sorness, but didn’t actually prevent muscle cell injury – which is concerning, since this means that the ibuprofen may mask pain, but at the same time, can lead to increased risk of injury as you push through muscle damage. In this study, researchers measured creatine kinase (CK), which is a protein that muscle cells release when they are injured.
Other studies have found that NSAID use during long events, such as a marathon or triathlon, actually decreases kidney function, which can lead to very dangerous issues during exercise, including a decreased ability to properly regulate your sodium and electrolyte status and your hydration levels. This becomes especially dangerous in the heat, in which there already a great amount of stress on the kidneys, and this extra stress may create a high risk of long term kidney damage or kidney failure. One of most eye-opening studies on ibuprofen use during exercise occurred in research performed during the Western States trail running race, which is a popular and grueling 100 mile race.
In this study, runners were split into three groups: a group with no ibuprofen intake, a group taking 600 mg of ibuprofen one day before and on race day, and a group taking 1200 mg of ibuprofen one day before and on race day (having a group that was actually taking more ibuprofen allows researchers to see if there is a “dose response”, meaning whether a more pronounced effect is seen if more ibuprofen is given). This study found that both of the ibuprofen groups have significantly higher levels of marks for severe muscle damage, including C-reactive protein, plasma cytokine and macrophage inflammatory protein, and this effect increased with higher amounts of ibuprofen intake.
Ironically, race time, post-workout soreness and rating of perceived exertion was not affected by taking ibuprofen – which means that A) ibuprofen did not help at all and B) ibuprofen caused significantly greater inflammation and muscle damage compared to not using them at all.
So as you can see, the use of NSAID’s isn’t really a case of “jury’s out”.
Just don’t use them. Period. With so many other healthy NSAID alternatives available, this seems to be a no-brainer.
Now, of course, there are a ton of natural anti-inflammatories you could use as an alternative to NSAID’s, but to keep bottles and carry-on bulk at a minimum, when I travel to races, I usually use just one: Kion Flex
Kion Flex is a bone and joint formula that assists with rapid healing from hard workouts, injuries, stress fractures and joint pain. It contains naturally occurring compounds such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin from type II chicken collagen as well as whole foods, herbs and enzymes that are blended together to promote bone and joint wellness and vitality, including:
Specifically, it contains the following blends:
1. Collagen Blend:
Type II Collagen is the principal structural protein in cartilage which provides strength, flexibility and joint support. It comprises over 50% of the protein in cartilage and over 90% of articular (joint) cartilage. A recent randomized, double-blind study examined the efficacy of oral supplementation of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis. The study showed a decrease in the number of swollen and tender joints in those receiving type II collagen.
The Type II Chicken Collagen used in Kion Flex provides structural support of healthy joints by promoting new cartilage synthesis and by reducing oxidative damage to the joints. It also contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulfates, and comes from chickens free of growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and insecticides. This form of collagen is a whole food concentrate that has no known side effects and provides maximum absorption. According to recent studies at Harvard University Medical School, the Type II Collagen derived from Chicken Cartilage can also help to strengthen your immune system.
2. FlexPro Blend:
Cherry Juice: This natural extract aids in the breakdown of uric acid crystals which deposit in joints, tendons, kidneys and connective tissue, where the crystals cause inflammation, pain and damage. One study found that consuming eight ounces of cherries per day was very effective in lowering uric acid levels. Concentrated cherry juice delivers the bioactives found in fresh cherries such as anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins, without excess carbohydrates or calories.
Ginger: Possessing many anti-inflammatory characteristics, ginger also has strong antioxidant properties and has shown the ability to inhibit the formation of inflammatory compounds such as prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes. One particular study found almost 90% of participants suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and muscular discomfort experienced relief from pain or swelling when using ginger.
Turmeric: Also referred to as curcumin, turmeric manifests excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This potent botanical acts as an alkalizer and has anti-arthritic properties. Human studies have shown that certain beneficial aspects of curcumin have been comparable to that of standard drugs such as phenylbutazone.
