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

Endurance Training for an event such as Coastrek or Oxfam Trailwalker can unleash a beast within us. We want to achieve great things, that are almost inconceivable such as 50km or 100km distances. We want to prove to ourselves we can do something tough and hard and challenging. We want to test our limits and try to be Superman or Superwoman outside of our day to day lives and push our body physically to regain some fitness back from wherever it went 10 years ago. These are honourable reasons to take on the challenge of an Endurance event. It can make the everyday Joe and Jane Bloggs real-life heroes in the eyes of their family and friends. But without Preparation this can be an extremely painful process. Let's take a look at 3 Preparation tips to get you over the finish line.

Winging it would be leaving everything to chance. It may show that you're not worried about them outcome, or eventually you'll cross the finish line. Winging it can appear to be laid back and a "she'll be right mate" attitude, but when it comes to Endurance Events, it's downright uneccessary.

Why you can't wing it in endurance events such as Coastrek or Oxfam Trailwalker:

  1. You need to know your course, back to front.

The terrain, the checkpoints/rest stops, the hard bits, the easy bits. This is training 101. Walking the Oxfam Trailwalker course back in 2012 over and over and OVER again was one of our advantages. We got to know the course really well. We knew which bits we struggled with. We knew which bits were the reprieve from the more intense stages. "Rest" parts weren't necessarily checkpoints to physically stop at but the flats where we could keep walking but regain time and energy reserves, eat and catch our breath.

We could break up the course in our minds and deal with it mentally much better. I could even time my carb gels and food knowing there was a steep ascent coming up so I would eat 15-20min ahead of that climb. By that time the nutrients would be in my bloodstream and muscles ready to respond.

[perfectpullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]We weren't looking at the whole 100km's, but breaking it up into smaller chunks so as to not overwhelm ourselves. [/perfectpullquote]

We had mental milestones and relaxed more because the familiarity of the course. Without knowing the course you could feel overwhelmed, have no idea what is around the next corner, or when to mentally prepare yourself for treacherous hills and ascents.

Sports Psychologists call it "Running the race in your mind", which is also excellent preparation for race day. I must admit to dreaming about the Oxfam Trailwalker course in those last weeks before the big day. If you want help running the race in your mind I can recommend our Clinical Hypnotherapist, Linda.

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2. You need back up supplies - Support Boxes

The second reason why you can't wing it in endurance events is that you need your supplies along the course.

Packing your support box is your lifeline to the outside world, when your mission is to finish. You know what you need, what works for you and therefore it's you packing this baby! I don't know what I would do without my support box, and being almost over-prepared has its benefits.

I guess it's like camping - if you're prepared and organised no matter what the weather, you can have an enjoyable camping trip. But forget the kitchen knife or garbage bags or the washing up equipment and it becomes inconvenient, annoying and miserable.

[perfectpullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]A Contingency Plan + Flexiblity on the day = Comfort. This mean's bucketloads to a tired and exhausted walker.[/perfectpullquote]

Same with the support crew box - everything you need plus some more:

  • Extra socks
  • Spare pair of shoes (there's nothing like putting on a pair of dry socks and shoes after a rainy leg)
  • Extra water (plain water)
  • Extra food (light, pre-portioned, easy to consume and variety, because you don't know what you'll feel like at the 50km mark)
  • Extra electrolytes, pre-mixed in bottles ready to go
  • Extra clothes - for all weather, the lighter the better so you can effectively layer
  • Spare head torch
  • Extra bandaids, pain relief, batteries

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[perfectpullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]Ultimately, it's all about giving you choices, rather than restrictions.[/perfectpullquote]
Talking about making yourself at home -  our Support Crews went the extra mile and brought camp chairs, sleeping bags, blankets, warm face washers. Which is pure luxury when you're on your feet for 24hrs+. The face washers joined with a thermos of hot water to refresh our faces, arms and legs was by far a highlight. The support crews also dialled in pizzas, coffee orders and more, but we were pretty much set with our supplies in our Support Boxes.

3. You need to understand why sustenance can let you down.

The third reason why you can't wing it in endurance events is that you need proper sustenance by understanding what your muscles need. Not only that, you need food and drink to be PRESCRIPTIVE.

[perfectpullquote align="full" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]Endurance nutrition, means your usual nutrition goes out the window. You need high carb, sugar and salt. Less fat, less protein and easy to digest. Think about it - your blood flow is in your muscles, not in your digestive organs. Your body has prioritised moving over digesting. So go easy on yourself and make snacks bearing this in mind.[/perfectpullquote]

Food and drink become a neccessity on an hourly basis, not an "as-I-need-to" option.

You should be mindful of yourself as well as your team mates:

  • A team mate that is not drinking at least every 15 mins is a concern.
  • A team mate that doesn't want to eat is a concern.
  • If you don't feel like eating or drinking, these are serious concerns and you should be telling your team mates asap.
  • The sooner you communicate these issues, the sooner something can be done about them. If you wait, dehydration can turn into hyponatraemia (low sodium) and potentially shock. Not enough sugar can turn into glycogen stores running out and "hitting the wall" or "bonking", which is a nice way of saying extreme pain and exhaustion.

Your Nutrition Prescription:

  • Food: You need 110-110g carbs /hr
  • Hydration: 600-800ml/hr
  • Drink every 15 min (compulsory) and sip as you like in between that. A tip is a team member could keep time/set an alarm & remind the rest of the team. It sounds a bit military-like, but it keeps you on the same page and checking in with each other.

You should be testing your electrolyte mix in training sessions and seeing if it makes you feel unwell or not. Some blends are harsh on your Stomach and can make you feel nauseous. Everyone is different, each to their own, as we all have different Stomach tolerances. Make your decision for race day on the product that had minimal side effects on your Stomach.

If you feel overwhelmed or stuck on what to take or not take. See a Functional Nutritionist or Sports Nutritionist with some endurance event experience to get some advice.

My experience with Oxfam Trailwalker was I was physically prepared and knew the course and we had our support crew running smoothly with organised finesse. But we did pass many teams struggling to know where check points were, what was coming up ahead on the trail and even some struggling to figure out how a Camelbak worked in the first few kilometres. It's too late on race day to be testing things out.

I really struggled without fully understanding the food & drink prescriptions. It was only when I spoke to Toby Cogley, an Endurance Athelete, that at least I could use this information to my advantage during Coastrek. I am extremely grateful to him for sharing this knowledge with me and this is why I make these same recommendations to my clients doing the same events.

You want to have minimal stress and maximum confidence in your ability to cross that finish line and being Prepared is where your success begins.

For more information on Sports Nutrition and Endurance events, speak to our Functional Nutritionist & Hypnotherapist, Linda. You can get through to her by calling 9938 1090 today or book online for a consult here.

Or for similar blogposts on Endurance Training check out these:

4 Mistakes that became Endurance Training Lessons

Endurance Training: 18 Tips on Maximising your Support Crew

Endurance Racing: Why Physical Training is Not Enough

Preventing Blisters: 5 Quick & Easy Ways

Discover the Edge to a Full Endurance Recovery

oxfam trailwalker preparation

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