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Training for a sporting challenge- In the eyes of a Personal Trainer

So you’ve entered the biggest sporting challenge of your life, you feel fantastic and excited by that challenge but now you need to train for it – arrrgggghhhh!  Here is a list of the key things you need to do to get you through your event and finish well:

Get a Training Plan

The main thing is that if it is an endurance event i.e a marathon, long bike ride, swim is that you need to spend time doing that i.e. running, cycling and swimming.  If you google a plan for your chosen distance you will find loads of good plans for the event you are training for. 

Build up slowly

the key thing is to build up distance slowly. If you jump up distances too quickly you increase your chances of becoming injured which will set back your training.

Don’t try and make up for missed sessions

If you have to miss a training session due to illness, injury, life getting in the way, do not try and do extra to make up for it.  The session has been missed and nothing you do can make up for it.  Just look at the plan and if it is only one or two sessions carry on with the plan.  If you have had to miss more then maybe scale back some of the workouts or jumps up in distance until you feel back on form.  Trying to do more to make up for it can lead to injury or illness.


You cannot train on empty.  If you are working harder than you have before then you need to ensure you are fuelling yourself well.  Focus on whole foods rather than junk.  You also need to fuel your workouts.  Eating slow release carbs with some protein 60-90minutes before your workout will help and also eating some fast release carbs and protein post workout will help recovery.  If your event is a long one i.e a marathon, Olympic or over triathlon, 50+ mile bike ride then you will need to also fuel during your event.  Practice in training with what you plan to have on the day.  Lots of people use energy drinks, gels, bars, sweets.  You must think about getting these on board BEFORE you run out of energy.  With a marathon as an example you will see seasoned runners taking on their first bit of nutrition reasonably early on in the race, 5k in – it takes time even with these fast release energy drinks/gels to get into your system.  If you wait until you feel you need it, you will be too late.  You MUST start using these in your longer distance training sessions so that you know if they have any adverse side effects – it is better you have them in training than the event itself!

Strength Training

You may think that all you need to do is the activity/activities you’re going to be doing during the event.  This is a common misconception and can lead to injury.  If we are subjecting our bodies to punishing distances we need to ensure that muscles are conditioned and strong.  This is not just the obvious muscles we use during the event but all over.  Strengthening exercises specific to the events that you are doing will not just prevent injury but will improve performance and recovery.  Thinking that just pounding the pavements in prep for a marathon will possibly lead to longer term damage than replacing a run with a good strength session. 

Rest and Recovery

there was a recent article that said over training was a misnomer and that actually it was just inadequate rest and recovery.  When you have pushed your body hard in a session it is important to recover, refuel and rest.  Without doing this you will not be able to work as hard in your next session.


this does come into the above section but is important in its own right.  Try to aim for at least 7 hours per night and aim to try and go to bed and get up at the same time.  This enables our bodies to get into a good sleep routine.  Aim for a restful 30mins before bed if possible.  This helps reduce cortisol – the stress hormone.  It is not always bad but it is not good at raised levels for long periods of time.

It seems like a lot to take in but once your plan is in place it becomes second nature.  Remember a PT or Group PT session can really help you prepare and plan for such an event and keep your motivation.  

Emma - Personal Trainer at AMC Training

To read more of Emma's blogs, please click here.