White Willow Bark: The use of white willow bark used for pain and inflammation dates back to over 2400 years to the time of Hippocrates. One was advised to chew the bark to reduce inflammation and fever. It appears to be particularly well suited for low back pain6 and has been found effective in relieving pain in those suffering from osteoarthritis. Its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving action comes from a glycoside called calicin – from which the body can naturally make salicylic acid (aspirin). The analgesic, pain-killing actions of willow bark are typically slow-acting but are longer lasting than standard aspirin products.
Hyaluronic Acid: Hyaluronic acid is one of the main components of synovial fluid (joint fluid) and is the main lubricating element in synovial fluid. It has been approved by the FDA for intra-muscular injections and has also been found to be effective in oral doses. One particular study found oral hyaluronic acid to enhance several markers of quality of life in adults with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Boswellia: Known by its more popular name Frankincense, Boswellia shows anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic characteristics and has been used for hundreds of years to relieve pain and inflammation to joints. In a preliminary crossover trial Boswellia significantly reduced symptoms of osteoarthritis, such as knee pain and swelling.
Cetyl Myristoleate: This naturally occurring fatty acid promotes joint wellness and has been researched clinically. Preliminary results of several double-blind, randomized controlled, research studies on osteoarthritis have found cetyl myristoleate effective in improving knee function.
3. Mineral Blend:
Goat Milk Mineral Whey Concentrate: This mineral/electrolyte extract from goat milk whey has been developed using extraction technology known as refractance window drying. This gentle extraction process captures fragile nutrients without harsh processing steps or extreme temperatures. The mineral whey blend in Kion Flex contains over 20 different bio-organic minerals and electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, and phosphorus, minerals critical in maintaining proper muscle and joint health.
4. Enzyme Blend:
Oral enzyme therapy is a unique approach to promoting joint recovery and breaking down potential blood-clotting components like fibrinogen that build up during big workouts or races. For example, one study has examined enzyme therapy’s role in successfully alleviating osteoarthritis pain in the knee. The conclusion of the study read that “Short-term evaluation indicates that oral enzymes may be considered an effective and safe alternative to NSAIDs such as diclofenac in the treatment of painful arthritis and inflammation of the knee joint.” The enzyme blend in Kion Flex contains the following natural anti-inflammatory components:
-Protease: Converts protein into polypeptides, and breaks down inflammatory byproducts.
-Bromelain: A combination of enzymes from both fruit and leaves of the pineapple plant. Also breaks down inflammatory byproducts.
-Papain: An anti-inflammatory enzyme found in papayas.
-Amylase: Breaks down and digests carbohydrates and inflammatory byproducts.
-Lipase: Fat digesting enzyme, and also breaks down inflammatory byproducts.
-Cellulase: Converts fiber cellulose to glucose, and breaks down inflammatory byproducts. Cellulase is not made in your body and can only be obtained from food or supplements.
-Peptidase: Breaks down proteins at different pH levels along the digestive tract and breaks down inflammatory byproducts.
In addition, Kion Flex contains a unique ingredient: extremely hypoallergenic goat milk whey. This type of whey has been used for decades to promote bone density as well as relieve aching, painful joints, and it doesn’t cause allergy or autoimmune issues like some other forms of whey can. One world-renowned nutritionist, Dr. Bernard Jensen, used goat milk whey as one of his go-to natural healing foods of choice for healthy joints. This highly concentrated whole food extract also contains a complete array of naturally occurring minerals (including Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium) in ratios easily absorbed by a beat-up body.
Kion Flex does not rely on traditional tableting technology. The reason for this is current tableting technology requires that ingredients be ground extensively and granulated multiple times, then binding agents must be added, and finally, the product must be crushed in a 10 to 100 ton press to successfully “punch” the tablet into shaped. This process exposes delicate ingredients to high pressure, high heat, and lowers the actual bioavailability of the final product. This is precisely the reason Kion Flex uses encapsulation technology that requires no binders, no granulation, no extreme pressure or temperature, along with a non-gelatin, vegetarian capsule made from vegetable cellulose.
