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Bike Talk: We Need More Diversity In Cycling Media & Sport

14 December, 2017

As my work in blogging about getting more women on bikes grew, so did women's specific products. While I watched fashionable and functional designers enter the industry, I have also seen women's cycling boutiques, groups, organizations, brand ambassadorships, teams, and sponsorships rise as a focus to get more women and girls in cycling. Brands such as Peppermint Cycling, Femme Velo, Specialized, Rapha, Queen of the Mountains, and Machines For Freedom have each stepped up to the market and empowered women to participate in cycling as a sport and community. Women's cycling groups and organizations such as Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade, Black Girls Do Bike, We Bike NYC, EncourageHer Cyclingand Friends On Bikes have all organized to reach out to communities of women/trans/femme/nonbinary of all sizes and socioeconomic backgrounds to participate in bringing cycling to their communities. With women leading the way to empower and ease the intimidation of cycling communities for many women, the future is starting to look bright for women in cycling. 

However, while I think some companies and organizations are getting things "right" with women, there still lies a large opportunity for the cycling industry at large: making women and diversity an industry wide initiative. Allow me to be brutally honest, when I look at the cover of a cycling magazine I notice it's mostly men making front page and when I open that cycling magazine, I look for the women and count how many are featured, once I counted 2. When I  google "women in cycling" or "women's cycling kit", I look for women like me, but what I often see in images of women's cycling apparel, bikes, or gear, are faces of white, young, and thin women, lacking the inclusiveness many of women of color, age, and shape in cycling wish to see: women and girls like them.

For 9 years, I have strayed from talking about my own identity as a Mexican-Native American woman as I wanted to highlight the support women needed to pave the way for all women. It's a very personal subject to speak of my personal identity in a space such as cycling as I always believed it to be a great equalizer, however, mine and others' experiences think the climate is right for a discussion around the lack of diversity in cycling industry, sport, and media. While I have always seen cycling as a white male dominated industry and sport, I often ignored my own discomfort around cycling clubs and bike shops that made me feel invisible. Because of my determination, I was lucky enough to build my own voice along with other women while creating partnerships and relationships with organizations, small businesses, and industries who supported my efforts to get more women in cycling. 

Living in cities, diversity was all around me. When I began cycling, women's cycling groups were few. Starting out as a commuter, where style and functionality were important to me, Cycle Chic Sundays were a start to organizing rides with women in my own community to bridge the need for safer streets to get more women on bikes. Now, community organizations, clubs, rides, teams, and efforts are propping up to invite more women of all diverse backgrounds, however, the cycling industry, sport, and media lags behind. As I listened to London Bike Kitchen's Panel on how the cycling community can reflect and include more marginalised voices? I got to thinking about my own experiences. I personally never felt marginalized other than by being a woman by default. Then I got to searching for other women of my own ethnic identity and found little to none in the media. Native people are often ignored politically and socially, often steamrolled over to culturally appropriate their ideas and ways of life, so it hardly surprised me. With a political climate like today in sports and other industries calling for more women and diversity like REI's #forceofnature campaign, I wonder what the cycling industry is doing to include more trans/femme/non-binary and women of shapes, color, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Although I do see initiatives and ambassador programs supporting women in their communities to get more women on bikes, the faces of trans/femme/non-binary and women of color, age, and size are very few. Perhaps the argument for this lack is that they are not applying but one must question media outreach efforts and representation. While women are leading the way in their own right, there are a few things the cycling industry can learn from them. Here are a few things organizations, teams, media, and businesses can do to foster a more diverse and inclusive cycling industry and community.

Diversify Media
Here’s my first suggestion to the industry if you want to show that you mean it: Diversify your covers. We need more cycling women in the media who are portrayed without being sexualized. I’ve been told that there is a “model” for cycling retailers and publications—white and thin (and mostly male). The few women who make the covers of mainstream cycling magazines are equally young, white, and thin. I have yet to see a woman of color or plus size on these covers, other than in a group shot. Are there no women of color making traction in cycling who are worthy of your covers? It would be great to see a body positive woman hold kit review space or a woman of color as an individual kickass cycling enthusiast who's traveled across America by bike. 

