Goldilocks knew how to prepare for competition

By Tim Barnwell, APA Sports Physiotherapist at LifeCare Southcare

So, you want to compete in a recreational or competitive sport challenge?
Maybe this is the year you want to complete your first triathlon, or half marathon? Maybe it is the year you want to start running.

Don’t try going from the couch to 10km straight away.

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Like the development of any new skill, the key is to build up gradually and not expect to be an expert on day one. When it comes to training you should try not to max out on too many sessions in one hit. 

There really is a maximum amount of training and exercise our bodies can handle; completing 10 sessions a week is generally too many for an amateur athlete. 

Your first step should be to have a thorough physical examination from either your GP, physiotherapist or an exercise physiologist (EP). This will ensure you understand where you are starting from, and when working with a physiotherapist or EP, you can develop a training program that is tailored for your current condition and fitness/training goals.

Our ability to manage load and to train as much as we want is affected by a variety of factors that need consideration. You need a training load that is effective without resulting in negative consequences, such as injury, fatigue, illness or overtraining. 

Training loads should vary depending on your age and health issues, as recovery times between training can be different. For example, after age 40, tissue repair does not take place as quickly as it once did, so recovery takes longer.

You are more likely to get injured if your training load increases too quickly and you are not accustomed to these changes. If you’ve had a previous injury, you are at greater risk of sustaining a new injury.

For example, if your training load is increased by more than 15% over the previous week’s load, injury risk can rise by up to 50% so for many, it is recommended to only increase training loads in increments of around 10% - run 2km this week, and increase it to 2.2km next week.

Running training programs and the Goldilocks Zone.

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All running training programs, whether for a 5km run or a triathlon, share the same basic three elements; endurance, strength and speed.

  • The endurance element should make up the bulk of your run training at approx. 80% to help you resist fatigue and efficiently burn fat every run.
  • Strength training, weight lifting and running hills, should be limited to once per week, to help you overcome resistance.
  • Short speed sets should be built into training runs once per week on rested legs.

Keep in mind that injuries don’t always occur from overuse; they can also occur with underuse. This means you need a good balance between training and rest to get the most out of your training.

In the lead up to a competition, it is important to train at an intensity that will prepare you well. In other words, too much training is bad and not enough training is bad and so in the middle we find the Goldilocks Zone, where it is ‘just right’!

Physiotherapy and Massage will keep you on track

When training for an event, ensure that you have the right level of muscle, strength and endurance to complete your chosen sport. Without adequate muscle tone, it is impossible to exploit the full potential of arms or legs.

Almost every sport has its own typical injuries. Targeted strength training can help you avoid those injuries. A physiotherapist can or EP can help design a strength training program that supports your fitness/training goals; many strength training exercises can be done with little or no equipment, simply working against your body weight can be effective.

Seek treatment or advice for any niggles that occur during training. Massage can be a useful technique to relieve existing pain or discomfort, as well as to prevent injuries from occurring. It can help you to address muscle imbalances, tightness, and reduce stress.

Good preparation for competitive sport is more likely to lead to an injury-free, more enjoyable experience.

If you're ready to start your competitive journey and are seeking advice from an experienced and local physiotherapist, click the button below.