By Sean Condon of Speed & Sprocket
It’s hard to believe that summer is all but gone and fall is just around the corner. And of course, with fall coming, WB4F is practically here! With only about five weeks to go, it’s time to step up your game and get ready for the main event.
Whether you’re doing the 3.5, 10, 25, 50, or 100 mile route, it’s important to prepare your body for the challenge. I like to compare it to a solid relationship; just like you wouldn’t hop in your car, drive to Vegas, and marry someone you’ve known a week (hopefully,) you also shouldn’t be dusting off your bike the week before and re-introducing yourself to it for a casual 100 mile ride. Developing a plan and putting in the time is key to enjoying the experience that will be memorable for all the right reasons.
You know where you need to get to on September 27, and you know where you are right now. A little bit of (increasing) work between now and then is going to work wonders for you. For every week except the last one before the event, you want to put in one comparatively longer ride and then a few other shorter ones. For this example, let’s pretend that you’re shooting to complete the 50 mile route:
5 weeks before WB4F — Assuming that the longest ride you’ve been doing up to this point is 25 miles (half your goal distance), you should be shooting for a 30-35 mile outing during your first “training” week.
4 weeks before WB4F — Aim for a long ride of 35-40 miles, as well as 2-4 other shorter rides.
3 weeks before WB4F — Try to get up to a 40-45 mile ride this week in preparation for the full distance the following week (plus shorter rides).
2 weeks before WB4F — Ideally, you should ride nearly as long (or equal to) your goal of 50 miles (as well as shorter rides)
1 week before WB4F — Let your body recharge a bit and store up some energy. Realistically, any hard training this week will probably do more harm than good. Don’t stop training completely, though. A few shorter, relaxed paced rides will help you prepare for the big day without tiring yourself out.
It’s important to continue with the shorter rides each week, even if they are just an hour or hour and a half. It will keep your body working and active. Try to plan ahead and mark ride days on your calendar (especially the long ones) in advance so your family, friends, and most importantly you know that you’ve got to put some deposits in the mileage bank! If possible, try to find friends to ride with, as it’s always harder to back out when you know someone else will be there, too.
For some of you, this increase in physical activity will lead to a larger appetite. Don’t freak out, that’s normal. The key is not to increase your intake of junk calories. Instead of bigger meal portions, pick up some healthy snacks to eat over the course of the day, like fruits, vegetables, peanut butter, and other “real” food (not chips and cookies.) Another key is to make sure that you are getting plenty of sleep to let your body recharge and give it a chance to build those muscles up.
Having prepared with set goals, upped your eating but mindfully, and gotten plenty of rest, you’re sure to hit your target — and then some!Comments Off
By Liz Budd of Speed & Sprocket
We all know that feeling — zapped of energy, exhausted and spent. While it can be paired with feelings of accomplishment at the end of a ride, we don’t want to feel that way in the middle of it. Here are a few tips for making sure you stay full of energy throughout your ride.
What to eat before a long ride
Whether you’re an elite athlete or just like to be active, eating balanced meals on a regular basis is the simplest way to maintain energy and prepare for exercise. A balanced meal should provide protein, fat, starch (think potatoes or grains,) and lots of watery crisps (think fruits and veggies.) Eating balanced meals for a week leading up to an athletic event will help boost your metabolism and prepare your body for exercise.
For those of you that are already maintaining this diet, there is still more that you can do to prepare. This is where a bit of carb-loading can come in handy. Carb-loading is a pretty simple technique: eat more starch (potatoes and grains), about 1.5 times the amount of starches you normally eat, starting two to three days before an athletic event. This doesn’t mean eating copious amounts of starchy foods. It simply means add a little bit more to your plate and eat a little bit less protein and fat. This will allow your muscles to have the maximum amount of stored energy for the ride — helping you avoid that zonked out feeling.
What to eat during the ride
Eating during the ride is vitally important, especially if you’re riding for more than an hour. Although you may have carb-loaded and eaten balanced meals to prepare for your ride, if you’re on your bike for more than an hour, then chances are you’ve depleted your accessible carb storage. So what can you do to avoid fatigue? EAT!
