Listen to Your Body 364: Nutrition & Strength Training for Cyclists w/ Marissa Axell

Nutrition & Strength Training for Cyclists w/ Marissa Axell

Knowing how to train and fuel yourself appropriately, especially as a female athlete, goes way beyond just lifting weights. Whatever other pursuits you enjoy also require the knowledge and understanding necessary to train for your body’s unique needs.

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Key Takeaways

If You Want to Improve Your Cycling, You Should: 

  1. Work to change your mindset and educate yourself about the right training practices for your body and age
  2. Ensure that you are fueling your body properly to have the energy you need to feel and train better
  3. Work with a coach to keep muscles on your skeleton while pushing the pedals properly and mobilizing fat

Badass Bosses on Bikes With Marissa Axell

Marissa Axell is a cyclist and cyclist coach who has dedicated her work to teaching women cyclists how to be badass bosses on their bikes. She helps women understand not just the skill but also the nutrition, recovery, and training that works well for female cyclists at every age. Disappointed by the lack of information and representation in the female cycling work, Marissa took her years of experience and created a space and program that, frankly, I wish I had known 20 years ago when I first got onto a bike.

Chasing Quality, Not Fatigue

We have been conditioned for years that we have to be on every adventure and embody the all-or-nothing mentality. While Marissa is an advocate for high-intensity interval training, she has framed it in a way that does not set your body to chase fatigue but instead chase quality.

Focusing on your exercise quality and intensity will do more for your fitness, physiology, weight, and long slow distance effects than going above your threshold ever will. As we age, we have to remember to change our mindsets and training practices to best serve our here and now bodies in a way that still delivers the results we expect.

Changing the Mindset of Women Athletes

It has only been in the last five or so years that we have started to understand how women of different ages need to train. We are cyclical beings which means that we need to match our training to the cycles of our bodies and our lives to see improvement.

Fueling, recovery, and intensity are some of the most important factors for making long-term and sustainable fitness goals. While it is natural to want to see rapid change and be told what to do, it is not always the most effective. Finding the mix that works for you while having a constant conversation around fueling practices and rest is the key.

Are you ready to reevaluate your training and nutrition practices when it comes to cycling or other exercises outside of strength training? Share which activities you enjoy doing the most with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • How to start introducing the idea of periodizing your training (9:45)
  • The most common training mistakes that female athletes need to approach differently in cycling training (13:33)
  • Why changing your mindset around how you train as you age is crucial to your success (21:01)
  • Examples of High-Intensity Interval Training on a bike and why it may not be what you imagine (25:29)
  • Why you need to be fueling properly for your activity level and body composition (30:04)

Quotes

“It is really important to sit down with your client or athlete and just allow them to dream about what the best scenario ever would be. And then I kind of reverse engineer how we can make that happen, and rest is by and large a big part of that.” (11:47)

“Cycling, that sport, is so stuck in traditions a lot of times. And we didn’t really know until about five years ago that women really needed to train a little bit differently once they are over the age of 40. So we are still fighting this ingrained traditional sense of training, and we are still fighting a little bit of the patriarchy and misogyny.” (17:14)

“I want you to think more about how to keep that muscle on your skeleton; that is what is going to help you stay comfortable and keep you peddling for a longer duration. It’s not the hours in the saddle.” (21:49)

“Would you take your sports car to the gas station and fill it up with 2 gallons of gas and then go for a 4-hour drive through the mountains? Probably not, because you would be worried about running out of gas. And that is literally the same thing you are doing when controlling or restricting your intake, and then trying to train on top of that.” (32:09)

“It’s hard to distinguish the correct information from the noise. And so that is where we come in, and we talk about fueling your body for the tasks at hand.” (34:22)

Featured on the Show

Join the Group Strength Nutrition Unlocked Waitlist Here

AXN Fitness and Coaching Website

Follow Marissa on Instagram | Facebook

Join the Confident Cycling Collective Facebook Group Here

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Related Episodes

LTYB 353: Fueling Best Practices for Active People with Jamie Scott

LTYB 350: Are You Eating Enough? Low Energy Availability in Sport

LTYB 348: Improve Your Fitness Over 40 with Robin Legat

Nutrition & Strength Training for Cyclists w/ Marissa Axell

Steph Gaudreau
It’s no secret that on this podcast, we talk a ton about lifting weights and getting stronger how to eat, and train and recover appropriately for the challenges that we face as women. But I know that there’s a good chance you’re not just lifting, you’re doing maybe another sport or your cross-training, or they’re just other pursuits that you really enjoy. So I’m welcoming a special guest today, who hopefully is the first in a long line of other coaches, who I really want to bring to the show to help you understand that fueling appropriately and training with our female physiology and mind is so important and not just limited to lifting ways. So my guest today is going to be talking about her mission to teach other women how to be badass bosses, on their bikes.

