Top Tips For Training
Ok, so you’ve learnt how to customise your workout to overcome the daily challenges that life may throw at you and to meet any time or space constraints that you may face along the way, and you should now also understand how to structure your week in order to avoid overtraining as well as to maximise your results…So what’s left to learn?
Way too much to cover in just one article…so for now, let’s start at the beginning with the basics. Here are our ‘Top Ten Training Tips’ to give you a head start in building your foundations.
‘What are you training for and why?’ If you haven’t already asked yourself this question it suggests that you haven’t been training as effectively as you could be.
- Setting S.M.A.R.T goals ensures that your aspirations are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Once they meet all criteria, the required information can be gathered to structure a complimentary training plan along with smaller goals for use as stepping stones along your journey. It is a good idea to write down your goals as a point of reference and motivation, for when you hit a low and need to remind yourself why it is that you’re doing what you’re doing. Keeping note will also, help you to stay on track, monitor your progress, review your methods and make any necessary alterations as and when you feel appropriate, for example if and when you reach a plateau.
The word preparation can refer to many things and we’re referring to them all. I cannot express enough the importance of being completely ready to workout, right from the moment that you awaken.
- Fuelling your body should be the first thing that enters your mind in a morning – how else are you expected to perform to your full potential throughout the day?
Food is not only the source of energy needed for exercise but for all physiological functions. Think of your body as a car. If there is an insufficient level of diesel in the tank, the fuel pump burns hotter and ‘debris’ collects at the bottom, causing damage; if the car continues to run it will eventually burn out, just as you would without food. Like the car, if this damage occurs it will take time to repair and could even be lasting.
However, as much as we need to fuel our bodies it is also important to do so to the highest of quality, making good food choices that are geared toward you and your goals. Again let’s compare the significance, of opting for the best food picks, to a car. If you were to put 10 litres of petrol into a diesel car, you may just about be O.K, although it will not perform as it should, but fill the tank completely and the first component to suffer damage will be the fuel pump. Initially, you will find that the car will drive but sooner or later it will begin to rapidly deteriorate. In food terms the odd bit of sugar here and there (not 10litres!) is manageable, for most, and more often that not we will feel an initial lift that is referred to as a sugar high but what goes up, must come down; similarly to the petrol, sugar will cause you to experience some form of comedown, causing a sharp drop in energy, referred to as a ‘crash’. Continue to fill your ‘tank’ with sugar and it will lead to many problems by suppressing your body’s immune system and eventually causing it to ‘break down’.
If reading the sugar analogy was confusing PLEASE don’t let it scare you into intense dieting and avoiding it at all costs, regardless of its form. Instead, let it scare you into educating yourselves by reading our Diet Blogs, where I explain all there is that you need to know about how our bodies actually require certain types of sugars to convert into glucose for use as energy and to work out exactly what you should consume to prepare for your training.
- Hydration is often overlooked. Did you know that during a typical hour-long gym session, you could lose up to 1litre of bodily fluid? This mainly occurs via sweating and exhalation vapors in the air that you breathe out. Failure to remain topped up to the necessary level will result in dehydration, which can affect both your performance and health.
To give yourself a head start, you should ensure that you are well prepared by being fully hydrated before you exercise, particularly if you find yourself in a warm climate. If you are already dehydrated at this stage your performance is at risk and heat stroke becomes more of a likely result; your body will struggle to produce the fluid that it requires for you to sweat, in order to regulate your body temperature, and therefore your core temperature will begin to rise at a quicker rate, causing your heart to work harder than normal.
Here’s a rule of thumb: if you drink at regular intervals throughout the day, to keep your fluid levels topped up, and you haven’t participated in exercise for 8-12hours then your hydration levels should allow you to exercise at any point!
Rules of thumb can help in developing a healthy routine, but there’s nothing better than testing yourself – your urine should be a pale yellow or clearer; the darker it is, the more dehydrated you are so get drinking!!! Dark urine would require you to drink regular fluid for at least 4hours before training. Obviously, everyone’s fluid levels will fluctuate and fall at different rates depending on various factors such as their output and body mass, but as a rough gauge, you should aim to drink an average of 500ml during the 2hours before your workout begins.
