Training Tips

Get your body back into shape with these easy tips.

Whether you’ve put together a GI Jane training schedule to prepare for a triathlon or are just getting in shape to lose a few kilos, these workout tips can help you along your way.

Just six months after giving birth to twins, Jennifer Lopez took part in (and finished) the 22nd Annual Malibu Triathlon.

‘I thought, "What can I do to make my babies proud?" I think about what they’ll think about the year they were born – who I was and what I did,’ she told US fitness and health magazine, Self. ‘It’s important to me to set examples for them. I want to lead with my life.’

In a month-long blog for the women’s monthly magazine, she documented her journey towards the event (which included an 800m swim, 29km cycle and 6,5km run). We’ve put together a selection of her training tips as well as a few of our own.

Lopez’s advice to those getting started is to take it slow at first. When you’re training, start little by little to give yourself time and you’ll eventually increase your fitness level.

‘Give yourself time to work up to you goal,’ she said in her blog for Self magazine. ‘It’s hard, but I have more energy, and I feel proud of myself. When I’m training, I keep telling myself, "It’s for the kids".’

Lucy Danziger, Self’s editor-in-chief who became Jennifer’s training partner, said when she did not feel like training, she concentrated on her goal instead of on the actual workouts.

‘My favourite self-motivator is telling myself, "Give it five more minutes",’ Danziger told Good Morning America in a television interview. ‘Relax into it, breathe and you’ll likely want to continue.’

‘To run easier, go farther and enjoy the time after the run, insert one minute walk breaks, after one to three minutes of running,’ says Jeff Galloway, a North Carolina running coach and author. ‘On long events, walk breaks help runners to record faster times.’

The former Olympian suggests keeping your feet low to the ground when running, touching the surface lightly. In his book he says to run faster, ‘increase the turnover or cadence and not the stride length. Don’t huff and puff during the run. Run at a pace that allows you to talk. If you start slowly enough, you can enjoy every run.’

Gary Lavin, founder of To the MAX Training Systems in Florida, recommends single legs squats and posterior reaches to strengthen your muscles.

‘These help to stabilize the hips and core which will allow you to transfer more power per step with less effort,’ says Lavin.

Tim Shead, a world champion swimmer and coach based in Cape Town, says his cardinal rule of swimming is to relax.

‘If you tense up, you will sink like a rock. If you rush or go fast, you will exhaust yourself very quickly and unnecessarily. None of these are conducive to good swimming or a pleasant experience.’

Shead says each of us has a different body type, mass, strength, composition and flexibility, which means your ideal freestyle swimming stroke will be different to the next person.

‘Regardless of how fast you wish to swim, your goal is simple and always remains the same – swim from point A to B expending the least effort and energy.’

Shead’s tips are to streamline your body (from extended arms to head to hips to toes), deepen your arm pull (try to touch the pool bottom with each stroke), when breathing, turn your head to the side (never lift it) and don’t kick too hard (you will exhaust yourself instead).

When buying a bicycle it’s important to test out a few of those on display in the store. You need to find the fit (handle bars, seat and peddles) you are comfortable with to avoid injuries. Jennifer’s personal trainer, Gunnar Peterson, told Self magazine you need to be comfortable, so make sure the sales person knows what he or she is talking about.

‘A pro will make sure the pitch and position of your saddle and handlebars and everything else is properly fitted’, the celebrity trainer who has worked with Penelope Cruz, Matthew McConaughey and Gwen Stefani, was quoted as saying. ‘That will improve how you ride and feel on a bike, giving you more power.’

In one of her blog entries, Lopez commented: ‘The other day I ate Chinese food, then did a mini, mock tri: a swim, then a bike and a run. I could feel the heavy, greasy food slowing me down. By the end of the workout, I was thinking to myself, "If I ate better, I’d feel better about now and I’d have more energy".’

Once you progress to the longer distances, you will need more energy. Easily digestible proteins and carbohydrates like chicken, pasta, fruit and vegetables give you the fuel you need to feel good throughout your workout.

According the Elna van Coller, a personal trainer in Johannesburg, you can’t ‘out train’ a bad diet.

‘Doing exercises in addition [to following a good diet] gives you the leverage to exponentially increase your results.’

Even before she attempted the triathlon, the 39-year-old Lopez had a demanding schedule. But it is all about finding a balance and arranging your training schedule around your life, not vice versa.

‘I never let my desire to train or my other goals get too crazy that they will keep me from my babies,’ she blogged. ‘I will work to fit in my training sessions so I’ll be ready for whatever I’m going for, so that I’m fulfilled in that way, too. I think it’s important for all women to have that balance.’

Having a supportive partner helps too. Jennifer’s equally high-profiled musician husband, Marc Anthony, set up an area for her to train in at home with a treadmill and electric bicycles so she didn’t have to spend too much time away from their twins Max and Emme. He was also seen cheering her on along the route on competition day.

The singer, actress, fashion designer and entrepreneur raised $127 000 (about R1,1 million) for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles when she completed the triathlon in two hours, 23 minutes and 28 seconds.

‘If you have a goal you can reach that finish line,’ Danziger told Good Morning America. ‘Having a goal really helps.’