Steph Gaudreau
The Listen To Your Body podcast is all about helping women who lift weights, get stronger, fuel themselves without counting every bite of food, perform better in and out of the gym and take up space. I’m a strength coach, nutritional therapy practitioner, and certified intuitive eating counselor Steph Gaudreau. This weekly show brings you a discussion about building strength, without obsessing about food and exercise, lifting weights, food, psychology, and more. You’ll learn how to eat, train, recover, listen to your body, and step into your strength. Hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s dive in.

Steph Gaudreau
One of the things that I love about social media, even though there’s a lot about it that I don’t love, I love connecting with other women coaches, who are helping women in specific sports disciplines to become better athletes. Today’s special guest is Marissa Axell. She is a cyclist and cycling coach who is really dedicating her work to teaching women cyclists how to be better on their bikes and not just skill-wise, but really having the nutrition and the recovery and understanding the training that works really well with cycling and women’s bodies. And I appreciate this so much on a personal note because I started racing bikes in 2003.

Steph Gaudreau
It’s been a long time y’all that I wish I knew a coach like Marissa when I got started because I raced bikes for almost eight years. And when I left my bike behind, quite literally, and sold it because I was completely done and burned out.

Steph Gaudreau
It was because I made a lot of the mistakes that Marissa is now helping women to correct when they’re cycling. So if you’re someone who is interested in cycling, you’re racing bikes now. It’s on your agenda for the future. You’re just somebody who spends a lot of time on your peloton and you want to learn how to fuel yourself better for the workouts that you’re doing. I am hoping that this podcast will be helpful for you because it is the stuff I wish I knew almost 20 years ago when I first got on a bike. Before we hop into this episode with Marissa, I would love to remind you about strength nutrition unlocked. So if you want specific strength, nutrition, strategy, and support for putting more weight on the bar for seeing improvement in your strength numbers, building more muscle, having more energy, and performing better in and out of the gym, then check it out at StephGaudreau.com/link. This is a group coaching program is the most affordable way to work directly with me in a small group setting and really get all of the support that you need. So you can find out more details, see if the waitlist is up or if we’re currently enrolling at StephGaudreau.com/link Alright, let’s go ahead and jump into this episode with cycling coach Marissa Axell. Hey Marissa, welcome to the podcast.

Marissa Axell
Hey, thanks so much for having me.

Steph Gaudreau
You’re so welcome. I’m really excited to have you here because you know, I feel like anytime I can have some badass women coaches on this show talking about their area of genius and what their big mission is in the world. I’m doing what I can to, share the message and I love your mission. And I’m reading this like your website, help women realize that they can, in fact, do epic shit and I just love it.

Marissa Axell
Thank you so much. Yeah, I am all here for that too.

Steph Gaudreau
Absolutely. You know, you’re a bit of an interesting and singular guest at this point, because I have not had a lot of guests on the show who are coaches who really specialize in cycling. And anyone who has been listening to this podcast for any length of time knows that I have spent almost a decade of my life racing, mountain bikes, dabbling, in other cycling pursuits, and different things like that. And I wish that when I was racing, there were coaches like you because that probably would have made a massive difference in my life when it comes to not only the training aspect but making sure I’m eating enough. I’m wrestling enough. And I’m performing better and so I’m just so glad that you know, even though I didn’t have that, then that you’re out here doing this now I think it’s it’s an amazing thing that you’re doing for women.

Marissa Axell
Oh, thanks so much. Yeah, I, I was competing started competing in the same, you know, time and reason that you were as well. And I, there was a huge, blank empty space for anything to do with women’s cycling, women’s endurance, there wasn’t anything. There wasn’t a good script difference between men training and women training at that time, and so I fell into a lot of the same pitfalls that I know you’ve talked about. So yeah, that’s why I do what I do. I want to give back in this way.

Steph Gaudreau
So so, so important, how did you first get introduced to cycling?