There are lots of products out there that are designed to be compact and provide accessible energy to your body while exercising. BLOKS and GU are some products you may have heard of, but there are also bars and wafers like Lara bars and Honey Stingers. There’s also the good old-fashioned banana. All of these products/foods are designed to help give you both immediate and longer lasting energy. Finding what you like best is trial and error but having at least one of these items on a two hour ride is vital.
How much food to carry
If you’re on an unsupported ride my basic guideline is to carry 100 calories for each hour you’ll be on the road after the first hour. So for a three hour ride, you should carry and consume approximately 200 calories; that’s typically the energy in one bar, two bananas or one banana and an energy drink.
When to eat on a ride
The best time to eat on the ride is before you feel like you need to! Often times when you’re hungry, your body has used up all of its easily accessible stored energy. A good rule of thumb is to eat on the hour. That means for a 3-hour ride, eat half a bar or 1 banana after you’ve been riding for an hour and do the same again at hour 2. This will hopefully help you avoid feeling exhausted.
What to drink on a ride
Water is often times something people forget about, but it’s vitally important to your body’s metabolism, energy level and performance. The rule of thumb for water during exercise is to drink every 15 minutes. If it’s cold outside you can drink a little less. On a three-hour ride, you should carry a minimum of two 24-ounce water bottles. By the end of a three-hour ride in the summer they should be nearly empty.
There are many products out there in the form of powders or pre-mixed drinks that are designed to help you maintain important mineral levels. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are great ways to ensure that you don’t deplete mineral levels in your body. Carrying at least one water bottle on a long ride with one of these drinks is a great way to ensure you maintain your mineral levels. However it’s also important to note that many of these drinks contain sugars (about 100 calories a serving) to help you maintain energy and should replace one serving of food that you carry.
So now you have some metaphorical tools to add to your saddle bag! Eat balanced meals leading up to the ride, drink lots of water, and take 100 calories worth of food for every hour after the first hour and you’ll be set for a energized and enjoyable ride. Pedal on.Comments Off
By Sean Condon of Speed & Sprocket
This month marked the beginning of another exciting Tour de France. While the peloton has team cars following behind them with food, tools, tubes, and team staff to help when they get in trouble, we usually aren’t so lucky. In my last column I discussed what you should wear while riding. Today I’m going to talk a bit about what you should be carrying with you when you head out on the road to train for this year’s Will Bike 4 Food.
In my seat bag (or in your jersey pockets):
In my jersey pockets:
On my wrist:
On my bike:
Even if you don’t know how to use everything that you pack, there’s a chance someone you are riding with, or someone who passes you, will know and be able to help. Don’t be caught unprepared. Always make sure you have everything you may need before hitting the road.
By Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director
By now, you’ve probably heard the national news about a public school kitchen manager in Colorado who was fired for giving a free lunch to a crying first grader who was hungry. The manager was fired because the child wasn’t officially qualified for the federally-subsidized lunch program. However, what you may not have heard is that, right now, thousands of kids in schools across Western Massachusetts are in this same situation. They are relying on cafeteria staff, teachers and even their classmates to feed them because they don’t have enough food at home.
While it’s hard to believe that this could happen here, I hear stories like this all the time. Just last week a concerned Amherst parent shared this with me:
My daughter is providing snacks to her fellow students with food insecurity issues. I am VERY proud of my daughter who has the biggest heart and is trying to take care of her peers. But, what is very unsettling is that there are several students at the Amherst Middle School (ARMS) who cannot get enough food to eat — even if they are entitled to free breakfasts and lunches. I know this problem is not only at ARMS. This is not a new problem. I was made aware of the problem at the Pelham Elementary School when one of the teachers mentioned that many teachers need to provide snacks (at the teachers’ personal expense) for children in their classes due to food insecurity in their homes.
With so many families struggling with free or reduced school meals, imagine the challenges they face in the summer when those meals disappear. June, July and August are, by far, the busiest months for the 231 local feeding programs in our four-county region that receive most of their food from The Food Bank. Help us provide healthy food to our neighbors in need.
Approximately 44,665 individuals, including children, received food and averted hunger, during those three months last year. That’s nearly a 45% increase over the winter months of December, January and February.
