For decades, the physical and mental health benefits of exercise have been well-established. But there are also a handful of philosophical benefits that can give more meaning to anyone undergoing endurance training. Endurance athletics can impact the foundational core of what it means to be human, beyond physical strength and our brain’s building blocks.
Confidence, patience, perseverance and even our internal fight against adversity are all benefits to garner from endurance training activities. While these attributes are intangible strengths, they can help make us better people and lead happier, healthier lives.
Here are some important life lessons I’ve learned during endurance athletics training:
Build Your Dexterity and Set Up an Action Plan
When training for endurance athletics, first choose the event and the distance for which to train. Different mental and physical preparation goes into training for a marathon versus training for a triathlon. Both require different mental and physical capabilities as a triathlon requires swimming, cycling and long-distance running. An important lesson for every participant is to understand their strengths, and build upon their dexterity by setting a clear well-defined goal. In doing so, participants can live their objectives in the moment — and endurance athletes can overcome challenges by making executive decisions that make sense for who they are and what they need to achieve.
But this mindset isn’t just for athletes. Anyone can set up an action plan and when dedicating enough time to prepping, they can dig deep and find the dexterity needed to meet a goal, while also understanding and being honest with their physical, mental and emotional limits. When building a career, a relationship or making everyday decisions, it’s crucial to stay dedicated to our core values, know ourselves and take actions to see those values through.
Stay Patient and Present
Pacing is critical in endurance training, but it also offers an essential lesson for staying patient and present in the moment. Many people start training too aggressively and thus have trouble making the distance. It’s crucial to start off slow and work up to an ideal speed. In endurance running, especially, pacing and presence are key to crossing the finish line. As athletes train on outdoor trails, they must remain present with the terrain underneath, navigating through obstacles and paying attention to stride and movement. It’s a meaningful way to trust oneself while learning the best approach to improved endurance. Plus, addressing one’s progress honestly can assist in self-growth, rather than comparing the current progress to other trainees’.
Patience and staying present are critical lessons in any life pursuit, especially as you develop skills. Part of the work here will be undergoing the training, researching and gathering of new information. Being in the moment can genuinely help anyone embrace the tough lessons that don’t come easily and help anyone develop better methods and routines.
Establish a Sense of Commitment
It’s probably self-evident, but establishing a sense of commitment is crucial when training. Those who want to complete a marathon or triathlon must commit to training without fail. That might entail getting up at 4 a.m. every day of the week. Consistency is profound in overcoming life’s challenges and relying on oneself to show up — with enthusiasm — but it can create a deep sense of self-trust. A great way to improve commitment to endurance training is to ask oneself how you’d feel in two hours if you don’t get out of bed early in the morning. How would you feel by the end of the day if you don’t get up early to train? If the answer is lazy, fat or guilty — then that’s good motivation to start the day feeling empowered and vitalized no matter what your goal in life is.
It’s also important to remember when the body needs extra rest, too. So if there are a couple days you can’t get out of bed, make sure there’s the opportunity to amend your schedule to make up for lost time. The important lesson here is to show up while remaining flexible and maintaining balance that supports your well-being. From CEO to teacher, everyone needs balance to do their best work.
Build a Strong Team of Support
Building a strong support team, including with other people who are training, can be a blessing during the trials and tribulations of endurance training. Socializing with others who have experienced the same challenges can also make endurance practice more fun and even healthily competitive as you learn the ropes. Plus, sharing endurance strategies with others helps develop consistent learning. In many ways, a support crew is vital to success as they give their time in service to you during the race day. A support system doesn’t have to be other professional endurance trainers either; it can be your family who helps support you through the long hours of training.
In life, making and maintaining connections with others who enjoy the same passions as you — or at least understand them. We can’t do everything on our own; that’s an impractical delusion. A true joy of life is having others’ support and asking for help when you need it, in a team or on a solo journey.
Once you’ve crossed the finish line, an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and gratitude can materialize. The feeling is one of relief and one of empowerment; a combination that ultimately gives way for the chance to pause, reflect and breathe. An appreciation for the time you committed to endurance training and the experience of newfound (or renewed) resilience helps to make the moment celebratory.
Gratitude is necessary for anything you do in life. It gives a sense of inner calm and awareness during life’s major challenges. It also provides us with the power to synthesize the lessons we’ve learned, looking back in contemplation at the missteps that it took to achieve major feats and small wins (in business, in relationships, self-development or hobbies).
Endurance training is much more than competition or strength-building; it’s about acquiring a deeper understanding of yourself and life around you. The more actively we keep pace with the twists and turns of life, the more we can garner helpful tools on our path to inner strength and self-growth.