Marissa Axell
So fun story, I in my yesteryear, I was a competitive swimmer. And as all competitive retired swimmers do, they turn to triathlon. And I didn’t really know how to ride a bike I wasn’t competitive at all. But that was my favorite part of the track. One was the bike. And mostly because I was tired of swimming at that point and running as I run like a swimmer as they say, which is to say not very good. So I really liked the sport of cycling and I just fell in love with the triathlon. I did that for years, and several Ironman several half Iron Man’s, and decided I was tired of devoting my whole life to training. So I actually joined a local team ride and most of it during the fall, and I met actually was my very first friend in San Francisco I remember her husband was that was the president and he had invited me on this ride. And I went and I was one of like four women, probably 12. And, and of course, we live in the Bay Area.

Marissa Axell
It’s gorgeous here. It was one of those pristine, gorgeous fall days and how can you not all love cycling, and the guys are so grateful to have women to ride they were trying to build their women’s team, plus as a strong writer, because I’ve been doing a triathlon. So I just fell in love with the sport of road cycling, I had a lot to learn, and I knew I could learn it with that team. And they were just awesome. So I joined and the rest, as they say, is history. But I’m back I started off with cyclocross because it was all and I fell into this group. This team was awesome. I was single and cyclocross is all about bikes, beer, and boys.

Marissa Axell
What better combination when you’re 24? Right. So that was my introduction to cycling proper. And then I got really into training and I just everything cycling. And that was y’all 2006 2007, somewhere on there.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, this is the time of year where when I look back on my Facebook memories, especially, I’m reminded of my dabbling in cyclocross that I did for a few seasons. And I wasn’t very good at it. But that was just sort of what I did in the offseason. But that brings me to kind of a, an interesting point slash may be a jumping-off point for discussion, which is, a lot of people if they’re familiar with competitive cycling, for example, they might think, well, you know, if you’re racing cross country, you know, maybe you’re racing more in the spring, or if you’re, if you’re racing Road, then you might be racing at this time of year. The thing that I found was that people would find a way to basically race all year.

Marissa Axell
Yes, all year.

Steph Gaudreau
So can you talk about that, I guess, is a challenge in terms of maybe the people that you work with is like, or just as a concept in general, which is, you know, can we go hard all the time, like, how do we start introducing that idea of periodization training or those sorts of things?

Marissa Axell
Absolutely. So such a good question. I can follow up with my own story, which was I did that right? Where successive seasons, I loved cyclocross, and I was moderately good at it on our local level. And so I just did it. I would race every weekend, sometimes twice. The weekend, and then during the week would ride just super easy with one moderate ride, and didn’t ever take rest weeks, or at least not scheduled. I get to January and am tired. So I would take January off and then hop into a road race in February because we’re in Northern California, we’ve raced all the time. So then I was cat four, and I would race I was brand new to cycling. But I was strong because came from triathlon and then cyclocross. And so I made my way through the cat fours and cat threes pretty quickly. And just kept racing because I loved racing. So imagine Fast forward four years, four seasons, I did this cyclocross Road, cyclocross road. And by the end of that fourth season, I was broken.

Marissa Axell
So, I was injured, I was tired, and I had dug myself a big hole. So, I’m learning a lesson, right, I feel like I can come at almost every problem from having gone through it, having gone through it, but I did have a coach who maybe wasn’t the best coach for me at that time, and was just, instead of pulling back the reins and saying, Hey, you are tired and being tired can set you up for injury and illness, she just kind of let me do what I wanted to do, which is, you know, that’s a fine line in coaching, you have to know your athlete enough to be able to pull back the reins. So all that being said, I still have athletes who do multi-sport like, you know, track and road or road and cyclocross. And it’s really important to sit down with your client or athlete, and just allow them to dream about, like, what would be the best scenario ever. And then I kind of reverse engineer how we can make that happen. And rust is by, by and large, a big part of that. So instead of just being gung ho everything every time, I feel like we get a little FOMO like I want to be at every adventure, I want to be at every race. And we really sit down and focus on the ones you really want to be a part of. And make sure that those happen, because we’re focused on that and not just kind of being half-assed at everything else. So it’s really important to have somebody you trust to sit down and look at that in a meta way, like in a year or even two-year cycle. Otherwise, you can do as I did, and just become injured and ill and not know how to get out of it. And I would say that’s one thing I’ve helped a lot of clients is helping them see their way out of that tunnel.

Steph Gaudreau
That’s so important. I’m shaking my head, nodding my head rather, yes. When you’re describing all of these things, and that was one of the reasons I asked the question is because I did that as well. And I think a lot of the reasons why coaches are our coaches are they’re really passionate about what they do is because we’ve, we’ve been through it ourselves and wish that there was someone there to kind of provide some wisdom. I guess, as a counterpoint. Before we were recording, we talked a little bit about some of the things that we sort of see as kind of carryovers in either training or I’m sure we’re going to get into fueling here in a little bit. But with regard to training, what are some of the, I guess the things that you see people doing quite frequently other than what we just talked about with, you know, not prioritizing races and things like that. But what are some of the things that you see that you wish women would, uh, would approach a little bit differently in their cycling training?

