When your goal is to finish (not necessarily win)

Mountain Diva, training to finish

Photo: Alaska Mountain Runners

Fit and fast athletes, who seem capable of achieving inhuman accomplishment in sport, inspire us all. But in the midst of all that inspiration, have you ever felt like you couldn’t quite relate? Some of us go out to win every time, and some of us are just trying to survive across the finish line.

I know, I know. We’re supposed to be all rainbows and unicorns about sport and tell you that participating should be satisfaction enough. But if you’ve made it this far and you don’t have at least one story about finishing an event under mildly humiliating circumstances, you’re already one of those superhuman athletes and you should be out training or shilling for 5-hour energy.

Just because we’re not out to set a land-speed record in a certain discipline, doesn’t mean we should be any less intentional in our training. Whether this is your first “big” event or you’re realistic about fitting training into an already busy life, a little structure and prioritizing is good for us all.

Step One: In the words of Rebecca Rusch, set a goal. Choose something that seems hard for your current level of fitness, so you won’t be tempted to excuse yourself from training. Rebecca says, “Find something that makes your hands sweaty and gets you a little excited and scared.”

Step Two: Allocate your gear budget wisely. If you’ve chosen a bike event, don’t skimp on a professional bike fit. The rest of the bells and whistles truly aren’t necessary. If you’ve chosen a running event, invest in high quality running shoes (preferably at a running-specific store) and a great jog bra. If you’re allocating budget, prioritize comfort and ergonomic efficiency.

*We’re tempted to add, “Buy a cute running outfit or cycling kit.” It’s not our Diva side as much as our motivational needs. Trust: feeling frumpy in your workout gear does nothing to help get you out the door.

Step Three: Believe the experts, like the Sport Factory, when they say to build miles and intensity slowly. It’s not just risking injury to push too quickly, it’s also risking your future performance capabilities. In a nutshell, base training at moderate pace and growth will enable your body to develop a host of physiological adaptations (mostly of the aerobic variety) that will make you better, stronger and faster in the future. Whether running or biking, the general rule is adding miles in 10% increments.

Step Four: Document, document, document. Accountability plays a huge role in our emotional preparation for an event. The Internet has tons of excellent, free (or pay-for) training recommendations for week-by-week progress. We recommend setting up an excel sheet with recommendations in one column and your achievements in the next. Check out a century plan here, or go to the grand-daddy of long distance running, Hal Higdon, for marathon training plans for every level runner.

Step Five: Learn about recovery and DON’T ignore it. Recovery and rest is not the opposite of training; it is an integral part to a successful training regime. The energy depleted from endurance training impacts metabolic (think blood nutrients), structural (thinks muscle and joints), neural (think brain chemistry) and neuroendocrine (think how it all fits together) processes. What you need to know at first is TAKE A DAY OFF per week. Use that day to learn more about what your body needs to recover, as in this article from Endurance Corner.

Step Six: Kick ass. As we began this post with the acknowledgement that not all of us are looking for win in every sport we enjoy, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it your all. Maybe the ass you kick will be your own, but isn’t it so very worthwhile?

Additional Resources:

On base training: The Sport Factory

Training for your first century: Athletic Minded Traveler

Marathon and half-marathon plans: Hal Higdon

Recovery: Endurance Corner