Following Team GB’s record-breaking performance at Rio, fitness fever is sweeping the nation. But while most of us lack the time and dedication needed for a professional training regime, are there ideas and tips we can take away that can help us get – and stay – fitter post Olympics?
Heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson recommends buddying up with someone because it means you’re less likely to cancel an exercise or training session and together, you can push each other to work harder. Talking to Perdita Nourel in the Telegraph she explains “we throw a med ball to each other or there’s one where we put our head right by the other person’s ankles and you lift your legs up, they push your legs down and our legs can’t hit the floor – that’s a really hard one.”
We’re all aware we should drink plenty of water when exercising, not only because it helps your body recover after exercise but also to get more from our training. For more intense sessions, Jessica Ennis-Hill recommends drinks such as the currently popular coconut water, which contains significantly less sugar than sports drinks and is full of electrolytes to replace lost sodium – helping to keep your muscles and nerves functioning properly.
What do you do when your exercise routine is becoming a little humdrum (a point where many are tempted to throw in the towel)? Swimmer Jazz Carlin suggests breaking up your routine by building up specific muscle groups – for example he uses hand paddles to build up his lats (muscles across the back), which in turn makes swimming without them feel a lot easier. Gymnast Kristian Thomas agrees: in Spectator Health he comments “We tend to train the muscle groups that are naturally better or stronger … it results in other areas being weaker and that could cause injury due to muscular imbalance. Ensure your exercise programme covers exercises for the whole body.”
He also stresses the importance of breakfast before a morning session. Your aim is to achieve a slow, sustained release of energy. He recommends porridge or, if it’s early and you can’t stomach anything too solid, a smoothie, flavoured milk or yogurt as these help provide energy, but won’t make you feel bloated or heavy.
But however well we prepare and however good our exercise routine, isn’t it fundamentally all about motivation and willpower? According to Dr Daniel Glaser, director of Science Gallery at King’s College London, these may not play as important a role as previously thought.
In a new study involving violinists (which also applies to athletes), scientists looked at the parts of the brain connected to the musician’s left and right hands. They found the part of the cortex controlling the left hand (which creates the notes) is slightly thicker than the part which controls the right (bowing) hand. This change in brain structure was not related to willpower or the motivation centres of the brain, which are in the front cortex, but simply to hours and hours of repetitive practice.
With this in mind, all the above tips will certainly help, but an early alarm call could be the most important factor of all!
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