If you’re just starting out, there are a few things you need to consider before you get going, such as which exercises are best for you, how much time you spend training and how to maintain fitness.
HOW TO GET STARTED
1. START SLOW AND STEADY
You may be itching to get going, but if your recent workouts have been along the lines of lifting a glass while watching box sets on the sofa, your keywords are slow and steady, whatever sport or activity you’re taking up.
With any new exercise, you’re prone to injury because your technique when you first start is probably not that good due muscular imbalances, weaknesses and potentially being overweight; all of this means your body will find the easiest route to complete a task, which may not be the best way. The key is therefore to build your body up so it can adapt to the exercises you are now putting it through. With running out on the pavements, there’s the additional strain of the impact of the repetitive pounding on your joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons; this means you really do want to take it gently to begin with. Your first session of running would consist of a lot of walking as well. You’d walk for two minutes then jog for 1 minute and so on, until you build yourself up. Even with more gentle activities such as Pilates or yoga you must be aware that when you start anything new you must only push the body as much as you personally see fit. It’s difficult to give generic advice because everyone is so different and no two people will be the same: our bodies all adjust differently to new tasks. This makes it really important to get the correct guidance from a professional and listen to your body to set yourself up for success.
2. SET YOURSELF A REALISTIC FIRST CHALLENGE
If you’ve been a couch potato for the last few years, making your first challenge to run a marathon or complete a triathlon is setting yourself up for injury, failure and disappointment. Be realistic about your current levels of fitness and accept a challenge that will allow you to push yourself and force you to make positive changes in your life, but that is realistically achievable. When you have conquered that first challenge, you will feel on top of the world – and be ready to push yourself with something a bit more demanding next time.
3. PUSH YOURSELF – BUT DON’T FIGHT THE INEVITABLE
50 Challenges are all about pushing yourself and achieving more than you thought possible, but you do need to be realistic about your age. Yes, there will be some keen athletes who can keep up with much younger competitors; if you have always maintained your fitness levels this is more likely to be you. There are also some disciplines in which you can expect to achieve better times than when you are younger, such as longer-distance running. But, for most people, someone in their thirties who is already quite fit will take less time to adapt their body than if you’re in your 50s with little or no previous fitness training. If you’re in your 50s and you’ve never done a particular sport before, you need to take it even slower to start with than you might have done a couple of decades before due to health risks being more common.
4. GET THE RIGHT ADVICE
If you’re doing something new, latch onto other people’s expertise to make sure you do it right to minimise the risk of injury and increase your chances of success. The best approach is always to work with a professional, either one to one or in a class. If you opt to research training programmes online for the challenge you are setting yourself, you need to be aware that there is contradictory advice out there and it can be hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. Make sure you do your research thoroughly; check out credentials and accreditations and read the reviews before choosing one that you think is well founded that you can keep to and that will fit in with your daily life best. For most realistic beginners’ or intermediate challenges, you’re looking at twelve to sixteen-week programmes, for example couch potato to 5k, or from running 5k to running a half marathon.
5. USE TECHNOLOGY TO GUIDE AND INSPIRE YOU
In today’s digital age, there is an app for everything. These can really help keep you on track, for little or no cost. You can track your distance and pace – and see how you improve over time. There are apps that map out great training plans for nearly every challenge; lots of them provide very visual guides of your progress towards your end goal, which can be very powerful in helping you complete your challenges.