Endurance training-feet running on treadmillCategoriesPhysiology

BOOST YOUR MOOD WITH EXERCISE

BOOST YOUR MOOD WITH EXERCISE 

We all know that getting out and exercising can make us feel better, giving us that sense of achievement and making our mood improve. But what is the science behind the mood-boost? We chatted to Sport & Fitness Gym Instructor Peter Antonio, who is also a Sport Nutritionist, about the link between mental health and exercise.

It may come as no surprise that moving those different (but wonderful) shaped bodies of ours has many positive effects on our overall wellbeing.

Getting active, raising our heart rate, and putting some force through our muscles are all tried and tested methods of being a sure-fire way of releasing some good old endorphins. These hormones, aside from making us feel great, can aid in reducing pain, increase our self-esteem, reduce anxiety and depression, and enhance our immune system. Incidentally, eating chocolate is also a way to unlock the internal happy hormone safe!

A headshot of Peter Antonio, a Fitness Instructor at Sport & Fitness

We are not designed to be still for long periods of time. Our eyes are made to continually alter the distance of our focus. Blood can pool in our lower legs if we remain standing or sitting for too long. When we don’t move for long periods of time, we can feel even more tired than before we sat down. By not moving, we are telling our bodies that we’re ready for bed. The same is true for not blinking for long periods of time, when reading a book or looking at one of our many screens. This is why, when in situations of long periods of sitting (at work sitting down, travelling or commuting), getting up every now and then to move around and get your blood flowing can be extremely beneficial – reminding your body that it still needs to be active.

student exercising on yoga mat

Exercise can also put us in the blissful state of flow. A flow state is where we are intensely focused on the task in hand, and therefore all other thoughts and emotions are not at the forefront of our minds. We can experience, if only for a moment, psychological freedom from all the to do lists, internal chatter, or one of the many existential crises we may be going through in our lives. 

If you’ve been inspired to get exercising but don’t know where to start, why not chat to our team, visit us or check out our videos on how to set and achieve your goals? Whatever your motivation, our experts are here to support you and help you feel more you this May, so get in touch today!

Image of Andrew Ward bench pressing at a championshipCategoriesMember News Physiology

Member Spotlight: Andrew Ward, GB Powerlifter and Entrepreneur

Member Spotlight: Andrew Ward (GB Powerlifter, Entrepreneur, and Author)

Alumni and community member, Andrew Ward has been using our Sport & Fitness club since we first opened back in 2017. Andrew’s hard work begins here, most recently securing fourth place in the IPF Bench Press World Championships 2022 in Kazakhstan, using our facilities to train for competitions, alongside his active lifestyle.  

 

Andrew has been powerlifting for nearly a decade and has an impressive competition history. From winning the IPF British Bench Press Championships three times, to competing twice at the World Championships representing Great Britain, he has been making history! 

 

We asked Andrew a few questions about his experience and background, to hear his inspiring story. 

Image of Andrew Ward winning 2021 competition

Photo credit: White Lights Media

 

How long have you been strength training, and what got you into it?

I have been training in powerlifting for roughly 10 years but have always been involved in sports. I started my training journey with athletics when I was younger and then progressed to gymnastics when I was at university. I trained at the Munrow sports centre, and when I graduated, I found it difficult to maintain a structured gymnastics program. I then started going to the gym with a friend and lifting weights. One of my friends pointed out I would qualify for the British championships, so I decided to give it a go.

 

Why did you start training at University of Birmingham?

I initially chose the University of Birmingham due to its excellent facilities. It has a wide selection of equipment and calibrated plates, making it the perfect environment for my powerlifting training needs. Its central location and ease of parking make it extremely accessible.

 

What makes the Sport and Fitness club a good place for your training?

The staff at the gym have created a welcoming and supportive atmosphere. They are incredibly friendly and helpful and have even accommodated my requests for new equipment. For example, they recently added a heavy-duty bench with safety bars for use when lifting heavier weights. This means I don’t have to worry about dropping the bar on my neck.

 

What was it like competing at the World Benchpress Championships?

Competing at the World Championships was an incredible privilege, marking a massive achievement. On one hand, you are able to perform at a high level that enables you to compete internationally. On the other, you are surrounded by the greatest athletes in the world, giving the experience a unique spectacle. Everything is also well-organised and professional.

