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Endurance Training Gives Us More Than PRs

by Cindy Dallow

The other day I had an excellent swim workout. Swimming isn’t my strength, but on that day I felt like I could swim forever and that feeling stayed with me all day. While 2000 yards isn’t that far, the effort I maintained while pushing the pace left me feeling strong and full-of-energy for hours.

Today I ran 6 miles with my Golden Retriever, Bodey, and that same feeling of elation, or workout high, returned to me. We ran fast and we kept a pace that pressed my limits. I felt accomplished, amazing, and neck deep in the proverbial “runner’s high.” That feeling stuck around all day again.

Triathletes and runners feel this all the time. That’s why we train, right? We may not always get the extreme high I experienced this week, but there’s some kind of pleasure we get out of it or we wouldn’t be training like we do. This is why we keep going back for more each day. It’s why we push, measure, and test our abilities as athletes.

I’ve often wondered why some people love running (actually thrive on running) while others hate it. In fact, I would guess the majority of the general public hates running. We’ve all heard people say things like “If you see me running you will know someone is chasing me!” “I was born to roll, not run that many miles!” “I get tired just driving that far.”

They don’t seem to get the same feeling of joy after a good training swim, bike, or run. At least I don’t think they do. Cross-fitters, walkers, and other fitness fanatics get it but the majority of people don't. It's not their fault; it's just perplexing to me as to why some of us thrive on physical exertion and some of us hate it.

This begs the question, what exactly is it that elicits that euphoric feeling? Is it how far we run, bike, or swim or is it how hard we push? Do we lose opportunities to focus on the feeling of accomplishment when we focus on the numbers as priority? There are so many numbers we triathletes have to keep track of: heart rate, power wattage, distance, time, calories burned etc.

What if we looked at tracking how good it felt to get those numbers? And used that to help develop stronger training? (I can just see all the coaches out there rolling their eyes!)

Swimming 2000 yards is not a big deal but I felt so amazing the rest of the day that it made me realize that we don't focus enough on the internal benefits of endurance training. Sometimes we need to just be grateful for what our bodies can do on any given day instead of berating ourselves for not being faster, or leaner, or whatever. In other words, we should stop and smell the roses, right?

As a master's athlete, I have learned to relish that euphoric feeling that comes with training, regardless of how far I swam, biked, or ran, and be appreciative of all that my body can do, regardless of where I am on my training plan.

But this way of thinking didn't come easy.

For years, I stressed over how far or how fast I could swim, bike, or run. I used to get so anxious for the Bolder Boulder every year that I made myself sick (because our local paper would publish finish times for the running group I was in). I constantly compared myself to my friends' race times and was crushed when I didn't place in my age group.

Fast forward to my late 50's and I see things differently now. Given the fact that training is much harder than it was in my 30's and 40's and I'm more prone to injury, I find myself just happy to be training. And, losing two close friends to cancer along the way served as a huge wake up call to just be thankful for my health and ability to do endurance events.

This doesn't mean I still don't want to get faster or achieve PR's in my A races. I very much do. But I'm now able to appreciate the small steps and the value of just feeling strong and healthy, regardless of how far or how fast I train and you know what? It's a really great feeling!

So, don't sweat the small stuff. Do your best but remember to "feel the love" your body gets from all the hard work of training for a big race. Be thankful for what your body is capable of doing on any given day (like run 5 or more miles). Your day will come but for now, stop and smell those beautiful roses.

Do you want ideas on how to register your “runner’s high” and stay motivated? Ask us how. We’d be happy to share strategies to help you cultivate the joy of endurance training.

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