The Food Bank and our region’s network of local feeding programs are ramping up to distribute more healthy food to these households this summer, providing critical relief to thousands. Through our Mobile Food Bank, we will distribute food (including fresh local produce) directly to households with children in neighborhoods in our region with the highest levels of food insecurity. In the last 12 months, we have fed an average of 2,143 children every month at ten distribution sites in Hampden, Hampshire and Berkshire counties.
None of this is possible without you. Please consider a gift today. Together, we can ensure that children in our region can look forward to a summer filled with picnics, swimming, and baseball — not hunger.
By Sean Condon of Speed & Sprocket
Warm summer weather means plenty of opportunities to get outside and ride. To maximize your comfort, make sure to wear appropriate clothing while you train for Will Bike 4 Food. While standard issue athletic shorts and a t-shirt are fine for a few leisurely miles, there are many cycling-specific options that will make longer rides more enjoyable for you.
I know what many of you are thinking: “There’s absolutely no way you are going to get me into a pair of lycra shorts, even if my life depends on it!” Before I try to convince you, or give some other options, let’s talk about why. For many of us, skin tight clothing isn’t all that flattering. However, it is designed that way for a reason. The close compression fit provides support to your muscles, avoids fabric getting caught on the tip of your saddle, and ensures that the pad in the seat area stays where it is supposed to be.
If sporting visible lycra is a fashion faux pas for you, consider an undershort that you wear under your regular athletic shorts — something like Bellwether’s Premium Undershorts. Or, you can also buy normal looking shorts with a liner that provides the same comfort, such as their Ultralight Shorts. There are many brands out there who make these styles (Bellwether is just one example). And just like with any article of clothing, different brands will fit differently. Don’t be afraid to try on a few to find the pair that fits best. And remember — you do not wear underwear under padded bike shorts. Doing so can chafe your skin and make you rather uncomfortable.
At the very least, you want to consider wearing an athletic, sweat wicking, non-cotton top. Cotton is very uncomfortable when wet which is the last thing you want on a long ride. Modern wicking fabrics are magical and will help keep you drier as well as cooler.
If you want to up your game a step, look into some cycling jerseys. Contrary to popular belief, they DO NOT have to be skin tight. Many brands make different fits that you can try based on your build. Cycling jerseys are constructed using lightweight wicking material and are constructed with pockets built into the back that are really handy for carrying a plethora of stuff.
Riding on flat pedals with normal athletic sneakers is perfectly fine. Another great option is toe traps with straps that you can cinch down over your forefoot, which help keep your feet from sliding off the pedals.
While toe clip pedals do a better job of keeping your feet on your pedals, clipless pedals also provide the additional advantage of applying more power through your pedal strokes.
Keep these basics in mind when you are deciding what to wear for your next ride. As always, send any questions my way. My next column will cover what you should carry with you when you head out on the road. Until then, keep getting those miles in on your bike!Comments Off
By Abby Getman, Planning and Advocacy Coordinator
Since 1982, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has been supplying emergency food to our neighbors in need through our network of member agencies, which includes pantries, shelters and meal sites. Last year alone, we distributed enough food to provide more than 7.5 million meals. In addition, we are contracted by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) to conduct Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach throughout the four counties of Western Mass. We assist food insecure households to apply for the program and help gather all of the necessary documentation in order to receive benefits.
When the Commonwealth instituted a new business process redesign for SNAP in October of 2014 without proper testing and training, the program immediately began to fail. Not only have we seen people being denied benefits they are eligible for, but member agencies are also reporting a marked increase in individuals seeking emergency food. The correlation could not be clearer for those working to end hunger in the Massachusetts. The Food Bank has been working tirelessly with state-wide partners, including the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, to draw attention to this crisis. We’ve been educating clients, member agencies, community partners, and our elected officials on the issue, and advocating for change.
We’re thankful to finally begin seeing the fruits of our many months of labor. In June, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders proudly stated at an event in Holyoke, “You have my complete commitment that we will fix SNAP.” DTA Commissioner Jeff McCue (who has only been on the job since late April) is poised to take strong steps to address the issues, which he laid out at a separate meeting hosted by The Food Bank in mid-June. Looking at big changes for DTA, McCue seeks to bring back transparency and efficiency. As he stated in the meeting, there’s no one magical cure for these issues — it is a lot of little steps. Food Bank staff and advocates agree, and are cautiously optimistic that the tide is turning for SNAP this summer.