Additionally, it is a great privilege to be able to travel internationally for your sport; for example, I have been to Budapest, Kazakhstan and Lithuania, places I likely would not have visited otherwise.

 

How easy is it for our members to get into Powerlifting?

Powerlifting is an inclusive sport that is open to anyone, regardless of age and experience. The main lifts are the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift, so if you are already lifting weights and enjoy those exercises, you will likely enjoy powerlifting.

There is an active and welcoming community that is easy to get involved with, as each region in the country has its own powerlifting group that runs competitions. These competitions cater to beginners and more advanced athletes, so you don’t have to be at an elite level to give it a try. If you find yourself lifting at a high standard, you may even qualify for the British Championships. For more information on upcoming competitions, visit the British Powerlifting website.

 

How did you get into running your own Software Development business?

I’ve been interested in technology since I was a young child. After finishing my Taekwondo classes, I began to browse the internet and became fascinated by the idea of creating. After college, I was given the opportunity to work at Rolls-Royce. This provided me with invaluable experience and knowledge which I applied to my degree in computer science for business management. I continued doing freelance work alongside my studies as an additional source of income, making use of my corporate experience.

 

Upon graduating, I decided to set up a limited company, offering more complex web apps and online tools; this business has been running for nearly 13 years, and now specialises in complex mobile apps and online software.

Andrew Ward in first place on the podium for the Benchpress World Championships

Photo credit: White Lights Media

 

It’s safe to say that Andrew has an exciting future ahead of him, after already accomplishing such amazing things within the sport and business fields. Graduating in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science and Business Management, Andrew has gone on to run an app and online software development agency, and he has even published his own book. 

 

He plans to continue powerlifting, with a goal of longevity in his sport. We feel great pride that he chooses to train at the University gym and utilises our extensive range of equipment to help him perform.  

 

You can follow Andrew on Instagram via @andrewleeward, or read more about him on his personal website. Or check out Andrew’s intensive training routine in action! 

 

If you’ve been inspired by Andrew’s story and want to find out more about our gym memberships – whether you’re an athlete in training, or simply keeping fit – view our memberships today 

Do you have a personal story about your fitness journey at Sport & Fitness? We would love to hear from you! Get in touch by emailing [email protected] to feature on our channels.

Male runner recording his run on his phone at the Great Birmingham Run 10kCategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

What you need to know before running a 10k

If you’re worried about leaving it too late to start training, or simply have concerns about committing to your first ever long-distance run in front of a crowd, this blog should dispel some of those fears, and help you to separate fact from fiction when it comes to running events.

I DON’T KNOW IF I HAVE THE MOTIVATION FOR IT

We often talk about being physically fit, but your mental fitness and wellbeing is just as important when it comes to training for a 10k or further. Before we tackle how you’re going to run the distance, it’s important to firstly decide why you’re considering doing it, so let’s break it down.

First and foremost, it’s important that you’re joining us for the Great Birmingham Run for you and only you. In other words let’s not get caught up with trying to beat the personal best of a friend, or taking up running because our colleagues run home from work. There are several reasons for taking up running and setting yourself a 10k challenge, but the most important one is that you’re doing it because you really want to – and will be your best source of motivation too.

 

IT’S BEEN TOO COLD AND WET TO START TRAINING

Granted the recent weather has been particularly grey and gloomy – but for some people, these are their perfect running conditions. On those wet and miserable mornings or cold dark evenings, you need to ask yourself what your main motivation is for joining #TeamUoB for the 10k and keep reminding yourself of it.

Whether you’re trying to become a healthier version of yourself, want to eventually run a marathon, or are just hoping to get back into running after a prolonged period of time, this must be at the forefront of your mind when you’re finding training tough.

Every trainer will also tell you that a treat every now and again won’t do you any harm, so if you have to reward yourself with a sweet treat after particularly cold runs – do it!

 

WHAT IF I GET A BAD FINISHING TIME

This is where we should say it’s the taking part that counts, but we know how important finishing times are to any runner. One thing we will say however to anyone reading this who hasn’t signed up for the Great Birmingham Run because they think they’ll be too slow, is just be honest with yourself and you can’t go wrong.

Each one of us is capable of running a 10k, whatever your age or ability. That doesn’t mean that we’ll all be running it in the same timeframe – which is perfectly fine. The best way to complete the course is to set yourself a realistic target, especially if you’re just setting out, and then you can improve on this week on week.

