Become a fat burning endurance machine!

This article takes about 10 minutes to read, enjoy!

This article is for the ones of you who enjoy training in the mountains, love endurance and prefer moving uphill then flat!

Being able to move faster, for longer, in steeper terrain without the legs burning is the dream of every mountain endurance athlete. That dream can quickly become a reality with some understanding of training principles and basic exercise physiology… lets get started!

CRASH COURSE on muscle metabolism:
When you start exercising sugar/carbohydrate burns first, fat is harder to access, you have to go through each energy system before you reach fat, the last one to be recruited. It can take 10 minutes for some, an hour for others and never for most!

Order we go through the energy system when we start exercising:
ATP-CP / blood glucose & muscle glycogen / glycogen & free fatty acids

Carbohydrate + fat = energy

Fat is stored far from muscles, carbohydrate is stored in the muscles as muscle glycogen, in the blood as blood glucose, and delivered to organs, e.g. importantly to the brain as brain glucose.

You will notice when you start exercising, the first few minutes your breathing is higher so is the heart rate, after a few minutes all settles… you are going from ATP-CP to the glycogen process, which is more intense with less oxygen available, when you get into the aerobic system, more oxygen is circulating, breathing regularizes. One of the reason we warm-up!

Fat is inexhaustible, we have endless reserve even in the very lean endurance athletes.
Sugar runs out quickly and we can only store so little at a time.
To burn sugar you need fat and vice versa.

Carbohydrates and fats are the main fuel we use during endurance training. The length and intensity of the training session, the fuel/energy available, and your fitness level are the main factors that will influence how much of each of the energy source will be used.

To go longer and further while maintaining steady energy and desired pace while using fat as the main fuel.

A few things you need to know about fat burning enzymes:
We are not born with fat burning enzymes, we have to build them, but how? Need a good base of endurance fitness, a history with quality months of consistent training. The enzymes take around six to eight weeks to build, it’s called fat adaptation, your training needs to be based on endurance and over distance training.

Fat burning enzymes are fragile they will go on strike if you exercise too hard, or too often, and if you are inconsistent with your training. The more consistent and smarter you are with your training the more efficient your enzymes will become: you will be able to exercise at higher intensity for longer and  predominantly use fat as the main fuel.

If you are inconsistent with your training from day to day, week to week, or stop exercising for a few weeks, enzymes gets destroyed, they have big egos; you don’t use them, they disappear!

For mountain endurance athletes the training needs to be specific to the terrain, climbing! It’s not by doing 3 workouts in the valley and one at higher elevation you will become a fat burning mountain endurance machine! You need to put the distance in, workouts around 2-3 hours, with easy to moderate intensity. But still have shorter workouts, averaging 60 minutes to fine tune speed, strength & power.

When an athlete becomes efficient at using fat, since sugar reserved are limited for everyone, it can be saved for the steeper/challenging terrain, and/or for last portion of a very long workout and during competition. You will notice the talented elite mountain athletes can maintain a fast pace for a long period of time, they are the formula 1 of fat burning engines!

When intensity is short and high, sugar is the main fuel and minimal oxygen is required, the anaerobic system kicks in when the aerobic metabolism can no longer meet the ATP demand of the muscles. That drop in ATP production is prompted by the accumulation of hydrogen ions along with lactate in the blood.
Burning sensation in the legs and feeling an intense drop in energy. The only option is to slow down, if not, severe fatigue will take over for the rest of the workout and it will take longer to recovery from the session, and with a chance of some leg soreness the next day! Training regularly this way predispose overuse injuries, which is common with endurance athlete.

Mountain endurance athletes are most limited in their endurance ability to deal with this type of fatigue.

The fitter and more efficient an athlete is at using fat, he/she will be able to train at higher intensity, for longer and further while maintaining this physiological paradise! Your legs will feel stronger for longer since you have more blood and oxygen available to the working muscles. The by-product of fatigue is diminished and shows up more in extreme situations.

Does not mean you hike for 5hrs, run for 3hrs and climb non-stop 1500m that you are efficient at using fat.

How can I train to change my metabolism to be more efficient at using fat?
First you have to evaluate your training regimen, how many days a week do you get out, for how long, the terrain, the sport, any variation in intensity and duration from day to day, any progression from week to week, any results from month to month?

