10 Ways to Prepare for Your Next Athletic Endurance Challenge
Whether you’re an experienced athlete or just getting started, taking on a new athletic endurance challenge requires careful preparation. Without it, you run the risk of overtraining, burnout, injuries, or simply never reaching your full performance potential.
To help you avoid these setbacks, we’ve listed 10 proven tips from real endurance athletes who’ve conquered their own endurance challenges and come out the other side stronger. Use them to boost your training regime and set yourself up for success during your next endurance challenge.
1. Define your "why" and set clear goals
When it comes to taking on big athletic challenges, understanding your unique “why” is key. What fuels your motivation and commitment? Is it to prove something to yourself, overcome a personal obstacle, or simply embrace a new adventure? Whatever it may be, knowing your "why" will help keep you going when training gets tough or doubt creeps in, because it’ll remind you that you’re not just training for the sake of it. You’re doing it to achieve something extraordinary.
As explained by one of our recently featured athletes, Leentje Van Meirhaeghe:
“I wanted to regain control over my life, to have more structure, and to make decisions with a clear mind. This challenge was my way of achieving that. Knowing why I was doing it made all the difference.”
Once you know your why, it's time to set clear, specific goals that align with your aspirations. Aim high, but make sure your goals are realistic, measurable and clear.
2. Prioritise sleep, rest and recovery
Endurance training can place a lot of stress on your body, putting you at risk for overtraining or even injury. That’s why getting the right amount of rest and giving your body what it needs to repair and adapt is vital.
Start by establishing a regular sleep schedule, aiming for 8-10 hours of quality sleep per night. In addition, try incorporating short naps between training sessions for an extra recovery boost. According to our featured athletic coach and manager at Train Your Dream Jef Van Meirhaeghe, taking naps between training sessions can help revitalise your body, reduce fatigue, and promote mental clarity.
Lastly, it's also a good idea to incorporate rest days into your training regime to encourage recovery, prevent overtraining and maintain optimal performance.
3. Practice proper nutrition and hydration
Proper nutrition and hydration give your body the fuel it needs to power through and recover from hard training sessions, putting you that much closer to your performance goals.
When it comes to nutrition, our featured training coach Jef Van Meirhaeghe advises following a balanced diet rich in whole foods, lean proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates - avoiding extreme keto because it can lead to exhaustion and overtraining:
“…by now, we know from scientific evidence that even at a really slow base, carbs are your main fuel, and especially if you go to a competition, you're actually 95% reliant on carbs.”
If you feel you need more personalised guidance to get started, it's a good idea to consult a nutritionist or dietitian who specialises in sports nutrition. He or she can help you develop a tailored nutrition plan with the right portion sizes, meal timing, and the balance of macronutrients needed for your specific training needs and goals.
Hydration is equally crucial for optimal performance. Find a hydration strategy that works for you, whether it's regularly sipping water, using electrolyte drinks, or incorporating hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables into your diet.
4. Establish a training schedule that works for you
Having a structured training schedule helps keep you focused, motivated and on track. Start by considering your goals, available time, and personal preferences. Then, based on that, design a schedule that aligns with your daily life while ensuring you have enough time for rest and recovery. Consistency is key, so aim for a routine you can maintain in the long term.
Lastly, it is important to track your progress and listen to the signals your body sends. This will enable you to make informed changes to your training plan and boost your chances of success.
5. Incorporate cross-training and strength workouts
Optimise your routine by including cross-training activities like swimming, cycling, or yoga. Cross-training improves overall fitness, prevents overuse injuries, and enhances your performance by targeting different muscle groups. For example:
- Cardio increases your aerobic capacity boosting endurance.
- Strength training builds muscle power and makes you stronger.
- Stretching and yoga foster flexibility and relaxation.
Combining these activities will result in a well-rounded training program that can help elevate your performance, boost your resilience, and take your athletic abilities to new heights.
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6. Implement periodisation in your training
Periodisation involves strategically varying the intensity and volume of your workouts over specific periods of time. In essence, you create a schedule that alternates between easy and challenging sessions. The goal? To enable your body to progressively adapt to increasing demands while also incorporating periods of recovery and reduced intensity.
Here’s how it works:
- Easy sessions foster active recovery, allowing your body to regenerate and adapt.
- Challenging sessions push your limits, boosting strength, endurance, and performance.
Periodisation also helps prevent performance plateaus, enabling you to progress more steadily by systematically challenging your body while allowing for adequate recovery.
7. Build the right mindset
Endurance challenges test your physical strength, but they also require a great deal of mental fortitude. That’s why it's important to cultivate a mindset that will keep you empowered and motivated during even the toughest training sessions. Here are just a few techniques to help you achieve that goal:
- Mindfulness: Helps you be more present, manage distractions and enhance focus.
- Visualisation: Enables you to create vivid mental images of success to build confidence.
- Positive self-talk: Replaces negativity with affirmations to boost confidence and motivation.
Remember, endurance sports are as much a mental game as they are a physical one. Practising mental conditioning can provide the boost you need to take on almost any challenge.
8. Cultivate a supportive network
Having a supportive network is a game-changer for endurance athletes seeking to conquer new heights. As explained by our featured athlete, Leentje Van Meirhaeghe:
“Having fellow athletes, friends, and family who understand and cheer me on has made all the difference. Their encouragement, advice and support have been a constant source of motivation. They've been there to lift me up when I needed it the most, and I'm incredibly grateful for it."
Surround yourself with a tribe of like-minded athletes, friends, and family who truly understand and champion your athletic pursuits. Their support can help fuel your motivation, keep you accountable, and ultimately boost your overall performance.
9. Consider specialised coaching and guidance
Enlisting the help and guidance of a coach can be helpful, especially if you’re new to endurance training. They can work with you to create a tailored training program that suits your specific abilities, goals, and lifestyle, helping you train more efficiently, improve your technique, and prevent injuries.
Personalised coaching also ensures your training program is well-balanced, minimising the risk of overuse injuries and helping you stay on a steady progress track. No wasted efforts or guesswork – just targeted training to get you closer to your personal finish line.
10. Use the right supplements
Adding supplements to your training routine is a great way to optimise performance and give yourself a boost during hard training sessions. Here are a few good choices from our featured training coach Jef Van Meirhaeghe:
- Sodium Bicarbonate: Improves endurance and delays fatigue by buffering lactic acid buildup (60-90 minutes pre-training).
- Beetroot Juice or L-Citrulline: Enhances blood flow and oxygen delivery (60 minutes pre-training).
- XTRACT pre-workout shots: Boosts your body’s natural endurance with a formula that combines OLE, B6, and magnesium.
- Beta-Alanine: Regulates pH levels and aids lactic acid reabsorption.
- Carbohydrates and Caffeine shots: Maintain blood glucose levels and boost focus, alertness, and endurance (pre-training).
- Recovery Shakes: Support recovery and replenishment (post-workout, within 30 minutes).
Makes sure to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure these supplements align with your needs and goals.