Tell Our Stories
The cycling media has enormous responsibility to diversify the stories and images that surrounds and reflects society. Diverse people, we are here - women of color and those of different ages, abilities, sizes, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Featuring people of color, people of all sizes, and abilities who can tell their stories of crushing goals or how they were challenged in a race can inspire us to participate in cycling in new ways. We all need role models, but if the media and industry continually fail to provide images and stories of people who look, sound, or live like us, we have failed huge portions of our global population and diversifying communities.

Hire Us
While inclusive marketing campaigns are surely a great first step, making systematic change in the industry will be as important in making cycling a more inclusive and diverse space. Brands and bike shops have the opportunity to become thought leaders in the cycling space by embracing diversity in their teams, sponsorship, marketing, and advertising endeavors. My hope for the future is that we can look forward to attending a cycling industry trade show who focuses on diversity, inclusion, and education events focused on communities of color and various identities where kit and gear options embrace bodies with curves, and stories about trans/femme/non-binary/women of color who are achieving milestones in the cycling industry and sport (like the illustrious Ayesha McGowan). If the cycling industry is committed to contributing to a larger culture shift in the industry and sport- a shift toward inclusivity, embracing new and different ideas, and amplifying diverse perspective will be needed to systemically reflect it in their product, sponsorships, narratives, efforts, and adverts.
Don't Ignore Us
When an industry is short on diversity it can often co-op moments that have been carried out by marginalized communities, ultimately steamrolling those that have actually been on the ground fighting day in and day out for positive change. A clear example of this was the recent effort by the outdoor industry to protect Bears Ears and designate it as a national monument. When President Obama made the decision to protect Bears Ears, the outdoor industry and many participants virtually celebrated what was spun as a well-fought victory for the outdoors community, even though indigenous groups that have been working for 80 years to get the land designated as a national monument were actually responsible for the victory.

Because of recent issues like this, I'de like to see brands respond to the diversity of their subscribers or followers by accurately reflecting the diversity of the consumers who purchase their products. A great example of this is women's cycling kit company, Machines For Freedom, who actively features women of color in their kit and shares images of their diverse costumers and community support. While it's one case to celebrate, I recently looked at two brands' social media feeds and had to scroll quite a bit to find a person of color in the images. When I did find a person of color, it was often an image highlighting a program the brand had supported as philanthropy efforts. I was disappointed that this was the message they chose to share without acknowledging the many people of color who follow their brand and use their products that are not their charity effort. I don't think exclusion is the intent - brands just don't have inclusion or diverse enough teams to help them shift with the changing demographics and times. 

Do Business with Us
Cycling can be intimidating and exclusionary for those who are underrepresented in the industry. When the price for "appropriate" gear is beyond your scope and reality and you rarely see a reflection of yourself represented in marketing, cycling can become inaccessible and unwelcoming. I know plenty of women who are frustrated they cannot find kit that fits them, putting them off of cycling. I've had plenty of friends who also said they wouldn't get into cycling because it's for white guys and too expensive. This makes me question how much the cycling industry is doing to include accessibility and diversity in their products, businesses, initiatives, and efforts and tells me that more needs to be done to embrace a diverse market.

Earlier this year I applied to become to a woman's ambassador for a large cycling retailer. In my interview I was asked "What interests you to become an ambassador for women in your community?" My response was that companies and organizations don't create access for those who often exist in the peripheral landscape and I want to include them. What I meant by this was women of all ages, sizes, communities, ethnic and economic backgrounds are often faced with challenges in being active in a part of a cycling community. While a double bottom line is a huge investment for companies to put funds into, not every investment needs to be about bike and gear sales. What's even more important is to invest in our communities and promote inclusiveness and diversity in cycle culture, the money will come later if you keep the momentum. If that means building bike lanes in low income neighborhoods, sponsoring cycling education programs, diversifying ambassadorships, or setting up bike shops; making diversity in cycling an approach to a greater collective consciousness also means also tackling social issues with the same respect of business sales. 

