4 Easy Tips to Crush Your Fitness New Year's Resolution
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To those who have committed to an endurance-related New Year's resolution, congratulations on taking the first step towards an improved version of yourself. Whether you’re doing it for health purposes or you’re seeking a challenge outside your comfort zone, the benefits you will see and feel from your endurance endeavor will be multifaceted. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to feel healthier, think clearer, sleep better, have more energy, and develop lasting connections and friendships in the endurance community. Getting started is undoubtedly tricky, but sticking with your goal is equally difficult. There will be early alarms, cold mornings, sore muscles, and busy schedules, but achieving your goal and the benefits that come with it outweigh the difficulties along the way. Here are 4 tips and resources from our coaching community that will help you stick to your goal, even when the couch is calling your name!
New Year's Resolution Tip #1
Stay healthier, perform better, and feel great with hydration and stretching.
It sounds basic, which is why it’s the first tip, but you’d be surprised by how many endurance athletes (both new and seasoned) miss the mark on their hydration and stretching. Let’s start with hydration. Very simply, as you increase your endurance output, your body will sweat more and require additional fluids & electrolytes to perform at its peak. Without proper hydration, the blood thickens and the heart must work harder to pump blood throughout your body. It’s not rocket science, but many athletes tend to continue with the hydration routine they had prior to upping their exertion levels.
- For the non-tech-savvy athletes, we recommend a simple recurring alarm as a reminder to drink at regular intervals during the day. Runner’s World put together a fantastic guide to estimating how much water should be consumed each day.
- For the lover of gear and gadgets, our friends over at Flowbio are rolling out new technology to turn athletes sweat into easy to consume data on their phone through the use of a non-invasive patch.
Now onto stretching. This is another often overlooked piece of the endurance puzzle that can hold the key to a long, successful endurance career. Stretching is key both before and after (yes, after!) exercise. The reasoning behind stretching before exercise is more straightforward. While seated in day-to-day activity, your muscles will be shortened. When you run, these muscles lengthen and stretch. A non-stretched muscle isn’t able to handle the added stress as well as a pre-stretched muscle. After a run, you’re giving your body an opportunity to cool down and deliver blood to the muscles that just built up lactic acid during your workout. This will greatly aid in recovery. Here are two additional tips to keep in mind:
- Dynamic stretching allows for a slow increase in muscle length and range of motion. Incorporating dynamic stretching into your pre-exercise routine will do wonders for performance, injury avoidance and recovery. Here are some fantastic pre-run dynamic stretches from Runner’s World.
- Did you know there are strategies you can employ throughout your week to help better prepare you for your specific type of training & help you avoid the most common injuries associated with your sport of choice? It’s called prehab and it can be thought of as hyper-specific and guided stretching. Our friends over at Recover Athletics have built an incredible app (and integrated with Strava!) to help athletes develop prehab programs tailored to their training routines.
New Year's Resolution Tip #2
Find a community to help foster your love for your goal pursuit.
Most endurance athletes have heard the African Proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together” but not enough endurance athletes act on its sage advice. Whether it’s a running buddy or a team of athletes around you, community is vital to sticking with and achieving your goal. Ideally, your local area will have a run/swim/bike/lifting club you can join. Wondering how to approach them?
- Don’t hesitate to reach out. New members are almost universally welcomed and encouraged at these clubs.
- Don’t sweat pacing or ability. Often these clubs have a wide range of athletes performing at a variety of levels. The best clubs have events that are pace/performance agnostic and purely designed to help athletes develop connections in their sport of choice.
- Finally, just show up. Whether it’s a local masters swim or the early morning group run before work, getting there is the hardest part.
What if you’re located somewhere without a club? Don’t worry! There are plenty of online and virtual communities, like Zipper’s very own, that are full of passionate and friendly athletes looking to share their love of endurance with other athletes. Whether in person or virtual, these clubs and communities are not only social, but they’re fantastic knowledge resources on all things from drills, to form, to gear and more.
New Year's Resolution Tip #3
Find a mentor or coach to guide you on your journey.
In endurance there’s always been someone who’s “been there, done that.” They’ve likely made mistakes along their journey and are now a resource to help you avoid those same mistakes. Whether it’s a coach or a more senior athlete, having someone with more experience to keep a watchful eye on your journey is invaluable. This tip is very similar to the concept of finding a community, but a bit more personal. Training is often a very individual endeavor and will likely take up a large portion of your week. For this reason, finding a coach or mentor who truly aligns with your personality and needs can supercharge your growth in the sport. This is one of the main reasons we’re building Zipper. One of our primary goals is to make the coach-matching process more personal for the athlete. We aim to allow athletes to find a coach on factors beyond a discipline and price point because a coach isn’t simply the person who provides you with daily workouts. They’ll act as a sounding board, a friend, a training partner, and a guide for your endurance career.
New Year's Resolution Tip #4
Build a strong base and avoid injury by taking it slow.
Endurance athletes often look back on the early years of their careers and wish they took this advice. They’ll often start off too fast (pace wise) and miss opportunities to build a strong aerobic base (more on this here) or they’ll add too much volume too fast and wind up injured. Both of these scenarios are incredibly common and lead to athlete frustration and burnout.
- On the volume front, using running as an example, the common advice is to increase your run volume by approximately 10% per week (more on that here, courtesy of Triathlete.com). While it can vary based on prior training and experience, body type, and more, the general theme is to take it slow and gradually build toward your goal. Whether it’s a new sport or more intensity, your body needs time to adapt to new stresses, so some structure and guidelines around adding volume are key.
- On the intensity front, the most common piece of knowledge is to go slow to go fast. While there are a number of official names for this, such as Zone 2 training or 80/20 training. The theme of this point is to reiterate the fact that when you’re starting out, you will feel like you’re lightyears away from achieving your goal. This is common and every athlete has experienced this feeling. Don’t get frustrated, don't get discouraged and don’t give up. These early days, weeks, or months of slower pacing are exactly what your body needs to create a strong foundation to build on for years to come.
As 2023 continues on, remember your goals and resolutions are very personal to you, but involving others can be a very good thing. Whether it be for motivation, inspiration, or general guidance, having other people join you on your journey can make it more fun and ultimately more successful. Best of luck to everyone out there tackling an endurance goal this year. You have a team of coaches and athletes here at Zipper to support you along the way!