The Race Never Ends

The following is a guest post, written by one of RJR’s readers. To find out more about contributing a guest article to this website, please review the posted guidelines by clicking here.

The race never ends.

Moments after the close of the 2012 season in late October, and having failed to procure a single victory in my first season as a bike racer, my thoughts have already shifted to next season.  Preparation begins almost immediately.

Although it won’t manifest itself in the physical form for months, the mental preparation begins as soon as the race ends. You begin to lay out your goals for next year, your off season training program, your diet, your sleep and recovery habits, which races you’re planning on doing, your goals for weight gain or loss, etc. The thoughts start coursing through your veins, infecting you, like poison, an acid maybe – eating away at you, consuming your every moment.

Fast forward to early March:

4am on a Saturday morning and I’m wide awake eating my third bowl of Special K with vanilla and almonds, standard pre-race meal when they’re this early.

At 6:30am, the first race of the 2013 season will begin in New York’s Central Park.  It will be 29 degrees when we receive our final instructions from the chief referee and that whistle goes.  Until that moment, I will be a nervous wreck – wondering what kind of shape guys will be showing up in, about the course, the tactics, about my form, my chances, about the freezing temps and how it would make so much more sense to go back to bed and wait ’till its June, but I don’t.

I ride.

Fast forward to April:

Tour of the Battenkill is fast approaching; billed as “America’s toughest race”, “the queen of the classics” they call it.

At my level, it will be 64 miles of brutality, punishing climbs, unpaved roads and sketchy descents. My training regimen is in full force, has been for weeks:

5 days or 12-14 hours per week on the bike-

2 of those days are hard intervals-

2 days of endurance miles with some climbing and fast tempo riding built in-

1 day recovery ride-


Miles upon miles upon miles ridden in frigid temperatures, lactic acid inducing intervals and hill repeats have brought me here, sitting on the bumper of my VW in an unpaved muddy parking lot at “The queen of the classics,” nervously stuffing Cliff Bars and energy gels into my jersey pockets, working out the math.

The race will take roughly 3 hours (give or take), which, for me, translates into 3 energy gels and 2 small Cliff Bars taken roughly 20 minutes apart to avoid a ‘hunger flat’. It’s 41 degrees with overcast skies (it had been raining earlier) – in other words; it would be perfectly normal to still be in bed, watching TV.

I wonder sometimes why we do this – is it worth all of the effort? All of the sacrifice?

The answer comes every time I race.

You train tirelessly in every weather condition imaginable, when it would make so much sense to just stay in. You torture your legs and lungs, cut back on junk food and beer; because at the end of every race, if you’ve done all you can, you will arrive in that moment – the one you’ve dreamt about.

When that finish line comes into view, you somehow, some way summon every last ounce of strength you have – your face twisting and contorting in uncontrollable pain – and it’s just you against them, or you against you, whatever the case may be. It is in that moment – that final 200 meters, after you’ve suffered, and suffered, and suffered, that everything…. Everything makes perfect sense.

How sweet it would be to taste victory – to raise your arms to the sky and bathe in glory; or how devastating to get so close and fall just a few meters short. It is in these two extremes of human emotion – sharing the same moment, in which you find the buzz. That buzz (which can only be realized after hours of pain) – that makes it all worthwhile. Whatever the result, the next thing is always the same.  Preparation for the next race has already begun…..the race never ends.

Ken Vadnais

About the Author:

Ken Vadnais is a store manager at Party City and an avid cyclist.  In his spare time he is a category 4 bicycle racer for New York’s Brooklyn Velo Force cycling team. Learn more about BVF through or follow Ken on Facebook

[Photos via: Allison F.]

Product Review: LOCK LACES™

Anyone who knows me as a runner knows that I absolutely loathe having to tie my shoes. In fact, whenever I received a pair of running shoes in high school, I would tie them once and never tie them again.


So, you could imagine my excitement when I was offered the opportunity to test out a product called LOCK LACES™ this past weekend.

LOCK LACES™: Comfortable & Efficient

It took me a total of maybe 10 minutes, from the time I read the directions and opened the package, to the point where I had both of my feet in my ‘locked and laced’ running shoes.