Diversity in cycling is on an incline, but this is not through a collective effort by the industry to be more inclusive, it is through the effort of grassroots efforts of people from communities of color, identities, and women taking on the challenges themselves. This has been possible through social media and efforts to build a community, as they are still continually underrepresented in mainstream cycling media outlets and efforts. We can't sit on our hands and allow underrepresented communities to do all the work then celebrate our collective diversity. It's our responsibility as a community and industry to be as active making change to cycling culture. We can't expect people to feel included or welcome in cycling when they are underrepresented in sport or community, as participants and industry, we must step up to the plate and make sure it happens.

Image Courtesy @FriendsOnBikes

Healthy Holiday Off Season Tips

07 December, 2017

It might be hard to believe, but 2017 is nearly over, and Christmas is mere weeks away. For most of us, this is one of the busiest months of the year, as well as the most indulgent. The run up to Christmas is filled with parties, the amount of tempting food available everywhere (Christmas cookies in the office! Advent calendars! Christmas sandwiches!) seems to triple, and a steaming mug of mulled wine on a chilly evening (especially after a ride) can be very tempting.
It can also be a tiring time. Between family commitments, traveling, and finding ourselves with an increased workload in the run-up to the new year, the holidays can all contribute to us feeling worn out. To top if off, we’re all more susceptible to colds, coughs, and flu. The more run down we are, the more likely it is we’ll find ourselves in the grip of illness at this time of year. 
That’s why I believe in a work hard, play hard approach to the festive season. We all deserve to let our hair down, but now is a key time to pay extra attention to your nutrition and make sure you’re putting aside time for regular exercise, to keep you feeling strong, energized and well to saddle up. While I've become a pro at traveling and avoiding flu season, I've also developed some habits that are helpful to staying fit and healthy across the next few festive weeks:
Hydrate like crazy
Keen riders will know how vital it is to stay hydrated, but if you’re drinking more alcohol than usual this month, it’s crucial you make an effort to increase your water content. Alcohol is diuretic, which is why we get headaches and feel drained the morning after. Carry a water bottle with you, keep one on your desk, drink lots during and after exercise, and always match an alcoholic drink with a glass of water when you’re on a night out. You’ll really notice the difference if you do! On the days that you do go a bit overboard, you can help your body out by drinking water with fresh lemon. It will help alkalise your system and get your liver back up and running.
Eat properly
Admit it: a miniature smoked salmon bagel washed down with prosecco is not a sensible dinner. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy canapés or party treats; just make sure you’re making time for proper, healthy meals too. Start the day with nourishing, filling breakfasts like poached eggs and avocado or porridge, make sure your snacks during the day are raw and healthy, and if you’re rushing to an event after work, make the time to eat beforehand. Even a banana and a handful of nuts can keep you feeling full for much longer and reduce your cravings once you start to drink.
Rest up
Don’t make late nights a habit. Sleep deprivation can cause mood swings, weight gain and won’t make you feel jolly and festive in the coming weeks: you’ll be less productive and more sluggish. If you’ve got a big party or ride the next day to go to, get an early night before and after it to regain that balance.
Know your limits
You’re not obliged to be the last one clutching the karaoke microphone at your work party. Only you know what works for you, so don’t be afraid to spread your social commitments out to pace yourself. Cyclists are generally very good at managing their limits since most of our free time and energy is spent on riding. Planning ahead helps, so take time to sit down and assess your time and goals. Factor in time for yourself: evenings where you rest, and times devoted to training. 
Sweat It Out 
During December, exercise and riding can be something that slips from people’s schedules, when in reality it should be made a priority. Putting aside time to work out will not only help you avoid gaining weight, but it’ll reduce stress, help keep your immune system fighting fit and give you a break. As with most training, even in the off season, consistency is key - so even if you’re social schedule is booming, make time for those sweat sessions so that all of your hard work doesn’t go out the window.
Give Yourself A Challenge
While images of you resting by the fire with mulled wine in hand are conjured up, Rapha has put forth the call once more to get riders out on their bikes and burn off those party treats and holiday sweets! The Festive 500 is back and is a great way for some to get out of the house after spending all day with the family and feeling like a slouch.What is the challenge? Rapha challenges riders the task of completing 500km over the course of eight days from Christmas eve right up to New Year. Read more about Rapha Festive 500 to join the festivities.
Image Courtesy: @Rapha

