By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM
Whether you're looking to participate in a charity run/walk, your alumni basketball tournament or annual softball game, training for an athletic event is a great way to stay motivated and bring new life to your treadmill, elliptical and exercise bike training. Signing up for an event (and paying the registration fee) is often more likely to keep you accountable throughout your training than if you were relying on your own self-discipline. Although committing to competition can be intimidating for a newcomer, most competitive events include a place for both experienced participants and beginners. Here are four tips to get you to the finish line.
Find an event. Wondering where to start? If you're not already part of the community of athletes in your area, waiting to hear about an event through advertisements and outreach can leave you in the dust when it comes to training and preparing. Check out websites such as www.active.com or www.coolrunning.com for a full rundown on what's coming up near you. If you're new to your activity, decide on an event that's a few months out to give yourself time to train without risking injury.
Make a Plan. The Internet is a great resource for developing a training plan. Runners can search on Couch to 5K or "couch25k" for help in designing a plan that will meet your needs. You can also check out some great resources at active.com. If you're thinking of joining a local intramural event, establishing your fitness through training that includes sprints and intervals is essential.
Using your Fitness Equipment to Train. Your home fitness equipment is a great complement to outdoor and field training. Elliptical machines and recumbent bikes train your heart while eliminating impact on your joints and muscles. Try using this low-impact fitness equipment for recovery workouts the day after your harder training days or as substitutions at times when you feel on the edge of overtraining and injury. Treadmills are a natural complement to running and walking outdoors, reducing the impact of running on asphalt and concrete and providing the comfort of training in a climate and weather controlled environment. Alternating some of your running or walking workouts with time on your treadmill may reduce your chances of injury as you acclimate to working out outdoors. Your treadmill can also help you stick to your training schedule when weather or personal demands prevent you from working out outdoors. You can also customize your workouts to prepare for hills by running at an incline. Since running on the road is a different experience from running on a machine, you'll want to avoid doing all of your training indoors.
Have fun! Don't get so wrapped up in your performance the day of the event that you lose sight of your gains on the way to the starting line. Choosing a competitive event brings new energy to your workouts and can give you an edge in meeting your fitness goals. By signing up and committing to training, you're already a winner!
Weigh in: Do you plan to compete in a road race or other sporting event this year? How are you using your home fitness equipment to prepare?