January starts with huge physical promise for a lot of us, this year maybe more than most. Often our goals can end up being derailed by old injuries or some fresh body drama, dashing dreams of that marathon, or confining those fresh running shoes you got for Christmas to the back of a cupboard. This scenario needn’t be the norm. Deciding to start a new training plan or increase our activity levels is only a great thing, but some factors need consideration.
1. TRAINING VOLUME NEEDS TO INCREASE GRADUALLY:
Just because you’ve had an extra coffee and you think you can make it another lap around the whole park doesn’t mean you should—especially not if you're just starting out. Often the effects of increasing your training load will be felt 1 or 2 days after the session. While increasing your load is the best way to encourage those fitness adaptations you’re sweating for, this needs to be balanced with potential side effects. If your DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is so egregious that you don’t train for a whole week after, only to heroically explode like a Sydney Harbour Bridge fireworks display on your Sunday run or ride, and then need another week's rest after that, you will quickly spiral into giving up or picking up a more persistent injury. For new activities, I advise starting at 15 mins, and progressing up to 45-60min as you are able. This progression might seem quick (or agonisingly slow for some!), but you’ll give your body chance to adapt and grow to suit your goals. That marathon will be looking doable by the summer, and you’ll still be in one piece to run it.
2. SORENESS AND INJURY ARE NOT THE SAME, AND NEITHER NEED SPOIL YOUR WEEK:
To be clear—some injuries will need tailored one-on-one work with a healthcare professional, but not everyone needs to shuffle to the clinic at the slightest sign of discomfort. If you do have a big session and your body is shouting at you in the days following, serious concerns aside, active rest is usually more beneficial than staying stationary, and will help you stick to a routine that you’re trying to build. You rarely need to go back to square one, just take the pressure off. Walk the route you planned instead of running it, jog half of it, or gently cycle instead. You’ll find that when you’re back to it, your cardiovascular fitness won’t have taken the hit it usually does when repping that boom/bust attitude of doing loads then doing nothing. If physical activity is really out of reach, chuck on a guided meditation—building stamina in your focus is an equally important tool and will serve you in all aspects of your life; however, just like any exercise, don’t expect to manage 30mins straight away—build up from 5 and see how you get on.
3. REDUCING CALORIES VS INCREASING WORKLOAD:
Optimal training with optimal nutrition will most often reap optimal results. If you’ve decided to cut something from your diet and not replace it with something else, consider how this is affecting your calorific intake. Increased training load will increase your calorific need—if you’re drastically increasing your need and drastically reducing your intake, this disparity is a fast track to fatigue and potential injury. Consider nutrients you are losing and where you can get these from, be it shake, supplement, or otherwise. It’s a gentle balancing act that cannot be rushed and will be refined through trial and error and small changes. Remember, any movement is better than none. You’re in charge of your body, and now is a great time to understand the manual and get it operating efficiently.
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