Adaptation is the Big Endurance Goal

If you want change, you have to change

In endurance sports, once we add a pinch of ambition, we head towards a path of chasing improvement. Heart rate monitors, power meters, endless metrics and online tools. But what do we actually need to get better? Let’s dive into this.
First, we need to set a goal. I’m a triathlete and I want to do an IRONMAN. Cool! But what do we have to do to get there? Well, we need to set the parameters that are important to succeed at the IRONMAN. Ideally, we are metabolically efficient, so we don’t waste a ton of carbs, we are heat adapted so we don’t waste a ton of calories to cooling our bodies, and we have great form so we don’t waste energy etc. In short: we want to be strong AND efficient.

Second, we need to look at our current compilation of these factors. Let’s say you are used to shorter distances, are just starting to get settled in, but are drawn to the magical challenge of a long distance triathlon. Awesome and congrats! You are on your way to being addicted to this.

Adjusting to Longer Distances

What is the next logical step? Driving our performance parameters to be as close as possible to the ideal that will allow us to succeed or at least enjoy the IRONMAN. So much for the pre-requisite. But how do we get there? Should we use made up calculations to test our status quo and track our progress along the way? Probably not. Made up things are never good. Should we test our progress with performance tests? Big yes! There is nothing better than hard facts. But our main challenge remains: the premise of training needs to get us as close as possible to the needed performance parameters, and that happens through adaptation.

Challenges Along the Way

A big thing that sidetracks people at this point: their ego. If you can’t truly accept where you are right now – the true status quo of your current physical & mental state, then it’s going to be difficult to take the necessary steps. Acceptance is the key here. Sounds logical, but I barely see athletes taking that mindset once they start training. Many let the training plan dictate their training as though the future is written in stone. Your training plan is just a tool to stress your body and to push you towards the right adaptation. Blindly doing hard sessions when your body is not ready, going too hard on easy days, not fueling enough, not getting enough sleep etc. inhibits your adaptation process. This means that you can have the best training plan in the world, but if you are not focusing on adaptation of your body to the training stress then the plan is absolutely worthless and could actually push you into injury.

I know this is not necessarily the sexy approach. Wouldn’t it be awesome to take 20 shortcuts and just power through, no matter what? But fact is, proper adaptation so you can reach your goal requires a more mindful approach. Using our brain (rather than just pure force) is necessary when approaching an endurance goal. The key here is to nail the basics first: fuel the work, get sleep in, train in the right zones, have life balance and control your stressors. If you master these, you will be well ahead of the bell curve. If you want to enter the Top 5% of the world (once the basics are second nature), then you can start to take a look at all the super interesting tools. Before that, it’s mostly just a waste of time/money and you shouldn’t worry about the latest recovery tool. Eyes on the prize. Nailing the basics will take enough focus.

To conclude: To achieve anything you need to make sure to make progress. The best way to make progress in sports is to drive adaptation forward. The better you support your body and mind on adapting to the stressors, the faster you will succeed. Easy and yet so unachievable for many. Cut out the noise and it will be easier. More on that in another post.

At Home Goals

  • Set specific goals and identify the parameters needed to achieve them
  • Assess your current levels of those parameters
  • Incorporate performance tests to track progress
  • Prioritize the basics: proper nutrition, adequate sleep, training in the correct zones, and maintaining a balance between training and rest
  • Control stressors in your life
  • Focus on adaptation and let your training plan be a tool for stressing your body in a controlled manner
  • Avoid overtraining and under-recovering
  • Avoid falling into the trap of relying on trendy recovery tools before mastering the basics
  • Keep in mind that progress takes time and patience, and stay committed to the process.
Once you establish your goal, putting in place the right training plan, nutrition habits and mental game will bring you closer to the results you are looking for. The human body is very capable of adaptation, it happens over a period of time, but facilitating the proper conditions for it is an efficient and effective push towards your goal. The FS Endurance team is here to help you!
Daniela Salvado
Nutrition Coach

Something for you to try...

Write down your goals for this year and the bigger goal for the future. Once you’ve done this, write down what you think it takes to get there. Then write down what you are currently doing and circle the stuff that needs to change. I highly recommend using an honest friend, coach, or family for this step, so you don’t fall into the trap of lying to yourself. Once you have identified the things that are holding you back, check in with your inner self and make a pros and cons list of how changing these things would influence your life and if you are willing to make the necessary change. This will be uncomfortable! Again it is helpful to have an honest person to reflect with here. This will bring you the clarity needed to go ahead and change your life and to fulfill your dreams. Good luck!
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