With the arrival of spring, you can see them all over. In brightly-colored clothes in suburban areas, weaving in and out of pedestrians under the watchful gaze of skyscrapers or on solitary bike trails early in the morning. Spring heralds the time of year when endurance athletes comes out of the winter months to begin training for the long-awaited races.
The Country Music Marathon, The Badwater Ultramarathon, The Race Across America and your local 10K or half-marathon race for charity in your neck of the woods all mean one thing to the endurance athlete – training.
Whether for the fun of it or the competition, maximizing your experience in event training is of utmost importance. Proper training will benefit the endurance athlete to help avoid physical injury either before, during or after the competition.
Here are a some well-recognized tips to consider when training:
1. Do not overtrain – although this may seem like a good idea, overtraining can actually damage your body faster. Oftentimes, endurance athletes feel as though their training regimen is not effective enough and so they train harder. This can be the root of overtraining. Although training or exercise is the root to strong competition. It is the proper rest after the exercise that makes an endurance athlete fit. A great aid for balanced training is to keep a log. Your log should show elevated training periods over a long period of time as your body begins to strengthen and adjust to your regimen.
2. Pay attention to Injuries, especially seemingly minor injuries – nearly every athlete will injure themselves to some degree, either during training or during the competition. The relative impact of how that injury effects you during competition is determined by your responding quickly. This requires that you understand how your body responds to certain stimuli. Know your gait, your stride, your breathing patterns. Understanding your body on this level will allow you to catch injuries as early as possible and can help protect you from exacerbating the injury.
3. Cross Train – Although many athletes believe that total focus on their single sport (e.g., running) may be the best course of action, The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine encourages cross training as the ‘total body tune-up, something that can not be achieved if an athlete concentrates on just one type of activity.’ And it is notable that it goes on to say that cross training may help the athlete “experience fewer overuse injuries”.
4. Train Carefully and Thoughtfully – An athletes training for an endurance race, be it cycling, a marathon or a triathlon – needs to begin months in advance. This will begin to prepare your body for the task it will undertake. This training is not only a physical effort but, as importantly, a mental one. Endurance competition begins before the proverbial rubber ever meets the road. It begins in the mind. Set goals for yourself and fully develop the mental aspect of how you will, and did, accomplish that goal. As you train, listen to your body to determine what works best for you. Keep a log of how long you trained, which types of exercise you did, what you ate and don’t forget to also log your fluid intake.
5. Nutrition and Hydration – If you speak with the most every elite athlete, they will quickly let you know that it is not only critical to train your body through exercise but it is equally important to take care of yourself on the inside too. The foods you eat (macro-nutrients; carbs, protein and fat) are essential to a successful training program. Be sure to eat a healthy and varied diet (cross-train your digestion system too)! And, especially as we head into the warmer months, be sure to hydrate. But remember, water alone may not be enough. When you train in excess of an hour your body can excrete grams of electrolytes (e.g. sodium and chloride) through your sweat. You need to replenish those too. Doing so will provide you the best recipe for success for your body.