Fail to Prepare; Prepare to Fail!

After using the phrase ‘Fail to prepare; prepare to fail!’ this week, I thought it would be a great place to start when writing my blog. As I’m in the process of training for the London Marathon in 2012 I find myself back in the same mindset as I was as a footballer, not leaving anything to chance and making sure every training run is prepared for properly. It made me think about how others prepare themselves for their sports or just for training in general. I’ve come up with a few questions and tips that might help you train and perform to your best…..

  • Are you eating the right foods before training or the main performance? 

TIP – What you put into your body prior to training/performing will provide you with the energy you need to perform at your best. If you don’t eat right, don’t expect to perform to your best! High carbohydrate foods before hand should leave you with the energy to perform at a good level without feeling tired/drained. I tend to eat foods like, chicken, pasta, rice, bananas, toast and cereal. The size and type of food depends on the time of day I eat it and how long I have before the performance. Ideally, a big meal should be eaten 3 hours prior to the performance or smaller, lighter foods such as toast for anything closer to the performance. Remember to leave enough time for your food to go down and start the digestion process or it will sit on your stomach and make it uncomfortable to run or move when performing.

  • Are you drinking enough of the right fluids before and during training or the main performance?

TIP – Very similar to the tip above, the fluids that you put into your body prior to and during training/performing, will prevent you from becoming dehyrated and will replace lost salts from sweating. Drinking plenty of water before training/performing will help the body be at its best. If you feel dehydrated the damage is already done! It only takes 2-3% of water loss in the body before endurance starts to suffer and your performance also suffers. A little bit more(5%) and it effects the mind making it hard to concentrate and the body continues to suffer with pace slowing down. Keeping hydrated is vital! Isotonic drinks are a good tool during training/performing as they replace lost salts and also have a high concentration of carbs to keep the energy levels up. If possible, try to take plenty of fluids with you during your training/performance and keep drinking small amounts at regular intervals. It’s easier for sports like cycling for obvious reasons that you can connect a drink to your bike, but I’ve been known to hide drink bottles in a quiet place on a route I plan on taking a long distance run, so that I have a drink at certain stages of that run. Don’t neglect drinking fluids and make sure they are the right fluids, not fizzy drinks, tea, coffee etc as they are diuretics and will only dehydrate you more!

  • Do you have the right equipment and clothing?

TIP – This is a very important tip! Having the wrong equipment or clothing could be costly, not just because of comfort but because you can risk injury. Until you know a sport, it’s very difficult to know what you might need, so make sure you speak to the right people and get advice on the essentials from people who perform in that sport or know their stuff. An example: Until running long distances, you might not have ever thought about blisters, chafing, correct trainers for your gait etc, but all of them can make the difference between performing at your best and a very uncomfortable event. Clothing such as 1000 mile blister free socks, lined shorts, vaseline or other lubricants to prevent chafing and correct trainers(sometimes fitted with orthotics if necessary!) are a must. Sometimes it’s trial and error but there are specific sports shops that can advise you if you need help. How about riding up a steep hill on your bike and the gears keep slipping? Again something that can cause an injury if you’re on a road amongst traffic and can really make your ride much more difficult. Maybe it’s about the right foot wear in a football match. Do you have moulded boots for hard grounds and studded boots for soft weather grounds? It’s not just the equipment/clothing it’s also the colour! I have recently been on a training run in the clothing you can see in the picture to the right which looks fine until you know I went out later in the day and misjudged the time. I ended up running in the dark in black clothing without any reflectors on. I rarely make mistakes like this and there were no problems on the run, BUT there could have been and next time I might not be so fortunate. I have learnt from my mistake and it’s a good mistake to highlight as an example of the title of this blog.

So in conclusion, don’t leave things to chance! There are many more tips I could give you about performing to your best but the blog would go on all day, so I’ll save it for another day. The higher the level you perform at, the smaller the margins are. Not drinking enough, eating the wrong foods at the wrong time, wearing the wrong clothing and using the wrong equipment and generally not preparing for your performance could be the difference between being a winner or a loser! What would you rather be?

Consistent or Consistently Inactive?

The Findings:

After recently returning to full training from a calf injury, that meant not running for 25 days, I have witnessed first hand(again!) what a break in fitness training can do! The great thing about technology is being able to compare data and doing exactly that has shown me in black and white the differences between regular, consistent exercise, to irregular, inconsistent exercise. After seeing what it can do to someone like myself that is in the fitness industry for a living and loves to keep fit, I thought it might be a great idea to share my comparisons with others that exercise a lot less, to show the effects it can have on the body and change a few people’s mind sets towards regular exercise.

The facts:

I run 10 miles at a time 2-3 times a week with 1-2 resistance training sessions in between, consisting of full body weights and core exercises. The last time I ran(when fresh) before getting injured, was Sunday 10th July. Since then I have not been able to do any impact exercise so I’ve been limited to CV on a bike and weight training. Because of this I knew my fitness would suffer but I wasn’t sure how much until I returned from injury. My first run back from injury(without pain) was on Thursday 11th August, 32 days apart. The differences in pace, time, and most importantly heart rate are quite amazing!

Here is the comparison(make sure to click on ‘more detail’ for a thorough comparison):

If you look at the difference in max and average heart rate between the two, the latter run was higher by 12 beats per minute, making the heart rate zone much higher and the body having to work much harder even on a flatter course. If this is what can happen to the efficiency of the heart of a personal trainer in 32 days, whilst continuing other forms of training in that time, imagine what it can do to the average person that neglects their body and the exercise they do to keep it in shape over months or years of irregular, inconsistent exercise. If the heart takes that short a time to become that less efficient, take a moment to think about the strain it will have on other organs of the body and the body’s performance as a whole. Even the smallest jobs could seem epic if the heart has to work so hard to make it happen, so here are a few tips to make sure you keep your body working as efficiently as possible.

The Tips:

  1. When starting to exercise, try to get into a routine that the body recognises. Build it up so that you workout at least 2-3 times a week for an hour at a time.
  2. Everyone needs a rest to let the body recover and as I’ve mentioned before, the rest is just as important as the actual workout, but don’t leave it too long between workouts. As you can see from the stats above, if the gaps are too big between exercise, the body’s fitness will suffer and you will feel like you’ve taken a step backwards every time you start exercising again.
  3. Lastly, keep things fresh by mixing up what exercise you do, this way you will be less inclined to put it off as you are bored of your routine. By doing this you will keep your exercise routine fun, consistent and your body working efficiently for as long as you put the hard work into it.

I hope these three tips help you keep your body fit and healthy. If you have come across the same break in exercise and experienced the same fitness struggles, please leave your stories and let me know if this blog has helped you!

Training for Performance

I’ve recently trained a wide range of clients wanting very different results, but they are all linked in one way without them even realising! We all train for better performance no matter what it is we do. I’ve trained marathon runners, tri-athletes, cyclists, clients wanting to build muscle and those that just want general fitness and a weekly push in the right direction. Whether you want to become a stronger cyclist, a quicker runner or just to have a healthier heart, lungs and rest of the body, the first thing you need to do is train to cater for what you do! This is where so many people go wrong. For example, if you are a sprinter, you wouldn’t train by running marathons, you would perform speed drills and power exercises for short bursts.

I recently played a round of golf (which was long overdue!) and I realised how much the sport is based around technique and flexibility. If you get both right, the power seems to come naturally. The twisting motion of a golfer needs a lot of core strength, especially the sides(obliques). This made me think about sports in general and what we do to train for them. The more I thought, the more questions I came up with. After playing football for so many years, the obvious thing was to relive the training I had taken part in day after day and question its methods. One example is; a footballer is constantly on the move but it is not all one paced, there are changes in speed and direction. Obviously endurance is necessary but why are so many teams pre-seasons based around long, one paced runs for miles on end. How many footballers run at the same pace continuously for a full 90 minutes? So is this kind of training necessary? One question that really stands out in my mind is…If most football matches are played at 3pm, why do English clubs train at 10-10.30am? A lot of european clubs have been known to train at the time a match would be played, helping the body get used to performing to the best of its ability at that time of day. So why do we insist on doing things differently? Is it small details like this that prevents us being the best at a national level? Do we do enough homework about the sport we play and how to achieve success?

It’s not just about sport, it’s about those that want general fitness. You might think “How can you train for performance when it’s general fitness?” Well, when you are training for general fitness, your performance is your every day life and the functional movements you do with every step you take or every time you stretch to pick something up off the floor. The majority of people don’t play a sport, so training to stay fit and healthy in a functional manner is key. Flexibility is so important, especially later in life when bones start to fuse and muscles get used less and tighten up. So with this in mind, when we exercise why do so many people neglect stretching the body before and after a workout? It is so important to stretch straight after a workout to prevent the muscles tightening up and losing flexibility in the long run.

So next time when you enter the gym, park or even your own front room for a workout, think about what you want to get out of it and what the main reason is for you exercising. Once you understand why you are exercising, then you can train specifically for what you need, to enhance performance.