We train because it's meant to be good for us. In order to get the most from it, we need to find ways to prevent damage from distance sport.
A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the negative effects of the sports we love, at least the negative effects if we overdo it. This time I thought I’d give you some ways to make sure your endurance habit remains a healthy one.
1. Get the right amount of sleep for you
It’s an oldie, but a goodie: You simply have to get enough sleep if you’re going to remain healthy.
I suspect from a lot that I have read, that we don’t need as much sleep as we’re often told, it seems the average, fairly fit adult needs about 7 hours sleep a day. This will vary from person to person and you should test to find out how much you need, rather than simply taking the average and hoping for the best.
Sleep allows your body the time to repair the damage you’ve done to its systems, but it also plays a large part in the acquisition and retention of new skills. While you’re sleeping, your brain wires those new connections and makes them more permanent. Have you ever tried to learn how to take a basketball free throw and struggled, gone to bed disgusted with your lack of coordination, woken up the next day and found that you could now do better? The brain in action while you sleep.
Want some tips to help you sleep better? Here’s a post I wrote about that.
2. Prioritise your nutrition
I’ve said it before and I will say it many more times: You cannot out-train a poor diet!
Get rid of all the excess sugar, the simple carbohydrates, the highly-processed foods and the over-priced supplements. Go to the supermarket or the farm store and buy real raw ingredients.
Then go home, get in the kitchen and make them into a meal. I’d suggest that a couple of hours cooking a week’s meals might just be the most important workout of your week.
Bodybuilders say that nutrition is 90% of the game. It’s exactly the same for any athlete. I have been stunned to discover just how well I perform on almost no training, just by staying on top of my nutrition.
One last thing on this topic. Seriously consider getting rid of all those sugar-laden gels, bars and energy drinks that we’ve all been sold since the early 90’s, they’re almost certainly harming, rather than helping our performance.
Developing a quality approach to your nutrition is arguably the number one thing you can do to prevent damage from distance sport.
3. Lift weights
Endurance training is not good for maintenance of muscle mass and while you don’t want to be as big and muscular as Arnie, you do need some muscle mass to support your metabolism. You also need a certain amount of strength in order to perform well in your sport. Focused strength training will help to overcome the negative effects of endurance training.
I’m not suggesting that you should do five sessions a week in the gym, doing split routines and working yourself to a standstill. A small number of key exercises performed twice a week should be more than enough to achieve what you need.
I prefer to do my weight training at home with a kettlebell or body weight. It’s time-efficient, space-efficient and there are no monthly memberships to pay - just you, possibly one heavy kettlebell and a mindful approach.
Your routine should include the key human movements (with examples):
- Push - Standing kettlebell military press, press-up
- Pull - One-arm kettlebell rows, pull-up
- Squat - Goblet squats, air squats
- Hinge - Kettlebell swings, deadlifts
- Carry - Farmers walk, suitcase walk, sandbag carries
- Turkish Get Up - if you were to do nothing else, you should do this!
One could argue that rotation should be included. I like the idea of doing one-arm exercises while standing, this way you have to control rotational forces, which is most of what you’re doing when it comes to rotation anyway.
4. Get your mobility work in
By their very nature, endurance sports are very repetitive and force us to maintain certain positions for long periods of time. as a result, our mobility is almost certainly going to be compromised. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do mobility work, but as we don’t always view it as important. Let’s face it, surely swimming, biking and/or running are what make us better at swimming, biking and/or running?
However, if you can make 15 minutes a day to do a few simple activities, you’ll definitely notice the difference, both in your sport and on a day-to-day basis.
If you target nothing else, some work lengthening your hip flexors and improving your thoracic spine mobility are well worth your time and effort.
Life is stressful, training is stressful. We don’t completely know how or even why meditation works, but it does.
The payback for an investment of just 10 minutes a day is awesome. I am absolutely not a “touchy-feely” kind of guy, but this one simple habit has made a massive difference.
Why not try the Headspace app free for 10 days (I get nothing for this recommendation, they’re just a great intro to meditation).
These are just 5 items that can help you to prevent damage from distance sport.
There are no doubt more that you could add. Why not do so in the comments below?