Holiday Gift Guide For Babes On Bikes

04 December, 2017

Here it is! A Holiday Gift Guide on what to gift the cycling gal in your life. Whether they’ve been riding for six months or six years, I'm sure there is something cycling related they would love to rock on their bike in the new year. If you're lucky enough to have a cycling buddy, family, or friend who you want to treat or get into cycling, this guide has you covered. 
I want to make sure you’re totally prepared to get your cycling friends or family members the best gifts that make everyone in their cycling club green with envy! So I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite cycling kits, books, tech and gear that I couldn't possibly live without that would make great gifts. These recommendations are mostly geared to women (some could be used for men) and are based on personal experience and feedback from other cyclists that couldn't possibly live without them too. The best part about theses recommendations? They’re guaranteed to get good use!

So without much further ado, here are my top picks from stocking stuffers to heart throbbers that will make your cyclist #SMILEFORMILES!



Read - From knowing how sharp your tan lines should be, the latest kit and gear, to inspiring stories from women in cycling, these subscriptions and good reads cover it all.... The Rules / Bicycling Magazine / Casquette Magazine 

Experience - There is nothing better than a cycling adventure to explore new territory in. Whether it's a cycling holiday in the French mountains, Vietnam, or the West Coast of America, a cycling trip is always a winner and great way to escape the winter.... Adventure Cycling Association Guided Tour / Exodus Travels / Hooked On Cycling
Ride - They have probably been eyeing a new ride or need an upgrade. If you want to treat them big, a new set of wheels is sure to make them #SMILEFORMILES... Ruby Road Bike by Specialized
Accessories - Every #NEWBIKEDAY should have some accessories for saftey, hydration, and snacks... Machines For Freedom Logo Bottle / Knog Oi Bell Road Runner Burrito Bag /
Tech - Cyclist are hardcore when it comes to their performance and always trying to get better. Tech can help them get their, whether it's a Strava App subscription, an Apple watch to manage training, or a new Garmin cycling computer, these are sure to help them get from zero to hero.... Strava For Apple Watch Garmin Edge 520 Bike GPS
Nutrition - Going from zero to hero requires a lot of training. Fueling and recovery days should definitely be done like a hero too. Monthly subscriptions to healthy-delicious snacks and equipping them with hydration is sure to get them to their best.... Osmo Nutrition For Women / The Feed

I hope this guide helps you check off the lists of gifts to buy. If there are any recommendations you may need for beginners or more advanced cyclists, please feel free to send me an email. Happy shopping!

Ultimate Winter Cycling Guide

30 November, 2017

Depending on where you live, ‘winter’ can mean different things to different people – in New York, it means inches of snow and temperatures that plummet to below freezing for three months of the year. But even if you’re a casual winter cyclist and ride when you can (or feel like it) the more you ride the more you enjoy it. Being in condition for the new season means more enjoyable mileage the further down the road you get. And you don’t need to be a racer to have winter training plans or riding goals. Winter riding is all about base miles so that you can keep trim and ready for the harder training come Spring. So for now, don't worry about heart rates, power meters or targets, just get out and ride.