Marissa Axell
Yeah, so I think, personally, we talk about women like we actually undergo a biological change right around for some people 40s or 50s, right. So we have a kind of pre-menopause like normal, I would say it after puberty, normal like life. But then around 40. For most people, we start to enter, you know, a little bit of a change, where our bodies start to change, and our hormones start to change. And that can affect everything from the way that we train to the way that we can fuel, right, and then as we go through menopause, we then become a physically different biological being, and that also changes our fueling and are training. So I think when I first started, I wish I would have known that. And now that I’m making my way through my 40s I, as an athlete, I’m really cognizant of the training changes, and then the fueling changes.

Marissa Axell
So what am I talking about? So before my clients who were athletes and when I was cycling to kind of before 40, and a lot of what we focused on was volume, right resistance to fatigue, working our way up through from endurance, long, slow distance riding in the winter, to then piling on in the spring of some more build or high-intensity interval training, where we’re focused on building the power of bit above our threshold, which for you all, that’s like when you’re going breathless, can you still put out power and then also on top of that building on our lactate buffering system, so being able to surge and push hard and then recover, and do that repeatedly in a race or in a group ride situation. And so that is I would say when we’re kind of most similar maybe to how men train. But within that, we’ve got cycles, right. So we have half our month on average is dealing with high hormones, and we may not be very good at putting out power and above our threshold, because our bodies are not set up for that at that time.

Marissa Axell
And then we have times where we got lower, lower hormones, and we’re kind of most physiologically kind of like men, so we can push those hard efforts, we can race hard. And so realizing that there’s a cyclical kind of motion through each month, and trying to match our training to that’s somewhat new. And I wish that I would have had that more in my 30s and 20s. And, and so I just want to say like, long slow distance is what people are talking about through the winter and into the spring. But by and large, I want to shift the conversation to really focus on high end more high-intensity interval training, and doing that primarily on a bike primarily looking for cyclists, but you’re primarily on the bike or if you’re a runner, primarily running, but focusing on keeping that high-intensity interval training, especially if you’re over 40. And that is because it’s primarily due to the like physiological changes that our body is undergoing. So keeping high-intensity intervals in our training, and avoiding a lot of long, slow distances.

Marissa Axell
And I want to kind of harp on that a little because our cycling that sport is so in, like stuck in traditions a lot of times, and we didn’t really know until like, about five years ago, that women really needed to train a little bit differently once they’re over the age of 40. And so we’re still fighting this kind of ingrained, traditional sense of training. And we’re still fighting a little bit of I don’t say patriarchy or a little bit of misogyny and that women do have physiological needs that are different when it comes to exercise. And so convincing women that when they thought they grew up knowing what they had to do one way and changing our mindset around that has been a huge challenge even for myself. And I like I know the difference is and I still find myself striking Well, I’m not working hard enough. So I all of that is to say, I don’t want people to continue chasing fatigue, I want you to continue chasing quality, quality of exercise quality of intensity when you’re on the bike. So when you’re again, I’m talking about women 40 and older, which is most of the clients that I trained with. And we are focused on more high-intensity intervals because it helps with body composition, it will help you with unwanted weight gain. And I’m not here to say this is a weight loss program at all.

Marissa Axell
But I’m here to say it’s helping you keep strong muscles in your body. And perhaps mobilizing some of the material body fat that tends to get laid down after we start dealing with fluctuating estrogen and or post menopause and we lose all of our estrogen and progesterone. So high-intensity interval training, keeping that in our schedule, and then kind of doling out the long, slow distance rides a little more mindfully, so that we are training primarily pretty hard, intensely, but short, right, we’re not going for four-hour intensity rides. But we’re leaving those long, slow distance rides as soul-filled rides social rides for you know, once a week, once every 10 days. And that is because, again, this is a physiological change. But once we’ve kind of made that shift through Peri and into post-menopause, long, slow distance rides just make you tired and stressed out. And when you do too many in a row for too long of a time you end up in this overtrained hole essentially. So I’m here to kind of spread the word right, I want you to focus more on quality, short, high-intensity interval training sessions. And they’re going to do a whole lot more for your intent, your fitness, your physiology, your if you’re concerned about any unwanted weight gain, it’ll help with that as well. But mostly it will stop that long, slow distance getting long, going longer getting slower, and perhaps even gaining weight, which is a very common effect that women are seeing, especially after 50. So that is kind of the long answer.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, so important and I hear, you know, some really key things there, but I think the biggest part is, is perhaps mindset to write it, especially if you’ve come from you’ve come to cycling from your 20s or 30s. And you might be used to doing them that long those long sessions and that long duration is then there’s something that you have to kind of like mentally wrestle with, and, and almost flip, right? Because we can get so ingrained with the idea that unless it’s a long session, it’s not doing anything or it’s not going to be effective, or, you know, time is the only thing that really matters or not putting in the time. And, so I find that that can be such a struggle for people as well. It’s, it’s like, yes, my body is changing. And I might know that this is, you know, I’m learning from people like, like you that this might be something that’s going to benefit me, physiologically. But mentally, that’s such a challenge. Such a challenge.