The muscular and cardiovascular adaptations are tremendous when you start doing long, quality and regular over distance sessions. Walking uphill, stopping for 5 minutes to chat every 45 minutes, and training twice a week won’t do it. Anything under two hours, usually is not long enough to stimulate the particular enzymes.

Too much volume, too many hours in a week with not enough recovery won’t influence your metabolism in a positive way. It’s often a mistake endurance athlete do. It’s all in the quality of each workouts and balancing your training regimen; from short to long, and easy to intense sessions.

Lets look at the difference between endurance and over distance training:
ENDURANCE Training: up to 2 hours
This component is extremely important for developing and maintaining aerobic capacity, accomplished at low to moderate intensity with some tempo change for some sessions.

It accomplishes many things:
It increases your body’s ability to consume oxygen, increases the size and the number of mitochondria in muscle cells, increases the size and numbers of blood capillaries, and improves aerobic enzymes for carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Endurance exercise improves your body’s ability to deliver the goods to your muscles so that they adapt, grow stronger, and become better at prolonged effort. You become more efficient at using fat as a fuel.

OVER DISTANCE (OD) Training: over 2hrs
Here lies the heart of training for ultra mountain distances. The greatest percentage of the total training volume is reserved to over distance. OD does not mean overdoing it!
The difference between endurance and OD is the amount of time you spend training. For most OD workouts they usually exceeds 2-3 hours. Although the intensity is low at the beginning, it progresses throughout the session:

The volume becomes your intensity, one gains mental toughness from OD training!

The SECRET to OD training is in the physiological changes: Basically, there are two adaptations the body makes in response to OD training that you don’t get from endurance training:

Training the body to increase it’s efficiency for releasing and burning free fatty acids over long distances, as enzymatic and hormonal changes in the muscles cells, which make it easier for fat to be utilized as fuel during longer workouts.

Improvement in the body’s circulatory characteristics in the peripheral muscles; the muscles that do the work in long intense sessions will move waste products away and bring new blood, oxygen, and fuel to the working muscles, your legs will stay fresh for longer!

The body will be able to function at higher intensities for longer periods without the debilitating effects.

A solid aerobic base is very important before you start OD training. I recommend a minimum of 8-12 months of solid endurance with quality/speed and uphill training before getting into OD. All depends of your fitness level and how consistent you have been with your training regimen for your sport. OD training does not mean moving slow or walking, a certain pace and consistency is required to gain any benefits. Know your limitation, where you stand and build it up progressively. Both, endurance and OD have crucial role to being a well rounded mountain endurance athlete.

The importance of QUALITY VERTICAL TRAINING, positive & negative, for mountain endurance athletes:

Since the body faces the extra battle against the force of gravity, these workouts, shorter and more intense,  increase speed, strength, power, muscular endurance all at once. It recruits the specific muscles used for climbing; hamstrings, the gluteus and calf/lower leg muscles, and eccentric strength for the descents. Uphill training also increase leg oxygenation.

Quality vertical & over distance training are the two most overlooked and misunderstood aspect of mountain endurance training.

Get inspired, review your training regimen, remember it’s all about quality and consistency. If needed, seek guidance through a certified coach who has endurance training experience. A few factors can influence fat adaptation on top of quality training; nutrition, fueling & hydration and recovery, look for future articles!

You need to love your backyard since the mountains become your playground and some workouts will have to be done very early in the morning or in the
dark evenings.

It’s more about a lifestyle than training!

Get inspired!

Enjoy the snow, the vertical and your fitness,
Thanks for reading… Chloë

Our 2018 Mountain Running Camp Schedule is live, have a look!
Bimonthly educational articles for the passionate mountain athlete – New for 2018


Listen to your gut and body!

This article is a quick read, about 10 minutes grab a piece of paper and pen, enjoy!

THE BODY constantly message you by priorities what you need.
It’s fabulous, it’s a free service the brain offers you and no app needed! The bonus and most important of it all, it prioritize what you need. It’s a great platform to depend on to make daily/weekly decisions to stay healthy, strong, energized and to avoid any repercussion.

For athletes it’s a message your brain sends that refers to slowing down, extra rest, maintenance is needed, or simply that all is going great especially if you are constantly waking up energized, feeling strong when you train, no soreness, never injured and see progressive strength/endurance gains, weeks after weeks.

