Endurance and strength training matter. Big time. But nutrition and recovery are disciplines on their own. If you haven't reached the levels of success you've been striving for despite how hard you train, get methodical with this proven 4-pillar approach. After all, you might be just one tweak away from your big break.
If you landed on this article, chances are you are a fellow endurance or strength endurance athlete looking to improve their performance in sport, life and everything else. Correct?
Then this sounds familiar: like many of us you had to learn the inner pillars of high performance in endurance sports the hard way – by overtraining, bonking, injuries. Followed by demotivation, hormone imbalance, weight loss, weight gain, and well, more bonking.
“It is usually not lack of determination, grit and focus that derail you from your goals, but a lack of systems and imbalance of the four elements of performance.”
Endurance sports are long journeys and in order to improve, you have to be patient, methodical and understand the basics of how things work. This is valid for professional athletes in the same way as it is for weekend warriors. In order to balance life, sport, performance and health, you need to understand the Elements of Performance.
Key Elements of Performance are:
While the first two are usually easy to understand and follow, it is the latter two that make all the difference between an enjoyable and successful race and a horrendous experience. Even the best pros often get it wrong. From recent examples see Mathieu Van Der Poels World Championship Road race in 2019, or 2020 and 2021 Ironman races of Lionel Sanders. Nutrition and Recovery are disciplines in their own right and should not be underestimated. Let's look at the individual elements.
Endurance: okay, this one is obvious
It's quite obvious that in order to perform well in Endurance sports, you have to build Endurance. This is typically your training plan, which says you should run this many kilometers at this or that intensity and you usually periodise your training to be primed for your goal race. Getting this step done is pretty clear and straightforward. You have a plan, you follow it, or adapt.
What also happens is that you accumulate volume and fatigue over time and push your boundaries and abilities by overreaching current stress levels: time to employ other pillars!
Strength: a stronger body endures more
While most of us commit to some level of endurance practice while preparing for our goal races, we often forget the positive effects of strength training.
“With strength training, you target your biomechanics, muscle strength and resistance ability, bone density, resilience of joints and ligaments, and supercompensation of all the disbalances both daily life and sport can bring.”
When we say strength training, we don't necessarily mean 100kg squats and bench presses. Most of us will be fine working with our own bodies, maybe a kettlebell and some rubber bands, while others prefer heavy weights in the offseason.
There is no single formula for everyone but you should talk to your coach about incorporating strength training in preparation for triathlon, bike or run racing.
Recovery: rest to repair
In theory, this one is simple common sense. We work hard, we rest hard. Very few, however, do it right. Hand in hand with proper nutrition and fueling, this is what determines whether your hard work in Endurance and Strength translates into results.
“You can probably get away with not recovering for a few weeks, but you risk overtraining syndrome and losing half the season.”
Your body needs to repair from the stresses you subject it to, whether those are physical, such as training, or psychological coming from work, family life or else. “Stress is stress,” my coach teaches me. By training and subjecting our bodies to stresses, we affect our immune system, hormonal system, musculoskeletal system, and pretty much all the other systems.
Time for recovery is needed in order to balance those back to normal, repair the muscles and replenish all those calories we burned biking over 300 kilometres last weekend.
You see, being laid back is as important as training hard!
Nutrition: the fourth discipline of Triathlon
Now this is a topic closest to our hearts here at Feedzone. While the first three are very much up to you and your coach, nutrition is something we can help you with, and in much more depth. Gaining understanding between fuelling, hydration and nutrition, how they interact and apply to long distance endurance training, is fundamental to your success.
What is fueling?
Fueling means how you fuel your body around workouts. Basically anything you eat 1 hour prior, during, and 1-2 hours after your workouts is considered a fuel. Its goal is to make sure you have energy to perform in the workout, but also correctly replenish lost energy as soon as possible and therefore facilitate recovery (and life)!
Fueling combines whole foods with a range of bars, chews, gels and carbohydrate-based hydration. Here's a whole article on how to fuel correctly because we believe these are absolute basic principles every athlete wants to follow. Always aim to #fuelyourrise.
What is nutrition?
Nutrition is everything else that is not fueling. The goal here is to stay healthy and consume enough calories. There are several approaches to nutrition among endurance athletes, ranging from old-school high-carb pasta/potatoes/rice-based diets to low-carb and even ketogenic ones. While each approach has its pros and cons, and largely depends on preference and one's specific situation, what they should all have in common is eating whole, minimally processed, nutrient-dense and healthy foods. Imagine loads of vegetables, fruit, nuts, eggs, meat (if not vegetarian of course) and high quality carbs like rice, sweet potatoes etc. If you stick to these basic principles, you are half-way there.
What is hydration?
An underestimated part of regimen by many - and one with the most effect! We are huge fans of hydration as it is a fast track to everything good. It aids in recovery, transportation of nutrients, electrolyte balance, focus, daily energy levels and so on.
Now, you might be thinking: “I've got this covered, I drink water” or “I'll even throw in a sports drink.” Hold up. Refilling liquids is just one part, your body is losing salt, minerals, carbs and electrolytes, too. Plus, it is not enough to re-hydrate on your training days. Hydration sachets, superfuel drinks and hydration mixes are a must every day in order to recover well, thus improving your strength and endurance.
See how everything interacts, working together to #fuelyourrise?Now you have the framework for the basic elements that make you a great athlete. We will be going in-depth into many of those mentioned topics on our BLOG and in our newsletters.