EPC Tips - Six Components to Endurance Sports Success

Jan. 9, 2015

XTERRA Pro and Endurance Performance Coach Cody Waite is back in 2015 to deliver a wealth of training tips and workouts for the Tribe. Cody is kick-starting the season with an overview of the “six components to endurance sports success” and will elaborate on each in the weeks to come. Be sure to check out EPC’s XTERRA specific Group CoachingPersonal Coaching and Custom Training Plan options Cody has created to fit every athletes needs and budget…

Welcome all XTERRA athletes from around the globe to 2015! It's time to start thinking seriously about your training program and getting yourself ready for the XTERRA race season ahead. My previous article "Welcome to the Off Season" discussed some strategies for making good use of your training time in between racing seasons. With the new year upon us, we must begin to concentrate our efforts on becoming the best prepared athletes we can be before our priority events.

There are many factors that go into preparing yourself for racing endurance events like XTERRA triathlons. Through our years of coaching endurance sports athletes, I have identified six key components that lead to endurance sports' success. In the follow paragraphs, I'll briefly touch on each of them, get you thinking, and help you get on the right track to XTERRA racing success. In the coming weeks I'll dig a little deeper into each component and provide helpful information you can choose to integrate into your own training program. Hopefully, the following concepts will help you improve and allow you to reach your fullest potential throughout your entire XTERRA racing season. I'll see you at the races!

Six Components to Endurance Sport Success

It’s common thought that to become a better endurance athlete you simply need to go longer and harder in your training to be successful.

Many athletes are familiar with the 10,000 hour rule which states that it requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to obtain elite level proficiency in your sport. In many ways this concept holds true; you need to put in the time for your body to adapt and to learn the skills and movements required to perform at a high level of sport. However, there is likely more to the equation of improvement in endurance sports. In fact, what we have found is that success in endurance sports hinges on several different factors. Through working with hundreds of different athletes coming from all shapes and sizes of background in sport, we have learned that there are six essential components required to maximize endurance sport development.

You certainly can and do become a better endurance athlete simply by doing more of what you are striving to improve; more hours on the bike, more miles on the run, and more yardage in the pool. Assuming you have the time and luxury to spend 5+ hours a day on the bike,  much like I did for 6 years in my late teens and early twenties while pursuing a professional cycling career, you will become a highly competent cyclist allowing you to compete at a very high level. There’s no question that if you put in the time, you will improve. But is this high volume, single-focused training approach the right way to maximize performance? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the only way to maximize performance? Definitely not.

What is the ‘right’ way or ‘best’ way to improve as an endurance athlete?

There are many theories, however most physiologists and coaches will agree that the best answer is, “It depends.” It depends on who the athlete is. How old is the athlete, what is the athlete’s background in sport, what is the athlete’s lifestyle, do they have a job, do they have a family, do they have the time, energy and physical capacity to allow them to train 30+ hours a week, week in and week out? If you’re a 20-something year old, athletic individual with minimal life stress and plenty of financial backing then it’s time to put in the big volume. However, if you’re over thirty, have to make money to support yourself and/or your family, and are a less than perfect physical specimen, then simply going longer and doing more of the same is not the best path to follow to reach your fullest potential.

So how is the aspiring endurance athlete going to maximize improvement when spending endless hours cranking out the miles is not an option? We have found over the years that all athletes must make endurance sport a lifestyle, much like a professional, focusing on both the large and the small components of fitness to build the best possible athlete they can be. We have identified six key components that are crucial to endurance sports success, and they can all be implemented regardless of their experience level or the amount of time the athlete has to devote to their sport. By learning, incorporating and striving to always improve upon these six key components of fitness, an athlete will be better able to reach their fullest potential.

The Six Components to Endurance Sports Success

- Aerobic Conditioning
- Muscular Stability
- Skill Proficiency
- Optimal Nutrition
- Recovery Management
- Mental Strength

The first three components, aerobic conditioning, muscular stability, and skill proficiency, make up the physical “training” an athlete with do. Aerobic conditioning can be achieved by not only spending more time performing their sport, but also through various modalities of cross-training during specific times of the year. Training endurance by going longer at times, as well as incorporating moderate and high intensity interval training, at and above an athlete’s aerobic and anaerobic thresholds at specific points in their training year, will improve their aerobic conditioning. Muscular stability involves a combination of both strength and mobility. Incorporating stability training in an athletes year round program can improve an athlete’s muscular strength and flexibility, range of motion of joints, application of force, and overall durability. Improper joint mobility and/or joint stability limits nearly every athlete in some manner. Improving these characteristics through proper strength training modalities, an athlete will become more efficient and able to use more of their given maximal aerobic capacity. Developing the skills to move the body in the most efficient manner is critical to maximizing both speed and endurance. Wasted energy through improper movements not only slows you down but wastes valuable energy, limiting your performance. By incorporating drills into an athlete’s training program throughout the year, they will again achieve a higher usage of their given maximal aerobic capacity.

The last three key components, optimal nutrition, recovery management, and mental strength are the efforts made in between the actual ‘training’ sessions. These details require as much or more effort to incorporate into an athlete’s routine, but they can also often yield some of the biggest results. Most athletes are aware of the importance of nutrition but few actually take it seriously for any length of time. Through optimal nutrition you not only perform better on race day, but you are also able to achieve optimal body composition for improved performance, optimal energy levels to improve training capacity, and optimal hormone operation within the body to improve health and recovery. Managing recovery between training sessions is critical to maximize your training consistency and adaptation. Learning and incorporating proper recovery methods and modalities will allow you to train more frequently and get more from each training session. Finally, perhaps the most neglected and overlooked component of success in sport is the power of the mind. Getting yourself in the right mindset to train to your fullest potential and race to maximum ability is one of the toughest things for athletes to learn. It is subsequently also one of the most important abilities for athletes to transform themselves into champions. Practicing mental strategies and learning how to train and compete to your true ability will unlock the complete athlete within you.

To become the best athlete you can become and reach your fullest potential in the least amount of time possible, you must address these six crucial components of fitness development: aerobic conditioning, muscular stability, skill proficiency, optimal nutrition, recovery management, and mental strength. When any one of these components is neglected or underdeveloped, an athlete will fall short of their maximum ability. By incorporating these components into your training lifestyle you will be able to consistently improve your performance year after year. Don’t fall into the trap that

there is only one path to improvement, doing the same thing over and over. Rather, choose to expand your vision and athletic ability by addressing these six components of fitness to allow yourself to continually evolve and improve as an endurance athlete.

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