I don’t know who needs to hear this, but slow down!
The best way to get injured is by doing too much too soon. If you’re training for a run, swim, bike, kayak or multi discipline event, the best thing you can do to get you to the start line is to load slowly.
Hands up if this sounds familiar….. you’ve been training for a big event, everything is going well but you’re keen to get some extra km’s under your belt so you go out for a bit of a harder, longer session. You probably come back feeling good, it may not be immediate, so you don’t connect the dots, but it’s not long until trouble strikes.
No-one can build strength at lightning speed, if you’re increasing your distance by more than 10% a week, you’re most likely sacrificing technique and making yourself vulnerable to injuries. You may be able to complete the session easily, but chances are you’re recruiting extra muscles to get you through, putting strain in places you don’t need, do this a few times and the body starts to feel the pressure - and push back!
There has never been an easier time to stay within a healthy loading paradigm. You can keep track of your training distance with the majority of fitness apps, many now even can track your heart rate to help you monitor your relative effort.
Relative effort is knowing how much you had to give to any given session. If you did an easy run but your effort was high you know that you’re tired. Although you will need a heart monitor (most watches now have these), knowing the effort you’re putting into each training session is a really important tool to gauge how your training is going. If you’re training at a higher than average effort for a normal session, take note. You need a rest, it’s time to take a step back.
There are also bands such as Whoop that are growing in popularity and help inform you how much your body is capable of doing on a given day. These bands are starting to get very popular in training circles. The Whoop band will give you red, amber and green days to indicate how you should train:
Red: ‘rest, if you exercise you’re going to hurt yourself’
Amber: ‘ok but take it easy’
Green: ‘go for your life
If you don’t have a watch or a Whoop, don’t worry, most phones track your steps and distance and this, along with some common sense can keep you to your training goals.
Sometimes you do have to keep yourself restrained. If you’re feeling really good and want to get some extra runs or distances under your belt, try to curtail yourself. Keep an eye on your weekly distance and only increase by 10% a week. It may feel like you’re taking a while to get to your target distance, but it’s actually the simplest, quickest, most pain free and probably cheapest way to get there. Push yourself too hard too soon, and you’ll find yourself moving backwards, or even to the couch with a painful and/or expensive injury.
Finally, don’t forget tapering, this is the most underrated part of your training. Allow at least two weeks of tapering for a big event, it provides muscles the opportunity to fully restore glycogen levels. Rest and fuel well during this time. If you thing getting some extra km’s in during this time is a good idea,, you’re actually wasting your time and energy. The body takes six weeks to make physiological adaptations, so no extra training you do in the two weeks before a race will help you.
This is probably the simplest guide to training for any event, but simple is often the best.
Remember, load gradually, taper efficiently and speak to your massage therapist about a treatment plan to maybe give you the best chance of a great race day.