The other major part of winter riding is preparation: during the summer, throwing on a jersey and bib shorts and rolling out just after work seems as easy as filling a bidon. But when the nights are long and the mornings are frosty, motivating yourself to crawl out of bed and pull on several layers takes more strength. So make a commitment to the ride, check and embrace the weather, your kit and bike to be 100% correct the night before. And also, know the difference between a problem, and an excuse. Just think, are there really any barriers between you and the great outdoors? It is possible to ride in the snow and the dark if you have the right kit, equipment and preparation.

So to get you prepared, here are a few things to keep in mind when you're craving a ride in the winter wonderland.

Prep Your Ride

Check The Weather - I'm a weather channel enthusiast. I always keep an eye out for good weather days to plan kit and gear ahead of a ride. Check temperature, sunset, and wind. You want to be able to get a warmer ride in before it gets dark and keep in mind that winter winds make the temperature feel colder so you can better equip yourself and bike with this knowledge. If you have to ride a road bike, plan to ride routes that have been plowed, and give the roads some time to dry out in between snowfalls and rain. Fitness bikes, hybrids, and mountain bikes can all accept knobby studded tires and in many cases are already set to go for a winter ride no matter the weather. 

Tires - Riding through snow can get a bit tricky. The traditional tire dimensions of most road bikes, which tend to be quite skinny, do not cut it when the road is slick. Ride the widest tire that your bike can handle. Cyclocross bikes are a good alternative for slushy roads, as they are typically shod with wider tires. Although the difference might look insignificant, a wider tire substantially improves traction and control. The knobbier cyclocross tires help grip in snow, but for the deepest snow and ice, some riders swear by studded tires, which incorporate small metal studs in the tread.

Lights - Look for the brightest bike lights you can find, preferably those that cast a wide viewing angle. Rechargeable lighting systems work the best but are pricey. The less-expensive clip-on variety work well, too. Just keep the batteries fresh so they are at their brightest, and get the lights with the widest viewing angles and beams you can find.

Be Visible - Visibility is important for safety. It sounds like a basic idea but, on a snowy January afternoon, you might not realize how much you can fade into the whitewashed landscape. In general, I find that cars are much more respectful of keeping their distance in the winter months, but do all you can to help them see you even if it's not dark yet. Wearing reflective gear can help you stay noticeable on the road.

Fenders - Tires are guaranteed to throw slush, snow or rain up at you. Even if you're covered in Gore-Tex garments, the cold liquid will get heavy and start to pull heat away from your body. Fenders don't have to be extravagant, just basic enough to keep spray from hitting you. Front fenders should reach a couple of inches in front of and behind your fork. Rear fenders should either be full length or, if a clip-on variety is used, have the ability to angle up to compensate for less length. If you're riding in milder temperatures with rain, an Ass Saver can go a long way.

Panniers - If your bike commute is farther than a couple of miles, you're probably going to need to carry work clothes. There are 3 options for this: backpacks, messenger bags or panniers. For winter riding, I like to use a waterproof backpack. It offers a slim profile and a stable 2-strap configuration. A messenger bag has a single strap and, if not loaded carefully, can shift around and throw off your balance. This can be a nightmare when the ground is wet or snowy. Panniers are good but they do make your bike a little wider. This can be a concern when riding in winter because it's best to stay farther out from the curb then you would in the summer—which means that you are closer to cars than normal.

Winter Kit
Wool Is Your Friend - Good judgment goes a long way. Always remember that when you add wind chill, the “feels like” temperature can be much colder when riding than standing on your front porch. Staying dry is also crucial, so invest in a good quality wool socks and merino wool baselayersThe goal of a base layer is to keep you dry. Merino wool or any synthetic wicking fiber (such as polyester or nylon/spandex) works well. Cotton soaks up sweat and holds it next to your skin, making you feel cold, so avoid that.

