3 Tips from a Naturopath on Training for Athletic Events

Now that Portland is officially showing us some spring-like and even sunny weather, it is time to start thinking about preparing and training for summer athletic events. 

Image courtesy Oyam, Flickr

The three most important things to keep in mind when approaching summer time athletic event prep are a as follows:

1. Set and intention or a goal and use benchmarks to monitor your progress.

This can be anything from signing up for the Portland marathon to making yourself a goal of walking a certain mileage amount before the summer is over. Portland has a plethora of parks and trails to get acquainted with…maybe your goal is to cover as many of the trails in Forest Park as you can. There are organized walks, runs, triathlons, bike rides, dragon boating, and other fun-focused outdoor events nearly every weekend day of the summer. Take advantage of what is offered!

This next section might ruffle a few feathers out there, but I generally don’t encourage my patients to make weight loss, and weight loss only, their goal. Having worked in the world of health and fitness for a decade, I can assure almost anyone that weight loss, toning, svelting-up– however you choose to put it–will happen naturally as you work towards your athletic goal.

Scale watching is the most infuriating and often discouraging process. It is a well known fact for most people now that muscle weighs way more than fat. I can’t tell you the number of times I have patients in tears because their pant size went down but their weight barely budged… and, when I tell them it is because they are getting in shape, I usually get looks of disbelief.

The benefits of maintaining a healthy size are plentiful, but that healthy size is different for every body. Instead of using specific scale-based goals, I would much rather use cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure as markers of body fit-ness. Okay. I’ll hop off the soap box now….

2. Good, clean nourishment

My definition of nourishment comes in a few forms. Making sure your body has the big fuel (food!) and the small fuel (nutrients!) will help to ensure that your goal is met is the most important part of training. There is no way to push yourself to your own max without treating your body right and giving it what it needs to thrive.


What it is always going to come back to is finding what works best for your individual body. As a naturopath, I focus so much of my initial treatment with patients on getting healthy and nourishing food into their bodies. I often recommend that patients try the anti-inflammatory diet for a few weeks to see if we can fine any particular foods that are causing unwanted symptoms in the body, and it usually works great. However, I will say that trying out a new and complicated diet scheme in the MIDDLE of event training may not be in your best interest.

Fruits and vegetables are some of your best bets while training. While much of the focus of endurance events is carbohydrate loading, I would argue that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has plenty of carbohydrates, both simple and complex. And they are chock full of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and some of the smaller nutrients that help our body function optimally.


In general, I encourage athletic patients of mine to start on three basic supplements, especially if their training routine is rigorous or if they are feeling the effects of the training are already tiring their bodies:

1. Fish oils: inflammation stoppers and very protective
2. Magnesium/calcium/potassium: needed for proper neuromuscular function and bone strength
3. Vitamin B complex: these vitamins are needed in all major biochemical processes that help to break down proteins, carbs and fats!

All three of these supplements can help to cut down on the any potential deficiencies that might be caused by excess training and also help to mitigate the increased amount of inflammation and stress that your body will undergo while training.

3. Have fun and remember to play

When fitness become a task, it loses some of its positive body and mind benefits. Slogging through anything that is not at least somewhat enjoyable (long work days, hard and draining workouts) will have an effect on the body’s stress coping mechanisms. We humans we made to move, and challenging our endurance and strength is incredibly important. Making yourself run when you are tired to the bone (quite literally) will eventually cause more harm than good. Remembering to keep the idea of play and enjoyment fresh in your mind as your train — and possibly compete — will help you stay on the right path to health.

I have learned a tremendous amount over the years, watching athletes come in who were not taking the above suggestions into account.

If you have more specific questions about training programs, give us a call at 503-287-4970.




Image courtesy Oyam, Flickr