When all these components are included together, the result is a bone and joint formula that is far more effective than the basic glucosamine and chondroitin blend that you’ll find in most bone and joint supplements, and an anti-inflammatory blend that beats the pants off any NSAID out there. It also blows any other glucosamine-chondroitin supplement out of the water, and athletes and exercise enthusiasts who notice zero difference from other products find that the unique blend of natural anti-inflammatories in Kion Flex cause a distinct increase in recovery, healing and joint comfort.
Now, even though the Kion Flex bottle label instructs to take 4-6 per day, I don’t mess around. After all, I’m a sleep hog after an event like the Hurricane Heat and I don’t want a blood clot while lying in bed (or sitting on an airplane) after I finish pounding my body for 12 hours.
So, after I finish any brutal crucible like this, I “overdose” on Kion Flex by taking six in the morning, six in the afternoon and six in the evening for a full three days. It makes a night and day difference at killing pain, keeping me from hobbling around like I have arthritis, and giving me the peace of mind I’m not going to get a brain-destroying blood clot.
Recovery Tactic #2: Slather Yourself In Topical Muscle Cream
In the article “Why I Slather My Body With Magnesium Oil After Every Hard Workout“, I delve into the science behind transdermal magnesium therapy.
Problem is, magnesium oil makes the sheets “sticky” when you sleep, and it stings quite a bit if it touches any open wounds or scars – and I’m certainly covered with scrapes after the Hurricane Heat and any other Spartans I do.
Enter magnesium lotion.
The stuff I use is made by “Ancient Minerals”. It is formulated for even the most sensitive of skin and designed to deliver magnesium through the dermis, directly to the cells, where it can relax muscles and combat calcium build-up from muscle micro-tearing. Contaminants in sea waters make finding a pure magnesium source tough, so the source used in this lotion is from something called “Zechstein Minerals”, which sounds like some kind of Nazi military food but is apparently a very pure source of magnesium.
In addition to 185mg of elemental magnesium in each teaspooon, it also contains organic plant moisturizers like coconut oil and shea butter, which soothe and hydrate without leaving your skin feeling waxy or greasy. It is fragrance free and does not contain any formaldehyde releasing preservatives.
After a tough event, I simply put about a quarter size dab into my hand and put that amount on one leg, then do the same thing for the other leg, both arms, and my low back. It goes right through the skin and directly into the muscles. Anyone who has raced an Ironman, a Hurricane Heat, a century cycling race or any other long event knows that one thing that keeps you awake at night afterwards are your legs, abs and/or arms twitching and cramping, and this keeps that from happening.
Recovery Tactic #3: Sweat & Shiver
When I travel to Finland or Japan, one of my favorite things to do is visit a traditional sauna or bathhouse, and partake in 45-90 minutes of heat therapy combined with cold therapy. From anti-aging to skin healing to detoxing to moving lymph fluid to massively speeding up muscle and joint recovery, there are a variety of benefits you get from this kind of “sweating and shivering”.
So the day after the Hurricane Heat, I visited one of the best such baths in Seattle: Banya 5. It combines the best of Turkish hammams, Russian banyas, Finnish saunas and Japanese bath houses.
The first thing inside Banya 5 is a “parilka”, which is a dry sauna made of tons of concrete and brick that generates a radiant heat that gets far hotter than traditional saunas. This deeply penetrating heat relaxes muscles and regulates breathing, and they even provide oak leaf “veniks” to perform a traditional “platza”, which is basically whipping yourself with branches, a treatment that tones the skin and stimulates circulation.
Next, they have a Turkish steam room, in which steam brushes over fresh eucalyptus boughs to produce a nourishing, moist 113 degree heat that provides significant benefit to the skin and respiratory system. The moist heat decreases respiratory congestion to soothe, relax and ease breathing and the steam also opens skin pores to help the body expel toxins and rehydrate dry skin. I’ve always said you need to be careful with steam rooms to ensure the water being pumped in is chlorine and fluoride free, so always check first to ensure a good water filtration system is being used at whichever sauna you choose.