Shell - For cold, dry conditions: I have found that a soft-shell jacket like Machine For Freedom's Day Break Wind Jacket makes the best outer layer. A soft shell keeps you warm and dry while allowing a little wind to penetrate—this helps to counter the heat your body produces. In milder conditions, you can get away with just a vest as an outer layer.

For cool, wet conditions: Riders in snowy and rainy areas such as the Pacific Northwest and Northeast require a good waterproof or water-resistant shell. Look for ample breathability and a longer cut in the back and arms so it won't ride up on you while cycling. Generous vents in the front and along the chest work best, but underarm zips work well, too. Most cycling rain shells come with 2-way zippers, which is a godsend on a bike. They allow you to zip open the jacket from the bottom while covering your arms and upper torso. This is a tremendous way to shed heat.

Tights A good pair of winter tights are essential if you are planning on cycling in cold weather. I love my MFF MVP bib tights in cooler temperatures from 45F+ but when it gets freezing, I have to pull out my thermal tights to keep my legs from cramping up in the cold. It's essential you keep your muscles warm as you don't want to injure yourself or fatigue too quickly.

Head CoverageYour head (along with your hands and feet) is prone to getting chilled and losing large amounts of body heat. It is also near impossible to warm up again just with physical activity. A wool cap (or helmet liner) worn under your helmet is sufficient for most days, with a balaclava or a wool buff carried just in case. Just make sure the cap you wear is thin enough to fit under your helmet. In rainy conditions, a cap with a visor helps to keep your forehead warm and water off your glasses. 

Gloves For milder areas where rain is a factor, wear waterproof gloves. Best are cycling gloves with grippy palms and fingers, since handlebars can get slippery when wet. Many companies make gloves suitable for cold-weather riding—don't get too hung up on the intended activity of the product. For instance, snowboarding gloves will keep you warm even if you are not snowboarding, but you must make sure you can still safely operate the shift and brake levers while keeping your extremities warm.

Shoes - The key to warm feet is to get some extra insulation into your footwear. Clipless bike shoes tend to fit small so all of your power can be transferred to the pedal stroke, but that limits the thickness of socks you can wear. A good rule of thumb is to go a half size bigger with your shoes. I wear a slightly oversized pair of shoes that I can use with a warm wool sock. I then slide on a pair of thermal waterproof/windproof booties over those. If you don't use clipless shoes and pedals, you can wear lightweight, waterproof hiking boots that accommodate thick socks.

Again, avoid cotton. Cotton socks just can't keep you warm when it gets wet, and you will get wet when riding in cold months (think road slush, rain, freezing rain or just the sweat produced from riding).

Eyewear - Also be aware of any uv light reflecting off snow, road salts, and sand that may impact your skin or eyes. Getting mud and grit in your eyes can be both painful and dangerous on a bike, and the chances of that happening are greatly increased in winter mud and rain. One way round the problem is to invest in some UV protective clear riding specs
Ride Safely

Be Predictable - As with your spring-through-fall rides, you should always ride predictably. Limit any sudden or erratic movements and use hand signals when turning or changing lanes. Remember to be as visible as possible.

Black Ice - In harsher conditions, watch out for areas with melted snow. Snow often melts in the sunlight but refreezes in lower temps or as the sun sets. These are likely places to find black ice, which, as with auto driving, is probably the single most dangerous aspect of riding a bike in below-freezing conditions. If you start sliding, just relax and go with it, you'll be wearing enough padding if you fall.

Road Conditions - In milder areas, you have less to worry about in the way of ice or road debris. But the same riding techniques apply: ride loosely and proactively, watching out for anything dangerous to your wheels and body. Ride as close to the curb as is safe, which due to road debris is not necessarily as close as is possible. Always pay attention and know what is around you at all times. 

Bike Maintenance

Clean Your Bike - Make sure to bring the bike indoors after a wet ride to let the water drain out. Trapped water can corrode frames, or freeze and burst the stays if not properly drained. This can even happen in unheated garages over the winter.

