I’ve recently from a long weekend at La Manga Club in Spain where I was playing in a tennis academy for three days. The temperature was a warm 15 degrees, the sun was out, the sky was a deep blue and it felt good to have some sun on my face for the first time in a few months. It reminded me of how nourishing it feels to be in the sun during the UK winter months.
The tennis was great, and the coaching even better. One of the key takeaways for me from the coaching was a simple principle: less can often be more. Rather than trying to muscle my shots over the net and hit with power, the coach tried to encourage me to use a lighter touch with the racket, to mix up the tempo of my shots and generally relax a bit more. And it worked; I found the lines more frequently, got more depth in my shots and mixed up the speed of play to frustrate my opponent.
I think there are a few lessons from this experience which are worth sharing with you, so here are some guiding principles for doing less to get more. As ever, get in touch if you have questions or need our help.
Sometimes less is more
I’ve got some big events coming up this year; I’m running the London Marathon in April for the third time, and in September I’m doing Man versus Mountain (a 22-mile run up and down Snowdon), taking a few days off then heading up to Scotland for the Coast-to-Coast event which is a 105-mile race from Nairn to Glencoe on foot, bike and kayak. I’ve been experimenting with different types of training for the marathon, which don’t rely on the relentless pounding of pavements. Lots of road running, especially if you’re a new runner, can often lead to injuries. There are other ways to train to build mental and physical endurance, and if you can run a successful marathon without running five times a week, your body will probably thank you for it. Consider how you can get the effects you want in the most efficient way possible.
Personalisation for intelligent training
Intelligent training to me is thinking about what your end goal is and then working out how you can achieve that with minimal risk of injury, boredom, peaking too soon or giving up because it’s too much like hard work. The first aspect of intelligent training is personalisation. DNA testing can help you understand what your power versus endurance ratio is so you can plan how to train effectively. Tailoring your nutrition program to your DNA results will also ensure you’re eating the right balance of foods, avoiding the foods that cause reactions or inflammation, and will help you maintain a healthy body weight, blood sugar levels and consistent energy levels.
Personalisation for intelligent recovery
Recovery is massively undervalued and under-appreciated in comparison to training. Many people put a lot of thought into their training programs, but neglect to plan for their recovery. How you rest and recover is as important if not more important. I use a device called the OURAring for understanding how I’ve recovered and what my readiness score is. The OURAring is a piece of wearable tech that’s a ring that can be worn on any finger of either hand. It uses data such as body temperature, heart rate and heart rate variability to calculate how rested I am and therefore how hard I should push myself. I know understand what days are good days to push the training, and when to pull back, but I can track the effects that different training and recovery protocols are having on my sleep.
Taper your intensity levels
Another aspect of intelligent training is being able to adapt your training when you need to – and flexing the ration of training to recovery time. For example, have some options in your back pocket for lighter training days. Maybe some yoga or a session with the foam roller might serve you better than a run or high intensity exercise session. Knowing when to rest or take it easy takes confidence and intelligence, but it will make you a better athlete and give you the longevity required to exercise well into old age.
Remove the disruptors
Avoiding disruptors such as excess sugar, alcohol, nicotine and prolonged stress will ensure you get the most out of your exercise sessions and optimise your healthspan. Having a good sleep routine, making time for fun and laughter, doing breath-work and getting out into nature and the countryside are also extremely powerful ways of looking after your body. Think holistically and be kind; the human body is a remarkable thing, and I am continually astounded at how much it can endure, but it’s a reciprocal relationship. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.
Vitamin D3 – the sunshine vitamin
I always check my vitamin D3 levels in September and March so I know how much I should be supplementing with – I’ll usually take up to 500 IUs (international units) per day but occasionally more or less depending on my results. A vitamin D3 test is relatively cheap and easy to do and you can also request one from your GP for no cost if you’ve got time to make an appointment. We test our clients for vitamin D3 as part of our programs, as vitamin D3 deficiency is a common cause of fatigue, unexplained aches and pains and back aches and can be easily remedied with supplementation and / or sunshine.
Plan your holidays at the beginning of the year and protect that time.
I make sure I get some winter sun every year as I’m completely bought into the benefits on mental health, energy levels and for keeping my vitamin D3 levels up. It’s a good idea to plan your holidays in advance and then lock the dates into your diary before the year gets underway. It’s easy to find yourself fire-fighting from one month to the next and before you know it, you’re feeling burned out from lack of breaks. Plus we all love having something to look forward to, especially when it’s a holiday!