Marissa Axell
Yeah, it really is. And I’ve, I’ve myself been dealing with it. And so I help with clients coming in, and they’re doing, you know, 100, or 200-mile events. And I always say like, again, back when I was a swimmer, we don’t practice like the 200 butterflies. By practicing a 200 butterfly, you don’t get faster at doing these long part events by doing a long, hard event. And so that’s where I start with, it’s okay, let the long thought that thought of long, long, long-distance kind of go. And I want you to think more about how can you keep that muscle on your skeleton. And that’s what’s going to help you stay comfortable and keep you pedaling for a longer duration, it’s not the hours in the saddle. Now there is a point where you do have to put in the butt time on the saddle because that is a real issue.

Marissa Axell
But we do want to focus on was saying like I had a couple of clients recently come in earlier this year who was doing, you know, a 200-mile ride or 130-mile ride and training in the old traditional style. And they came to me because they were exhausted. They were, you know, doing long, kind of long, slow distance two to three times a week, because that’s what their club was doing. They were trying to get to the gym, but they were exhausted. So we have to really honor that. And when you are starting to butt up against exhaustion so much that you can’t or don’t want to do your workout, there needs to be a change. And so I find that kind of talking with clients about their exhaustion and their inability to get on their bike or their desire is gone, their mojo is gone. They recognize there’s a need for change. And so that’s where I start to get that little bit of a little bit of trust. And really, I’ve seen results.

Marissa Axell
Honestly, with everybody who sticks to lifting weights and high-intensity intervals during the week and doling out their long slow distance rides, they see results quickly, within about four weeks, they start to see that they’re not tired all the time, they can get through their workouts, they enjoy their workouts, and they’re still riding with their buddies or their friends or their group and not getting dropped, and they’re not tired. So they’re like, Wow, there might be something to this. So then they’re inspired to continue a little bit longer. I would say for myself, or well, actually, I want to back up, I want to say that there is there was a study, I want to say 2019 That really highlighted that women again, and this was all women, so not just postmenopausal, but untrained. So when a new to cycling, and they’re going out. If they just ride more, they will improve. So that’s a lot of advice, just ride one, you’re going to get faster. And that’s correct. And they will improve up to a point.

Marissa Axell
And of course, that point will be different for everyone because everyone’s physiologically a little bit, right. But up to a point and then you’ll start to see us keep riding more and more and more and you’re not improving you plateaued or maybe getting slower. And at that point, that is where we need to actually introduce the again, high-intensity interval training style, as well as weightlifting. And that will allow you to continue to improve. Whereas a lot of times for men, they can again keep riding longer, and they’ll continue to get stronger. So it’s a real difference. And it’s really hard to explain because there’s no specific point when you have to make that switch. But if you know that you’ve been riding for giving or taking a year and you stop seeing improvement, it’s time to make the switch.

Steph Gaudreau
So important. Can you give us a quick example of what you mean by interval training? And the reason I asked this is that I know there are lots of people who maybe they’ve gone to a functional fitness gym or something like that, or they looked online and they see a workout that’s listed as you know, this is hit. And then it’s like a 75-minute workout. So can you? Can you give us an example of on the bike? What one of your clients, you know, might do as a high-intensity interval workout? Like, what does that actually look like?

