WASHINGTON — With ice in the trees and snow on the ground, it’s hard to imagine spring is just a few weeks away. But if you’re registered for a springtime 5K, triathlon or obstacle course, it’s time to start training. And personal trainer Josef Brandenburg has some tips for getting in top shape just in time for your event.
The training pyramid
No matter what type of event you’re training for, Brandenburg says, envision your training routine as a pyramid. He says the base of the pyramid is one’s ability to move well; this encompasses mobility, balance and control. Next up the pyramid is one’s overall fitness, which includes strength, flexibility and cardiovascular conditioning. At the very top is the event-specific preparation, whether that’s running, swimming or cycling.
“If you want to run a marathon, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time [running], but you also don’t want to neglect everything below that, because everything below that is what that specific running skill rests on,” Brandenburg says. “If you neglect everything else and all you do is just your specific work, you really increase your risk of getting hurt.”
Training for an obstacle course, however, has some limitations. For example, Brandenburg doesn’t advise practicing jumping through a ring of fire in preparation for the big event.
When to start training
Get ready to lace up those running shoes. The time to start training for your spring event is now — at the very latest. In fact, four months prior to the event is ideal, Brandenburg says.
And a great place to start is to begin working out a few days a week. For someone running a 10-mile race, there’s no need to start pounding out several miles a day. Brandenburg says to start out with low mileage (what that is depends on your starting ability), and slowly build up over several weeks.
“Two or three days a week, if you do it consistently and you’re progressive with your mileage, will definitely get you in shape for the race in time,” Brandenburg says.
And while the results won’t be immediate, Brandenburg says that by training a few days a week, it should all feel easier by the second week, provided you aren’t pushing yourself too hard.
“A good benchmark for a weekly increase would be maybe a 5 or 10 percent increase in mileage. So if you run three miles a day, three days a week, that puts you at nine miles a week,” he says. “You would not want to add more than half a mile, maybe a whole mile, per week. Otherwise, it’s just too rapid and you really increase your risk of getting hurt and not being able to train at all.”
Training is more than physical
Training for a big event doesn’t stop when you leave the gym.
“Just like in weight loss, you can’t out-train a bad diet. You have to make sure you support the effort that you’re putting in,” Brandenburg says.
One of the most important things to do while training for a big event is to drink plenty of water, Brandenburg says. He advises drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces each day.
“You’re going to be raising your body temperature, so you need to make sure that your body can cool off. And it also helps a lot with recovery.”
Getting enough protein in your diet is also important. “Because as you are sort of breaking down your connective tissue, you’re stressing your muscles; you want to make sure that your body has the raw materials to repair that stress,” says Brandenburg, who adds that, while you need carbohydrates during training, choose them wisely.
“Focus primarily on fruits and vegetables, and for the starches, opt for sweet potatoes.”
With both diet and in physical training, Brandenburg says, consistency is key. He emphasizes that there are no short cuts to training success and that nothing is going to happen overnight. Setting a realistic schedule and sticking with it is the best plan.
“The truth of the matter is, you’re going to get much better results if you start out with a manageable commitment,” says Brandenburg, who advises against training more than four days a week in order to give your body enough time to recover.
“Don’t put a lot of stress on yourself about getting into shape in an unrealistic amount of time. This should be something that’s fun. You won’t necessarily love every single day or every single thing that you’re doing, but make it fun for yourself. And also be a little realistic and kind to yourself.”