Needless to say we all go through ‘weaker’ phases, which we receive important messages but do we listen to our body, do we adapt?

Look at your last week, what messages did you get?
Write them down and highlight the most frequent ones.
In the morning, throughout the day, before, during and post workout, overnight… pain,
soreness, hunger, sleepy, energetic, thirsty, wired…
Did you do anything about it?

You feel tired – you need rest
You are sleepy – you need sleep
You are hungry – you need healthy & nutrient meals
Always injured – you are either overtraining; too much volume, too much intensity or not enough recovery, or all of the above!
You have recurring injury in the same spot – you are not taking care of your muscular weakness and/or musculoskeletal imbalances and/or overlooking rehabilitation.
You have sore quadriceps after skiing – you need to build eccentric strength
You feel empowered – you are peaking
Your legs feel strong – your training is going great
You pee all the time – you are dehydrated and putting stress on liver & kidney
You have great energy – you are well balanced
You are constantly irritated…
The list goes on…

Important: an injury is an overlooked message!

WHEN SOMETHING IS FUNCTIONALLY wrong or you feel an uncomfortable sensation, trust your instinct.
The body does not lie, more than often we just decide to ignore it. You feel a sharp pain in your knee every time you jump, heard a snap when you rolled your ankle, feel a sharp pain in your butt every time you sit, constant sore neck, regular shooting pain down your leg, sore throat for 2 weeks, your stomach aches while you run, slight soreness in your hamstring when you ski, sleep 10hrs but always exhausted… do something about it, don’t pretend it’s not happening.

Discomfort can be mild or severe, both can be important, don’t underestimate it. Obviously It can come from a sudden trauma, a fall, but also from doing too much or not enough! It can also come from a disease or an infection, blood test can be a good answer at times.

Training puts tremendous force on the body – Often what feels right might be too much.

It does not necessarily mean you are injured, a few days rest, a good sport massage will take care of it. At times an MRI or X-ray can save you days of discomfort, stress, unknown, and foremost further damage, and an action plan can be put into place.

YOU DON’T HAVE TIME to listen to your body!
Multi-tasking between family, work, travel, social life and training often leads to ignoring what your body is telling you – you are running on pure adrenaline, which long term can be a toxic drug!

Often what feels right to an athlete/individual does not mean it’s the best, it’s a perception of what you need and want so it feels right, but the body can already be fatigued by then. It’s important to make the difference between a healthy and an overtaxing training session.

Also think of jet lag/long travels, illness – cold/flu, multiple late nights, racing every weekend, pressure with high volume training, too much alcohol, fatigued, malnourished, regularly sleep less than 6hrs, skipping meals, training on low calories, training when exhausted….

If you don’t listen…
You slowly chipped away at your body and forced rest will be next.
Ego is the ultimate killer, nobody is invisible.

Continuous training when exhausted is a huge taxation on the body, overtraining symptoms can come next followed by an injury or an immune system disorder in the worst case scenario.

Obviously we all go through stages that we don’t feel our best, this is when we need to be aware an adjust our training and daily routine accordingly. But to continuously push the body in a negative high speed routine is extremely detrimental to your fitness and long term health.

Weakness in not an injury

Same goes when recovering from an injury, does not mean it feels good to be back in the gym for 1hour each day that it’s a good thing for your body!

I once worked with a professional ballet dancer who was recovering from ankle surgery, pain and inflammation would not go away, he kept telling me that his ‘training’ (time he would spend in the gym doing rehab drills & exercises) felt good. He was convinced he was not doing too much- the truth he was doing way too much for the stage he was at. What felt good to him was standing, training, sweating, using his body. But his body was overworked, not healing, he was doing too much of rehab, more than I was prescribing.

STRENGTHENING is a natural process
Strength is crucial in the entire chain and most people have no methodical approach to building strength or they think they do! Doing core exercises, lifting weights, performing squats or push-ups regularly, or skate skiing 4 times a week won’t give you all the strength needed.

Functional strength is about dissecting movements to perfection and activating all muscles involved around the joints to maintain proper mechanics, be stable, mobile, powerful with great stamina for repeated hours of sport specific training; running, skiing, climbing, riding…

How do we do this?
With sports specific functional drills & exercises that challenges your musculoskeletal weaknesses to build dynamic speed, strength and power needed for the sport. You create a body stronger than the actual demand of the sport!

