The Kenyan Olympic team landed in England on the 4/7/2012 to begin their final acclimatisation and preparation for the London 2012 Olympic Games. But their journey started many years ago, often as children, with dedication and enthusiasm for their sport, their country, to better themselves and their family and for a healthy lifestyle. Kenyan athletes, typically well-known for their excellence in endurance events including the marathon and steeple-chase have a natural affinity towards a lean body-type. But Kenya also has the reigning world record holder and world championships gold medallist, as well as the reigning Olympic gold medallist for the 800m. Whatever your interest in sport and athletics, there has never been a better time to improve your nutrition levels and discover a healthy lifestyle and exercise routine.
So how can you follow in the footsteps of great Kenyan runners such as Paul Tergat and Catherine Nyambura Ndereba? Nutrition is a key part of any athlete’s training programme, but is perhaps the most important part of a long-distance runner’s training programme. Long-distance running requires a lot of energy; running on empty just isn’t an option. Below are some basic building blocks from which all good athlete’s nutrition programmes stem.
Carbohydrate’s form the basis of any runner’s diet. They provide the energy to run. A steady supply of energy is necessary for distance running and the best way to get this is to build up a store from complex carbohydrate foods such as pasta, rice, ugali, maize etc. However it is a good idea to not eat these within an hour or so of taking part in exercise because they could cause digestive discomfort.
For every hour that you take part in exercise, you need to take in some more energy, in order to keep your stores supplied. A good food to eat as a snack whilst exercising would be fruit, or sweet tea with sugar and milk.
Muscle is what channels the body’s power. Without muscle, you wouldn’t be able to move. Building muscle doesn’t have to mean that you want to become a weightlifter or body-builder, but is part of every good athlete’s routine. Protein is essential to build and repair muscle and must therefore be a good proportion of your diet. This can either be found in meat and fish, or in legumes and pulses, such as lentils and beans. It is not a good idea to eat protein less than two hours before you exercise, but forms an essential part of your first post-exercise meal or snack. This post-exercise food should be eaten within thirty minutes of finishing helping restock your body and prevent stiffness and fatigue.
Hydration is the other vital part of a long-distance runner’s training programme.
Try to drink a minimum of three litres of water per day on a regular basis. When you exercise it is important to keep well hydrated during the exercise, regardless of whether the day is particularly hot or not. A simple rule to help you remember is to drink a minimum of 200ml for every 20 minutes of exercise. If you are exercising for more than 30minutes, it is also important to replace not only the fluid but the electrolytes such as sodium lost through sweating. This can be done either by mixing a little salt into the water, or drinking a specially formulated sports drink. Making sure that you eat a palatable snack can also help replace fluids. Hydration is really the foundation of a healthy lifestyle and to nutrition. If in doubt, drink some more. If you feel thirsty, drink. If however you feel like you have had enough to drink, listen to your body and take a break. Ultimately a healthy lifestyle helps you to tune in to your body and its natural signals which let you know what you need to eat and drink and when.
Even the healthiest of lifestyle has the occasional bout of illness or injury. In order to maintain your new-found levels of fitness and health, it is important to overcome illness or injury as quickly as possible. For illness in particular it is vital to buy safe medication that works and is legitimate as unsafe, unregulated medication could cause longer term problems and set you even further back in your quest for a better overall health and fitness. If you are injured then rest and carefully easing yourself back to where you were, whilst eating a wide array of fruit and vegetables that are available to you will help you to a speedy recovery.
Enjoy watching your compatriots at London 2012 Olympic Games and use their success as a motivation to boost your own health and fitness.
Katie Nathan is a freelance health writer from England who writes on behalf of an ethical online healthcare business. She strongly believes that prevention is better than the cure especially when it comes to promoting healthy living and exercise.