Originally published on myRegence.com

Everyone Can be an Endurance Athlete… Really!

Start Thinking Small

The first step on your path towards being an endurance athlete is to start thinking small. Don’t start a 2-mile run thinking, “I need to get up to 26.2 miles? Never!” It takes months to get your body ready. You won’t be able to finish this article and then complete an Olympic-length Triathlon next month. Give yourself at least 4 months (and preferably 6 or more) to get ready. Start by walking four days a week or cycling 3 days a week. Work up to short runs that increase in mileage every few weeks. Participate in 5K “Fun Runs” or short distance family bike rides.

Start Supporting a Cause

I completed my first endurance event, a 100-mile long Century bike ride, soon after my father died from leukemia. I joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Team in Training” and had coaches helping me train while raising money for blood cancer research.

My cause got me on my bike on a cold, rainy Saturday morning. I would think, “This event is bigger than me.” Your cause can be a fundraiser, a challenge for you and your family to get in shape, or a celebration of a milestone birthday.

If you make the training and the event bigger than yourself, you create inspiration to get up and go. By training with others, you have someone who will call you at 6:30 am on a Saturday to get you ready by 7:30. Trust me, you’ll appreciate the help.

Start Eating Smart

You should not do an endurance event to lose weight. Training is not the time to start dieting. You will probably lose some weight but, more importantly, your training will improve overall health and energy, which can lead to weight loss.

You need to start learning how to eat for endurance. Opinions vary about training diets — carbohydrate loading vs. protein heavy diets — and you should be conscious from the start of what dinners and breakfasts you have before training. What did you eat before a good workout and what did you eat before you had an “off-day”? Bodies are different and have different needs. Experiment to see what makes your body happy and stick with it.

During a workout, experiment with energy bars, drinks and gels. The biggest mistake you can make during an endurance event is to get hungry or thirsty, called “bonking,” as there is no turning back. I drink a bottle of energy drink and eat one energy bar every hour during training. This is what I’ve found to work best for me, personally. Find what works best for you by experimenting early on.

Bottom line: during training and an event, you never want to feel hungry or thirsty.

Start Stretching A Lot

Stretching dramatically strengthens your core muscles, works the kinks out of your body and helps prevent injury. Stretching improves your posture, energy and flexibility. The more you stretch, the more you will be able to do in your training and in life in general. After proper nutrition, stretching is the most important aspect of your training.

Do a short warm-up (½ mile walk, slow laps in the pool) before you start your workout. After the warm-up, stretch for 5-10 minutes and proceed with your training. After training, stretch for at least twenty minutes. Now I do Pilates or yoga on my off-days. I did this during my second endurance event and it was much more aches-and-pains-free than my first.

Start Believing

Now it is time to forget those images from TV of marathon runners sprinting across the finish line in just over two hours or Ironman triathletes racing down the track on high-tech road bikes. Endurance events, for the rest of us at least, are not about coming in first place or finishing under a certain time. Endurance events are a personal celebration of potential and a chance to prove to yourself all that you are capable of. I do endurance events to honor my father and to make sure that I live a long and healthy life. I do endurance events because I feel good when I cross the finish line and pass into a group of hugs followed by a relaxing bath and then a big meal. I do endurance events because I can and that is all the reason anyone needs.

Talk with your physician about your intentions, get a support network started, do some research into training regiments, and start today.

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