Marissa Axell
I love it. So I have a brain brimming with them. But I’ll give you one very common and this transcends running and cycling and anything is the Tabata style. So Tabata is a 22-second full max effort, followed by 10 seconds and total rest. And you repeat that eight times in a row. So 20 seconds, very hard, 10 seconds, rest, usually by the second to the third one, you start to get out of breath, and you do not gait, you’re not going for a particular heart rate, you’re not going for a particular hour, you’re just going on perceived exertion, and I want you to go 10 out of 10. And, of course, you’re going to do an appropriate warm-up for that probably warm-up between 15 and 30 minutes on your bike. Or if you’re running, you could do it running. But you’ve got to open up your cardiovascular and pulmonary systems so that you’re not in total shock when this happens. And you’ll do this set. So eight times 20 seconds, very hard. 10 seconds, very easy. And then you take a five-minute rest in between, and then do it again. And then cool down. So if you add all that up, that is eight minutes total, a very hard and very easy effort.

Marissa Axell
Not counting the recovery, that five minutes in between. But this is not any workout where you are targeting a specific wattage a specific heart rate, you are just going on bare instinct, how hard can I physically go and how easy can I physically go. We don’t want anything in the middle, we don’t want the gray area. So that is very like basic, very specific, hard, high-intensity interval training. So again, I’ll say it was eight minutes total. Now if you’re an advanced rider, you may end up doing four sets of that. So that would be 16 minutes total. And I know that you know, professionals even go on from there. But for the most part, I would start everyone with one to two sets, and then see how you progress. There’s, um, I just want to say there’s untold amounts of high-intensity interval training types out there, definitely not 75 minutes, or you’re taxing your very uppermost system so that you shouldn’t be able to hold that for much more than 30 seconds. Right? There are some that go for a minute and two, four-minute efforts. And those are still considered high-intensity intervals. But you’re working more of a system called your maximum to do to system right, so you’re not up at the very high reaches of your ability level. And I just went to a really great lecture earlier this year, kind of like one of the fathers of hit, I guess he didn’t invent it, but he’s a researcher. So and he had just such a great amount of literal written down like 55 different hit workouts. So I do like to say the very first one ever really talked about with some track cycling, not cycling from track running. Four minutes, very hard three minutes, very easy repeat. So it is super interesting, but it is very short, very intense, with various types of resting in between.

Steph Gaudreau
Thank you so much. If anyone here has ever done a true blank Tabata with giving it all your effort, it doesn’t sound like a lot, or if you maybe if you haven’t done it and you’re listening to Marissa and they this is not very hard. If you’re doing it with that intentional all-out effort, it is very potent. So I’m glad that you describe that to us. And you know, having done Tobata various descriptions and various intervals on a bike it is work, it definitely works and very effective. One of the other things that we have in common that we talk a lot about is, is energy intake and fueling, and, gosh, this could be its own episode in and of itself. But you know, there historically has been at least in this in my experience in the cycling community, a very big premium put on power to weight ratio and is as small and as lean as you can be. And that has a lot of implications for you know, anyone from pros all the way to recreational riders, and I’m wondering when you’re working with your clients, what are some of the things that you’re seeing with their energy and their fueling that’s maybe holding them back from feeling better or performing better on the bike?

Marissa Axell
Yeah, you know, I hate to say it, I just feel like it’s internalized western culture where we have to always watch what we eat. And that’s the only way. So most of us are, that I’m speaking from somebody born in the 70s, right. But most of us grew up knowing that the quote, I’m using air quotes, knowing that the way that we can control weight is by exercising more and calorie intake less. And that’s the only way. So I run up against kind of this outdated calories in calories out attitude, because that’s what we grew up with. That’s what has been internalized since day one, ever since you’ve known what calories were. So there’s a lot of just that internalized, you have to be smaller, you have to be take up less room. And if you’re not dieting, you’re not doing it right. And I feel like the cycling and cycling industry, but the cycling, on the performance side still has a long way to go for both men and women. So I’ll just say that right off the bat, there is a power to weight ratio. And I feel like for a while it was like starving yourself was the new taking drugs like it was just really rampant.

Marissa Axell
And I would say for my clients, now I’m not training like Tour de France cyclists. So there’s a lot different between us, but for for, you know, recreational riders, for people doing Grand Fondo’s, where people racing locally and nationally. Here we are, especially women really, we really want to again, kind of shift the paradigm away from calories in calories out in focusing on fueling your body like a machine-like, would you take your sports car, right to the gas station and fill it up with two gallons of gas and then go for a four-hour mount, like through the mountains? Probably not, because you would be worried about running out of gas. And that’s literally the same thing you’re doing when it comes to controlling or restricting your intake and then trying to go train on top of that. So you run out of gas, and then you immediately think I’m too, I’m too fat, I’m too heavy. I’m not good enough. I’m never, you know, all of these terrible internal negative discussions with yourself. And they happen to everybody. I’m not immune, you’re not amused as they happen to all of us. And what we’ve found out again, in the last five years or so, especially with kind of the gut-brain superhighway is that when you properly nourish your body, your gut, your brain actually can change. And it will stop telling you these negative Nancy discussions about you’re not good enough. But also, fueling your body enough will allow you to get through that workout or get to the finish line and feel good.