As the leader of the emergency food network in our region, The Food Bank hosts the Western Massachusetts SNAP Coalition. Our recent meetings have focused solely on the issues, sparking several news articles and motivating elected officials to ask questions as to why Massachusetts was failing its residents in need. Our weekly reporting to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has kept federal administrators abreast of the severity of the issues. State legislators on the Joint Ways & Means Committee demanded answers during a DTA hearing in the spring, and were an attentive audience when our Director of Programs, Christina Maxwell, testified on the crisis on Beacon Hill in April.
As we head into the summer, a time when food insecurity is at its highest, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will continue to work with DTA and state-wide advocates in creating solutions to this broken system. Access barriers are already starting to be removed, and small steps are being taken to correct the problems. After advocates weighed in with McCue in a May meeting, suggested changes were made to the DTA call-line within weeks. The Food Bank will continue our work to provide SNAP outreach to communities in need throughout our region. We anticipate many improvements to report on, after we hold the next Western Massachusetts SNAP Coalition Meeting in September.
To learn more about how you can lend your voice and bring positive change to our community, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you, or someone you know, is in need of assistance, call our SNAP outreach team at (413) 247-9738 for additional information.Comments Off
By Sean Condon of Speed & Sprocket
While Will Bike 4 Food on September 27 may seem far over the horizon, it will be here before we know it! Between now and then, I’ll be sharing some tips for improving your cycling skills to ensure that you’re confident and well prepared for the big day. The first tip I want to share with you is something that you should be doing each and every time you ride: the ABC Quick Check.
A = Air: While many people assume that flats are caused by nails or glass in the road, the truth is that many flats are caused by underinflated tires! Save yourself the misery of fixing a flat tire on the side of the road in the middle of a ride by simply making sure they are properly inflated before the ride. Make sure that both of your tires are inflated up to the recommended pressure listed on the sidewall of the tire. Tubes naturally lose air over time, even when they are brand new and in perfect condition. Use a floor pump (NOT a mini-pump) with a built in pressure gauge at least once a week, at a minimum. While you’re checking the pressure, look over the condition of your tires as well.
B = Brakes: Make sure that both of your brakes are properly connected and working, especially if you’ve taken a wheel off for transportation. As you are checking your brakes, make sure that the pads are not rubbing against the tire or going into the spokes. This is especially important if you start your ride heading down a steep hill (speaking from personal experience).
C = Chain, Cranks, and Cassette (the gears in back): These components, otherwise known as your drivetrain, are what make your bike “go.” If you truly love your bike, you should be keeping these clean and properly lubricated. As you get ready and start your ride, make sure all these bits are turning freely and (mostly) quietly. If they’re not, or if your chain is skipping around while pedaling, you should consider bringing it into the shop for adjustments or even a full tune-up.
Quick = Quick Releases: Most newer bikes come with quick release levers on the wheels for easy removal. Make sure that the levers are tightened with the “closed” side of the skewer facing you. If you see the word “open,” you’ve put the skewer on the wrong way! There is nothing worse than your bicycle becoming a unicycle while you’re riding it because of improperly attached wheels.
Check = Check Over: While you’re doing all of the above, keep your eyes and ears open for loose parts on your bike. If you have any doubts, bring it to a trusted bike mechanic for them to inspect!
Feel free to shoot questions my way at Sean@SpeedandSprocket.com. In upcoming segments I’ll talk about suggestions on what to wear while riding, what you should be carrying on your bike with you, and what you should be eating. In the meantime, get out on your bike and ride, after performing your ABC Quick Check, of course!Comments Off
Sean Condon, owner of Speed & Sprocket Cycle Works, will be joining our blog to offer bicycle maintenance and cycling tips leading up to the 5th Annual Will Bike 4 Food on Sunday, September 27.