There is also a salt water tepid pool. This particular pool mimics the salinity of Puget Sound, and is basically an 87 degree mineral salt bath that decreases muscle tension and increases relaxation as you are “held” in the buoyant, mineral infused water, much like a “float tank”. Like the magnesium lotion mentioned above, the salt water also increases the absorption of minerals lost in the sweat, while
Next is my favorite part: the cold plunge. The internal organs, blood, lymph and nervous system are particularly stimulated by the contrast of radiant heat and extreme cold. Cold water plunging is an important part of hydrotherapy, especially for the circulatory system, and at about 40 degrees farenheit, this cold plunge is no joke. Immersion in this temperature of cold water constricts skin pores and blood vessels that have ideally first been dilated from the heat to create an invigorating pumping action of the venous system that flushes metabolic wastes and toxins.
So when I have access to heat and cold like this, what exactly is my method? For a full 60 minute routine, I do it exactly like this:
-15 minutes dry sauna with stretches and yoga like this
-5 minutes full body immersion in extreme cold
-15 minutes steam room with deep nasal box-breathing (4 count in, 4 count hold, 4 count out, 4 count hold)
-5 minutes full body immersion in extreme cold
-15 minutes saline pool soak with static breath holds
-5 minutes full body immersion in extreme cold
If you can hunt down a Finnish Sauna, Turkish Bath, Japanese Bathhouse or anything else like it, you must give this routine a try sometime. Finish with the cold water and cup of hot tea or coffee, and I guarantee you’ll have a high unlike anything you’ve experience before.
Recovery Tactic #4: Suck Down Decaf Coffee
Speaking of coffee, here’s another tip I haven’t talked about much before in my other recovery articles: I go nuts for decaf coffee the day after a tough event. While caffeinated coffee can overstimulate the central nervous system and wreak havoc on my recovery napping, the same cannot be said of decaf coffee.
There’s a tremendous amount of research showing the antioxidant benefit of coffee, and these benefits come from the large amount of antioxidants in coffee, not the caffeine. There’s actually not a major difference in the amount of antioxidants in regular vs. decaffeinated coffee.
For example, one group in Italy measured antioxidant activity using a number of tests, including the Ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP), total radical-trapping antioxidant parameter (TRAP) and Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC). These tests look at how well various chemical changes occur with the interaction of various foods, and the results showed that there wasn’t a significant different in antioxidant activity between regular and decaffeinated beverages.
As you may have noticed in the photo above, while in Seattle I opted for the evil, corporate, yet convenient Starbucks decaf coffee (and probably averaged 3-4 cups a day for the two days I stayed in Seattle after the Hurricane Heat).
Now here’s the deal: almost all decaffeinated coffee is produced using a Swiss water process or carbon dioxide extraction, both of which are quite harmless. However, you may have heard that Starbucks uses a chemical process to decaffeinate their coffee that may be harmful for you.
Starbucks does, in fact, use a solvent called methylene chloride to produce all but one of their decaffeinated coffees. Methylene chloride is a toxic compound and suspected carcinogen. As with most solvents, you don’t want to breath the fumes or let it touch your skin.
However, the coffee you drink is not the concern here. Decaffeinated coffee contains no detectable traces of the methylene chloride because it is burned off by the high roasting temperatures (you’re much more likely to come in contact with this chemical in paint thinners or adhesives). But workers who roast the coffee may indeed get occupational exposure to methylene chloride.
The decaf Sumatra blend is the only one made with a non-toxic Swiss water process, so if you’re going to drink Starbucks decaffeinated coffee and you care about those poor coffee workers getting exposed to chemicals, then choose that blend.
One other quick and interesting note about decaf coffee. Caffeine can inhibit mTOR (Mammalian Target of Rapamycin), a mechanism that increases protein synthesis in your muscles after exercise. So when you use decaffeinated beans, you can consume coffee post workout, and continue to optimally build and repair muscle. Cool, eh?
Recovery Tactic #5: Eat Sulfur Rich Foods
Ever smell a rotten egg?
That’s a sulfur rich food. Sulfur is one of the most abundant mineral elements in the human body, coming in at around 140 grams for the average person and is involved in hundreds of physiological processes, including the formation of the disulfide bonds that strength and resiliency to hair and skin, taurine synthesis for proper functioning of the cardiovascular system, our muscles, and the central nervous system, and perhaps most importantly for recovery, the synthesis of glutathione, one of the body’s premier endogenous antioxidants.