**As an added word of caution – when you are assembling your shoes with the new LOCK LACES system, make sure that your laces are cut to the length that you want PRIOR to inserting the laces into the closing clip. Once you snap the closing clip onto the ends of your laces, that clip isn’t going anywhere! (Trust me- I tried). I guess that’s a good thing though, because it means that your laces won’t ever become untied in the event that the lock fails.

Unlike regular shoe laces that often require tying and untying, loosening and tightening – the LOCK LACES were actually super comfortable. I walked around in them for a few minutes to test out the strength of the locking mechanism, and it was surprisingly sturdy. However, the true test would be taking them out for an actual run.

Out the door I went, for a very brief- 2 mile loop around the neighborhood. I ran at my usual 7-minute/mile pace, and I examined my shoes when I returned.

The laces hadn’t moved an inch.

When I wanted to take my shoes off, I simply depressed each of the locks between my forefinger and thumb (see image gallery at the end of this post), and slid the lock down the laces a little bit. Honestly, I could’ve just slipped my feet out of my shoes, but I figured that loosening them up a little would probably make it easier to slip on the next time.

Flexible and Secure

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to stop during runs with other people because someone’s laces became untied. Personally, my previous method for tying my shoelaces involved tying them in a knot and then weaving the excess down the neck of my running shoes (for added security). As of today though, I hopefully won’t have to do that anymore 😉

The best feature about these new laces lay in their elasticity. With each stride that I took, I could feel the laces expanding and contracting, constantly adjusting to each foot strike. This made for a much more comfortable run. Frankly, it felt like I was running in a new pair of running shoes.

It’s funny how you sometimes fail to realize that certain things are awry until something around you changes. That said, I almost immediately recognized the improved circulation in my feet. Now, I’m not saying that I tie my shoes too tight. If anything, it’s the opposite. Instead, the LOCK LACES offered comfort and security in a snug fit. My feet didn’t feel like they were being squeezed to death, nor did they feel like they were sliding around in my shoes.

Overall, LOCK LACES have won this runner’s vote; and I’ve already got my eye on my soccer cleats. No doubt – LOCK LACES will certainly be put to the test this week as I’ve got at least 50+ miles of ground to cover, running and a helluva’ soccer game coming up this Sunday.

*I’ll keep you posted!


LOCK LACES™ is the only patented performance lacing system engineered to meet the demands of endurance athletes such as runners, triathletes, marathoners, and walkers. They are also a national sponsor of both the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Fit Feet Program and The Challenged Athletes National Triathlon.

I was sent two packages of LOCK LACES : one in white and one in hot pink. However, for just shy of $8/pair, LOCK LACES are also available in the following fun colors:

  • Black
  • Brown
  • Cool gray
  • Cotton candy pink
  • Navy blue
  • Purple
  • Orange creamsicle
  • Red
  • Royal blue
  • Yellow
  • Sour green apple

The laces are distributed worldwide by Nathan Sports/Penguin Brands Inc. and are available at more than 2,000 retail locations across the U.S. including Big 5 Sporting Goods, Academy, Meijer, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. For more information, you can check out or keep up with the brand online via their Facebook  or Twitter.

The Best Regimen for College Fitness [Infographic]

Going away to college for the first time can be exciting and daunting at the same time. The following infographic demonstrates what you can do to stay fit while steering clear of the dreaded, “Freshman 15″.

**This infographic was submitted by one of RJR’s readers, Susan M. You can view the original source link here.

Running for Asthma Sufferers

The following is a guest article, submitted by one of RJR’s readers. If you are interested in submitting a guest post, please email me:, and put “Guest Article” in the subject area.

If you are like many asthma sufferers, you are probably limited to the physical activities and sports you can participate in, like running. Having the desire to run, but restricted by your personal health conditions can seem like a Catch 22 situation, as running with asthma has the potential to provoke an asthma attack. You might also feel like running with this condition can worsen your condition. Naturally, this is all very frustrating!