Marissa Axell
You don’t feel like you need to consume an entire pizza, you should feel like I did my work and I feel fine. So there’s a lot right now we’re talking about fuelling there’s, again, I think you’ve talked about this before on your podcast with low energy availability. And something like 46% of recreational exercisers, women are living and doing 40. You know, some intentionally some unintentionally, but living in low energy availability. And that just means that they’re not consuming enough energy in order to live out their daily life processes plus their exercise. And so I feel like when a lot of my current clients come to me, they’re struggling with how to eat, what to eat, to stay energized for their events. And maybe their event is, you know, a 100-mile mountain bike race or 100 Mile Road ride or a backpacking trip, but they’re confused. There’s too much knowledge, too much out there. You know, mixing discussions from people trying to be rooted in science like, like you and I. And then there’s kind of marketing from companies wanting you to eat their products. And then there’s people who are maybe intentionally misleading, you just try to sell their products. So it’s hard to distinguish the correct information from the noise. And so that’s where we come in, and we talk about fueling your body for the tasks at hand. So I like to break it down into half black and white details and provide a range for folks if you’re going to be working at a 100-mile race. Well, we need to talk about how often can you can ingest food? What kind of foods do you like to eat?

Marissa Axell
And that’s what blows people’s minds is they’re like, why are you asking me what I like to eat? You’re supposed to tell me I was like, actually, if I tell you the broccoli and you hate broccoli, like don’t eat broccoli, so I want it to be a constant conversation. And then, you know, I started to see it was like are molding around what it is that you want to do. So you’re telling me, You’re giving me the information of things that you’d like to eat. And then I’m asking you probably eat more of them at certain times. And that will help you get to the finish line feeling like you’ve got energy in the tank. By and large, most of my folks are, again over 40. And they are, as we’re learning now, not consuming enough protein in their daily today diet. And that’s not something where we go from eating 40 grams of protein to 140 grams in the space of a week. But we work on adding a little bit more protein each time. So you can keep that muscle on your frame. And you can keep pushing those pedals longer into the day with less energy. And the second one would be carbohydrates. And I say that specifically because even we internalize the low card or anti-car, but that is going around. It’s been going around for several years now. But it’s just out there, and it just seeps into your pores, whether you let it or not.

Marissa Axell
There’s the ‘Oh, should I eat those carbs today? Should I eat them tonight show you them tomorrow morning? I’m hearing emphatically to say yes, you need to eat carbohydrates if you want to feel your body for success, but there’s great times to eat them. And there’s great times when you can choose a different carb, right? So it’s learning about your own body, and using what you like to your advantage. So I sat down and we take weeks and weeks to work through all of this. I know you work specifically with strength and your coaching. And it’s not a one-and-done. It’s not a here’s a meal plan and you’re done. It’s this is for the rest of your life, I want you to feel nourished, I want to feel energetic. And when I when we get through going through all of this, and people look at oh my gosh, I can eat all of this. And I’ll and I’ll feel better. And most clients feel so much better. Almost instantly, they wake up with energy. And it’s, I would dare say because they’re eating enough protein and carbohydrates. Their exercise is better quality because they’re eating enough protein and carbohydrates. And I know missing out all on fats. But that’s what we could talk all day about it’s just so important for everyone, are you ready to understand and live within a positive energy availability, so you’re eating and consuming enough food to sustain your life, your workouts, and everything in between?

Steph Gaudreau
I cosign! Yeah, all that is to say I, you know, I appreciate you also reminding people that oftentimes this change is quite slow, or incremental or gradual. I know that when you know, when you seek out a coach, like Marissa or myself, if you’re lifting weights, or whatever it happens to be, and you get to the point where you’re finally like, Alright, I’ve had it, I need help, right? It’s natural to want things to change very, very rapidly or to just be told what to do. And, and yet, it that’s not always the most effective, right? I know that you want to empower people to make this a long-term change and have it be sustainable. And that’s what I appreciate so much about you and what you do.