Bicycle mechanic Sean Condon loves getting to know new people. For the past two years, his business, Speed & Sprocket Cycle Works, has sponsored Will Bike 4 Food. Each year he meets countless riders while making free pre-ride adjustments to their bikes before they hit the road. For Sean, being involved with WB4F is a way to give back, meet riders both new and experienced, and grow the cycling community in Western Massachusetts. His approach to bike maintenance makes getting your bike repaired a more personal experience.
A West Springfield native, Sean has spent most of his life in the Pioneer Valley. His first experience with cycling was in college when he began working in the cycling department of a sporting goods store. Despite having no prior cycling experience, he learned the ins-and-outs of repairing and riding bikes quickly. Soon he was mountain biking through the beautiful trails of Western Massachusetts. A move to Boston expanded his interest to road riding as Sean found it easier to get around the city by bike. He loved the challenge of going up hills, riding farther than he thought he could, and improving his speed.
Upon returning to Western Massachusetts, he wanted to share his passion for the sport and began volunteering at the Holyoke Urban Bike Shop (HUBS). HUBS is a program at the Holyoke YMCA which teaches bicycle maintenance. As part of the HUBS “Earn a Bike” program, Sean taught youth how to deconstruct and repair a bicycle. Once the student restored the bike to working condition it became theirs. It was while volunteering there that he met Liz, a fellow bike mechanic who worked at the Y. The two are now married and together founded Speed & Sprocket Cycle Works with the vision of a friendly, stress-free bicycle repair experience.
Speed & Sprocket is a mobile shop, which means they come to you, when it’s convenient for you, and make sure that your ride is in great shape on-the-spot. From tune-ups to minor repairs (such as shifting problems or installing new tires), they make sure your ride is road-ready without the worry of picking it up or dropping it off.
“While I enjoyed working in shops, I realized that model doesn’t work for all customers. I wanted to create something more personal and have a more one-on-one connection,” says Sean.
He first learned about WB4F during a visit to The Food Bank to volunteer with his daughter’s Girl Scout troop and inquired how he could get involved. Since then, he has helped riders prepare for take-off, and last year he even organized training rides leading up the event. Much like his maintenance workshops, leading training rides allows Sean to help riders empower themselves to do more.
“One of the riders who came to the training ride was planning on doing the 10-mile route,” explains Sean. ”But after he did the 15-mile training ride, he decided to work towards the 25-mile route. He pushed his boundaries of what he could do and surprised himself.”
Be sure to check back for helpful cycling tips and tricks from Sean every other week in our ‘In The Bank’ blog. And don’t forget to stop by Speed & Sprocket’s booth on September 27 at the 5th Annual Will Bike 4 Food to say hi to Sean, and get your bike one last tune-up.Comments Off
By Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director
I was very fortunate to participate recently in a two-day workshop on “racial healing.” Hosted by the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley, it’s “framework” states:
“Many in the Greater Springfield area believe that racism continues to afflict us and has an impact on our businesses, neighborhoods, schools and interpersonal relationships. A process that facilitates an understanding of the root causes and effects of racism, and the institutional nature of racism, will allow for the building of a better and more equitable community.”
You might be asking yourself: what does racism have to do with food banking? The fact is the emergency food network of local feeding programs — pantries, meal sites and shelters — has evolved over the past three decades in such a way that it cannot meet the needs of food insecure households equitably by county and, therefore, by race. The majority of people of color in our region live in Hampden County where the average food insecure household receives the least amount of emergency food compared to the same average household in any of the other three counties of Western Massachusetts (Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties). Another way of saying it is that our network has unwittingly created unequal institutional access to emergency food by race.
Although there is a large number of feeding programs in Hampden County (77 in total), there simply is not enough local capacity to receive, store and distribute the same level of food for people in need as in other counties. Ultimately, more than half of all food at The Food Bank is distributed to Hampden County through these programs and our own direct delivery programs (Brown Bag: Food for Elders and Mobile Food Bank). Despite this, the food insecure population in Hampden County is far greater than in the three other counties.
