Endurance sports are as challenging as they are rewarding. There’s nothing more satisfying than finishing a tough marathon or bike trail that you’ve spent months practicing for. It’s something that is both fun and exhausting at times. The most difficult part is getting into it, as beginners often find endurance sports a bit too tough for their tastes. This is because they’re quite a bit different from exercises that are based on strength. You need to have a good grip on nutrition and form to be able to see any kind of result in endurance sports. Luckily, it’s something that is perfectly achievable with the right mindset and lots of patience. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Keep that fluid intake up
Hydration is one of the most important elements of endurance sports. It plays a crucial role in fueling any long-term physical activity. This is as true for cycling as it is for running or rowing. While hydration might seem like a simple enough task, it’s not always as cut and dry as drinking some water. There are many misconceptions about hydration that lots of beginners believe. These can lead to mediocre results and discomfort while participating in endurance sports.
Fluid intake is a lot more complicated than just drinking water. You have to take into consideration electrolytes as well. The balance between electrolytes and water determines how well you’re going to be hydrated.
Under most conditions, an athlete needs to consume around 500-800 ml of fluid every hour. This depends on the weather and size of the athlete but is generally considered the benchmark. The fluid has to contain a healthy balance of electrolytes like sodium so that you don’t over hydrate yourself.
Beginner endurance athletes have made the mistake of only consuming pure water during particularly difficult exercises or tournaments. Overhydration quickly leads to fatigue and nausea, which doesn’t bode well for prolonged physical activity. Make sure you get the right kind of electrolyte-rich fluid while exercising for maximum efficiency.
Limit caloric intake during workouts
You can’t partake in endurance training without energy. Endurance sports like cycling consume an enormous number of calories, which means you have to replenish your stocks. Sometimes, you have to do so while in the middle of a ride in order to fuel yourself. This is something that is readily apparent after you’ve ridden for miles and miles. The hunger starts creeping in, but it can be deceptive.
The body can’t process caloric intake past a certain point. The digestive system can only do so much while it’s not in optimal use. When you’re in the middle of a race or cycling track, you’ll find that eating too many calories will only slow you down. Compensating for calories lost simply isn’t possible during the exercise. You can only consume around 300 calories, at best. Go over this limit and you’ll start getting bloated and vomit. This certainly won’t help you finish the exercise or race in a timely manner.
Follow a sensible caloric intake that depends on your weight and exercise level. You don’t have to take in as many calories as you’re expanding. With proper diet and rest, your body has quite a bit of stored energy to help you complete any endurance challenge. A small pick-me-up in calories only helps it compensate as you go, which is more than enough to help you succeed.
Choose your carbs wisely
Speaking of caloric intake, the amount you consume isn’t the only factor to consider. The type of sugars you utilize in your diet has an enormous role in your energy expenditure. Sugars provide the most immediate boost in energy for our bodies. However, some provide a quicker boost in energy than others, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Simple sugars work this way. They are broken down and absorbed quickly, but they don’t provide the most efficient energy boost. You get a sudden spike in sugar, which causes a disproportionate spike in insulin. Instead of giving you the energy to keep going, this only leaves you exhausted. This is why it’s advisable to avoid simple carbohydrates before and during your workout.
Complex carbs work a bit differently. The sugars in these kinds of foodstuffs are connected in chains and take more time to digest. This gives your body time to adapt to the amount of sugar it has consumed. It can more efficiently digest and distribute the sugar without causing a sugar rush in the middle of a workout. Plus, these sugars are rarely as processed as their simple counterparts, which means they have other kinds of benefits like more fiber and minerals. This makes them ideal for optimal performance in endurance tests.
Get enough protein in
Carbs alone won’t do the trick in any endurance sport. Nutrition is an inescapable part of sports, especially when it comes to endurance. The center point of nutrition in sports is protein. They are the building blocks of all our muscles, the same muscles that need to work continuously in endurance sports. This is why consuming enough protein is critical for your workouts.
Protein provides around ten per cent of the energy that our bodies use. This might not seem like a large percentage, and it’s not. However, it’s something that we can’t go without during long-distance rides. If there isn’t enough free protein available, the body starts looking for alternative sources.
Namely, it uses its own muscles for the protein. This is counterproductive for a workout, which is why we need to consume extra protein as we go along. A simple whey protein mixture should do the trick, but it’s advisable to consume a mixture that contains complex carbs. This helps you double-up on energy and continue cycling without issue.
Listen to your body
When it comes to your physical limits, there’s no one you can trust but your own body. Endurance sports are very demanding and there’s no reason not to believe your instincts when you’re exhausted. Going further than you can handle can only end badly. Whether you’re training for a competition or just trying to shave a bit of weight off the scale, you have to know your limits.
Momentum is key in every endurance sport. Even the fittest athlete knows better than to overexert themselves when doing long-distance cardio. When you’re starting out, you have to take it to step by step. Common sense would tell you to ride until you feel tired, but this isn’t necessarily the best course of action. Go bit by bit and see how long it takes for the first signs of exhaustion. Take it slow and listen to your body as you go. You have to learn how to recognize your limits, as it’s not something you inherently know.
The key is to keep your form while cycling long distances. You might not notice the warning signs of exhaustion right away. Instead, your form will suffer and you’ll keep going while cycling very inefficiently. This is something you want to avoid, as it could become a habit. Pacing yourself helps train all of your muscles to keep good form, which will help you with efficiency. As you progress, you’ll quickly figure out your limits in terms of distance and how many hours you can cycle. After that, it’s smooth sailing towards progress.
Get the right gear
Unlike most other endurance sports, cycling is all about the gear. Everything you bring with you on a ride determines how well it’s going to go. Choosing the right kind of gear helps bring you closer to optimal performance.
Everything from the brakes to the handlebars needs to be adapted to your body and its needs. This is something experienced bike riders can help you figure out, but you need to do some research of your own. Trying out different kinds of bikes would help you get a good feel of how they handle.
While your physical activity and endurance are paramount, you also need to make sure the bike suits you as well. This is because an ill-fitted bike can drag you down and impede your progress. Consider the kind of bicycle that you need for a particular ride. If you plan on riding for miles on flat, open roads, you will need a regular bicycle with tires that can withstand the road.
On the other hand, uneven terrain might require something different. When cycling through mountain trails, you need full suspension mountain bikes to handle the slopes of this kind of terrain. The suspension protects your bike, while also making the ride easier on your joints.
You can start training with a power meter. It’s an essential tool for cyclists who want to improve their performance realistically and accurately. The power output/data from the power meter is useful for designing workout programs to build endurance fitness.
Don’t neglect the recovery
Beginner endurance athletes often focus on nutrition and workouts above all else. However, this doesn’t always produce optimal results. Even with a balanced diet and solid work ethic, progress can be slow. Working out every single day seems like it should produce the best results. However, this isn’t the case in endurance sports.
Recovery is just as important as the workout itself. Your muscles aren’t unstoppable machines that can go on for days. Fibre tear and lactic acid build-up every single time you work out, whether it’s aerobic or anaerobic exercise. The only cure for this is proper rest, which is something that every professional athlete takes seriously.
What would constitute “enough” rest for a day? This depends on the nature of your workout and how much it affects you. You’ll find that on harder training days, you’ll need more rest than usual. Sleeping for nine or ten hours isn’t out of the question, especially if you’ve had a productive day. You have to limit night owl activities to a minimum if you want to see progress in your endurance training.
To conquer endurance sports, you need to be prepared to make some changes. Starting with some of the before mentioned tips, you have to take a long journey towards better endurance and more efficient training. The good news is that it’s something everyone can achieve, as long as they stick to the changes and persevere.