Winter is tough on a bikes exposed drivetrain. There is just too much sand, salt and debris on the road to keep your chain and derailleur free and working. Gears tend to get mucked up after only a week or so in my area. They can also accumulate slush as you ride, and when the temps drop to well below freezing that slush can start to freeze up when you are stopped at a light. Once that happens there is little to do but find a warm spot to let them defrost. Even in areas where the temperatures don't get below freezing, the winter months tend to bring on rain. Rain washes dirt and grime onto the road where your wheels will throw it into your bike's drivetrain.

Cleaning your bike is important, but if you are riding frequently and can’t get to it between rides, it isn’t absolutely necessary to clean it right away. However, keeping the bike clean will help prolong the life of the bike and the components, as well as make you more motivated to get back out for a ride. It is a good idea to clean the bike before use on an indoor trainer as well. Dirt and debris can easily be lodged inside the trainer and cause some unforeseen issues.
Other Tips

Hydrate and Eat - Remember to stay hydrated. This is just as important when it’s below freezing, and fatigue can often times sneak up on you. This includes bringing snacks along for the ride and staying ahead of fatigue. Food is key to your winter cycling comfort. Without sufficient food intake, your body doesn't have the right kind of fuel to produce heat or energy. In warmer climates, lack of food causes you to tire easily and lose power, but in cold conditions it can make staying warm next to impossible. Eat a meal or have an energy snack before you head out.

Skin Care - I wrote a whole post about Winter Cycling Skin Care you can read up on. Leaving any skin exposed can spell trouble, especially in frigid conditions. Frostbite is real, and it can set in pretty quickly. Be sure to moisturize, wear SPF, and cover up if it's freezing out.

Warm Up - A warm core is the best way to get out when you first start out on a ride. Before I get on my bike I do shoulder reaches, jumping jacks, and knee kicks and quad stretches to get my temperature and muscles warmed up. This helps me to fight that little voice saying "stay in, it's warm" and get going on my ride.

Regardless of the weather, you benefit greatly by riding a bike more. The exercise alone is an almost unimaginable reward. Instead of sedentary transport by car, the very act of going from place to place by bike gets your heart pumping, blood flowing and the calories burning, leaving you with a winter glow rather than a fade. At first, it might seem to be a daunting activity—bundling yourself up to ride through winter snow, ice, rain or even just cooler temperatures. But give it a chance... and you'll be ready to #OPTOUTSIDE all winter.

Hydrate Like A Girl With Osmo

29 November, 2017


When it comes to hydration, women have a whole other thing going on. Turns out, combating fluid losses may not be a one-size-fits-all proposition. Female physiology shifts with the monthly changes in estrogen and progesterone levels, and those fluctuations have an impact on our ability to hydrate. Plus, research shows that when women drink fluids according to the standard recommendations, they may not reach peak performance—probably because many of those recommendations were developed from tests on college-age guys. Who knew!
“Women are not small men,” says Stacy Sims, Ph.D., exercise physiologist–nutrition scientist. “They’re five times more likely than men to have GI problems when exercising, whether it’s bloating or gas or diarrhea. Women are also more likely to suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”
It all has to do with blood volume, says Sims, and for optimum performance, it’s ideal to keep it high. When a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels are high (during the luteal, or premenstrual, phase of her cycle), she loses around 8 percent of plasma volume—the watery part of the blood. The high progesterone also causes a resting rise in core body temperature of about 0.9°F, which can shorten the time it takes her to fatigue (and decrease her heat tolerance).
Sodium levels are also key, because that’s what helps transport water into the blood, but those elevated progesterone levels make this harder: Progesterone fights for the same receptors as aldosterone (the hormone responsible for excreting sodium), which increases the amount of sodium your body kicks out. And if you’re on the Pill or other hormonal birth control? The estrogen and progesterone in your system can be as much as six to eight times higher. So what's a girl to do?
Most of these female-specific fluctuations can be balanced and with the right hydration and smart eating, says Sims. Compared with men, women are more likely to need more sodium—as well as potassium, which works with sodium to get water into our blood—and different sugars to properly rehydrate. Glucose and sucrose are the easiest for us to digest; fructose often causes bloating because the female body has trouble metabolizing it as efficiently.

