The back cover of my coach Fiona Ford’s recently published book ‘Back on Track’, recounting her recovery from a car accident to Age Group World Ironman Champion, bares the Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘endurance’:
The fact of enduring (pain, hardship, annoyance); the habit or the power of enduring; often absol. as denoting a quality, long suffering, patience.
The word is rather freely brandished nowadays but its meaning only just hit home. Fiona’s example of celebrating each small, not necessarily linear, progression shows how one drop of rain, many times in the same place, will wear a hole in a stone.
Yet endurance denotes a dogged attitude, and alone is not what will enable you to progress. With it, you need patience:
The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
By the very nature of endurance pursuits, both your career and sport, you need to practice patience to understand you will not navigate a road block by simply going hard at it. Becoming annoyed and tense at failure or delay only hinders. I noticed this the other day at swim squad.
After steady linear progression in reducing my swim time last season, I found after my post season rest I could not pick up from where I had left off and was even slowing down. I had worked so hard on technique and felt energised but frustrated by the regression. One night I even lashed out at a fellow squad member for failing to follow communal swimming etiquette. I needed to calm down. At the following squad session, when it came to the speed/CSS set I just let my body go into autopilot and focused on rhythm: I smashed last season’s times.
Similarly, at the beginning of my career I quickly rose up the ranks to a junior manager role but no matter how I tried I was not making it up to the next promotion. My frustration was outwardly visible in the aggression I approached projects and targets but all this did was drain physical energy. My mum suggested I focus this tension into my sport instead of worrying about my job. When I finally heeded her advice my race season results skyrocketed and I found the next, slightly unorthodox, career move.
Yes you need endurance to continually grow but without patience, in all likelihood, you will become frustrated and give up.The mind is a powerful tool, engaging it leads to success and destruction. Over Winter base training, after bracing outdoor training conditions, I will be reheating my body whilst researching how to channel psychology into physiology.
Forever packing training around my job and social life I need nutrition on the go. Hence why I’m a fan of this Toasted Hazelnut Salted Date Caramel Smoothie which can be taken as a protein rich breakfast on the go following training or as a satisfying dessert.
The hazelnuts give this drink a rich flavour, particularly suited to Winter cravings. They are also suited for colder temperatures as the flavonoids in them are thought to aid circulation. The B vitamins within these small spheres are important in proper cell and energy metabolism so great for restoring you for the next training session or whatever the rest of the day has in store. Be mindful though of their high calorie content.
Dates are one of nature’s sweets providing a quick energy boost after an intense workout due to containing glucose, fructose and sucrose. The high iron dose is particularly useful for vegetarians or menstruating athletes.
Bananas have long been athletes favoured fruit. They provide slow release which has been proven to aid endurance athletes before, during and post exercise.
Their potassium content is helpful for the runners who suffer from bowel problems by acting as a natural plug. In this smoothie, along with the dates, the banana binds the other ingredients for a lip-licking creamy texture.
Plant based milks have soared in popularity. They are a god send for lactose sufferers but the rise in sales is mostly due to clever advertising suggesting they are “healthier” alternatives to animal derived milk. Those trying to follow a restricted diet might reach for almond milk, which has less than half the calories of a glass of skimmed milk, and no sugar. Soy milk packs 8 grams of protein per serving, as much as a glass of cow’s milk. So there are benefits to dairy free milks. Many plant-based milks are fortified but some don’t contain as much calcium or vitamin D as cow’s milk. You must also be careful to check each brand’s nutritional label. Stick with pasteurized, unsweetened varieties. Almond Breeze Chocolate milk, for instance, has 20 grams of sugar, as much as there is in a Cadbury Cream Egg!
Over this long, cold and dark Winter training programme, be patient, stay strong and cheer every minor increment achieved. They will lead you somewhere.