Comments Off on Make 2011 the year you get competitive

Make 2011 the year you get competitive

If a visit to the gym leaves you cold, then it’s time to give up your daily treadmill and take up some serious endurance training, says Dan Roberts .
We’re now into the second week of the new year, and chances are you’ve already hit the gym once, even twice – and promptly hit a wall of quiet despair.


Not another 12 months doing the same circuit of exercises, surrounded by the same sweaty bodies listening to the same mindless dance tracks? If your staying power is as wobbly as your waistline right now, it might be time to reconsider your approach to exercise altogether and take your fitness programme in a different direction.

In middle age, the key to keeping fit is not grudgingly hitting the treadmills three times a week, but competing in endurance events. According to Matt Roberts, one of the UK’s leading personal trainers, it’s not even the taking part that counts, but the commitment to the training required to complete your chosen race.

“If you focus on just one aspect of your fitness this year, commit to increasing your endurance levels,” says Roberts. Endurance training – exercising to increase your stamina, the muscles’ ability to perform without fatigue – is an excellent way to maintain your commitment to fitness, especially on a cold January morning when bed seems far more tempting than pavement-pounding or clocking up 50 lengths. Plus, it can profoundly affect the body’s entire physiology, improving circulation and reducing blood pressure.

The beauty of training for an endurance event – whether it’s a 5k fun run or completing the ‘Jogle’, the John O’Groats to Lands End bike ride – is that the older you are, the more willing you’ll be to see it through. A recent survey of gym habits found that the laziest age group was the 18 to 24-year-olds, with a third of all youngsters saying they “could not be bothered” to exercise for the recommended half-hour a day.

“The good news is that endurance actually improves as you get older, partly because you become more patient, which is a key aspect to training for a long-distance event,” says Roberts. “Anyone who did a sport like football or hockey when they were young knows that explosive power, strength and speed all diminish with age. But people in their forties and fifties can still do competitive sports of sorts, even if just competing with themselves.”

For the goal-orientated professional, a personal best at the finishing line is motivation enough. Four years ago, Lord Sugar gave up tennis to become a Mamil – a middle-aged man in Lycra – and, as a result, shed three stone racing his £7,000 carbon-frame bicycle on twice-weekly, 50-mile spins through the Essex countryside.

Former children’s television presenter Floella Benjamin (now Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham) discovered her joy of running after signing up to complete 10 marathons before she hit 60. “ I recommend running to all women over 50,” she said. “It’s a great way to keep fit and have a firm body. It also stimulates the mind – a wonderful way to get some ‘me time’.”

The best way to test yourself is to enter a race right now, then, with guidance from a fitness instructor, start training for it. There’s no better incentive to get fit than knowing the clock is ticking – and if you don’t put enough time in, the event will be a real slog and you’ll do it in an annoyingly slow time that will confer fewer bragging rights among your friends.

“Training for a big race will help you work your heart and lungs, the most important parts of the body,” says Roberts. “You don’t need to be a gym-goer to benefit from such workouts, as you can go for a run or bike ride anywhere, at any time.”

A word of warning, though: if you’re a Sunday-morning jogger, clocking up a mile or two round the local park, don’t go straight for a big one like a full marathon or triathlon. Instead, says Roberts, start small and build up over time. “I would always tell clients to start with a 5K run, then plan over a year or two to try a 10K, then a half-marathon, a full marathon and more extreme events if you feel confident,” he says. “It’s crucial to build your strength, mobility and flexibility over time to prevent injury.”

One man who was forced to start slow and then build is Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens, 40, one of Roberts’ clients. He was on a jog eight years ago when his knee collapsed. “I had never experienced such pain,” he recalls. “I had worn the cartilage out from being on my feet for long periods in the kitchen for so many years. The doctor said that I had the knees of a 60-year-old.”

After surgery, Tom endured nine months of rehab to get back in shape, but refused to give up. With Roberts’ help, he built up his strength and flexibility again until, in April of last year, he completed the Marathon Des Sables, a 151-mile endurance race across the Sahara that’s equivalent to six regular marathons. “I started training for it in October 2009, building my mileage week by week, until I was running half marathons, then full marathons over Christmas. I also did lots of cardiovascular work and running in the gym,” he says.

Karen Weir, Matt Roberts’ group endurance coach, was one of the team who helped Tom become fit enough to complete what is perhaps the toughest footrace of earth. She stresses that even for an ‘easy’ event like a 5 or 10K run, it’s not enough to pull on a pair of shoes and run: you have to building muscular strength with targetted exercises. “Find a trainer who can help you get strength into your legs, core and upper body, so you can cope with running mile after mile on a road. Make sure you’re doing exercises like squats and lunges so your glutes are working properly, or you’ll over-use your hamstrings and get injured,” says Weir.

While endurance training is mostly measured in terms of cardiovascular fitness – the efficient supply of oxygen needed for exercise – race performance depends on muscular endurance, the length of time a muscle can perform before fatigue sets in. Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, chin-ups, triceps dips can improve the endurance and strength of upper body muscles.

A strong core and abdominals are also key to endurance. And don’t ignore your stretches which, prior to training, should be dynamic – waking up muscle groups by moving parts of your body to increase gradually their reach – and static (holding a still pose) afterwards.

So what are you waiting for? Whatever event you choose – and there’s a selection of endurance races throughout 2011 highlighted below – just signing up means you’re on your way to the finish line.

Filed in: Life Style

Share This Post

Recent Posts

© Daily-Tips.Net. All rights reserved.