I am writing this just 2 days after completing my first triathlon, the international distance for the Chicago Triathlon. Currently it’s a mixture of being on a high for setting and completing a goal, relief that it is over, some reflection on what I would do differently, and anticipation for the next one. Although we can certainly get into the nitty gritty with fueling for endurance sports, I want to spin this in a way that overall endurance sports can help shift your thinking on how you fuel your body, utilize your energy, and set goals, which can certainly be translated into normal life/ the off season.
Fueling and Energy
If you’ve been here long enough, you know that I am a big supporter of connecting what you are doing to how you feel. There is so much value in noticing the link between what you are putting in your body and how you show up physically and mentally. With most of my clients this means noticing blood sugar highs and lows, cognition, energy, mood and more. Well, endurance sports takes this to a whole new level (in a good way).
Personally, I decided to train for my first half marathon in the heat of my education during my dietetic internship and grad school. This was actually really helpful learning the in depth knowledge of how nutrition can impact you on a cellular level while actually fueling myself for the race. I don’t want to undermine how nutrition and lifestyle can affect you on a day to day basis, but this certainly heightened my awareness on a new level.
Endurance sports can help you really realize what each macronutrient does in the body. If you are simply undereating (especially carbohydrates), you won’t have enough gas in the tank. If you are skimping on protein, your body is probably going to break down muscle. If you aren’t intentional about adding quality fats to your diet, you might have increased joint pain or notice hormonal imbalances. As for recovery, it’s not a “nice to have”, it’s really a necessity. You start to notice that adding in recovery days and nutrients allows your body to come back stronger.
There is something so powerful about setting and completing a goal. You can really see your physical strength and mindset change, which can translate into your job, hobbies and more. They say that building competence helps build confidence, so you’ll often find yourself with a newfound sense of confidence after the endurance race is finally completed. You also learn flexibility with goal setting if life, injuries or other setbacks come up. This is part of being firm with your goal, but flexible in how you actually accomplish it.
Putting It All Together
All in all, this race I was just doing to finish (which I did!). In the future my hope is to be more competitive with it. The distances of the swim, run, and bike certainly seemed challenging, but reachable with my current state of strength and endurance. If you are looking to get into endurance sports, I encourage you to do the same. There are countless options for 5k’s, bike races, half or full marathons, tough mudders, and I could go on and on. Look for something that does seem challenging and potentially a charity you would like to support. Also, don’t be afraid to travel for endurance races. It can be a really cool way to see a new city. As always, I am here for fueling, recovery and lifestyle support!