Five things I wish I knew: Coach Suzie Snyder

Coach Suzie Snyder is a five-time Xterra national champion who is still racing at the international level in addition to coaching FasCat athletes of all levels.

Here, the veteran racer and professional coach shares five things she wish she knew when she began her professional off-road triathlon career.

Listen in to the podcast as she talks about the parasympathetic nervous system, how contraceptives can affect training and recovery, and more. Here is her Top 5 list of things she wished she knew when she began.... The first one is specific to professional racing, but the next three apply to all athletes, and the last one is pertinent and important to female athletes. 

1: I wish I knew how important social media would be to obtaining sponsorship as a professional athlete. I was rejected from a sponsorship once because I didn’t have enough Twitter followers.

2: I wish I knew that rest days are as important as training days. Take enough of them and take them seriously. I remember when I was young and feisty and just loved training so much. I got myself so overtrained I thought I had mono.

3: I wish I knew the importance of the parasympathetic nervous system and relaxation. When I started racing I was in college, then soon after grad school and I was constantly on the go and didn’t have any 'free time'. I was either in class, working, training or doing homework. Over time I got pretty worn down.

Parasympathetic activities help reduce cortisol levels, which is important. The parasympathetic nervous system controls the body’s ability to relax. It's sometimes called the "rest and digest" state. It helps maintain daily functions like your resting heart rate, which is your heart rate while your body is at rest; your metabolism; and your resting bronchial constriction, which affects your breathing rate. It’s about finding your body’s way of meditating, what helps you to decompress. Maybe you need a bath or to book a massage. If you like reading, read a book. Playing music can be a good way of relaxing and tuning in to shut off most of your other senses. Whatever it is, it shouldn’t involve anything that stresses you out. Even a 5-minute comedy video that gives you a deep belly laugh—whatever makes you feel positive energy reinforces the parasympathetic nervous system.

4: I wish I had gotten a GoPro sooner to use for course recon. This would have been very helpful to re-watch prior to a race, because most of the MTB courses we race on are one 32K loop that you’re not going to ride multiple times in the 2-4 days before racing, and they can be quite technical. So riding it once is good, but you often forget a lot and having video to watch would have been similar to riding it again and again.

5: I wish I knew about the negative impacts that oral contraceptives had on the body in regard to training and performance. I lost a couple good years of training because of it. Like many 20-somethings, I started taking a birth control pill, completely uneducated about any negative impacts it could have on my body. Taking oral contraceptives affected the levels of natural hormones that my body made and affected the way my body regulated them. For example, it reduced the anabolic hormones estrogen and testosterone (which are incredibly important to training adaptation: recovery, muscle growth and repair, oxygen utilization), and increased levels of sex hormone binding globulin. SHBG regulates the amount of free hormones available for use in the tissues. More bound up = less available.

There are substantial variations in the degree of changes to your biomarkers from various contraceptive methods. IUDs and progesterone-only oral contraceptives appear to induce the smallest changes while contraceptive patches induce significantly greater changes than oral contraceptives.