Ten Things I've Learned as an Endurance Athlete
1. The older I get, the more important warm-up, stretching and cool down become. I’ve learned the hard way that stretching is a key component of staying healthy while staying active.
2. Another component of remaining healthy is weight training. I’ll skip a day on the trails or in the water regularly, but I won’t skip my day in the weight room. I’ve always lived with the idea that once you lose it (strength), it’s incredibly difficult to get it back.
3. A well known running coach once asked, “what is the purpose of your workout?” While the answer used to be “to become faster, stronger, fitter…”, the answer these days is so that I can continue to enjoy my active lifestyle. I want to remain fit enough, strong enough and fast enough to continue doing anything I enjoy, whether that’s riding up mountains, open water swimming or fly-fishing waist deep in a river with a strong current.
4. Honestly, I don’t care about racing or athletic performance anymore. The candle that burned so brightly throughout my teens, twenties and thirties has gone out. I don’t mean that negatively, only that I don’t care about numbers anymore. The days of riding with my head tucked and eyes on my watch are gone. Nowadays, I’ve got my head up and my eyes on my surroundings - soaking in everything and enjoying another day on the trails or the slopes.
5. Before you go outside, take a couple minutes and put on sunscreen...trust me on this.
6. One thing that hasn’t changed, but took a while to learn, is you have to rest as hard as you train. And by “train” I mean any type of activity that I enjoy these days. An easy day could be a spin on the bike or an easy swim at the pool...or maybe just a nap and a cerveza.
7. Eat more protein. When I was training tons of miles daily, I could eat anything I wanted and stay lean and mean. But, once you hit your forties and beyond, it gets harder to build and maintain muscle mass. The answer is to eat more protein. I’m a work in progress on the no meat thing...I was born and raised in Iowa, so meat was a staple. That said, I’m watching the bacon intake these days.
8. Another thing that has remained consistent throughout my active life is...consistency. As a lifetime endurance athlete, I fully appreciate and understand the need for training regularly in order to develop, maintain and build fitness. So, I still get out the door every day. It may be on a mtb, SUP or with a fly-rod in my hand, but I make a point of getting after it daily.
9. This one’s about my kids. The biggest thing I want to pass on to them is to live healthy, active lives. And, in order to do that, you have to take care of your bodies. I’m in the process of providing them with all of the tools and health they need to start their adult lives. Although I believe competition offers several valuable lessons for children, I haven’t pushed it. Perhaps I’ve witnessed too many aggressive parents out there, but I’m more interested in my girls enjoying sport and wellness over their lifetimes and not just during their teen years. Between including them in my adventures over the past fifteen years and leading by example, I’m hopeful they’re on the right path.
10. Always listen to your body. That was my main method of training as a professional athlete and it remains that way today. Yes, somedays I tell my body to “shut up, I’ll do what I want!”, but with a lifetime of experience and listening, I’ve learned that my body is always right...especially when it tells me I could use some ice cream.
11. Yeah, I know this is supposed to be a list of 10 things I’ve learned as an endurance athlete, but here’s a bonus one for you. As an athlete and outdoors enthusiast who truly enjoys all that the earth has to offer, I play my part in protecting and preserving it. If not us, then who will fight to protect it?!