But you don’t need to eat rotten eggs to get it.
Sulfur is found in methionine, an essential amino acid found in meat, eggs, cheese and it’s also found in cysteine, an amino acid found in pork, poultry, eggs, milk. But when I’m recovering from a hard event, my body simply doesn’t seem to function as well when being forced to digest complex, protein-rich foods, so I instead opt for oodles and oodles sulfur-rich vegetables (which don’t just contain the sulfur that animal meats do, but also more potent groups called “organosulfur compounds“).
What qualifies as a sulfur-rich vegetable?
Any and all fibrous non-leafy green vegetables that steam well and emit that distinctive, rotten-egg-ish odor usually contain decent amounts of sulfur, including brassicas like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and related vegetables, and alliums like onions, shallots, garlic, and leeks.
For example, a variety garlic sulfides have been shown to protect from peroxidative damage and increase glutathione activity in the liver. Sulforaphane, an organosulfur compound found in broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, inhibits mitochondrial permeability and reduced oxidative stress by increasing glutathione activity.
So, typically I’ll be loading up at the salad bar located at the nearest natural grocery store I can find (I’ll often book hotels that are near a Whole Foods, Sprouts Market, etc.) for lunch and dinner (and even often for breakfast) the day after a tough event, I simply eat tons and tons of sulfur rich vegetables combined with small amounts of anti-oxidant rich fats such as avocados, olive oil and walnuts. Here’s an example of the type of salad I’ll eat both before and after a big race like a Twelve Hour Hurricane Heat:
A salad like this contains:
-Roasted brussels sprouts
-Black rice noodles
Ahh, but wait (even if you’re not a card-carrying orthorexic)…
…what about all the canola oil in the fancy salad bars at places like Whole Foods, where I typically go to load up on these veggies if I’m traveling?
Here’s the deal: canola oil comes from a specifically bred variety of rapeseed, which is part of the mustard family along with kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, and is also very high in – you guessed it – sulfur content. Rapeseed oil has been a part of traditional diets in Eastern Europe, especially Poland, India, Japan, China and Canada for thousands of years.
It’s actually a myth that all canola oil is GMO (Genetically Modified Organism). The development of canola oil predated genetic engineering by almost 20 years. Canola was bred using traditional plant breeding methods. These methods involve selecting desired traits followed by crossing these traits into existing varieties until the offspring exhibit the desired characteristics. While it is true that canola oil was not originally developed using genetic engineering methods, some forms of canola are genetically engineered today. To avoid genetically engineered canola oil, you can choose organic canola oil, which by definition would not be genetically modified, or canola oil that has been non-GMO verified.
So when you look at a grocery store like Whole Foods Market, for example, they only use non-GMO canola oil in their prepared foods they make in-house, and when it’s on the salads in the cold salad bar, it’s rarely been oxidized at extreme temperatures.
Furthermore, also a myth that all canola oil is extracted with chemical solvents. Vegetable oils can be extracted by one of two major methods: They can be expeller pressed (a mechanical process which literally squeezes the oil out of the vegetable) or solvent extracted (a chemical process whereby a solvent, usually hexane, is used to remove the oil). At Whole Foods Market, it’s all expeller pressed, non-GMO canola oil.
For low temperatures like salad and vegetables, canola is fairly heat stable too, and yeah, although it’s not quite as good as avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil, in my opinion, when I’m getting all the benefits of a big, sulfur-rich salad while traveling, the pros outweigh the cons.
So there. You’ll have to drag me kicking and screaming from my big-ass salad.
Except that pesky $22 average price tag when I weigh and pay for the darn thing.
Recovery Tactic #6: Walk
Even if I’m blistering, hobbling, limping and teeth-grittingly sore, I go out of my way to walk thousands and thousands of steps the day after a hard event.
The first few steps usually suck, bigtime, then after that, things get easier. Blood begins to flow. Lymph fluid begins to the circulate. The heart begins to pump.
