Free Expert Tips To Train For A Marathon Need advice to run a marathon? Or maybe you want to complete your 42km in a faster time? Check out these free expert tips and nutritional advice to assist your training.
Don't let exercise myths hamper your workout efforts. Build more muscle, torch more fat and get more out of your fitness plan by making sure you're practising the right exercise habits.
Myth: Low-carbs mean less energy
Cutting down on carbs from your diet does not mean you will have less energy for exercise. A study among 60 overweight people showed that between a low-carb/high-fat and a high-carb/low-fat diet group, the low-carb group lost more weight and burned more fat during exercise. Don’t use this as an excuse to skip your workout!
Myth: Running on pavement can lead to over-use injuries
The surface you run on is just one of many factors that can cause injury. Occasionally vary where you run. Trail running, for instance, offers you constantly changing terrain, so you’ll reduce your chances of suffering the same injury. Besides, the uneven ground will improve your core stability and ankle strength. Mix in running on different surfaces to keep your body guessing – and improving. However, if you’re preparing for a road race, you’ll need to train specifically for that kind of terrain.
Myth: Doing squats on a Smith machine can be dangerous
Squats of any type, whether with free weights or on a Smith machine, can be dangerous if they’re performed incorrectly. The most common free-weight mistake people make is leaning their upper body too far forward, which shifts weight distribution from the hips and thighs to the knees and lower back.
It’s difficult to make this error on a Smith machine though, because the barbell is in a fixed vertical plane. However, the very fact that the machine allows less freedom of movement can also set you up for injury: If you don’t lean far enough forward during a squat, you can strain your back and knees.
Exercise scientist Shawn Arent, PhD, from Rutgers University recommends free-weight squats because you’ll activate more stabilising muscles than you would with a Smith machine. But Arent says to squat without weights to enforce correct form: With your feet slightly wider than your hips, chest up and knees in line with your toes, lower your body by pushing your butt back and bending your knees simultaneously, until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground – deeper is better. Flex your hips and knees at the same time and don’t round your back. Once you’ve got this down pat, do a few warm-up sets of squats with 50-75 per cent of your targeted load before beginning your full routine.
Myth: Pec decks are best for your chest
True to its name, the pec deck does target your pectorals. However, there’s a price. “Its design – with the handles far away from your shoulders – increases the likelihood of injury because it stresses the small muscles in your shoulders, including your rotator cuffs,” says Mark Peterson, PhD, a strength conditioning coach and exercise physiologist at the University of Michigan in the US.
If you’ve used the pec deck often enough, chances are you’ll have experienced some shoulder pain. A faster, safer way to build your chest is to do more pressing exercises, such as the dumbbell or barbell bench press. These moves target the pecs but also recruit other major muscle groups as you lift and lower the weight, so you’ll build overall strength in your arms, shoulders and chest, too.
Myth: More crunches lead to a six-pack
Excessive crunch-like movements can lead to back injury, says Dr Stuart McGill, a back specialist. To get a defined abdominal area, you’d not only need a well-developed rectus abdominal muscles, but also low body fat.
If you want to work your abs, go for plank variations, wheel roll-outs and hip drive movements. And make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night. University of Chicago scientists found that three consecutive nights of poor sleep will cause your muscle cells to become resistant to insulin, leading to increased fat storage in your belly.
Myth: More pain means more gain
Experiencing pain does not necessarily indicate a good workout. “If an individual is experiencing muscle soreness, refrain from training the same muscle groups the next day. However, pain might also indicate a possible injury from overstraining or incorrect technique,” Wendy Cho, master trainer at True Fitness says.
Your training should be planned out. Decide on your goals, chart a programme on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, and keep to it. This way, you’ll be able to observe your progress. If you’re suffering, restart your programme with minimal weights and reps, and increase the volume in the ensuing weeks.