Believe it or not, however, running with asthma is possible. While you should confer with your doctor first before starting any sort of running routine, it is definitely something that can be accomplished. If your asthma is under control, and you are diligent about taking care of your body, you may be able to avoid the symptoms of asthma all together when you run.

Tips for Athletes with Asthma

If you have the desire to run but feel like your asthma may limit you, take a look at the following tips:

Take your medication.

Make sure you always take your asthma medication before hitting the pavement. Your medication works to relax the muscles that surround your airways. When running, your lungs are going to be working harder and need the extra help that medication provides.

Carry a rescue inhaler.

This is something that any doctor will tell you when you ask about running with asthma. You should never be without a rescue inhaler while you run.

Remembering your rescue inhaler could save you from a trip to the hospital due to an asthma attack while you are out. The inhaler can easily be placed inside the pockets of your running shorts, or even in a secure armband.

Watch the weather.

Before you go running, either check the forecast or step outside to get an idea of what the weather will be like. Sometimes, colder weather makes it harder for those suffering from asthma to breathe, and can also cause flare-ups when you run. When the weather conditions are not ideal, choose to run on the treadmill indoors, or take the day off if you have to.

Asthma sufferers should also check the pollen count. This also aggravates asthma, and it is best not to push your body.

Warm up and cool down.

Although many people do not like to take the time to warm up before they begin running or cool down for a few minutes afterwards, these practices should never be skipped for those suffering from asthma!

Walking before your run gives your body a chance to get used to being outside and allows your lungs to warm up, getting them prepared to work harder. Cooling down afterwards is equally important. Going straight from a hard run to sitting down and resting is not good on your lungs, as they do not have any time to relax slowly. Try walking for a few minutes after you run and your lungs will feel a lot better.

Use a vaporizer.

When you get back from a run, it can be a good idea to do something more to help your lungs recover. The perfect way to do this is by using a vaporizer.

Vaporizers are the perfect remedy for tired or overworked lungs, and are known to be helpful in dealing with asthma. After running, this soothes and relaxes your lungs, even if there was no threat of an attack.

Running might seem impossible when you battle asthma every day, but after speaking with your doctor and making sure that your asthma is under control, use these tips and get your running shoes laced up. Your lungs will appreciate the exercise!

About the Author:

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer, yoga enthusiast and mom of three in Southern California. In addition to using yoga as a method to improve her breathing, she has also learned a lot about the importance of air quality. Follow her on Facebook today!

Sleep Lost May Be Weight Gained

Sleep is more important that you probably think.

The past two weeks have been BRUTAL. Waking up every day at 5:10 a.m. so that I could be out the door and running with the girls by 5:45 was catching up to me because I wasn’t getting to bed until midnight or later each night.

The result?

My runs felt sluggish, I felt fatigued all day, and I almost always wound up taking an involuntary nap for 1-2 hours in the middle of the day (good thing I was working from home!).

[image by Cleaner Croydon on flickr]

Sleep and Weight Loss Studies

There have been numerous studies done on the effects of sleep deprivation and weight gain/loss. And not getting enough sleep can cause hormone imbalances, which can wreak havoc on both your appetite and your metabolism.

According to Dr. Michael Breus, Clinical Psychologist and Board Certified Sleep Specialist, sleeping less causes you to consume more calories. Some of the reasons he lists are outlined below.

How Sleep Loss Negatively Impacts Your Weight

  • Changes to your glucose metabolism – causes your body to store the calories you consume, storing them as fat vs. burning them for energy
  • Increased production of cortisol – a stress-hormone that stimulates your appetite, prompting you to eat more
  • More time for food – because if you’re not sleeping, you have more time to eat [source]

According to Breus, there are two key hormones that factor into the sleep loss vs. weight gain equation: grehlin and leptin.

Grehlin is the hormone responsible for letting us know when to eat, while leptin is the hormone responsible for telling us when to stop eating. When we are sleep deprived, we have more grehlin and less leptin. Breus continues:

It’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly. [source]

Nurses’ Health Study

One of the longest sleep/weight studies ever conducted was the Nurses’ Health Study, which followed 68,000 middle-age American women for 16 years. According to the results of the study, women who slept five hours or less were 15 percent more likely to become obese.