During your training session, you must also monitor yourself and continue to drink at regular intervals. It is possible to work out how much fluid that you lose by weighing yourself before (after passing urine) and after exercise (before passing urine). As another rule of thumb, for every kilogram in body weight that you lose, you should aim to drink 1.5litres of water.
- Equipment can significantly improve or hinder performance, so ensuring that you have everything you need, packed and ready, the night before will give you an advantage over the rest; however, it’s all well and good preparing everything on your checklist, if each item on there is suitable for you, but using incorrect equipment can have an adverse effect.
As an example, one of the most important pieces of gym kit that you will buy are trainers and therefore it is vital that you choose the most appropriate pair for you and your sport.
There is a considerable difference in the way that trainers fit and support your feet, so you wouldn’t want to buy a pair of running shoes to play tennis in. Ill-fitting footwear can cause all sorts of problems such as shin splints, back, hip and knee pain, blisters, plantar fasciitis, and even Achilles tendonitis.
Fitness trainers are perfect for group-exercise classes as they provide cushioning, flexibility and support for shock absorption, reducing impact through the feet. Whereas running shoes are ideal for only running as they are designed for linear movement, so don’t allow flexion during each step. As previously mentioned, you wouldn’t want to wear running shoes to play tennis in, as this sport requires twisting, turning, and sideways movements – trainers with sufficient ankle support and correct grip to allow for pivoting should be worn.
Footwear should be also properly fitted to suit your sport and foot type; you may have over pronation, supination or neutral feet, for instance, and your trainers should fit equally as well, regardless.
Specialist retailers will offer assessments to measure your foot size and type as well as monitoring your gait – they may ask you to walk/run on a treadmill whilst being filmed for analysis. Opting for an in depth evaluation of your feet is highly recommended, before each purchase of footwear as our feet are prone to change.
- Warming up should be your final stage of preparation and only takes a few minutes, yet so many people find an excuse to miss this part out – lack of time, being the most common.
A good, sufficient, warm up gently elevates your heart rate and therefore encourages improved blood flow in preparation for exercise, as well as raising your body temperature and respiration rate; these escalations contribute toward delivery of oxygen to the muscles along with the removal of waste products, making them more pliable and easier to stretch. Any strenuous activity that commences suddenly with no gradual progression has the potential to cause injury.
Are you making the most out of your time? There are so many people that find themselves working overtime in order to succeed yet continuously struggle to accomplish and, instead, work against themselves. If you’re one of these people have you set yourself a S.M.A.R.T goal and do you understand the requirements needed to plan out your training? Here are a few factors to take into consideration; the following points (6 & 7), How Often Should I Train? and our Training Blogs should combine to provide you with all you need to know when structuring your own training.
- Session content should be relevant to what you want to achieve. If you want to increase your strength then why spend over an hour and a half training, using a high number of repetitions and steady state cardio; if you want to improve your endurance, to work toward completing a marathon, then why train using power exercises with long rest periods?
If this sounds like you, then you seriously need to reassess your routine. Take into consideration what you want the outcome of your program to be – are the movements that you are you performing specific to that outcome? Do they work toward achieving it in any way?
There is a lot of conflict within the fitness industry, as a fair number of opinions tend to float around with little research to back them up, proving it difficult to find reliable and honest resources to work with. However, in this instance, although studies and findings help, opinions are also O.K.
Start asking yourself questions: what exercises resemble what I want to achieve; how long should I be training for; what heart rate threshold should I be working with? As long as you are able to answer these types of questions, then it shouldn’t be too hard to successfully construct your workouts and experimenting in this way will only help you to understand your body and its capabilities more.
If you don’t have all the answers and need A Little Bit Of Help, don’t panic! Follow the link for a few suggestions on how to keep an accurate track of sessions and record your body’s physiological changes.
- Rest Periods should also be relevant to your goals; for example a tennis player should remember that their rest time on the tennis court is a maximum of 90seconds at change of ends, and considerably shorter in between points, so is it appropriate for them to be resting for 3minutes at a time in between workout sets, whilst checking Facebook? Probably not. Although, if they are able to provide good reason such as being in their strength phase of training and therefore need a longer recovery time to encourage maximum lifting potential, then that’s perfectly acceptable to rest for that length of time, but how they use that time is also of importance.
