If you’re working towards a physical goal for 50 Challenges, the last thing you want is an injury.
HOW TO AVOID INJURY
1. START SLOW AND STEADY
The most important thing is not to expect too much from your body – especially at the beginning. Your body will adapt to the new physical demands you are making on it surprisingly quickly, but you need to increase your activity in small steps and give your body time to heal itself between trainings. A good rule of thumb is that you only increase your training by 10% each week. The tortoise really is going to win the race – or complete the challenge.
2. INVEST IN THE RIGHT KIT
You don’t need to spend a fortune to get going - all you need to run is a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, and you can usually borrow a bike while you test whether cycling is for you. But there are key bits of kit that will give you the support you need and help protect your body. For runners, the most important thing is your footwear; a professional shop will monitor your gait on a treadmill to select the shoes that are best for you. For cyclists, a little cushioning can go a long way! Lights and high-vis clothing are also essential if you’re going to be out after dark. If you’re swimming in lakes, you’ll need the right type of wetsuit to keep you sufficiently warm. For other sports, ask a professional what the essentials are that you need to get going and then ideally beg, borrow and steal while you find out whether it’s going to be your thing or just a passing whim – you don’t want to have all the gear and no idea!
3. MIX IT UP
Doing the same exercises or training over and over doesn’t enable your body to learn to adapt to different environments – it also slows down your progress. You will achieve your goals quicker and help protect your body from injury by varying your training. For runners and cyclists, this will mean some sprint intervals mixed into the long runs and rides.
If you’re building up to a walking challenge, mixing up the terrain that you train on – on road, off-road, flat and hills – will build up better strength and endurance in your body than always doing the same circuit.
It’s also important to have de-load weeks in your training schedule; rather than just increasing the miles week in, week out, you need some weeks where you scale it back a bit to give your body time to recover, before pushing forwards to the next big target or milestone.
You not only need proper rest days built into your training programme, you also need to allow yourself sufficient R&R, including decent sleep. Working long hours, high stress levels (high levels of the stress hormone cortisol) and insufficient sleep is a perfect cocktail for an injury.
5. EAT WELL
Food is your body’s fuel: training without the right food would be like trying to drive a car with no petrol. There is a lot to learn when it comes to the correct nutrition for your challenge/sport, so I’m going to give you one single piece of advice that is highly important and will aid in recovery of the body and help your body function at an optimum level: EAT SOME SORT OF PROTEIN WITH EVERY SINGLE MEAL. As a trainer, I know that the majority of people do not eat enough protein and it is vital in everyday life but people just forget about it.
6. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Even with the best planning, there will be days when your body simply isn’t up to hard training. While you want to achieve your challenge, be sensible: if you are tired, maybe do a shorter training session; if you’re exhausted, give yourself the day off and get back on track tomorrow.