How to Prepare for a Fitness Challenge
4 tips for getting through a fitness challenge successfully
Like anything in life, the key to success is in the preparation. Whether it’s studying for exams, delivering a big presentation for work or securing a big new contract. If you do not do diligent research, revision and preparation, you are unlikely to perform or do well. For some reason when we see a fitness challenge advertised on the internet or on TV the first thing, we want to do is sign up for it because it looks fun. But the last thing we want to do for it is the preparation. Then, inevitably after participating in the event, we get injured or find the challenge incredibly tough and never want to do it again. We always question why. “Why didn’t I prepare more for this? Why didn’t I train harder?” The simple answer for most of us is because physical preparation is hard work and many of us do not know how to approach physical preparation. So, for all of you confused folk out there who need some guidance in this article, we talk about how to prepare for a fitness challenge.
4 Steps to Be Successful in a Fitness Challenge
1. Do your homework
Before signing up for any challenge, make sure you do the appropriate research for the actual event. A lot of these fitness challenges highlight the fun and enjoyable aspects and obstacles on their adverts to entice you in. However, they may not disclose the finer details such as projected temperature, cold water and depth, running distances between obstacles or even how long it is projected to take.
By doing your research properly you will be able to identify the specific, complex and/or difficult obstacles that might come before or after the fun obstacles highlighted in adverts. This in turn will reflect the specific skills and attributes you will need in order to conquer those particular obstacles throughout the course enabling you to be specific in your physical training. For instance, if there is a rope climb in your fitness challenge, by breaking down that movement you know that you will require vertical pulling strength, grip strength and leg strength. An example of a great vertical pulling exercise is pull ups. A great exercise for developing leg strength is squats and a brilliant activity for developing grip strength is farmer’s carries. From that one piece of research we have 3 exercises that can compose one of your weekly training sessions. Once you have become competent in building these physical capacities, then, you can do your research on facilities nearby to your location to see if they have any of the necessary equipment that you can begin practice the actual skill with.
In addition to the obstacles, you will also be able to identify the duration/distance of the event. Whilst this information may seem arbitrary for most people, it will actually help you to again be more specific in your training as this will give you a much clearer idea of what energy systems you need to be targeting. For instance, if the challenge is an endurance based one and you are required to complete a certain distance for example, 5 km then, you should be looking to train the aerobic energy system and localised muscular endurance. Continuous training methods like long distance low intensity sustained runs would be suitable here and high rep ranges, between 12 and 20 reps for your resistance training exercises would also be beneficial. Conversely, if the fitness challenge is time oriented or a sprint style challenge, like Ninja Warrior as seen on TV then, you need to be looking at developing the threshold of your lactate energy system using training methods like repeated interval sprint sessions. You do not need to be going out for long runs if you are training for a speed based fitness challenge. Train smarter not harder.
2. Be honest with yourself
Be realistic in your expectations of your training. If you have never done a fitness challenge before, do not expect to be completing obstacles or running fast times when you have only just started your training. We cannot stress enough that you have to develop the physical capacities first before you start to attempt practising on obstacles or running long distances or running fast. Otherwise, you could end up seriously hurting yourself and not even being able to participate in the challenge. Enjoy the process of developing the required physical attributes and before you know it, you’ll find that you are able to acquire the necessary skills and capacities for the event much quicker and will be able to perform comfortably or complete the obstacles without even breaking a sweat.
Conversely, if after doing your research you see that there are particular skills that you know you cannot physically perform for whatever reason or have always struggled to perform in the past, then, maybe that particular challenge is not the right one for you. There are hundreds of these different fitness challenges out there occurring all year round and nationwide so do not limit yourself to one or two because they are the most well-known. Pick an event that challenges you and your ability!
3. Give yourself sufficient time
Always ensure that you allow enough time to prepare for the event particularly, the endurance-based fitness challenges. Elite endurance athletes will spend months preparing and tapering their training for their events and competitions so it is definitely advisable that you should do the same. As an example, if this is your first fitness event, do not book the fitness challenge with only one month to prepare. You should be looking to spend upwards of 3 months preparing to allow your body to make the necessary adaptations ahead of the event but to also provide you with enough time to address all areas involved in sports participation including but not limited to exercise, nutrition and lifestyle factors.
4. Support network
A lot of these fitness events are called challenges for a reason. They are tough! If this is your first event, having a team-mate or indeed an entire team to participate with is always a good idea. When preparing for an event by yourself, it is easy to skip training sessions on those days where work has been stressful and you’re feeling tired. However, with a partner or a team who are all in the same boat not only will they help spur you on in the event, but they will help keep you just as you will keep them accountable to your preparation. You can all keep each other on track to ensure you arrive at the event in the best shape possible and actually enjoy the event rather than return home broken, battered and miserable.
This list is in no way exhaustive. We’ve included the tips that we have found most useful for our clients in the past in preparation for a fitness challenge.