Endurance Sports

It may be challenging, but the rewards are great

By Jared Nieters

Roughly half of Americans run or bike on a regular basis. Marathons and triathlons are experiencing double-digit participation growth rates, and cycling has surpassed golf as the nation’s preferred casual social and business network. There are a number of reasons these sports continue to see tremendous growth.

As most of us know, endurance sports offer significant physical benefits. Getting started can be fairly easy, they can facilitate social engagement, and they have a wide variety of health benefits. Many participants look to endurance sports as a means of weight control, but it’s certainly not the only return on your investments of time and energy.

Despite the name, the “runner’s high” isn’t limited to runners. After any extended period of aerobic activity, participants often experience reduced anxiety and reduced sensitivity to pain–even a state of euphoria. In addition to the runner’s high, endurance athletes often experience an overall improved mood, thanks to the stimulated production of hormones and other chemicals in the body that contribute to feelings of well-being. Endurance sports may also improve overall energy levels by facilitating cardiovascular health and improved sleep. What’s more, exercising helps combat heart disease, cancer, dementia, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

One of the reasons endurance sports have seen such incredible growth in recent years is that so little is needed in order to get started. The first step is as simple as taking a first step.

Start easy

Before beginning a new type of exercise, it’s always wise to consult with a physician to make sure you don’t have any underlying physical conditions that need to be addressed as you undertake a new endeavor. After that, start easy. If you’re not currently engaging in any physical activity, try a 10 to 20 minute walk. By keeping it short and simple you make it easier to develop a habit and less likely to be discouraged by the difficulty level.

Create achievable goals

Chose specific, measurable, and obtainable goals, as this will increase your chances of success. Hitting those goals early may have a positive impact on your motivation.

Get social

For many people, the social aspect of these activities also helps provide motivation and accountability–whether in person, like a running club or group ride, or online. Digital applications like Strava and Zwift allow athletes to interact with their peers all over the world in online environments. Some sites and apps can also help you track your workouts and monitor progress while engaging in friendly competition.

Pick an event

Choose a race or non-competitive event to help provide motivation. Having an event on the calendar can also help you organize a plan for training with easy-to-follow steps. Websites like Active.com and USAcycling.com provide extensive calendars that will help you locate fun events nearby–all searchable by date and location.

Find an expert

Finding a professional to consult with can help make the experience more enjoyable, whether through advice on training or recommendations on the best gear. It’s particularly valuable to create relationships with those experts in real life, as their advice is often more reliable than what you might find online.

Entering into an endurance sport can be challenging, but the returns are great. Start slow, stick with it, and and enjoy the benefits.

About the Author:

Jared Nieters is co-owner of Haymarket Bicycles and founder of Mapleworks Endurance Coaching. He has won multiple national championships in cycling and now coaches endurance athletes in a multitude of disciplines. He can be reached via email at info@mapleworkscoaching.com and found on most social media sites at @mapleworkscoach.

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