Marissa Axell
Thanks. Yeah, it’s a hard road home, right? It’s kind of against a mindset issue as well, like where we talked about exercise and doing more high intensity and less volume. It’s the same with mommy, how much protein Are you sure, there’s an internalized fear of gaining weight and an internalized fear of eating too much, and it’s going to be terrible.

Marissa Axell
But when you kind of see the outcome and come out the other side of I feel amazing after my workout today, and I’m you know, I’ve noticed I’ve gained some muscle that works, you know, whatever it is, it’s really exciting to see their performance, so much more consistent. People are getting faster, flying up hills where they were struggling before even I had one woman this fall or sorry, summer. She’s 77 years old. And we’ve been working together for a couple of honestly only a couple of months but she with her group of women who she hadn’t ridden within several months due to the pandemic. And they got all together and you got up there first big hill which is about a mile and it’s coming relatively soon and there was in there a ride and she was accused of having an electric bike because she just rode away up the hill.

Marissa Axell
And she’s like, No, just my bike. That’s the difference that right like some structural changes in your workouts and eating and resting enough can do for you.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, finding that mix that works for you and doing it in a way where you’re not, you know, training is important for people that love to train or love to be on the bike or love to lift weights or love to run. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s usually because it’s an important part of your life and at the same time, right? When it’s having such a drain on your life, it can be really frustrating. So that’s a really great story. I love that.

Steph Gaudreau
She’s really feeling the difference. I think that’s amazing. So good. So good. Well, there’s so much more we could talk about. And I would love to have you back at some point to chat about some more particulars and in all of the things that you do because I feel like there are going to be a lot of people who relate to this episode quite a bit. You know, and, and just want to know more. So in the meantime, where can they find out more about you your coaching everything that you do? Out in the world? Let us know. Yeah, so I would love to come back anytime. And I love talking about cycling, you can find me on Instagram at @Marissa.Axell. I’m also on Facebook, same name. And I have a Facebook group. So if you’re really interested in cycling, and you want to talk a little bit more about some support, cycling and nutrition, and rest and recovery, join my Facebook group. It’s a confidence cycling collective, that you can find all of that in my link tree, which is on my Instagram. So I’m out there. And my website is AxnFitnessAndCoaching.com. And we’ll leave it in the show notes, I’m sure but action is spelled A X N and so AxnFitnessAndCoaching.com where you can find out my coaching and training programs.

Steph Gaudreau
Awesome. This has been so fun to chat with you, thank you for being on the podcast with me and making a positive impact in the world of women’s cycling. I hope that the industry continues to follow suit, and more people can experience you know, riding faster, having better results, and feeling amazing while doing it. And you’re definitely part of that movement. So thank you.

Marissa Axell
Thank you so much, Steph for all you do over here in these podcasts. I really enjoy everything you’re helping women to help stay healthy and strong because it’s such an important part of getting older. Right aging with grace. Thank You

Steph Gaudreau
100%. Thanks.

Steph Gaudreau
All right, there we go. That is a wrap on this episode with Coach Marissa Axell, if you want to find out more about her and you want the show notes for this episode, you can either catch up with her on Instagram or head over to the show notes for this episode at StephGaudreau.com. There, you’ll find all of the links in the show notes, transcript, and all that other good stuff. You know, just on a little personal note.

Steph Gaudreau
People like Marissa are the ones that I wish existed when I first started racing bikes back in 2003. And now though, the fact that there are women like her who are helping other women to not only be a cyclist, but to really take care of their bodies, and really excel in cycling, and derive a lot of joy out of it.

Steph Gaudreau
The fact that I can help share, Marissa has a story and work with you is really touching, it means a lot that I have that ability to make that connection hopefully for you because you listen to the show, because you’ve put your trust in me as a podcaster over these last seven years almost or whether you’re newer, or you haven’t been around listening for that long, it really does mean a lot. So if this episode was useful, or you think it will help another woman in your life, please pass it on or get in touch with me and let me know, hey, you know what, this did make a difference for me, or this gives me a direction I can go in, because that is what gives me the motivation and the energy to keep doing this show to hopefully make connections for you that benefit your life. So again, I’m very, very grateful that you listen, and I hope to continue bringing you other people, other experts, other coaches who have a passion for specific things that may intersect with your desires and your preferences and the things that really light you up.

Steph Gaudreau
On that note, if you would please hit that subscribe button on your podcast app, it sends a signal to the app that says I love this podcast and maybe somebody else like me would as well. Thanks so much for joining me on this episode of The listen to your body podcasts. Until we talk next time. Stay strong.


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Hi, I'm Steph!

Lord of the Rings nerd, cold brew drinker, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more, not less: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.

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