Endurance Racing: Why Physical Training is not enough.

When newbies take on an Endurance race either as a personal goal, New Year's Resolution or as part of an ongoing fitness regime, they can bite off more than they can chew. The well-worn veterans in Endurance Racing know this stuff inside out and include it in their training programs because they know there's more to Endurance Racing than just the Physical. Suprisingly, your body can withstand great physical pressures and stress if these other elements are all in balance. Let's take a look.

  1. Mind Over Matter?

You could say that Endurance Racing is more a mental game than anything else. If you're doing Coastrek or Oxfam Trailwalker, do you have a mental game plan? How do you plan to test and train your mental resilience in preparation? [perfectpullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]Leaving the mental game plan until race day is simply too late. You need to know what your limits are before that point.[/perfectpullquote]

Some ideas to practice during your training:

  • Staying positive - whatever floats your boat; meditation, sport, yoga, funny movies
  • Visualisation - visualising completing your training and eventually the event itself. The AIS uses these techniques with Olympic Athletes.
  • Using the Trail Walking time to get used to your team mates - you will talk about EVERYTHING, because you have a LOT of time on your feet together. You will get to know the good and the bad about them.
  • Being realistic - don't aim for perfection or set the bar too high. Based on your training efforts, what is a realistic race time? Make sure any training relieves stress rather than create more of it.
  • Be mentally flexible - have contingency plans because ANYTHING can and will happen on the day.
  • Physical exhaustion from your fitness training and trailwalking will push you to your limits and this is where you'll experience how you fare mentally under pressure.
  • To get your mental game on fire, I would highly recommend some Clinical Hypnotherapy or NLP to combat any fears, doubts, anxieties or confidence issues.
  • Outsource the things you don't need to be worrying about to a Support Crew such as support boxes with extra supplies, dry socks and spare clothing. Take all those little things off your plate and delegate them to someone who can be your rock when you come into checkpoints.

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2. Food for Thought

Another way to make it easier on you mentally is via nutrition. But sports nutrition for Endurance Events is not necessarily healthy nutrition. What I mean is, you need to give your body simple carbs, simple sugars, high salt foods which you normally wouldn't eat every day. These foods need to be easily digestible and so therefore can be things such as jelly frogs, white bread, hot chocolates and potato chips.

Ensuring you body is supplied with the right amount of sugar, salt via your fluid intake can also prevent your glycogen stores being depleted. This is otherwise known as hitting the wall or "bonking". When you hit the wall it is a dark place to be. You want to just give up, nothing seems that important anymore and you simply want to curl up in a ball and rest. [perfectpullquote align="full" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]Hitting the wall is when you have used your glycogen stores up = pain &  exhaustion[/perfectpullquote]

  • The best way to prevent depleted Glycogen stores is to prepare in advance:
    • Eat 50% more carbs than you normally would 2-3 days before the event. This is easier to take in via liquids eg. a Carb drink called "Fly", but food is also fine. This might surprise you how much pasta/bread this equates to get the carbs you need pre-event.
    • Have SIMPLE carb meals for event day eg - vegemite rolls, white bread, something easy to digest.
    • Use high carb gels to get sugar into your bloodstream quickly. Just watch your stomach, again test in training and use one that your digestion agrees with.
    • Use electrolytes in training and on event day. 80-110g carbs/hour depending on body mass.
  • Caffeine can be useful here and you'll need 3-6mg/kg bodyweight per 6 hrs. Caffeine has a 6hr life cycle in the body.
  • Rely on "pure caffeine" such as coffee or No-doz for during the hike rather than Red bulls and Mothers and V's. I only found a Red bull useful, once I had already hit the wall in Oxfam and couldn't move for 1.5 hrs at 2.30am- it was horrible. It was like you felt really depressed wanted to end your race then and there and stop the pain. If you recognise this in one of your team mates, Energy drinks could be useful then and only then.
  • Keeping team morale high and ensuring nutrition and fluids are timed will prevent "hitting the wall".
  • Hydration deserves a category all to itself. This means drinking electrolytes, not just water. You can drink a lot of water but still be dehydrated and when severe its called Hyponatraemia (Low Sodium in the blood). You need to be drinking AT LEAST 600-800ml per hour depending on your body mass.

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3. Body Mechanics

So you go out on the trail and work your body hard. Your ankles are accomodating rocks and uneven surfaces, your knees are victim to coming down stairs along bush tracks and your back is carrying a backpack and helping you scout steep hills and crossing valleys. If you had a car that went through this terrain, would you get your car serviced? Heck yes! So why wouldn't you also get your body serviced? Osteopathy, Physiotherapy, Acupuncture, Massage, Reflexology are all fabulous ways to help your body. Overcome injuries, manage pain, prevent injuries and keep your body running like a well-oiled machine.

I highly suggest:

  • Getting a Massage after any of the longer distances you cover in training. As you build up 30km, 40km, 50km plus.
  • Get a massage in the few days before race day.
  • Do regular stretching such as Yoga or a stretch class. Strecthing helps reset your muscles after a good workout.
  • Nip any pain in the bud. Get injuries seen to as soon as possible by an Osteopath or Physio. Don't wait and see it get worse, it will delay your recovery. You don't want to be wasting precious recovery days to get you back to good working order.
  • Consider Acupuncture for any stubborn knots and tension building up in your muscles. Acupuncture is particularly good in relieving tendonitis and inflammation.
  • Think about booking in some appointments for Osteopathy, Massage or Acupuncture after your race day to help your body recover, particularly for your hamstrings, calves and gluteal muscles.

The equation for a successful event is

[perfectpullquote align="full" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]Physical Training + Mental Preparation + Nutrition Plan + Therapeutic Preparation = Finishing Successfully[/perfectpullquote]

It's the combination of these elements that make for an enjoyable and exciting race day. If you have any questions about the points raised in this post, please email me at info@familywellnesscentre.com.au

Or check out these other Endurance related posts:

Endurance Training: 3 Reasons Why winging it fails and Preparation Succeeds

4 Mistakes that became Endurance Training Lessons

Endurance Training: 18 Tips on Maximising your Support Crew

Preventing Blisters: 5 Quick & Easy Ways

The Edge to a full Endurance Recovery


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