If you initially plan your training sessions to build up your running programme gradually, you’ll find it much easier to notice the improvements you’re making. This will also help you to not put too much strain on your body, and prevent you from any pre-race injuries. Pacing yourself doesn’t mean finishing the 10k in a longer time, it just means you won’t burn out before the finishing line. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t run the full distance either. There will be plenty of participants walking (or skipping) too.

 

I’VE NEVER RUN IN FRONT OF A CROWD BEFORE

Any long-distance runner will be able to recall a time they’ve completely forgotten there’s a crowd there. Huge cheering crowds can be brilliant for your motivation, as they’re genuinely there to support you around the course, and the elated atmosphere really helps too, but the most important people are those who you’re running with.

That’s why #TeamUoB is such an encouraging network of individuals. There’s no better feeling than crossing the finish line as part of a team in a sea of matching t-shirts, but having a whole community there for you before the run itself is really helpful. Particularly if you’re new to a 10k, other members can offer friendly advice from how often to train per week and how far, to what to eat on the day and which trainers will be kinder to your feet!

You may even meet some future running buddies too, or decide to join the Green Heart Runners or Cool Runnings.

I WILL BE CELEBRATING RAMADAN

It’s a busy time for those who have to fit in their regular daily tasks along with prayer time, so we hope to be able to advise in any way we can about the best ways to exercise. Although Ramadan may not be a time to push your limits or set personal records, there are definitely still ways to maintain a training regime ahead of running a 10k.

We chatted to our Personal Trainers at Sport & Fitness, to find out a bit more about sports nutrition during Ramadan, what they recommend doing, and when. You can find out what they had to say here.

We hope this has helped you to make up your mind about joining us at the Great Birmingham Run, but you can always visit our webpage for more details about #TeamUoB, including how to sign up.

ramadan and exerciseCategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

Keeping fit during Ramadan

Muslims who choose to fast during Ramadan will abstain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset each day for one month.

It’s a busy time for those who have to fit in their regular daily tasks along with prayer time, but should this schedule and the limitations on consumption mean that you can’t keep exercising during this period?

Although Ramadan may not be a time to push your limits or set personal records, there are definitely still ways to maintain your workouts and schedules. As it’s a time for worship, self-reflection and an opportunity to become a better person, Muslims across the world use this holy month of fasting and prayer to restore not only their relationship with God but their relationship with themselves. One of the main aspects of preparing for Ramadan is to figure out ways to better yourself and implement them during the holy month.

We chatted to our Personal Trainers at Sport & Fitness, to find out a bit more about sports nutrition during Ramadan, what they recommend doing, and when.

Sessions undertaken in the morning after sunrise

Not only does this get the workout done early when you might feel your most energetic, but you’ll have a good amount of fuel to go on.

Pros: You will benefit from eating and drinking from the previous evening and before dawn

Cons: There’s little opportunity to refuel, rehydrate, and recover after these sessions

  • Suhour (the last meal before the beginning of the day’s fast) should be eaten as close as possible to sunrise and athletes should choose foods that contribute to sport nutrition needs for the day. Low GI carbohydrate choices are recommended to allow slow release of glucose.
  • Higher sodium foods at Suhour may be beneficial to promote fluid retention and aid hydration.
  • Eating some slow-digesting casein protein (eg. Cottage cheese, greek yoghurt, other dairy products) immediately before sunrise will provide your body with a continuous source of amino acids for the hours to come.
  • Consumption of ‘‘slow’’ proteins at meals consumed before dawn to help with protein balance over the day is advised.  Sufficient fluids and electrolytes (especially sodium) should be consumed after sunset and before sunrise to ensure full replacement of sweat losses and to prevent progressive dehydration.

Sessions undertaken in the evening, scheduled to finish just before Iftar

Potentially the best time for Muslims to exercise during Ramadan is right before sunset when they will have the opportunity to refuel and recover straight away afterwards.

Pros: You’ll benefit from the ability to eat for recovery at Iftar (breaking fast) and during the rest of the evening

Cons: These sessions are undertaken with minimal pre-exercise nutritional support

  • When training or competition are scheduled late in the day, athletes should be careful to limit glycogen depletion and sweat losses by restricting activity levels and exposure to warm environments during the day.
  • Carbohydrate-rich foods should be consumed at the break of fast.
  • Athletes should try to consume at least 20 g of rapidly digested and absorbed high-quality protein soon after exercise whenever possible, as well as high-quality protein-rich foods at each meal opportunity during the evening and before dawn.

