With a whole host of active events making their way to the capital, we get some expert advice to find out how best to train and prepare to compete
You can have all the right gear, the desire and the drive, but without the right preparation and knowledge, taking part in a competitive sporting event can prove a momentous challenge.
From water-based endurance events to long-distance cycles and runs, there’s more to preparing to take part in an event than just putting in the hours at the gym. Whether you’re a seasoned competitor or this is your first time, you can always pick up a few tips and tricks to help you be your best on race day.
So what do you need to know?
Making waves in the capital, competitors will be taking to the water in the next few weeks as the Abu Dhabi Junior Aquathlon and 5 Star Aquathlon take place on 25th November and 15th December, respectively.
When preparing to take part in a swimming event, it’s important to spend enough time training in water but there is such a thing as overdoing it.
“If you’re looking at an open-water swimming event, you’ve got to be in open water, there’s no point training in a pool,” explains Chris Wraithmell, head of fitness at Advantage Sports.
“Four to five 45-minute sessions a week should be about the right level, but try not to take the easy option because when you’re swimming in the sea it’s very different.”
While it can be tempting to put in hour after hour in the pool or in the sea, too much time in the water can increase your chance of injury, ruling you out of the event entirely.
“Lower back and shoulder problems can be quite common with large amounts of swimming. These are the overworked areas of the body,” explains Chris.
“Resistance based exercises are ideal and also strengthening the core with things like planks and crunches will help the body to perform better in the water.”
While your body adjusts to the physical demands of swimming and strengthens over time, your diet can also have a huge impact on your performance leading up to the big day.
“Swimming is really hard work and you need to make sure that you’re fuelled with carbohydrates, because they provide fuel for recovery, instant energy and develop muscle tissue,” continues Chris.
“Things like sweet potato, butternut squash, whole wheat pasta, alongside good quality protein and vegetables will give you the right balance and energy to get through the event.”
Lacing up their shoes, runners will be taking on the Abu Dhabi Sports Council City Run on 22nd December and the RAK Half Marathon on 9th February, as well as other
community running events throughout the season.
With so much strain being put on the body, it’s important to get used to running long distances, but your training shouldn’t focus entirely on putting one foot in front of the other for hours on end on the road or on the treadmill.
“Strengthening the body is the first area of focus. Squats, dead lifts and lunges all strengthen the legs, give you more support when running and build the muscle fibres in your legs,” says Chris.
“Movement and form are key initially to build strength before taking on more and more running until it’s all running in the last few weeks.
“I would advise a short run from 30 to 45 minutes twice a week and a long run each weekend, that’s increasing in length until eventually hitting the race distance.”
And while you’re improving your strength and posture as you increase your running distance, getting your body into peak physical condition, it’s important to also give your body the right fuel or you might not make it to the finish line.
“Dehydration is a big problem, especially in the UAE where we don’t drink enough water and through lack of water we lack salt, which causes cramps,” Chris explains.
“There are many issues that come with not having enough fluid intake. “In the beginning you also need to assess whether dropping a little bit of weight could help your performance.
“The whole process almost becomes a bit easier if you’re leaner. “If you’re not in the position where you need to drop weight, then it’s just a case of getting the right fuel by getting good food inside you and staying hydrated.”
Getting on their bikes, competitors will be lining up to take part in the Al Wathba Cycle Race on 11th December and Liwa Cycling Challenge 2018 on 12th January.
With such long distances part of the course in these events, you certainly need to have experienced hours in the saddle before the big day, but you can mix up your training to avoid too much repetition and burning out.
“If you’re looking at race distance with something like 100km, you need to be replicating this on the bike,” advises Chris.
“Two to four hours per session on the bike would be the norm. You have to spend several hours out on the bike or you’re just not getting the volume on your legs. Although, getting on an upright bike in the gym is not the same as the environment you’re going to be in.
“You need to know your bike and with things like a turbo trainer you can physically get on your bike, in front of the TV and get the time on your bike without taking the risk of going out on the road. The only downside is that you’re not prepared for the heat, so you need to vary between indoor and outdoor sessions.”
After a few weeks on your bike, you can start to get used to the length of a race but with adopting such a rigid position during cycling for long periods of time, it’s also important to involve movement in your workout to avoid picking up an injury.
“The upper and lower back take a lot of strain when you’re cycling. When your head is down it lengthens and puts pressure on the spine and the coccyx with the saddle,” says Chris.
“Yoga-based training is a good way to combat this. It encourages the body to move a lot and gives greater overall body movement which is the complete opposite of what happens
on the bike.”
With endurance playing such a large part in cycling events, it’s also important to pay attention to your diet so you don’t burn out too fast behind the handlebars. “Slow release carbs are your friend,” Chris says.
“Porridge, pasta, bread, potatoes: those are the things that will feed energy to you over a long period of time.”
I Swim NYUAD
Taking place every Saturday morning, the pool at NYUAD is the place to be to practise your technique and get a good workout in the water by doing lengths in the university’s indoor Olympic-sized pool. Free, but registration required. NYUAD, Saadiyat Island. Sat 9am-11am. Visit: facebook.com/iswimsaturdaynyuad
Yas Marina Circuit
Inviting you to do laps of the world famous circuit, the Formula 1 track is open three times a week so you can run, cycle or even walk the 5.55km circuit. StartYas is hosted on Sundays, TrainYas on Tuesdays and the ladies-only GoYas on Wednesdays. Bikes and helmets are available to use. Free, but registration required. Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island. 6pm-10pm. Visit: yasmarinacircuit.com
Taking place every Monday night, the weekly TrainZSC event brings fitness fans to Zayed Sports City to take on feats like stair climbing and running the track to improve their general health and wellbeing. Free, but registration required. Zayed Sports City Stadium, off Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street. 6pm-9pm. Visit: trainzsc.com
WORDS Colin Armstrong