We’re [finally] going through a phase in the endurance sports world where being fit is no longer a compromise for health. The classical drive for minimal body mass and greater fitness has long led to risking under-recovery, repeat illness, and subpar performance. However, we’re finally seeing a shift in the way athletes are treating fueling and training with a greater emphasis on health, power, and durability.
The core of the “power: weight” philosophy is not incorrect, necessarily, and an endurance athlete does benefit from carrying less unproductive extra mass. However, in the application, this has led many down the path of underfueling/undernourishing and the cascading effects that follow – oftentimes female athletes.
Accepting this notion has been leading to more capable, confident, and healthy athletes across the board. Instead of riding the razor’s edge to [hopefully] capitalize on a one-day event, we’re seeing less “burnout”, overtraining, and injury/illness plagued seasons. This is a big win for the endurance realm.
Avoiding the Trap
Fuel the work! We’re beginning to get a grasp on just how beneficial high-carb fueling for hard training can be. As this article discusses, we’re burning around 3g of carbohydrates a minute (which can fluctuate from athlete to athlete). The misconception of needing less fuel as a smaller body mass athlete is actually impairing gains.
This is because the limiting factor is how much your body can absorb/tolerate per hour. Improving your fueling ability can be especially beneficial to female athletes and we see improvements in the quality of workouts, recovery, and day-to-day nutritional balance.
Going Slow to Go Fast:
This is a training-targeted topic. Athletes want to push and push and push…assuming that the result of their labor is performance improvement. However, with world-class athletes like Eluid Kipchoge and professional cyclists leading the way, we’re realizing you have to spend a lot of your time going slow to go fast.
Building a healthy, strong, and efficient cardiovascular system upon an aerobic foundation is the key to accessing a high ceiling. The Long Slow Distance (LSD) training is where we see this process take place. This all has to start with saying “it’s okay to go slow” so that when you need to train hard you can.
The benefits to our health and longevity from strength training are irrefutable. Additionally, female endurance athletes would be especially benefited from the improvements in bone density, strength, and injury resistance. As endurance athletes, overuse injuries and little nagging pains can be a recurring issue. While it’s understandably not the most attractive activity, strength training can reap so much reward for those willing to pick up a few weights and do their body’s a favor.
Think of yourself as an energy dealer: you only have so much to give within each day as well as over time. Recovery is the key to unlocking better fitness, health, and performance. Think of your training and recovery relationship as a balance –without periods of adaptation you can’t access the benefits of training.
Going hard is usually pretty easy for athletes…while resting can be a task. Ironic, right? Accepting and enjoying off days, easy days, and periods of no training are what give our bodies the opportunity to heal and rebuild, as well as bring our system back into homeostasis (think of how this impacts hormonal balance). Acknowledging this can lead to long-term consistency.
Finding the balance in our training, nutrition, and lives are key to sustainable and healthy long-term success. No matter your goals, performance at the cost of health shouldn't be the gamble we continually take.