As a former International heptathlete I competed in a variety of athletic disciplines over the two day multi-event and reaped huge rewards both physically and mentally from training for these seven disciplines.
Following the outstanding success of the Brits at the recent Commonwealth Games, European Athletic Championships and Diamond League Meetings it seems fitting to share what I believe are the benefits of athletics and how people of all ages, shapes and sizes can enjoy and prosper from getting involved.
Total Body Workout – Most athletics disciplines involve the use of pretty much every muscle in the body. And athletics is great for developing a combination of power, endurance, strength, flexibility and bone health. Distance running might seem like purely an endurance practice but every foot strike as you run, no matter what the speed, requires power. And sprinters develop great flexibility as they push their muscles through full range with every knee drive and leg extension.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Meanwhile bone density is improved due to the impact involved in running, jumping and throwing. Impact or load bearing movements such as these cause bone deformation followed by subsequent reformation and strengthening of that bone.
A strong core – the core of an athlete is the centre from which all movements are made. The stronger the core the more efficient the movement of the limbs and transfer of energy and power will be. Core strength is a BIG part of athletics training. Everyone can benefit greatly from the back protection and reduced injury risk associated with a strengthened core.
Athletics is for all shapes and sizes – look at a Track & Field athletics competition on the TV and you’ll see differing body shapes from one event to the next and even within an event in the case of heptathlon and decathlon. High jumpers are typically long and lean, sprinters highly muscled, distance runners slighter, throwers tend to be bigger and more stocky. Select an event that your natural body shape most closely matches and work on the appropriate skill and physical training. The physical rewards will be huge. Not to mention increased sense of wellbeing.
Athletics encourages good warm up and cool down practice. Athletes are highly vigilant at this, often spending 30-60 minutes preparing and recovering their bodies. The warm up has many components from jogging to prepare the cardio and respiratory systems, dynamic stretching to take muscles through the full range of motion and event specific drills to follow.
The recovery process can involve more jogging to flush out lactic acid by way of active recovery, static stretching and sometimes massage and ice bath practices. You may not do all of these components but an understanding and experience of several will help your body function at its best. So many of us want to get straight into our workout without fully preparing and subsequently don’t get the best from ourselves.
Aesthetics – Let’s be honest here, most people exercise to look better! And why not? Athletes have some of the best looking bodies out there which just so happen to function efficiently too! In particular athletes sport highly desirable pert, firm buttocks which no amount of cardio and isolation exercises in the gym can achieve. This is because they sprint and do squats – two of the most powerful moves for gluteus activation and development.
How do you get a great butt? Train like an athlete!
Discipline – Athletics teaches discipline that can be applied to all aspects of you will life. Athletes are essentially competing in an individual sport where their results are almost entirely dependent on them and nobody else. There are no team mates to help or hinder. As such they take huge responsibility for what they do and when they do it.
Athletes follow their training plan to the letter and beyond. It’s a mental game as much as anything else so you have to be prepared to go the extra mile and push your limits. No matter what your purpose for working out you need discipline and commitment to get results and your certainly achieve that in an athletics environment.
Highly accessible – Athletics is one of the most accessible sports. At the bigger clubs you’ll see children and beginners training only yards away from Olympic medallists. You won’t find the equivalent in football for example! Find your local track and join a group that suits your interests whether that be sprinting, distance running or field events. It’s inexpensive and coaches are often volunteers. There’s a real community feel surrounding an athletics club.
Ageless – There’s no age limit with athletics. Injuries aside anyone can run and better themselves though training. And great things can be achieved at an older age at even the very highest levels – Jo Pavey proved that by medalling at both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships at the age of 40 and with two kids!
Fun – It’s hard to get bored of athletics as there is always a component of your race or event to work on and improve, new techniques to learn and different disciplines to try out.
Athletics training is incorporated into so many other sports it can be described as the bedrock of sports pursuits, providing a foundation that sets you up in so many ways both mentally and physically. I owe athletics so much for what I’ve gone on to do… From starring in Gladiators to the advanced training I do today despite no longer competing, the Master Training role for Power Plate and the understanding I have of all sports training which helps my TV sports presenting jobs.