One study found that grounding yourself to the earth, or “Earthing,” might help relieve Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). When walking barefoot on beach sand, close to or in the water and on dewy grass, free electrons in the ground that are called “negative ions” transfer into your body through the soles of your feet. These free electrons are some of the most potent antioxidants known to man, and experiments such as those discussed in the documentary and book that my friend Dr. Mercola talks about here have shown exposure to negative ions from the ground and earth can decrease pain and inflammation, improve sleep and make your blood less viscous – all good news if you’re worried about clotting and soreness after a tough event.
In addition to the ground itself, three other potent sources of negative ions include the air your breathe when you are walking next to moving water such as waterfalls or the ocean the gases released by plants and trees and sunlight (even through the clouds) – so a walk outdoors on the beach or in a forest is actually a perfect recovery tactic.
In a recent BenGreenfieldFitness podcast I talked about special sandals I wear called “EarthRunners” (use code BEN5 for 5% discount), which are equipped with carbon lacing and carbon plugs built into the bottom of the sandal. Unlike rubber-soled shoes or sandals, this type of grounding footwear conducts negative ions from surfaces like sand, concrete, grass, roads, blacktop, etc. and straight up into your feet, while still allowing you to walk around shod (e.g. not looking like a hippie caveman).
Recovery Tactic #7: Dig Into Tissue
When I’m at home, at least once per week, I complete an entire metabolic mobility routine for 45-60 minutes, usually on a Wednesday morning, and often for a bonus weekend section. The video below shows exactly what I do (click here for YouTube version with full workout description).
I also get a massage like this once per week. It sucks and it hurts but it works wonders for keeping my body aligned and moving well:
Suffering never felt so good. Teeth grittingly tough massages I get from Tracy Ellis from Touch Therapeutic keep me put together. And yeah, that’s a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pillow. #massage #TMNT #bodywork #recovery #workitout
A photo posted by Ben Greenfield (@bengreenfieldfitness) on
Why do I do all this seemingly masochistic body work?
You can read my entire brain-dump on the importance of maintaining supple connective tissue and fascia here, along with the extreme importance of deep tissue work to help one recover from tough workouts or races.
But when I’m traveling or stuck in a hotel room after a race, I often don’t have access to the entire suite of medieval torture devices that I do at home. And since I pack light when I travel it often leaves room for just a golf ball or lacrosse ball to dig into muscle tissue, or perhaps a massage stick.
So what do I do instead?
I get creative.
The corners of dumbbells or kettlebells at the average hotel gym can easily be used to dig into the sides of your hips or sore shoulders.
The photo below shows the two items I spent nearly an hour “making love to” on the floor of my hotel room after the Spartan Hurricane Heat…
…first, a water bottle, which can be wrapped in a sock or item of clothing and used as a roller for the calves, forearms, sides of hips, low back, hamstrings, hip flexors, IT band, quadriceps, etc…
…second, a ball, in this case a Tiger Tail “ball on a rope”, which is just a glorified lacrosse-sized ball attached to a rope, which allows you to stabilize the ball as you dig it into your neck, the back of your shoulders, you feet, etc.
So get creative. You don’t necessarily need to pack a massage therapist and a giant foam roller in your suitcase. Oh yeah, and the astute view will notice of my other go-to healing compounds that I slap on just about any injury or area that needs added support: the might, mighty Rocktape (check out my podcast on it here).
- Overdose on natural anti-inflammatories
- Slather Yourself In Topical Muscle Cream
- Sweat & Shiver
- Suck Down Decaf Coffee
- Eat Sulfur Rich Foods
- Dig Into Tissue
When you implement these methods, you bounce back much, much faster and feel much, much more happy and pain-free after a difficult crucible like a Hurricane Heat, Ironman, epic workout, or anything else that seems to absolutely crush you. This translates into extra days available for training, playing sans soreness with family, knowing you’re not going to get a blood-clot flying or driving long distances after the race, and beating back the chronic repetitive motion and inflammation related injuries that often rear their ugly heads after your body has been through the grinder.
Do you have questions, comments or feedback about anything in this article? Leave your thoughts below and I promise to reply!