Injury prevention should be a major objective for everyone, whether you’re starting to exercise for the first time or you’re a high performance athlete. Even when everything else is going well, an injury can suddenly and often severely thwart your progress. I’ve put together a quick guide on the best things you can do to reduce your risk of injury. You will never completely eliminate the risk but by following the advice in my guide you can give yourself the best chance of staying on track.
Blog - Lessons from athletics
The final stage of training – 8 things you need to do now for your upcoming marathon or endurance event
As you approach a big event, your focus and excitement build. Training usually becomes more intense as now is the time to make sure all of your hard work pays off. In the Ancient Olympics, athletes were brought to Elis for a month of compulsory, strict training to make sure that they were up to standard. If you are running the London or another spring marathon, you will probably be thinking about your final block of serious training before tapering down in preparation. Realistically, it is too late to start from scratch but this will be the difference between achieving your goals or not.
When talking to non-endurance athletes, I am often questioned about the mental capacity to keep going for 4 hours or more. In particular, the technical demands of race walking make it a serious mental challenge as well as an obviously physical one. How do you stay focussed? How do you not get bored? Are you tempted to stop/break into a run? Well, the mind can be trained just as we can train the muscles and energy systems.
Youth is wasted on the young. As someone who is on the cusp of not being young any more, I am acutely aware of the advantages of being young and time is running out. Fortunately for me, race walkers have a long and generally late peak, with world leaders competing well into their thirties. However, at the age of 25 if I were a middle distance athlete, a swimmer or a BMX cyclist I would probably be starting to decline. In most other sports I might have another couple of years. Were I a gymnast, I would have retired years ago.
With this in mind, young people with ambitions of sporting success need to start early. It takes a long time – many hours of training, accumulation of experience and knowledge and adaptation to all the specific demands of the sport – to get to this level. This doesn’t mean that you’re stuffed if you’re not a child prodigy, and it’s important that children and teenagers take part in a wide variety of exercise. However, the earlier you start with serious, athletic training the better.
It is not always easy to determine what your goals should be with exercise. You probably have a lot of ideas about what you want to get out of it but this doesn’t necessarily give you a clear understanding of how this ties together.
When people learn that I’m a race walker, they often ask one of two questions: “How did you get into that?” (see my bio for that answer) or “Isn’t that bad for your hips?”. I understand the question – the rolling hip action is not something we see a lot so people assume it must be uncomfortable. Plus, it can be easy to mistake an expression of intense effort and concentration for one of pain. Understandable as the concern may be, it misses the point, so let me put it to rest.