Let me be clear — no one intentionally set up our region’s emergency food network with insufficient capacity in Hampden County. Local feeding programs, including faith-based pantries and meal sites, generally operate on very tight budgets and rely on tremendous volunteer support. It’s taken thousands of staff, volunteers and funders decades to build the incredible community network that we have today. In Hampden County, the resources needed to run a program (such as volunteers, reliable transportation, and financial support) tend to be harder to come by. At the same time, life for vulnerable and struggling households certainly got much harder with the onset of the Great Recession. For many, it hasn’t gotten much easier — particularly in Hampden County, where the population in poverty continues to climb.
What we believe matters is that we understand this geographic and racial inequity in our region’s emergency food network and that we must do something about it. We are committed to providing more meals more equitably to more people in need of food assistance. This means that everyone getting food in Western Massachusetts should receive the same amount, regardless of which county they live in.
In order to ensure equal access to healthy food across the region, we have begun to focus our resources on increasing the availability of emergency food in Hampden County. To accomplish this goal, we devoted a year to planning with our member agencies from all four counties. We worked closely with them to identify challenges facing the emergency food network. Together, we have developed a plan to equalize food distribution across Western Massachusetts over the next several years. We’re committed to this goal because everyone has a right to healthy food regardless of their circumstances.
Cam Nevin and Kayla Strom are heading from the classroom to the open road. On June 1st, the fresh University of Vermont (UVM) alumni will trade their caps and gowns for helmets and jerseys. They’ll be departing on a three month cycling trek to explore the country and raise awareness & funds for food insecurity.
Ever since they met two years ago in a yoga training course, Cam and Kayla have bonded over their shared appreciation for gardening, mindfulness, and healthy foods. As graduation drew closer, they knew they wanted to share an adventure on the road before settling into their future careers. However, they also wanted to avoid the negative environmental impact that comes with driving such a long trip. They agreed that seeing the country from the saddle of a bicycle was their best option.
The couple decided to organize their trip as a fundraiser to tap into their passion to end hunger and make a real difference in the lives of others. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts was a natural choice to partner with for their ride. They estimate the cost of the trip will be approximately $5,000. Their goal is to raise double that, $10,000, to be able to donate $5,000 to The Food Bank. If they are able to reach their goal, Cam and Kayla will be providing 15,000 meals to our neighbors in need throughout Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties.
Cam — who hails from Moretown, VT — studied Philosophy at UVM. No matter what career he pursues, he hopes to work to help others. Having led trips at Keewaydin Canoe Camp in Salisbury, VT for six years, he is no stranger to long, physically difficult journeys.
“Hunger is a simple yet devastating ill in this world,” says Cam. “We thought ‘why not start with food, a basic human need that should be accessible to all but unfortunately is not.’”
Growing up in Northampton, Kayla remembers cutting flowers and picking vegetables at The Food Bank Farm as a child. Although her family supports local and sustainable agriculture through CSA farm shares, Kayla’s passion for food systems really began when she took a course entitled World Food Population Development during her first year at college.
“We discussed all sorts of issues on a local and global scale,” says Kayla. “One that truly stuck was addressing the issue of hunger. Since my freshman year, I created a course load that encompasses this issue.”
Kayla went on to study Community and International Development with a focus on food systems, food justice and hunger. She has interned for the hunger relief project Campus Kitchens and conducted research for a more sustainable food system at UVM through the Real Food Challenge. She hopes to work for an organization that addresses food security in the future.
Departing from Northampton just two weeks after their graduation, they will travel west to Niagara Falls, around the southeastern edge of Lake Erie, south of Chicago, and then straight through the great plains of Iowa and Nebraska. They will then drop into Colorado before pedaling through Utah and Nevada on the way to their final destination of San Francisco. To complete the journey within their goal of less than three months, they will ride an average of 50 miles per day. By the end of their journey, they will have pedaled approximately 3,500 miles.
“We are very active, outdoors-oriented individuals, but we’ve never actually done long-distance touring before. This will be a grand part of the adventure,” says Cam. They have been cycling extensively to prepare for the ride. They know the trip will be challenging — both physically and mentally. But they have each other and know they’re riding for a noble cause.
You can contribute to Cam and Kayla’s fundraiser and follow along with updates from their trip. Visit their fundraising page at http://www.youcaring.com/other/kayla-and-cam-s-ride-for-hunger-relief/308229.Comments Off