Stepping up Your Long-Distance Game

3 min read  |  November 09, 2017  | 

Whether you’re going for a 5K or a triathlon, plan to succeed.

A marathon is like a marriage. Going the distance takes work.

The same can be said of every endurance sport – running, cycling, swimming.

If you’re in it for the long haul, you need desire. You need commitment. And, yes, you’re going to need to make some sacrifices along the way.

“You have to make the commitment, whatever that is,” says Dr. Carolyn Kienstra, head of the UHealth Sports Medicine Institute Endurance Program. “Whether that means getting up an extra hour early in the morning to get your run in before it gets too hot or whether that means getting yourself up the day after Christmas and going for a run.”

The return on investment is, of course, priceless. There’s health. And fun. And the impossibly great sense of accomplishment that comes with achieving your goal.

Kienstra should know. She had already run in two Ironman competitions by the time Halloween rolled around. That, to be clear, isn’t easy. There’s a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike race, and a 26.22-mile marathon. Back to back.

That’s in her off time. During her workday, she examines and treats others looking to go long. From elite athletes to regular folks.

Her advice:

Have a goal

It’s all about you. About what you want. And about being realistic.

“If you want to run a half-marathon and you’ve never run before you need to pick a plan for someone who’s never run versus a plan that starts out having you run 5 miles in the first week,” she says.

Find what moves you

Motivation matters. For some people that means picking the right playlist on their iPhone. Others need a cause, like raising money or awareness for a favorite charity.

Some rise to the camaraderie – and peer pressure – of long weekend rides with a bike club.

“When you’ve committed to meet your training partners at 6 in the morning,” she says, “they’re going to know if you don’t show up.”

Make a plan

There are plenty of training schedules on the Internet, for races of every imaginable length. Pick one that works for you.

“There are, oftentimes, a lot of different ways that you can train for the same race. And none of them is necessarily wrong,” says Kienstra. “You just need to make sure that you find one that you feel like you can stick with and that will prepare you for the length of the race.”

Plan, too, for things that can interfere with your training schedule. Like holidays. Or that ski trip. That doesn’t mean you have to give up. Just plan around it.

Make a commitment

“Once you start it, you have to stick to it. That’s the biggest thing,” she says. “You can’t just say, ‘Oh, well, I’m not really going to do what it says this week.’ Or next week. Or the week after.”

That means being ready, and willing, to sacrifice. In the end, you get out of it what you put into it.

Tags: Dr. Carolyn Kienstra, endurance training, marathon, Sports Medicine Institute

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