Stepping up your athleticism

August 4, 2011

By Jessica Kinghorn, Climb4Life Utah Event Coordinator

This year, Climb4Life is excited to announce the addition of a hiking element to its already popular climbing event. We’ll be offering hikes on trails for all levels. So, if you’ve wanted to participate in the past, but didn’t want to climb, join us in the hiking segment this year!

To inspire you, we interviewed local endurance athlete and coach, Matt Hart. He does things most of us only read about. Now we all can’t be like Matt, but it’s nice to have someone out there showing us the incredible feats the human body is capable of.

You’re not only an athlete yourself, but trainer to all types of athletes, those who just want to get in shape to others who want to excel in triathlons. What are, to you, the top three things to keep in mind when starting or maintaining any exercise regimen?
First, start today and start small. Beginning a new exercise regimen is always the hardest part. People are often teetering on that fence of when to start—just start. Just go out and walk a mile. I often hear people say they hate running and I felt that way too . . . but you have to work up to it to really feel good when you’re done. Don’t wait, don’t expect it to be easier tomorrow or the next day.
Second, don’t get discouraged, because you will find your rhythm. You’ll have highs and lows. Some days will feel great and others you don’t feel like going—those days count the most. If you get out there even when you don’t feel good, or feel you’re not good at this, it builds your mental toughness. Your race [or your next workout] should feel easy if you’ve gotten through those days.
Third, keep it fun. Exercise shouldn’t feel like work. Maybe it does for professional athletes, but for everyone else it should be fun. Cross train, attend yoga with a friend or meet friends for an early-morning ride or run—anything you can do to keep it interesting. I always have more fun in group settings. They are just a blast. When it stops being fun, reassess your training and see what’s missing or see if you’re overtraining.

For athletes looking to increase their a) power and/or b) endurance in their exercise, what are some tips you’d recommend to help them reach their goal?
Power—Throw some power hiking or intervals into your workout. Depending on where you are athletically, short bouts of hard, fast power hiking or running uphill increase power. Over time, work in longer intervals or steeper hikes. If you are already at a good level of fitness, add weight, like a backpack with water in it.
Endurance—For a runner or long hikes, gradually extend out your long session each week. Adding 10% of time each run/hike you do is a good guide. If you’re pretty fit, you can even push it a bit more than that for 2-3 weeks, then cut back to recover. For a hiker or runner who’s planning a long run or hike, it’s really about spending time on your feet, just being out there for that long, especially for the beginner. You want to get a good amount of time on your feet if you’re going to do your first 50K. You don’t need to be terribly concerned with pace, in the long-run, you just need to work up to getting close to the time you will actually be on foot. Once you are more experienced, then we get more concerned with pace.

You wrapped up your blog entry on your Colorado Trail run last year with a very poignant, “If I learned anything, it’s that you must, at all costs, surround yourself with positive people. I don’t even care if it’s delusional, it matters.” How does this practice apply to an everyday exercise plan or one with a smaller goal of, say, doing your first triathlon?
I think positivity is contagious and affects your attitude so much. For instance, with endurance sports, it seems, for many so far out of your realm of reality. Having people around you who are super positive and believe in you is crucial. It’s just as important when training for smaller races. It changes your attitude, what you believe and what you think you can accomplish.

People often think, “Well, if I want to climb well, I have to climb all the time. If I want to bike well, I have to bike all the time.” However, it’s been proven that cross training is a beneficial addition to your exercise routine. How can cross training contribute to excelling in your single sport, whether it be running, biking or climbing?
I have all my athletes cross-train. It makes you a more resilient athlete. For instance, if we have twelve weeks to train for a running race, I will start out with more cross-training. As their race gets closer, I’ll include more running and less cross training. But getting that initial cross-training base is important, it will make you more resistant to injury. It also prevents burnout.

Matt Hart can be found running or riding the trails of the Wasatch range, training athletes of  all abilities or pushing himself to new athletic limits. Visit him at his Web site or his blog.

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