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Taking on an endurance event

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

Yes! You have signed up for a Primal (or other endurance) event and you want to make sure you are well prepared beforehand, controlling your energy output and replenishing the energy you will lose during the event.

Things to consider

1. The time/distance.

The longer the event, the more stressed your body will get, therefore the more recovery it will need. Take recovery breaks where you can (which sometimes just means slowing down).

a) Events that are dictated by time, e.g., The Primal Sandbag challenge or 4 park challenges. These have a defined time period in which to complete the event and the challenge is to keep going until that time ends. The key here is to fuel as you go or take the breaks provided in order to refuel and recover.

b) Events that are dictated by distance, e.g., The Redditch 10k, obstacle races, triathlons, or ultra-marathons. In these events the aim is to get to the finish line as soon as your current level of fitness, conditioning and preparedness will allow you to.

Side note: If your current level of preparedness is unknown then anticipate the worst/longest amount of time you think you will potentially be out there for. Fuel adequately prior to the event and carry extra fuel accordingly.

2. The intensity.

The faster, heavier, and more explosive you go, the higher your heart rate and the higher your body’s demand will be for more energy (fuel). The more energy you use the greater the need to consume fuel. Going out too hard at the start is common in endurance events, due to the excitement and nervousness of the participant, so try to stay in your own lane of capability to avoid crashing and burning before the end. The race, whether it be for your best time or a podium chance, is from the start line to the finish line. Avoid getting caught up in someone else’s pace, racing to get one obstacle done or getting over a single hill first. Although this can be good for you psychologically (read below) it will more than likely negatively affect your overall finish time/placing.

Don’t burn all the matches: In endurance sports this refers to a box of matches as your stored energy. Once a match is struck it cannot be used again and cannot return to the box, so it is gone. Use your matches at the right times. Simply put; the lower the intensity the more time it will take to use your stored fuel and the longer you will last. The higher the intensity the sooner you will need to replenish your stored glycogen which will give you the energy to continue. Consider this when choosing how hard to go.

3. The chance to replenish/refuel.

Use your chances to replenish/refuel wisely. If there are aid stations or transition areas, these may be your best/easiest options (if you prefer not to carry anything) for some refuelling and an opportunity to take stock (but don’t stand still for too long).

The alternative is to carry your fuel, which is a good tactic when taking on longer endurance events as the stations may be widely spaced out or for triathlons, where on the bike you can consume on the move. This also guarantees you’ll have the fuel you need when you need it. Whichever scenario you find yourself in try to avoid wasting time not moving forwards. For example, sprinting only to sit and refuel may cost time/distance being lost.

4. Sweat.

Water and natural salts are lost throughout an endurance event via sweating. Physical and mental abilities are reduced the more you sweat. Being well hydrated before the event can help to offset this and taking on water often during an event is critical for having a successful and enjoyable challenge.

· Before the event drink 500ml -1000ml 2-3hours before.

· Replace lost fluids throughout the event with water and electrolytes at a rate of around 250-500ml per hour.

· Sweat rate will depend on the time, intensity, and weather (heat) on the day.

· Consuming salty foods or sport drinks with electrolytes will help to replenish your natural salts. Some sport drinks contain carbohydrates so will help with your fuel needs too.

· Be sure to replenish your energy back to natural levels after the event with good food and plenty of water (2-3ltrs over 3 hours).

It is important to have a good knowledge of how you operate in training, this information will help you understand your personal needs.

5. Fuel.

Our fuel comes from the macronutrients we eat in the form of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Carbohydrates are stored in the body in the form of glycogen, which converts quickly and easily into a usable source of fuel when we need it. However, we have limited amounts available stored in the body. Aim to consume approximately ¼ - 1/3 of your bodyweight in grams each hour for anything over a 60-minute event. For example, a 180lbs person would need 45-60 grams per hour.

During an event you’ll want this to be easy to consume and digest (gels, bars, and shakes) but try to avoid introducing things you haven’t used before as this may have an unwanted effect on your digestive system and put you out of the game with cramps and bad guts. Practice consuming these fuels during your training to avoid this happening to you.

For normal day to day fuelling chose real, clean foods for your macronutrients. “If it doesn’t roam and it isn’t grown, don’t eat it”

On the morning of your event eat what you would normally 2-3hours before the start (try to have some low fibre carbohydrates, approximately 100-150g) Leave approximately 1hr digestion time for every 200-300 kcals you consume.

After finishing the event refuel with nice clean protein (20-40g daily) and simple carbohydrates (easily absorbed, 64-96g for an 80kg person). This will replenish and repair the muscles, restore energy levels and help to heal and build muscle fibres.

6. Psychology.

Be confident. Knowing your own self and running your own race, knowing the level of intensity you can handle and for how long is vitally important, as we can all get caught up in the moment.

Remember nothing is ever as bad as it may seem at the time. You might be a seasoned endurance athlete or a complete beginner, at some point your mind will try to trick you in to quitting. This is totally normal. (I’ve never met an athlete that hasn’t suffered this at some point). Remember this. The human body is amazing and will do so much more than you might think at your time of weakness. Slow down. Take a break. Recover a little and you may surprise yourself. Just don’t quit!

Competition day (against yourself or an opponent) will always intensify the psychological feelings you may have. This can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Try to think only positive thoughts and break your event down into manageable chunks. You CAN do it.

7. Have fun!

You signed up to this event to challenge yourself. No matter how daunting the task or how tired you might feel, face it with a smile on your face (cheerfulness in the face of adversity). Embrace the opportunity to dig deep and find something out about yourself. You’ll soon have the time to repair, rest and recover, but you have the chance to push yourself NOW, here and in this moment!

Good luck!

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