Made to Last

Endurance sports done safely

| by Allana Wooley | Training for an endurance sporting event takes so much time and sustained effort that it is tempting to nix this elementary slow-and-steady lesson and immediately go after big mileage in an attempt to see quick results. But this all-in, super-focused attitude toward endurance events—think sustained activity in excess of 90 minutes—can lead to injuries derailing one’s ability to train or even participate in his or her race.

“We get excited and want to jump in and don’t want to slowly ramp it up,” Liesel Streich, owner and coach at Limitless Endurance, said. “I think a lot of injuries in endurance sports are results of overuse and jumping in—doing too much, too fast.”

When committing to an endurance event, finding a realistic plan to follow is crucial. Whether individualized by a coach or pulled off the Internet, your chosen training plan sets the tone for three to six months of your life. A good plan will reflect the starting fitness level of an athlete and will slowly, steadily work up to longer, more intense distances until, by race day, you can cruise across the finish line exhilarated, not exhausted. Trouble arises when one deviates from his or her plan, enduraLAB owner Lee Hargrave pointed out.

“Recovery is the largest part of training that people neglect,” Hargrave said. “A lot of people get into programs with tentative plans, miss a few days and then try to cram the workout into the three weeks before a race. It doesn’t even matter at that point, and they’ll probably be injured before the race.”

Recovery jogs, walks, foam rolling, therapy, sleep and rest days are essential when preparing for an endurance event. Giving your body time off gives muscles time to rebuild, tissues to prepare, and allows your body a break from the repetitive motions of running, biking or swimming that are often the sources for endurance injuries.

“All endurance sports have repetitive motion in common, and you get a lot of injuries that creep up,” Hargrave said. “[To safeguard against injury] athletes need to include strength and mobility training. We’ve always believed that if you train endurance exclusively, you’ll be weak and slow, although you can go forever. Strength training has to be included to help improve our resilience across miles and miles of pounding and repetitive motion.”

By sticking to a training plan that gradually intensifies, allowing our bodies plenty of recovery time, and choosing the right nutrition, we can slowly and steadily unlock the many benefits of endurance sports—better heart and overall health, stress relief, changes in body composition and a profound sense of achievement.

Motivational Tricks and Tips

Find a mantra. It doesn’t matter what it is, just find something you can repeat to yourself that will help you push through the tough miles and up the steep hills. Remember why. Sometimes rain, temperature, and the promise of sleep are going to make it really hard to remember why you put yourself through the wringer several times a week. To get to the big race, focus on why you are pursuing this goal. To be healthier? To prove to yourself you can do anything? To become epic? Get in the groove. Music can be an incredible motivator. Jog.fm even helps you build a playlist specific to your running pace. If music isn’t your thing, check out podcasts or audiobooks—you’ll be so interested in what happens next that you’ll have no problem finishing your workout! Don’t get stuck in a rut. Cross training can be incredibly effective for endurance sports. If you’re starting to get bored with running, try swimming a few days a week. If swimming is a drag, take up cycling. Strength training, an essential part of training, is another great way to spice up your workout routine. Be social. It’s a lot harder to ignore the call of the open road when your phone is literally ringing. The accountability that comes with joining a training club or getting a coach is one of the best motivators to help you stick to a training plan and reach your goals! FWTri, BSW Tri Club, and Playtri are some great local endurance-centered clubs to check out.