Sessions undertaken in the evening after breaking fast

A good option for those with less free time, working out after eating can be beneficial.

Pros: 2 – 3 hours after the break of the fast gives the best opportunities to fuel and hydrate before, during, and after

Cons: It must be balanced against the importance of sleep!

  • Strength training is best performed later in the day to ensure protein can be consumed soon after exercise in order to maximise training adaptations.
  • Consume small amounts of carbohydrate during exercise undertaken after the fast is broken, even if there is little need for additional fuel.

Finding an exercise routine that fits around this time can be difficult, and should only be taken on by people who are used to exercise. If you’re continuing to work out during Ramadan, cardio and heavy weights are not recommended – your body isn’t functioning on its usual fuel, and exercise could be dangerous if taken too far. If you’d like to chat with one of our Personal Trainers regarding training that works around your lifestyle, email the Gym team today. And remember, if you’re feeling unwell due to illness or fasting, please do not take part in exercise until you feel fully well and able!

Peter and Hasan discussing training in the officeCategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

Staying healthy during the Christmas period

The holiday season can be a great time to unwind, especially during the world’s current ups and downs. Food and exercise can take a nose dive, however all does not have to be lost according to our resident fitness instructor and registered nutritionist Peter Antonio.

When exercising over the holiday period, try and be as prepared as possible. Check your local gym and pool with regards to opening times and guest pass options. This way, if family and friends would like to join you, then it can be a great way to have quality time, as well as keeping that heart rate up.

Eating is often a focal point at Christmas, and things can revolve a lot around food. This is a great activity to feel close with and connected to your loved ones, and should be part of this season. However, try and include other activities which are not food-focused. This might include going for a walk, attending a carol service, playing board games, watching a classic movie, or even just talking all together with some background seasonal tunes on. We rarely get time to properly catch up with one-an-other, so take the time to see how your loved ones are really doing.

If all those extra calories are of a concern this year, then take the time to research lighter options which might not be weighing you down months down the road. There are endless recipe options out there, so when you find one which you like the sound of, and is a lighter option than what you would usually have, stop the search and just go with it. Sometimes we can lose so much time trying to sift through the bottomless pit of options, that we don’t see the perfectly good ones right in front of us.

It is easy for many of us to feel like the holiday period will be some sort of ‘step backwards’ regarding our waist line and training routine/goals. This certainly does not have to be the case when looked at from a broader vantage point.

For many of us, moving our bodies and getting our heart rate up is just as important for our physical self, as much as our mental self. There is no reason why, with just your own body weight, you cannot do exactly that. It will not be the same as what you are used to, but this does not have to be a bad thing.

Often, we get stuck in the same kind of training and movement patterns, and our bodies are incredibly good at getting used to what we always do. Moving the goal post and doing something different forces our bodies to adapt (i.e., get stronger in some new way). Not only is this good for building on a new area of strength, but our usual routine, and the effect that has had on our bodies, can have a much-needed rest.

We all need genuine down time in order to adapt. Fact. If you do not choose to make this a priority, then your body will make this decision for you. Indeed, this is true for all areas of your life. Try and prioritise your fruit and vegetable intake, sleep, stretching/mobility, and water intake.

Take a step back and recognise if you have been allowing sufficient down time in your own exercise routine. Please feel free to talk to a member of the Gym or Swim team if you are unsure, and for ideas on what you can do exercise wise during the holiday season.

Life is a balancing act, and we can often find ourselves on the floor after having lost our step, with regards to what is important to us, and our families. You, and the relationship you have with yourself and others, is arguably the most important thing there is. Nurture the things that are important to you during this holiday season, and try not to get too caught up in the materialistic side of Christmas. This is called a holiday period for a reason, and shouldn’t leave you more stressed at the end of it.

Man working out in gym on machineCategoriesPhysiology Psychology

Easing back into exercise

Returning to exercise after lockdown

For many of us, the re-opening of the fitness facilities has meant an eager return back to our pre-lockdown workout routines, whether that’s in the gym, pool, squash courts or classes. But is rushing back to what you used to do, good for you? We picked the brains of Sport & Fitness’ experts, Psychologist Christian and Fitness Instructor and Nutritionist Peter, to seek their advice on how to safely ease back into our exercise routine.
Christian Pszyk, Psychologist, says that when elite athletes return to training following injury, a break in the season or another change in circumstance, the key aspect of readjusting to the ‘new normal’ is the management of psychological and emotional expectations, and the same principle applies for anyone who is returning to training after a break.

Typically, our brains are programmed to try and attain our optimal or best performance, regardless of the context of the situation. So, when there are sub-optimal results, despite extenuating circumstances, it creates an automatic response of disappointment, potential dejection and demotivation as our innate experience is that we are always improving, and immune to setbacks.
In order to combat this, the key aspects to bear in mind are those of context and goals. Focusing on the context of your situation helps to create and maintain a realistic perspective, while setting out some simple short-term goals will support structure and the feeling of achievement while you slowly start to find your feet again and build up to your own optimal performance.

Peter Antonio, Fitness Instructor, also recognises that stepping back into the world of exercise after an extended period of time off can feel daunting. You may feel lost as to where to begin, or fear injuring yourself due to a few lazy evenings with no motivation, binging the latest Netflix series!

Fortunately there are ways to get moving again, and step into those running shoes, or in to the gym/pool, without hurting your ego or physical self.
Whatever your pre-Covid state was, know that if you are returning to exercise after being quite inactive, then it is unlikely that you are going to return to the same strength and fitness levels.
Knowing this ahead of time can help mitigate those fears that may come from being unable to swim as fast or lift as much weight, as well as reduce the chances of injuring yourself.
If you approach stepping back into exercise as a gradual process, initially reducing both the volume and intensity you were previously at, then this will allow the body and mind to return to top notch form within minimal risk of injury.
There is a bright, gleaming light not so far ahead which we all need to remember however… that the fitness and strength we once had will come back quicker this time round. You are not starting from zero again, so avoid thinking that all the work you have previously put in was a waste, as this is not the case.
Try to maintain consistency, use and speak to the professionals who work in your respective sport (lifeguards, gym instructors etc), and remind yourself of why you are doing this.

Our experts’ top tips: in summary:

  • Focus on the context of your situation to help create and maintain a realistic perspective of your goals
  • Accept that your fitness levels may have deteriorated and therefore don’t push yourself – work up gradually
  • If you’re unsure, chat to the staff in Sport & Fitness to get their advice
  • Remind yourself of your goal, and why you’re doing this!

We hope you have returned to exercise with us safely and confidently, and would love to hear your stories about getting back to the facilities after the break as well as any feedback, so please do let us know by completing the feedback form on the website, or emailing [email protected].

pregnancy exerciseCategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

Baby Bump to Body Pump – can I exercise during pregnancy?

The do’s and do-not’s of exercising during pregnancy is a much discussed topic, and it can be hard to know what is and isn’t safe. Exercise has many benefits for both mother and baby, so we chatted to Laura Randall to find out how to keep fit and healthy during those 9 months.
Laura Randall is a Personal Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor and Nutritional Advisor, with a degree in Sports Science. Here at University of Birmingham Sport & Fitness, there are many class options that are suitable for those who are expecting. Exercise before, during and after pregnancy is encouraged – but there are some considerations to take in to account to ensure that the exercise is safe and effective.

Which classes do you recommend during pregnancy and what kind of adjustments might be required?

‘The good news is – with a few things to be aware of, most classes should be fine during pregnancy.’

Aqua Fit/Natal during pregnancy can provide the same workout for your heart and body as studio-based classes without the risks of falls or injuries. The buoyancy of the water requires only 50% of your body weight to be supported, alleviating stress on your joints and muscles whilst having fun during your workout. UoB Sport & Fitness offers exclusive aqua natal classes taught by expert instructors, which really help mums-to-be to stay active during pregnancy.
CX Worx and Abs classes should be safe in the first and second trimester. There are adjustments you should make when you can, for example, there are some great options to work your abs in 4-point kneeling positions, supporting yourself on your elbows in a supine position to keep the chest lifted, or by doing hover/plank when it is no longer comfortable to lie flat on your back.

I already work out – can I continue?

‘If you have already been doing Circuits, Tone, Body Attack, Body Step or Zumba Step it should be safe to continue whilst pregnant.’

We do suggest some of the following modifications:

  • Take the low impact options to reduce excessive impact through your joints
  • For Step, decrease the number of risers on your bench so you don’t have to step too high
  • Ensure your foot is always planted firmly on the step so you have a stable base of support

In RPM and Cycle classes it’s good to modify intensity by taking regular breaks, reducing resistance, and avoiding excessive speeds and standing positions as you feel the need to.

What if I want to try something new?

Body Balance, Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates can be started for the first time during pregnancy and are ideal exercise for expectant mothers who want to keep active whilst making healthy lifestyle changes.’

Always let your instructor know that you are pregnant so they can offer the best options for you to feel comfortable and successful, but stop immediately if you feel dizzy, and don’t be too aggressive with your stretches. Remember pregnancy is not the time to push your body!
Weight training and Body Pump are great for maintaining muscle tone during pregnancy. With the options to use lighter weights, hand weights instead of the bar and reducing your range of motion, you can keep moving and feeling strong. When it is no longer comfortable to lie on your back during exercise, you can turn your bench into an Incline Bench. You may also find during the later stages of pregnancy that overhead exercises may cause dizziness or changes in blood pressure, and with this in mind there are plenty of options to stay below the shoulder line and still get the workout you came for.
Zumba, Sh’Bam and Body Jam are generally safe to do during pregnancy, but you may find that twisting and jumping are uncomfortable so just take it easy and listen to what your body is telling you.

What types of classes should I avoid during pregnancy?

Body Combat and Boxercise during pregnancy aren’t recommended because of the joint instability.’

The release of hormones such as Oestrogen and Relaxin can result in joints being less stable, so the kicks and excessive twisting may aggravate the back, hip and pelvis. GRIT and Sprint are both high-intensity workouts where fitness is taken to the next level by pushing yourself hard – pregnancy is not the time to be pushing your body to its limits.
Excessive inversions (e.g. handstands and headstands sometimes practised in Yoga) in the late second and third trimester are not recommended due to the increase in bump size and so as not to confuse the baby as it prepares for birth.

Laura’s tips – what to avoid

  • Exercises that position you on your back after the first trimester, because this position can hinder blood flow to the uterus, and to and from the heart
  • Exercises where you lie flat on your front after the first trimester due to an increase in bump and baby size
  • Exercise that may cause trauma to the abdominal area – now’s the time to give up your kickboxing and excessive rotation, at least until the baby’s born
  • Exercising in high heat environments – always wear loose, comfortable clothing to class, preferably with layers that can be removed
  • Long periods of stationary or motionless standing, as this can cause changes in blood pressure
  • Any exercise that may cause loss of balance to reduce the risk of falling

Laura’s tips – what to adjust

  • Adjust your core training – whenever you can. There are some great options to work your abs in 4-point kneeling, supporting yourself on your elbows (ensuring you keep the chest lifted) or roll over and do hover or plank work
  • Drink plenty of water and keep yourself cool
  • Reducing intensity when you, and your doctor, think you should
  • Let your instructor know that you’re pregnant so they give you the best care and options available
  • Always remember to listen to your body – it will always tell you what it needs and what it doesn’t, and STOP if you ever feel dizzy or uncomfortable during a class

Check out the range of classes available and book now!

Note: Everyone is different – please always consult a doctor before engaging in any new or strenuous exercise! Letting the Reception team and your instructor know that you are pregnant is also a good starting point – both for health and safety reasons and so that they can ensure you are getting the best and safest workout, or advise on the suitability of certain classes or exercises. Pregnancy is generally the time for maintenance, not for pushing yourself for new fitness goals or working out at high intensities, so do let your instructor know if you have any questions.

05.04.18

nutritionCategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

Training for a 10k – Nutrition prep

Prior to any run it’s important to ensure you’re fuelled and ready to go. We caught up with Ollie Armstrong, resident Physiologist at UB Sport & Fitness, for some helpful hints on what’s best to eat before a race.

As Lead Physiologist at UB Sport & Fitness, Ollie’s day-to-day is ensuring that athletes can consistently perform to their maximum potential, and so whether you’re an experienced runner or considering doing something like the Birmingham Great Run for the first time, one easy way to help perform at your best is to ensure your body is getting the fuel and hydration required during a race, regardless of duration and length. See below for Ollie’s basic tips for nutritional race preparation.

Before the race

‘Prior to your race it’s important to be fresh and raring to go for the big day. The key is to be properly fuelled, hydrated and good to go – and you can start preparing this from the previous day. Make sure you have a good meal the night before. For breakfast, a bowl of porridge with a banana and some honey, containing both slow and fast release carbohydrates, is a good option. Before you hit the start line (an hour before the race), having a banana or an electrolyte drink will help.’

Carbohydrates

‘For long-duration races, some people like to carbo-load in preparation for a race. This is less necessary for a 10k but if you are thinking of doing something longer, carbo-loading is something to consider. This involves eating minimal carbohydrates four days before your race to cause depletion. Then, two days before your race, aim to eat three to four carbohydrate-based meals and have carbohydrate-based snacks throughout the day. Rice, pasta, bread, cereals, fruit, starchy vegetables and low-fat milk and yoghurt are nutrient-packed, carbohydrate-containing choices so you will have maximal fuel during your race. However, it is important to trial this in the build up to competition as it can have an adverse effect for some people.’

During and after

‘Make sure you drink regularly throughout the day. The best way to drink throughout the day is to sip and not gulp. Straight after the race, an electrolyte drink is really useful to replenish immediate carbohydrate stores, and a form of recovery food or bar with a combination of carbohydrates and protein is also good.
‘It’s also really important to rehydrate following your race. Rehydrating and replenishing energy stores is essential in the few days after your race to avoid becoming ill.  Milk is an effective rehydration drink due to its high carbohydrate and protein content. To stimulate muscular repair, you should aim to eat 20-30g of protein. This is a really good way of regulating body temperature too. Antioxidants (e.g. blueberries) can also help the acute recovery process by mopping up potentially harmful molecules (free radicals) which will reduce inflammation in the muscles.’
Read more about the Birmingham 10k – how to sign up, training plans and more info – on our events page.

10k mental prepCategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

Training for a 10k – the mental prep

With the Birmingham Great Run 10k looming just around the corner, we chatted to our Sport Psychology Lead about how best to prepare for the challenge.

Matt Thompson has been a Performance Psychologist at the University of Birmingham for nearly 4 years, and so who better to ask about keeping on track during training?! Whether you’re an experienced runner or you’re trying out your first race, self-belief and motivation can be one of the most debilitating factors when building up to race day. Matt poses three questions which will keep your eyes on the prize even during the ‘it’s cold outside, I want to stay in bed and eat chocolate’ times.

Why am I doing this?!

‘The answer to this question can be a major source of motivation. Be honest with yourself – this has to be a genuine reason that means something to you. Whether you are doing the Birmingham 10k because you want to be that healthier version of you, or because you’re trying to raise funds for a charity that is close to your heart, or because you are desperate to get that sense of achievement from beating your personal best – write this down and put it somewhere you will see it when you need that extra motivation boost. You could even print out a Birmingham 10K poster and put it on the back of your door! On those wet and miserable mornings or cold dark evenings asking yourself this question. Reminding yourself of the answer can provide the motivation you need to get you out pounding the pavements!’

How am I going to do this?

‘You need to work back from your end goal and plan how you’re going to achieve it. Are you going to run so many times a week? What days work best for you? What times work best for you? First of all – get advice regarding your programme. Speak to a specialist or use one of many great guides online. Secondly, you MUST be honest with yourself here. I often tell myself ‘this week I will get up earlier and run at 6am three times a week’. I have literally never been able to complete that challenge! I know that mornings are not the best option for me. So I have to be honest with myself and plan to run at other times. Make a plan that you honestly think will work for YOU, then go for it!’

What could stop me from doing this?

‘Preparation is key! There will be barriers. For each of us these will be unique: fitting training around a busy lifestyle, managing an old injury, a love of chilling on the sofa and binge-watching the latest box-set! Think about what could possibly stop you from achieving your goals and then prepare how you can reduce the chances of that negative scenario happening, or deal with it if it does. For example, if you have tried running in the past but stopped because of shin pain, then that could be a possible obstacle that could stop you from training and achieving your goal. In that scenario there is lots you could do to influence that: get a gait analysis done at your local running store and make sure you get good footwear that’s right for you; plan your training so you build your programme up gradually; get a foam roller to help relieve any tension and see a physiotherapist or other specialist for advice. Preparing for what could stop you achieving your goals makes it less likely that they will.’

Oh, and one more thing!

‘Remember you are human! You will skip a session or make poor decisions every now and then. That is OK. Try not to go overboard when you do and then get up, and go again. Good luck and enjoy!’