Go for the Gold
Have a major event on the horizon? Stay ahead of the pack with these fitness & fueling tips.
It’s easy to get swept up in the initial excitement of embarking on a new exercise endeavor.
And while we’d all like to think that our natural skill could win Olympic gold, the best way to stay healthy throughout your training program and cross the finish line strong is to underestimate your ability … during those first few workouts, at least.
“A big mistake many people make, including myself, is to push your workout too hard, too soon, and end up with an overuse injury,” says Dr. Heather Hopkins, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Kauai Medical Clinic.
Hopkins, who is board certified in sports medicine and integrative and holistic medicine, says that the most common overuse injuries athletes encounter when training for a distance event, such as a half or full marathon, occur in the knee and tendons, most specifically the Achilles tendon.
“The Achilles tendon attaches your calf muscles to your heel bone and is used to perform things like walking, running and even just standing on the balls of your feet,” Hopkins explains. “High-intensity physical activity, like running and jumping, can cause inflammation of the Achilles tendon, especially if you’re doing too much of the exercise too soon.”
To ward off injury, Hopkins advises you should:
- Assess your current fitness level and find a training plan that works for your specific goals.
- Warm up with dynamic exercises; save the stretches for your cool down.
- Take a few days off for other activities and recovery.
“While it may sound counterproductive, taking a few days off each week from your sport of choice may be beneficial in the long run,” Hopkins says. “Strength training, cross training and rest days all seem to prevent injury, and may prevent burnout and boredom as well.”
Another key component of a successful training plan is fueling in the form of food and fluids.
“A mistake many people make is to eat too much protein. Too much protein can be harmful to our kidneys and our bones” says Hopkins, who holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University.
Instead, Hopkins recommends athletes should:
- Eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats throughout the day.
- Avoid processed foods – the less a food is altered before it hits your plate, the better.
- Eat fruit rather than processed energy bars and gels when you need an energy boost before or during any intense activity lasting 90 minutes or more.
And don’t rely on thirst to signal it’s time to rehydrate.
“When you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated,” Hopkins says. “The best indicator of hydration is your urine – urine should be almost clear, not deep-yellow or orange in color.”
Water regulates your body temperature, lubricates your joints and helps provide energy to your muscles by moving nutrients through your body.
Drink lots of fluids all day long to ward off dehydration and to perform at your peak.
This article originally appeared on Healthier Hawaii, the health and wellness blog of Hawaii Pacific Health. For more health articles, wellness tips, recipes and more, visit HealthierHawaii.org.