For example to have strong ankles it’s important the entire chain leading down to it is also strong so while the ankle is being challenged (toe-off running, power at the hip in cycling, a ski turn); the gluteus medius/maximus, quadratus femoris, adductor longus, soleus, … they all need to engage at the right time so proper mechanics can be executed,  it’s about sequencing!

For climbers, finger board, TRX & myofascial training are good examples.

A maintenance routine should be part of our daily routine, like training. Whatever your physical vulnerabilities are, do something about it. Do not use excuses like I have a bad back, over mobile ankle, tight hamstrings, sore ITB, pain in my achilles… or I don’t have time, make the time!

Seek help and guidance with the right person: qualified coach or trainer, sport med doctor, sport rehab expert, a qualified friend…
It could be as simple as daily foam rolling to the tender area, spray cold water on legs after workout, take a recovery drink after each training sessions, heel raises to maintain  lower leg strength… or book one massage every 2 weeks and so on.

The ‘quick fix’ mentality gets you nowhere; more than often you don’t need a cortisone shot, and injection or miracle remedies, you need rest!

When you train regularly, months after months and years after years, your sport is embedded in your muscle memory. Train properly and you will feel great, stay injury free and see on-going results. But only if you listen to the daily messages your body sends you- listen and do something about it!

Get inspired and take good care of yourself!

Thanks for reading… Chloë

Our 2018 Mountain Running Camp Schedule is live, have a look!
Bimonthly educational articles for the passionate mountain athlete – New for 2018



A passion project

Creativity is sitting in all of us (like strength!) but it’s not always explored; some more than others due to talent, exposure, or opportunities.
Creativity is in every aspect of life not just in art.

To exercise, train, race, to plan adventures, to push our mental & physical boundaries is no different than writing or drawing. It’s a form of creativity but only if we let it be.

Create what you want to be and do.
But do we let it be? really?

Exercising & training comes in different forms and for different reasons; loose weight, meet people, feel better, a goal, feed the inner ego, pressure, be fitter, compete, be stronger, grow, feel more or to forget!

Training can also become part of a to do list a plan, a vision, a conversation with oneself and others, great intentions, wanting to… always a great beginning but following up can be very difficult for some; daily schedule, work load, family, weather, lack of resources & guidance, not today but tomorrow-
That’s when it’s time to start procrastinating the negative and focus on doing:
I’ll sleep in tomorrow and get up this morning, and repeat!

Motivation is what gets you started, habits is what keeps you going.

Training can be a very controlled environment between hours of training, intensity of sessions, number of vertical climbed, distance traveled, planning races & adventures. From gear to nutrition and structured training plans, do we breath? can be intense!

We want to achieve, test our limits.

An then we have social medial, we share, we expose, we see, we get inspired, we inspire others, we read, it’s constant, it’s full on. Some may feel lazy, even under achiever by the constant feeds.

The most amazing aspect of exercising, especially outdoors, is the liberation of everything else happening that day, it keeps us in the present, it’s quality time, solo or shared, the environment is inspiring, it can be so relaxing even if we are ‘training’, it creates energy for the rest of the day, puts a big smile on your face and brings up deep emotions.

Dive into those deep emotions and feelings, explore and check out from everything else in life for that hour. Keep a regular outing/workout, every week or 10 days, go do what you love best either on your bike, on trail, on skis, on rock, on snow but don’t start your Strava, go alone, move forward at the pace that feels right on that day, not what your training says you are suppose to do, that session is not part of the training plan:)

Write about it in a journal, what you saw, ideas that came up, projects you want to do, think, explore, be creative, make it a passion project, work on it for a month, once a week.

Why? I can’t tell you, you can answer that, we all exercise for different reasons and we each have a wide range of interests and knowledge.
But we all have special skills, we can all be creative and many people could benefit from it. Eventually share your passion project whatever it ends up being, it can be via a blog, in your community, or simply with close friends or with family.

Passion projects…
healthy meals recipe booklet
start drawing, make a calendar
yoga pre-workout mini routine video
backcountry safety handouts
give some of your beautiful photos you took that month
or simply learn something new and implement it in what you do!
the list goes on…

Last point lets share our mountains skills, fitness and experience but not in a social media way.
We all have friends that don’t have our fitness, might need some support, motivation to get out the door. They might not be fit like you or genetically gifted like so many. Take the time, invite them out for an easy run, a ski, initiate them to a new sport, you’re a guide? take a day off, introduce a friend to the backcountry and mountain safety. Get involve, no pressure, non-competitive, for the fun of it, to share and give.
Inspire others!