Start thinking about drinking before your workout. “Try to go into an exercise session feeling hydrated,” says Sims. If you’re gearing up for a high-intensity or endurance-based effort, pre-hydration (filling up anywhere from a few to 24 hours before) is crucial to help increase the sodium balance in your body. Then keep it in check by sipping throughout your workout. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking three to eight ounces of a sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes for workouts longer than 60 minutes, but Sims says it should be based on your body weight. (She suggests five to six milliliters per pound of body weight per hour—the lower end for cool conditions, the upper for warmer temps.)

"That’s a general starting point," says Sims. "It’s personal. If you’re working out for 45 minutes or less, it’s important to drink before and after, but hydration during exercise is not needed unless you’re low on body water to begin with—say, at the end of the day or when you’ve first woken up."

According to Sims, most recommendations for pre-, during, and post-exercise hydration and fueling are based on studies that use 18- to 22-year-old guys. Unlike men, we have high and low hormone phases throughout the month, during which estrogen and progesterone fluctuate, causing slight changes to metabolism, glycogen, and blood plasma levels, all of which affect performance, recovery, and how hard you can push during a workout. That’s why it’s hard to include women as test subjects for sports drinks and products. But by not studying females or only looking at us during a low-hormone phase, scientists and experts are only getting half the story.
When I first heard of Osmo Nutrition I learned that Machines For Freedom had partnered with them offering discounts for their women's line. I was in the market for an electrolyte that didn't upset my stomach and the more research I did, I followed the line back to Sims who is the founder of Osmo and created the women's line to specifically address hormonal challenges. Like many of us, I do feel the impacts of my hormonal fluctuations during my cycle so to help improve my power output and endurance, as well as avoid premenstrual-performance decline, I started using Sim's line of Osmo Nutrition For Women from preload, active, and recovery solutions. Osmo's women's specific line is made with 100% natural ingredients and formulated to counteract with hormonal changes. A bit about each mix:

  • PreLoad Hydration hyper-hydrates, crosses the blood-brain barrier and “counteracts hormone-induced drop in body water,”. It also increases power and endurance, and helps reduce muscle fatigue. Amino acids work alongside sodium to expand total body water, reduce central nervous system fatigue and dampen the breakdown effects of progesterone. This line is pineapple margarita, light salty flavor but not overbearing. I personally believe this one is an acquired taste that I developed into liking (tastes much nicer with a bit of honey added).
  • Active Hydration has a bit more glucose, sodium and potassium to increase power output and improve endurance. With an optimized ratio of glucose to sucrose and greater sodium and potassium levels per serving, it helps to offset reduced plasma volume and higher sodium losses that women experience. A light sweetness and mango flavor. I wanted something that tasted more like water without the sugar phlegmy texture in my throat, this hit the spot.
  • Acute Recovery has more protein and glucose. Women have a shorter acute recovery window – about 30 minutes – so it’s important to refuel shortly after training.  Post-exercise, this drink mix helps shift the woman’s metabolism into recovery mode, promote muscle repair and speed glycogen restoration. A honey and spice flavor, very delicious! I personally like adding this one in warm almond milk.
The bottom line: Woman up when you hydrate and you’ll be able to push through your training, no matter how intense. This is no "shrink it and pink it" product, Osmo products for women are based on scientific studies conducted on women; they uniquely address the needs of female athletes and deliver proven benefits. They haven't failed me yet and keep me strong on days of my period when I need to train. I may not be 100% on top of my effort but I'm definitely performing and recovering quicker than I have been. Thank goodness.

Images 1. @machineforfreedom 
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