During rest periods, you have the opportunity to prepare your body for the next task at hand so taking on board more fluid, completing gentle stretching and remaining active to avoid cramping, along with using visualization techniques for optimal performance, are all highly recommended; yet so many utilize this time to check their social media updates and text their friends, who are most likely sitting on the couch at home.
My advice - ditch the phone! Even if you use your phone as an MP3 player or iPod, take the plunge and get rid! Invest in a separate product in order to avoid any possible distractions, after all, you’ve invested your time into the gym to achieve and what’s more valuable than your own time?
What happens when it’s all over? You’ve completed your workout, what do you do next? Your post-workout period is just as important as the training session itself. You don’t want to be the one, putting in all the hard work at the gym and undoing it as soon as you leave for the locker room.
- Cooling Down is often avoided and is not seen as a necessity, but it is an essential part of your training and should also come under the ‘preparation’ heading, in addition to ‘recovery’, as your performance during your next session is dependent on both.
Cooling down should consist of gradually slowing your pace and heart rate over several minutes and should feel like a natural progression. This could be continuing to cycle but lowering your rate of exertion or it could be walking on the treadmill after a high intensity leg session.
By lowering your heart rate, your breathing rate will reduce and your blood will be encouraged to circulate freely back to your heart, to avoid blood pooling, light headedness and placing undue stress on your heart.
Stretching should also be a part of your cool down, as during exercise lactic acid builds up in your muscles, which can often lead to muscular fatigue and soreness; stretching helps to reduce both. Post-exercise your muscles are still warm and therefore your circulation will be increased, which allows your muscles to relax, muscular fibres to be realigned and for your normal range of movement to be re-established.
Static stretches should be held for 20-30s per body part, and the main focus should be on the muscles used during that session, although there is no harm in performing a whole-body routine.
- Recovery should be your final focus before leaving the gym. Refer back to point number 3, hydration - weigh yourself before and after your workout and for every kilogram of body weight lost, drink 1.5litres of water.
Once fluid balance is established, it needs to be maintained and therefore restoring electrolytes such as sodium during exercise is important. Water alone will allow these levels to be maintained after exercise for only a short period of time due to the low level of sodium; when we ingest large volumes of fluid with a low electrolyte volume it causes an increase in plasma and in turn a decrease in sodium concentration, and 'osmolality' of the blood, making it more dilute, which often encourages and increases the production of urine. This causes a loss of bodily fluid and therefore counteracts rehydration, as well as resulting in the reduced drive to drink. In the circumstances where losses in bodily fluids are likely to be substantial and sweat rates are high, then a specifically formulated sports drink may encourage a faster recovery time.
Post-workout shakes are also an important part of the recovery process and should be consumed within 20 minutes after training; in reality this window lasts for over an hour as recent research has proven, but consuming your shake within 20minutes of your workout means that it is your main focus before leaving the gym, decreasing the likelihood that you will forget and extinguishing any cravings that may set in; in addition the effect that protein has on your body immediately after exercise is higher, and diminishes over time.
When we exercise our muscles undergo damage followed by subsequent recovery, which helps to develop muscular strength and increase muscle mass. Nutrition plays a vital role in this process, as muscular tissue is predominantly made up of protein, and therefore needs a form of dietary protein such as whey which contains essential amino acids that aid in the repair of damage caused during exercise.
New muscle fibres are created in the recovery process as well as existing fibres increasing in size, through the incorporation of new strands of protein. By consuming a whey shake post-workout, it will ensure that your muscles have the nutrients that they require for a speedy recovery. Check out our range of shakes to see which one is tailored to you.
What next? How do you stay motivated enough to do it all over again? How do you ensure that you don’t hit a plateau and continue to progress?
- Stay up-to-date! The industry is forever evolving, with new research into different training methods, new findings in the properties and effects of food etc and information is now more accessible than ever with the world of social media. Staying up-to-date and continuously aiming to educate yourself will ensure that your progressions are consistent and will help you to stay motivated and on track. Sign Up to our monthly newsletter today and follow our Blogs to give yourself the best possible chance in achieving your goals.