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. DaVinci

Extra note: Yesterday I was in Chamonix doing a few errands and ran into my friend Jonathan. We took the time to have a coffee and catch-up. Jonathan is an experienced mountain guide, a very talented climber and a natural endurance athlete, very humble. When I asked him what he had been up to, his face light up and he started sharing… He had Just taken a seminar from the legend Italian mountain guide Paulo Caruso, who shares methodologies and unconventional teaching and learning skills that best develops the motor skills in climbing and in all mountain sports. What was most amazing was listening to my friend being so inspired, excited about what he had learned and how and why it will impact for the best his guiding abilities and also his own.

I had just finished writing this article but pretty much says it all, it can happened at any level from the most experienced to the new comer, get inspired!

Thanks for reading… Chloë

Educational articles for the passionate mountain athlete – New for 2018!


The Hamstring muscle: the neglected mountain endurance machine!

Winter mode is just around the corner and we are all excited to change gear, train differently, enjoy fresh powder instead of running downhill for 1000 meters!
Late November is a good time to focus on our bodies, assess where we are at after the summer/fall season, change and/or add some new training techniques, and hopefully inspired to take care of your precious body!

The goal of this article is to give some valuable insight on the hamstring muscle which plays an important role to our pleasure and performance in the mountains, especially moving uphill. Often overlooked, focus being more on the quadriceps, the gluteus group, the back extensors and the core muscles. Or we simply prioritize cardio training without thinking of our musculoskeletal imbalances and sport specific needs.

The hamstring is a posterior upper leg muscle, it has a tendency to be abused and overworked due to a multitude of factors. It’s vulnerable to trauma due to the anatomical arrangement whereby it crosses both the hip and knee, and due to the large leverage that acts through the hip joint during sports like skiing, running, hockey, and skinning uphill. It’s the number one injury in the athletic world and 50% of all hamstring injuries are recurring.

Musculoskeletal imbalances create tremendous tension and stress on the hamstring and is one of the prime factors why hamstring injuries are so frequent.

For example: weak or inhibited gluteus maximus- the large butt muscle, weak calf muscles, tight hip flexors and TFL (tensor fasciae latae), all creating a forward drop on the pelvis and putting tremendous tension on the lower back and the hamstring attachment site on the ischial tuberosity- the butt bone. Creating rigidity and weakness in the belly of the muscle and tension on the tendinous attachments. Placing it in a weak and vulnerable position for any sports.

The role of the hamstring
It’s the main torque provider for knee flexion, helps control tibial rotation (lower leg bone) during single leg stance while skiing and running for example, also a posterior knee stabilizer, hip extensor- active role in propulsion; the last phase of your ski turns, push off skinning uphill or running flat fast!

The hamstring is put into a high force load in the final swing / early phase of stance,back leg coming forward just before hitting the ground, especially when moving fast while skinning or running uphill. Overstriding is also stressful on the hamstring adding great lengthening force on it; the back leg is further away than the front leg.

The hamstring needs great range of motion in outer range (when hip & knees flex simultaneously), good length and elasticity (being stretch and bouncing back to it’s original length e.g: running, landing on the ground and pushing off – like a fall from a rope), stability that originates from pelvis and lumbar region, eccentric & concentric strength (see below for clarification), and great endurance capacity, it’s en endurance muscle not a weight lifter!

The reasons for suffering hamstring injuries are multifactorial. Very important and often overlooked the hamstring needs to be aerobically fit like your cardio, good resistance to fatigue, great endurance, and optimal elasticity. It’s not a power muscle like the hip flexors or the quadriceps, it’s not build to continuously generates high forces but has the long fiber type that likes to challenge the distance, maintain repetitive loads, especially when climbing uphill.

The hamstring, gluteus maximus and the calf muscles are the prime mover when going uphill – they are the  climbing muscles!

Squats and lunges do not isolate the hamstrings an they are very challenging exercises to perform with good techniques. Hamstrings specific exercises need to be part of our weekly routine to make it efficient & healthy for the up and coming ski season, stay injury free and well balanced with the quadriceps, gluteus and hip flexors.
High repetition with minimal load is best, usually body loading is enough. It’s the performance technique of the exercise execution- good form that is crucial.

Any exercise can be harmful to the body if not perform correctly and when speaking of the hamstrings, even more so.

Exercises like the Diver, single leg power knee-up, modified single-leg squat are examples of good eccentric endurance loading exercises, which the hamstring need for functional strength. The full Romanian deadlift is a high risk exercises to the hamstring by the way!

The hamstring is most vulnerable when the upper body- torso and pelvic are forward with hip and knee extended, and also when skinning or running uphill with body leaning forward, hip over-flexed and when running uphill with hands on thighs.

Tips to keep your hamstrings healthy when training uphill: maintain quick leg cadence, look uphill- do not lean forward with your torso, open chest, use your arms starting at the shoulder to drive the opposite leg, body weight underneath your hips- not in the forefoot since it weakens and pre-fatigues the hamstring and the calf muscles, and make sure your heels touch the ground, exception when the grade is very steep!

Healthy hamstrings are crucial for power on snow and also help prevent & protect the ACL & MCL (knee ligaments), the patellar tendon and other soft tissues from injuries.

Lets look at some factors that can increase the risk of injury:
Identify your strength & weaknesses!

Risk factors:
Poor sport specific technique
Sudden acceleration
Sudden change of direction
Falling forward
Poor fitness
Short & tight hamstring
Too much too soon in early season

Fatigue factors:
Poor endurance capacity of the hamstring, outcome; optimal length becomes shorter.
Muscle elasticity shortens/decreases with duration or intensity of workout.
Hamstring fatigue faster then quadriceps and hip flexors.
Muscular fatigue absorbs less energy, greater impact force and strain on the muscle.
Not enough recovery between days/workouts

Hamstring injuries often occur at the end of a workout, during competition, or return to sport after time away, too much volume-intensity too soon.

Predisposing factors for suffering a hamstring injury:
Previous injuries e.g: knee ligaments, lower back, achilles tendinopathy, calf strain.
Strength deficits
Poor stretching techniques
Poor ski/skinning/running form e.g: uphill and downhill!
History of anterior cruciate ligament- ACL surgery

Muscular imbalances risk factors for suffering a hamstring injury:
Poor hip extension
Shorten hip flexors & TFL (tensor fasciae latae)
Poor pelvic control (pelvis dropping forward)
Dorsiflexion range restriction (ankle and knee flexion simultaneously)
Ineffective hamstring (tight, short and fatigue)
Imbalances between quad concentric strength and hamstring eccentric strength

Best way to train the hamstring…. but first a bit of biomechanics…
When running flat, sprinting or skinning uphill, the hamstrings undergo a stretch-shortening cycle, with the lengthening phase occurring during the terminal swing and shortening phase commencing just before foot/ski strike the ground, and continuing throughout the stance or glide phase. Secondly, the biomechanical load on the hamstring muscles is found to be greatest during the terminal swing- when the muscle is loaded eccentrically, what does that mean?

Lets review:
Difference between concentric & eccentric contraction in the hamstring:
A concentric contraction, which refers to shortening of the muscle.
example: leg curl – hip extension with knee flexion (leg-curl machine)
An eccentric contraction, which refers to increased tension of a muscle-tendon unit during lengthening.
example: single leg stance, flexing at the hip with knee extended and torso moving forward in a neutral position (modified Romanian deadlift).

3 best ways to load the hamstring in a safe environment:
High load posterior chain exercise: modified Romanian deadlift
High volume eccentric exercises: the Diver, modify singly leg-squat
Stretch shortening phase exercise: laying prone leg curl with band.

Ski and skinning specific drills for the hamstrings:
Loading the hamstring in a functional way for the ski season
A few examples:
Fast single leg hops with acceleration: 2-3 quick jumps, fast reaction time, followed with 10 seconds acceleration sprint.
Double power leg jump forward: 2-4 forward jump (as far as possible), quick ground reaction, focus up and forward followed by quick acceleration 10 seconds sprint.
Accelerating fast forward for 10 seconds with quick change of direction, running backwards- reaching back with the heels, to the start position and repeat 4 times.

Stretching a tight hamstring can actually make it worst especially if you’re aggressive and putting lots of force/load & over-stretching it at the same time. The goal is not to touch your toes!

If you feel pain, discomfort, tightness and numbness while stretching or executing exercises, its a good sign you are going too far into the stretch, and/or have poor form or doing a stressful exercise for the hamstrings. You put the hamstring in a vulnerable position and can create micro fiber tear that will damage the tissue.

A good stretch to do when you have tight hamstrings is to lay on your back on the floor, put your legs up against the wall, the closer your butt will be to the wall the more intense the stretch will be, adjust accordingly. It’s a safe position, pelvis is stable, the force of gravity increase circulation, eliminates some toxin and relaxes the tense fascia surrounding the muscle. Hold for a minute or more. You can also add leg spread and also hold for while.

Hydration is crucial in the winter and easily forgotten. It helps keep the connective tissue and muscles supple, flexible and helps reduce the chance of getting ‘stiffer’. So drink lots of water each day, and also before, during and after skiing, cimbing and skinning!

Some good tips if you have a tendency to have tight hamstrings:
Spray very cold water directly on the muscle before each shower: around 30 seconds
Only stretch mildly and never to pain
Foam rolling but only if it makes you feel better, it’s not proven its advantageous for the hamstring like it is for the quadriceps and other muscle groups.
Regular deep tissue massage
Eccentric loading exercises & drills
Get a professional musculoskeletal assessment done by a sports rehab specialist.
Come to the Chamonix Vertical training sessions!

A few tips when skinning or running uphill… be good to your hamstrings!
Maintain quick stride, look uphill, do not lean at the waist, chest & shoulder upward , focus on pulling the back leg forward instead of just driving with the knees, make sure the heels touch the ground, exception when it’s too steep.

The hamstring is predominantly a climbing muscle with some outstanding aerobic capacity, which for us mountain endurance athletes, it should be a priority to take good care of them. It’s a phenomenal muscle but vulnerable, special attention is needed!

Get inspired, take good care of your hamstrings!

Thank you for readingChloë
Educational articles for the passionate mountain athlete – New for 2018!

If you live in the Chamonix area, I coach twice a week SkiVert training which is everything your hamstrings need to get ready for the ski and skinning season!
Come learn great drills and intervals for uphill & downhill. Everyone welcome.
Tuesdays: 6:15 to 7:15
Thursday: 18:45 to 19:45
Location: les Planards


Understanding pain, tightness, soreness and how to make it better.

Tissue tolerance is the foundation of the body’s ability to perform and protect itself from injury. The inefficiencies and movement dysfunctions can cause the tissue to work harder and burn more energy. The fatigue creates more stress, requires more effort and at times pain.

Pain is not a signal from damaged tissue informing us we have been injured. Tissue damage can occur without the sensation of pain, just as pain can occur without the existence of any tissue damage. The two may well exist together but they are not inter-dependent.

An athlete can have a lot of pain with little to no damage, or a lot of damage with little to no pain.

Understanding that pain does not necessarily mean there is significant damage or degeneration occurring in the body has helped bring relief to many athletes suffering of pain. Pain is real, very real, but in some cases (not all) understanding it can actually lower it. Being proactive and listening to the body is key, when pain occurs in any form it’s time to slow down even if it’s only for a few days.

Correlation between pain and fatigue in endurance athlete:
Form related overuse injuries is often due to fatigue, which comes in the second half or towards the end of a workout. Time becomes the intensity; more volume, more training sessions and not enough recovery can result in compensatory mechanics, leading to discomfort, soreness, tightness, and even pain.

A tight muscle will pull a joint into a dysfunctional position and a weak muscle will allow it to happen; soreness, muscle fatigue, less efficiency, longer recovery or maybe even injury can occur.

We all have muscular weaknesses, unstable joint(s), and postural molding. The more time spend training in a single sport can actually enhance imbalances; our strength becomes stronger and our weaknesses become weaker. Depending of genetics, tissue tolerance, and individual mechanics some athletes feel pain or discomfort more than others.

Many athletes have high tissue tolerance even if they have poor mechanics. It does not mean they are free of injury for years there is no long term damage done. Friction, compression and shear force in joints can still be a reality. At times it just takes longer to surface and unfortunately can turn out as degenerative joint disease; hip labral tear, lumbar spondylosis, arthritis, chronic Achilles & patellar tendinopathy… just to name a few.

Athletes are in constant architectural renovation

Maintenance is key, taking care of imbalances through exercises should be part of a training regimen, eating healthy food, quality sleep, and regular massage and hands-on treatment from professional therapists is also important.

Deep squats & lunges are high risk exercises even if we see them regularly in magazines and on social media as preventative exercises. One needs zero imbalances to perform them with good technique.

When you start feeling discomfort, soreness or mild pain:
Don’t stop exercising
Reduce volume
Don’t get discourage
Focus on proper technique & mechanics
Keep legs moving quickly
Seek sports med advice for assessment
Include preventative exercises to your program to correct weaknesses and imbalances

Chronic pain can persists after tissue damage has healed. Most tissues in the body are healed as well as they can be by 3-6 months.

When do you feel pain?
Only first 5-10 minutes of workout
Only towards end of workout
First thing in the morning
Only in sleep
Ongoing: day & night
After extended time sitting at desk

Pain varies depending of the tissue & nerve affected. Understanding basic anatomy can help you read your body: muscles cross either one or two joints and pain is usually felt in the belly of the muscle; ligaments attached bone to bone and help stabilize joints, tendons attached muscle to bone so pain is felt distal from a muscle and closer and across a joint; ankle and knee for Achilles and patella tendon.

When nerves are affected shooting pain, numbness, tingling will be felt. A compress nerve in the lower spine for example starts in the lower back and travels down the back leg, meaning the nerve has become compressed, perhaps due to a slipped or worn down disc in the spine.

Keeping track of when and where you feel pain and how its evolving from day to day and week to week is a key component to share with a rebab specialist.

Recovery versus healing:
Complete healing can be achieved without full recovery, and this is all too often the recipe for disaster which results in recurring injuries.
For example:
Tissue damage to a muscle or tendon following an ankle strain may be perceived like it’s healing quickly since pain is almost non-existent but still feels weak and hurts when moved in certain ways- but the athlete is back to regular training quickly. This is commonly the result of poor, rushed or no attention to rehab. Often we take for granted what happens on the trail & snow. The likelihood of re-injury is greatly increased since the joint as poor stability and muscles are weaker due to the strain. Unfortunately it is a common pattern with endurance athletes with the pressure of high volume training and competition schedule.

Back on track:
Pain management is about addressing the nervous system, I always encourage athletes to remember what it’s like to move in a safe environment. Fear and anxiety need to be gradually eliminated to ensure full recovery, especially in high speed mountain sports like mountain biking, downhill and ski mountaineering due to variation in snow conditions.
As an athlete you still need to enjoy riding/running/climbing/skiing even if training is limited. Its time to focus on mechanics & drills, joint stability & mobility, muscle balance/ elasticity/ eccentric training, and sports specific exercises.

Learn to have confidence in your skills again.

By reducing training volume and incorporating preventative exercises, recovery is quicker, stress is minimize to the injured/fatigue tissue, it stimulates healing and help remodel tendon, muscle, cartilage and bone. Doing nothing for and extended period of time can be one of the worst thing for healing.

Take care of your body like you take care of your bikes & skis!

Tips when exercising with mild discomfort:
Think of moving forward lightly & quietly
Focus on quality of movement – proper mechanics for sport specific
Keep the legs or arms moving quicker than slower to reduce impact on joints
Listen to your body, focus on sensation
Relax and exhale!

Tips to help manage pain and promote healing & recovery:
Few minutes daily cold spray directly on the affected area before the hot shower!
Put legs up against the wall
Hydrate while exercising : use electrolytes
Healthy meal within 45 minutes of workout
Two days off in a row
Focus on quality vs quantity of training

When pain persist it’s important to seek professional advice from a sport medicine specialist who has expertise in sports rehabilitation and prevention. You know you are in good hands when a proper assessment of mechanics, musculoskeletal imbalances, joint stability and mobility are being tested.

Finding optimal training load to maintain good fitness and/or max performance while stating injury free is key.

Get inspired!

Thank you for readingChloë
Educational articles for the passionate mountain athlete – New for 2018!

Coming soon, join me:
Injury Prevention Workshop for Snow Sports: uphill & downhill!

Friday November 24th / 19:30 to 21:00 / in Chamonix / 15euros per person
Detail info: