Training for the Xtreme Challenge 10k

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Lichfield Health and Fitness Club Instructor Adam McDermott has written these training tips for the gruelling 10k Xtreme Challenge:

Intro

The Xtreme Challenge bets bigger and better every year. Ideally you should start your training 2 months before the event, my first tip is get yourself outside and get running. The course is 2 laps of a 5k course so you will have to make sure you have the stamina to finish the whole 10k and on top of this the terrain is likely to be rather unforgiving. It’s going to be muddy, wet, and heavy underfoot and you’ll need to try and replicate this in your training as much as possible, so I suggest you get yourself some durable trainers and get running cross country. Also remember the world is your gym so make use of everything you can jump or climb over and have fun!

Equipment

If you’re going to do this challenge you need to get yourself in the right gear. To do this you probably need to plan for the worst this means freezing cold weather, horrible winds, icy water and a lot of mud!

Firstly you are going to want to keep as warm as possible (this does get quite hard after the water obstacles) the best bet here is to get yourself some skins. As well as having a lot of performance benefits and coming in a thermal option they are also very light, meaning you wont have the feeling of being really heavy as the race goes on.

Of course your footwear is also important; again opting for a light trainer will help when the course starts to get boggy as it will very quickly. Looking for a good trail shoe will help; if you go to a good sports shop you may even find they will fit you with a shoe that matches your running style.

OK so what else do you need? Well a towel, some clean clothes and something to drink before and after the race would be helpful, anything else is up to you!

Running

So how often should you be training? Well that depends on how you want to do in the race. For example if your aim is to have fun and finish the race in one piece then 2-3 sessions per week should be adequate, if you are looking to be competitive then 5-6 sessions per week would be more appropriate.

The most important thing to try and improve first and foremost would be aerobic conditioning, nothing worse than entering a 10k race and realising you actually can’t run that far. For a beginner this is simple: get running and see what distance you can cover comfortably, then on each successive run we will try cover a little more distance, there’s no great science here just simple progression.

Obviously you can do timed or distance runs on a treadmill quite easily which is fine as long as you make sure you get outside and run on some uneven terrain and try to conquer a few hills. If you can though invest in a good watch or app on your phone and then we can track your outdoor sessions.

For someone looking to be a little more competitive were going to mix your training up a little bit more, for example we could set out to do 3 runs consisting of a set distance run, a timed run and a shorter fast run. Again each week we will look to add a little more progression.

Remember though to start off slowly we don’t need to be setting records in the first week!!

Strength

So now we have worked on your aerobic ability its time to break the bad news… running alone won’t get you through this race. If you have looked at the previous years or indeed competed you will know to look forward to jumping on, climbing over and crawling under an array of fun obstacles. To deal with this we will need to improve our strength and power.

Again if you are a beginner just looking to get through one of your 3 workouts every week would suffice but optimal for all people would be to try to fit in 2-3 strength / agility workouts in each week.

A good strength workout should be based around big compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts. For the purpose of this race focusing single leg exercises will help a lot when it comes to both the running and tackling the obstacles, for this you could try to include single leg squats and deadlifts, lunges and weighted step ups.

When it comes to increasing power to help jumping or pulling yourself over a tough obstacle we should look at using explosive exercises. A squat jump or box jump would be perfect for this as would a push press if you have a barbell handy.

As with all workouts if you don’t know how to do any of these exercises properly please find a professional that can teach you how to do them safely.

Core Strength

Core is a bit of a buzz word when it comes to the exercise world these days and for a lot of people it conjures up images of hundreds of painful sit ups or crunches in search of better abs. What we really want to do is some nice and simple movements that will strengthen your whole mid section and lower back area as a unit.

When done properly core exercises can have a huge impact on exercise and day to day life, for example in an adventure race such as this one a strong core can be make a huge difference in how you feel both during the race and in your recovery. By strengthening your core it will help with posture and muscle recruitment that in turn will limit pain and possible injuries. Not to mention it will make jumping over and crawling under obstacles a lot easier!

Here are 4 simple exercises to add to your training that take next to no time:

  1. Plank – Start on your stomach, and raise yourself into a modified pushup position, with all your weight balanced on your forearms and toes. Keep your back as straight as possible. Try to hold this position for between 15-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times.
  2. Side Plank – Lie on your right side with your right elbow under your shoulder, and your left foot resting on your right foot. Press down with your forearm and foot until you lift your body off the ground. Keep your body as straight as possible; don’t allow your hips to drop. Again try to hold this position for between 15-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each side.
  3. Bridge – Lie on your back with your arms out to the side to balance (or above your head if you want to make this more difficult). Push down on the soles of your feet lifting your body so that your upper legs and torso form a nice straight line. Then while keeping the pressure on your left foot extend your right leg out for around 5 seconds. Repeat on both sides 3-5 times.
  4. Bird Dog – Lie on your back with one hand under your lower back. Lift your legs so your thighs are at a 90-degree angle with the floor, and bend both knees to a 90-degree angle. Tighten your lower back so that it doesn’t move up or down and slowly lower your right foot to within 1 inch of the floor. Keep your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle, and maintain the position of your left leg. Hold your right foot 1 inch off the floor for 2 seconds, and then return it to the start position next to the left leg. Repeat the same action, but this time lower the left foot. Repeat both sequences three to five times.

Nutrition

As you get nearer to the race your training should be getting more intense which also means that your nutrition needs to be getting better.

One of the most important aspects of training is nutrition, if you are training hard and eating the wrong things you will be unnecessarily wasting a lot of the hard work that you’ve done. The first thing you need to make sure you do when it comes to food is make sure that you are eating enough of the right things!

Nutrition can hugely affect the quality of your training so we need to ensure that you are giving your body the correct nutrients before, during and afterwards to make sure you can complete your run and help repair the damage that has been done. Here are some little tips to make sure we’re doing the right sort of things:

  1. Pre training you would like to be eating a meal rich in protein and carbohydrates (but give yourself a couple of hours to digest), make sure you are taking on enough water (until you don’t feel thirsty), take on some fruit preferably a banana that will help to provide natural sugars that can be used.
  2. During training, the most important thing during the type of training we will be doing will be hydration, the easiest thing here is to stick to water, if the run you’re doing runs over an hour then it could be worth looking into an electrolyte drink or supplement.
  3. Post training you should again look to be having a meal or snack that is high in carbohydrates and a good source of protein.

Remember no particular diet suits everybody so play around with slight variations but make sure that don’t eat any foods that you are sensitive to and try to eat lots of fresh and locally grown foods and most importantly enjoy yourself.

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