A later version of the study, which looked at a cohort of younger women who worked rotating night shifts at work, found that the risk for developing diseases such as diabetes and obesity were significantly greater due to irregular circadian rhythms, caused by the nature of their jobs. [source]

University of Colorado Study

In a study conducted at the University of Colorado, sleep researchers tracked the sleep, metabolism and eating habits of 16 healthy men and women for two weeks. The subjects stayed in a monitored room that allowed researchers to record specific information – from the amount of oxygen they used to every single bite of food that was eaten. Strict sleep schedules were imposed, and the goal was to determine how one week of inadequate sleep would affect a person’s behavior, weight and physiology.

During the first week of the study, half of the subjects were allowed to sleep nine hours each night, while the other half stayed up until midnight and slept only five hours. All of the subjects were given access to unlimited amounts of food. During the second week of the study, the roles were switched.

The results of the study showed that the sleep deprived subjects actually had an increase in their metabolism, burning an extra 111 calories. However, it soon caught up with them as they ended up eating significantly more than those in the study who were allowed a good night of rest. When the researchers reversed the roles and allowed the sleep deprived subjects to get more sleep, they began to lose some of the weight they had gained during their first, sleep-deprived week. [source]

The Annals of Internal Medicine Report

Last fall, The Annals of Internal Medicine reported on a study by University of Chicago researchers, who found that lack of sleep alters the biology of fat cells. In the small study — just seven healthy volunteers — the researchers tracked the changes that occurred when subjects moved from 8.5 hours of sleep to just 4.5 hours.

After four nights of less sleep, their fat cells were less sensitive to insulin, a metabolic change associated with both diabetes and obesity. According to Matthew Brady, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and the senior author on the study, the lack of sleep aged the metabolic structure of fat cells by about 20 years. [source]

7 Positive Effects of Healthy Sleep Habits

Increases your mental and physical alertness

Perform better at your job; drive safer when you’re on the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009, the highest number of fatal, single-car-run-off-the-road-accidents were due to sleep deprivation!

Improves your mood

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that well rested people tend to be happier.

Increases your energy

When you are well rested, you tend to have more energy – another no-brainer.

Keeps your heart healthy

Studies have linked sleep with your body’s blood vessels. The more sleep you get, the better your blood pressure and cholesterol tend to be, which are two risk factors for heart disease. Therefore, try to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Reduces stress

When your body is sleep deprived, it produces stress hormones, which (unfortunately) causes an increase in blood pressure and cortisol. This can put you at an increased risk for heart attack, stroke; and ironically, it makes it harder for you to fall asleep.

Reduces inflammation

People who get 6 hours of sleep or less per night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more sleep.

May help you lose weight

Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sections of your brain. When you are sleepy, certain hormones are at work, and when you are sleep deprived, these hormones may also be at work to drive your appetite.

[image by phalinn on flickr]

Ways to Improve Your Sleep

To help improve your sleep, try some of the following tips. Have additional advice that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it in the comments section!

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine at least 3 hours prior to bedtime.
  • Sleep in a dark room.
  • Establish a healthy sleep routine and maintain it.
  • Exercise regularly at least 5 days a week.
  • Avoid high-tech distractions in the bedroom.
  • Snack healthy at night.
  • Do 10 minutes of foam rolling before bed, focusing on the legs and upper back.

I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?  – Ernest Hemingway


  • Bouchez, C. The dream diet: Losing weight while you sleep. WebMd. Retrieved from:
  • Breus, M. (June 2011). How sleep affects weight loss. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from:
  • Harvard School of Public Health. The Obesity Prevention Source: Sleep. Retrieved from:
  • Mann, D. Coping with excessive sleepiness. WebMd. Retrieved from:
  • Parker-Pope. T. (March 2013). Lost sleep can lead to weight gain. New York Times. Retrieved from:
  • Patel SR, Malhotra A, White DP, Gottlieb DJ, Hu FB. Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. Am J Epidemiol. 2006; 164:947-54.

Further Reading:

  • Breus, M. (November 2011). The sleep-weight connection: gender matters. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: