Transitioning Between the Seasons

kayak102 copyOnly in Utah…

…Can you ski, bike and kayak in one day with a transition time of less than 30 minutes from leg to leg.

…Can you ski some of the best runs in the world, with your pick from hundreds of local trails for a recovery bike ride to follow.

…Can you learn to kayak in a pool and apply the sport to the true environment within hours, boat to boat.

There’s no doubt here in Utah we have easy access to some of the greatest natural wonder in the world for outdoor adventure. But is our body, and therefore our mind, healthy to manage it safely?

Many health–conscious Utahns move through the 12-month year cycle, season to season, sport to sport, workout to workout. A typical outdoor enthusiast has all the gear for skiing and snowshoeing come winter, to cycling, running, and kayaking as spring surfaces, and a passion to combine the sports in various events across the summer, and settle into recreational fun come Fall.

J.R. Smith, local elite level coach for USA Cycling, attributes the recent increase in popularity of mountain biking to today’s outdoor enthusiast’s drive to participate in more diverse adventure sports and moving from sport to sport, i.e. adventure events where the adrenaline rush comes from moving from dryland sport to water sport and back. A range of events have popped up incorporating a water component such a kayaking, a mountain bike component and another challenge such as running, orienteering, or climbing. As awareness for these sports has increased, and the Utah athlete is ready to be the best at all in one season, how do we do that safely, especially if we’ve come off Winter transition time carrying a few extra pounds?

The cycling community has many resources for winter training around the area. If you didn’t take advantage of J.R. Smith’s Winter Indoor Power Camp offered at various facilities in the Salt Lake Valley this past season, here are some ways to build the body for the upcoming season outdoors. J.R. shares…

‘Assess where you are in your 12-month training cycle and then look at why you do the sport, what you’d like to gain. i.e. if you want to be a high level cyclist or a recreational rider.

The high-level cyclist is typically training through the winter on the bike, with little cross training in other sports. In this case, they’re now likely dialed with body fat, weight, core strength development, and priming for competition season. For recreational biking, if you came off of ski season where the legs have been loaded for 3 months as ‘a skier’, give your guns some time to safely transition into cycling legs by keeping your cardiovascular system working, but in a cycling based environment like a spin class or on a wind trainer.

‘During the base or build phase, coming out of winter, is when you want to shed unwanted pounds, as opposed to during competition or peak phase where you’re hitting events or racing often.’

Start with a base building phase on the bike and in the gym with lower intensity, gradually building in duration, incorporating some sport-specific strength and core training so you head out with a strong structural and muscular system. This training load will assist in shifting body fat and scale weight. Once you reach your event phase, it’s important to maintain a consistent body composition in order to perform well, and not feel inclined to cut nutrition intake.

Relative to nutrition, ‘Mountain Bikers looking to shed beware… the intensity of the sport is so high requiring carbohydrate or quick energy stores to fuel the engine during rides longer than an hour.’

Cutting carbs as a weight loss measure can be detrimental during outdoor riding season as not only will you run out of gas and hit the infamous ‘bonk’, the body will then feed on wanted muscle instead of unwanted fat, resulting in lowered metabolism over time.

We lose weight by lowering the amount of calories we take in relative to the number we put out. Riding or training long periods of time at 65-70% of max heart rate enables the body to utilize fat stores for energy. A shorter more intense effort can be a more effective use of time though, and with many athletes, time is a commodity.

Salt Lake City based, Katherine Beals, Ph.D, RD, FACSM, a local Sports Nutritionist, works with endurance athletes creating nutrition plans to complement training goals and attain peak performance. Beals explains that ‘endurance athletes tend to work in 4 phases- a winter base phase, pre competition, competition, and then a winter transition phase.’ The recreational athlete often assumes this off-season period as a time to step away from the sport fully, stepping away from the ‘I am a biker’ or ‘I am a kayaker’ mantra. Therefore the body tends to change with little focus on that sport.

Using cycling as the example, Beals recommends to those that are coming into the season with some pounds to shed, not to get discouraged. Contrary to popular belief, ‘we don’t burn many calories in a spin class. Don’t worry about dieting as you transition outdoors. Duration and energy expenditure will go up, so it’s likely that things will take care of themselves without actively dieting. Merely by heading out and increasing the load on the body from what you were doing indoors- while still respecting the body’s need for quick access to glycogen stores from carbohydrate intake- the negative energy balance between calories in and those burned will result in some weight loss’.

So, how does a kayaker carrying some extra pounds run a river effectively, and then potentially jump on a bike in adventure race competition mode?

The white water kayaking community watches the winter runoff feed their terrain, hoping for a long season starting in late May. Karan Estee, founding partner of the Utah Kayak School, LLC offers year-round kayak programs for recreational and elite levels.

Estee shares that the awareness of the kayaker needing to shed pounds coming into the season becomes apparent quickly. The kayak body needs flexibility. It needs the ability to squeeze into a boat, move through the core and lengthen the long lever legs. ‘The biggest mistake a recreational kayaker makes is to spend the winter months developing strong biceps and triceps muscles in the arms, and neglect the core’ Estee explains.

The sport is about being able to incorporate all muscles. ‘Lots come in with tight bodies, tight hamstrings- from skiing and cycling- and loose core muscles.’ Estee then continues to break down the sport’s biomechanics as, ‘The body needs to sit upright on the sitting bones and then rotate through the core for blade planting. So imagine rotating torso to the left, planting blade on the right. Then, rather than pulling with the arms needing biceps and triceps, we unwind the stroke with our core to manage the varying terrain and current. Along while, leg flexibility and strength are critical as we press through the right leg in this scenario for boat stability.’ So it’s a full body connection and workout.

1761900-R1-E041 copyFOR THE CYCLIST

Utah is prime training ground for the biking community. Take advantage of the many resources we have to offer to keep you safe on and off the road. From technique to nutrition, core strength and proper mechanics, hit the outdoor season feeling confident having built your body to master the sport.

A-Weber river kayak 99 copyFOR THE KAYAKER

Between the resources that Karan Esteen and the Utah Kayak School can offer, take initiative and head into the sport safely this season. Think core strength, think flexibility and think light and lean body.

(1) To contact J.R. Smith for coaching or learn more about his 17-week periodized Winter Power Camp, check out his website at

(2) Katherine Beals is available for private sports nutrition counseling by emailing

(3) Karan Estee and the Utah Kayak School can be reached through their website at

Cari Junge has been an endurance and strength coach as well as an athlete herself for nearly 20 years. An Expert Level USA Triathlon coach, strength trainer, pilates instructor, nutritionist, and mental training expert, she offers these services through her company– Wasatch Multi Sport.

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