What to do, when to do it, how to do it?
These seem to be the most frequently asked questions that I hear from friends and people who want to start running, training or getting fit.
Get in shape through your brain
Personally I found and still find the most important thing is mindset. Firstly, remembering that you are doing it for your own well-being and to challenge yourself to achieve personal goals. The feeling of achieving goals (be it work-orientated or setting a new 5km run personal best) is always a major mental and physical boost.
The next important step is making your training / healthy lifestyle a habit, not a fad!
Committing to a spinning class every Monday evening, which gives you a positive activity to get you through a Monday, and a perfect way to burn off the weekend.
On Tuesday, get some friends or join a running club, and go for a light run.
On Wednesday, take some time off or join a Pilates class.
Thursday, put on those running shoes, and explore your neighbourhood or the forest on foot.
When Friday rolls around, kick back and have fun.
Saturday morning, get on your bike or pull on your run shoes, it’s a perfect time to take exploring a step further, and get in some longer distances.
If you are feeling good, why not have a double up, using Sunday morning or afternoon as well?
A fun way to train on the weekend is to plan your route ahead of time, be it a run or cycle. Why not try getting dropped at the start point, then running or cycling to the finish? And why not make the finish point a café or coffee shop… You’ve earned that double latté!
Another great approach to keeping training fresh is to explore. By planning ahead, you allow yourself an opportunity to see places or routes that you have never seen before. That said, there is nothing wrong with revisiting places you know. It gives you a chance to measure your fitness journey and see how much quicker you can do it.
It goes without saying that adding effective stretching after training and warming up will go a long way in preventing injuries. Adding stabilising or strength work twice a week adds extra value in ensuring an injury-free training cycle. This can easily be covered by adding two Pilates classes a week. Classes are always more fun than going through an hour of it on your own. Always try to make your training social, as it helps to increase the enjoyment factor and adds a weight of accountability to your training buddies.
This is all just an example of how you can approach your week’s training. It is by no means a set programme, though, as training is very much a “horses for courses” activity. Looking back though, this is pretty much the programme that got me going, and helped me to keep on track back when I could not even walk 5km without doubling over.
Balancing fitness and friendships
Once your training routine has cemented itself and you have committed to a dedicated training regime, you may discover that your social life is taking a little bit of strain. You may think twice about that calorie-laden beer or another late night if you know that you will be up and training early the next morning. It’s all about balance. If you are not aiming to be the next Mo Farah, then a social life and work will be a part of your life and that is not a bad thing. Just be mindful to keep a slight rein of accountability to yourself and your goals.
What about food?
There is a lot of talk on diets and training these days. I feel that training and healthy eating should be a lifestyle that fuels your body to be healthy and strong with sufficient supply of energy. Diets are generally for a period of time and work only for that period of time, due to it becoming financially unsustainable or too time-consuming over a longer period of time.
Personally I have found it’s not a case of going without, but more about moderation and timing. If you want to drink, have a glass of wine or a whiskey and water, instead of that beer or brandy and coke. You want that piece of chocolate? Have a piece of Lindt 70% or melt it in warm milk for hot chocolate (also a nice post training treat), instead of the highly sugary hot chocolates. Cut out the fried foods, opted for grilled rather. At your next braai, ditch the crisps and get some almond and walnuts as the snack. This line of thinking and choices will go hand in hand with adding to your healthy active lifestyle. If you struggle to get an adequate idea or need more assistance it can be very beneficial to visit or chat with a dietician, you will receive the advice and recommendations that will work for you in the long run.
The S word
Another crucial factor in a healthy active lifestyle is sleep. This is in some ways just as important as the training and eating parts of your lifestyle. Eight hours is ideal, but seven will suffice. To give yourself the best chance at least two nights before a big race or training session try to get an eight hour sleep, in order for your body to be mentally and physically in the best shape for the event. (I say two nights before as your body will store the energy needed, and often people struggle to sleep peacefully the night before a race). Before you go to sleep, though, first utilise a valuable asset to your arsenal: visualising. This entails picturing yourself reaching your goal. As most of us are no experts at meditation, running through your goals or plan at bedtime works too. As they say: go to bed with dreams in your heart, wake up with a strategy in your head!
Now take action and enter a race, give yourself time to train and be realistic with your expectations. There are plenty of road- or trail running, mountain- or road biking and multisport events all around the country. You have a well-stocked playground. No excuses.
That is in a nutshell what has worked for me, but as I have said this should be a base and life happens around it. Improvise, change it, find what works best for you, but most importantly – have fun, enjoy the ride and whatever you do – take action get at it!