Tips on how to get the best out of your training

October 27 2014

Rest Days

Most athletes know that getting enough rest after exercise is essential to high-level performance, but many still ‘over train’ and feel guilty when they take a day off.  This high-maintenance attitude to the body can actually do more harm than good as the body repairs and strengthens itself in between workouts, and continuous training can actually weaken the strongest athletes.  In a nutshell - REST IS ESSENTIAL!

Rest days are critical to sports performance for a variety of reasons. Some are physiological and some are psychological. Rest is physically necessary so that the muscles can repair, rebuild and strengthen. For recreational athletes, building in rest days can help maintain a better balance between home, work and fitness goals.

In the worst-case scenario, not enough rest and recovery days can lead to overtraining syndrome - a difficult condition to recover from.

Sleep

In general, one or two nights of poor or little sleep won't have much impact on performance, but consistently getting inadequate sleep can result in subtle changes in hormone levels, particularly those related to stress, muscle recovery and mood.

While no one completely understands the complexities of sleep, some research indicates that sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is active during tissue repair) and decreased glycogen synthesis (use of glucose in the body).

Interval Training

Runners have used interval training for years to build fitness levels.

Interval training combines high intensity bursts of speed with slow recovery phases, a pattern that is repeated throughout the exercise session.

Many people find that interval workouts seem to go quicker. This is because you are concentrating on the intervals and making sure you keep to your plan. As a result the thought process is taken away from standard thoughts such as boredom or even pain.

This type of training is very beneficial physically too, as it will help you gain fitness much quicker, burn more calories, all by simply ‘shocking’ your system (in a good way). Our bodies thrive on having the same routine, so if you change the routine slightly, it will instantly work differently and your body will have to adjust to a new speed/hill etc.

You are probably best starting with interval training on the treadmill, as it can be easily monitored on this piece of equipment. Every two minutes you should alter the speed. I’d recommend you should generally follow the pattern of doing one easy interval, then the next more difficult.

Running Log

Keeping a running log is important as it can help to keep your motivation levels high. It enables you to track your progress and enables you to plan a gradual, steady increase towards that race or event you are training for.

For example, if you are training for your first 5 km race in 10 weeks time; each week, you need to add 0.5 km to your long runs to be ready for that distance. Doing it this way, it is mentally less intimidating and more achievable, plus you will have the benefit of a target to aim for each week.

Workout Tips

Summer is here, and your training plan isn't going to let up through those (hopefully) long, hot days.  One of the most important issues is how to help your body get the most out of your training while remaining hydrated.

First of all, it's important to understand the way the body's cooling mechanisms work.  As you begin your activity, your heart rate rises and the working of your muscles and organs create heat. In order for your body to disperse the heat, capillaries below the skin start bringing blood flow to the skin's surface. Heat immediately starts radiating from the skin. However, the most effective cooling mechanism is sweating which happens because body needs to keep cool.

An inactive person will sweat out less than a litre of fluid a day; an active person can lose up to 2 litres of water a day. In addition, the sweat lost contains electrolytes and other minerals that need to be replaced to keep the body functioning properly.

In extreme heat situations, the body will work harder to cool itself off and end up burning more calories in doing so. Here are a couple of tips that can help you keep your body working well during your mid-summer hot workouts:

Water Replacement

If you're losing water, it's vital to replace it!

A good way to see how much water you're losing is to weigh yourself pre and post workout. The weight difference will be from the water lost during your session. Generally, if you’ve lost more than one pound in that workout, you're probably heading towards dehydration.  One recommendation is that for every pound you lose, you should replace it with a half a litre of water.

Use More Than Just Water

If you're exercising for more than one hour, you will need to replace much more than water. You will need to replace electrolytes (otherwise known as salts) and carbohydrates (otherwise known as glucose), many sports drinks include electrolytes and carbs, so they are easy to find.

Electrolytes are important because these minerals keep your muscles working properly. Muscular contractions work on a sodium-potassium relationship and these minerals are part of the electrolytes lost, thus stressing the importance of their replacement… and remember, your heart is a muscle too! You need to replace carbs and protein to keep your energy system working properly so your body won't start eating your muscle for energy.

Nutrition Corner

Healthy Eating for Runners

It goes without saying that once you start running your body will need extra fuel, as you will be burning an extra 100 calories roughly for each mile that you run. Not only that, your muscles will need extra protein to keep them operating efficiently. Here is a quick guide of the foods that you should be eating as a new runner:

Complex carbohydrates

These provide slow and steady fuel. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, whole breads and unrefined pastas, vegetables and potatoes will not produce the sharp blood sugar spikes and lows, which can leave you feeling depleted before the end of your run.

Glucose drinks

Any glucose drink consumed in the first 15 minutes after finishing your run will be best absorbed for muscles seeking fuel sources. The 15-minute time frame is important, as this is when your muscles can utilize it best. This fuel is also beneficial during runs that last longer than 60 minutes.

Protein

Protein is absolutely essential for both tendon and muscle repair. They are also needed for regulating hormones.

The more often you run and the further distance you cover, the more repair work there will be for your muscles. An easy guide to remember is that if you are running a great distance you will need up to 1.5 grams of protein for every kilogram that you weigh. So if you weigh 140 pounds, or 64kg, you will need about 96 grams of protein daily.

Your protein should be high quality and preferably lean, such as chicken, tofu, eggs, nuts, or fish.

Fats

Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, flax seed oil, canola oil, and avocados are the healthiest fats to consume.

As monounsaturated fats have been linked to a decrease in heart disease and stroke, it is healthier for a runner to obtain their fat calories from the above sorts of fats and oils than from unhealthy options such as lard or deep-fried anything.

Vitamins and minerals

These will play an important factor in your running performance and endurance. Ideally, these should be provided from a healthy and well balanced diet of fresh and whole foods. Bottled supplements will never replace a healthy and varied diet, and should only ever be considered as an extra, not a necessity.