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Top 10 Benefits of Endurance Training

Top 10 Benefits of Endurance Training

While some people still question the sanity of people leaving their couch cushions to lace up running shoes, dust off bikes, or snap on goggles, no one can deny that endurance sports are growing—and fast. Perhaps it’s in response to the obesity epidemic, increasing sedentary lifestyle, or just because it’s fun. Whatever the reason, people are leaving the weekend T.V. marathons in droves for the weekend marathon race, Ironman triathlon, or ultra-endurance 100-plus mile ultra races.

I’m guilty of this. While I was always a runner, I didn’t run my first marathon until I was 31 years old. That began my love affair with endurance racing. I am now in training for my first Ironman triathlon, so the relationship has grown stronger over the years.

So what are the benefits of endurance training? Why the appeal? What would make a presumably sane person want to spend hours running, swimming, or biking? While this list is not all-inclusive, here are the top ten benefits I enjoy as an endurance athlete.

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1. Healthier Body

Endurance sports create a stronger, healthier body. Muscles, cardiovascular system, bones, joints, and lungs all learn to adapt to the new task of sustaining a strong pace for hours. Endurance athletes also enjoy faster metabolisms due to more lean muscle mass, so we can indulge our sweet tooth more without the guilt. Sustained exercise also reduces the risk of most debilitating diseases. I lost several immediate family members to cancer, so this was one of the primary reasons I began running.

2. Clearer Thinking

While ramping up the mileage too fast or overtraining can cause mental and physical fatigue, exercise done properly has been shown by researchers to actually help with cognitive function. It was also found to be a preventative to Alzheimer’s in older people. For anyone who has done endurance sports, the best thinking time may be on the road on in the water. Exercise improves circulation throughout the body, and the brain benefits from this.

3. Better Self Image

When I don’t exercise, I struggle with my weight and self image. When I train and participate in endurance races, a very nice side effect is that my clothes fit better. This improves my confidence and interactions with others. After being both fit and overweight at different periods in my life, I certainly would choose the amazing results of endurance training any day over sitting on the couch eating ice cream.

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4. Better Mental Fortitude / Confidence

There is something to be said for surprising yourself and surpassing your perceived limitations. The great thing about endurance training is that you get back what you put in. When you train, you learn your body can do things you never believed possible. You also learn to push past pain and exhaustion to a whole new level of power. When I completed my first marathon, I felt I was invincible. That feeling spills into other areas of life. You learn that hard work and dedication pay off. So, you continue to push against all of life’s limits, not just the physical or fitness barriers.

5. Better Peace of Mind

Runners often joke that running is cheaper than therapy. There is truth to that. Many psychologists believe exercise works at the same level or better than antidepressants, and the studies back this up. It must be all those endorphin surges!

During my dark times, I turned to running and found mental relief from pain and depression. Even if you aren’t sad, running is also a great stress relief from the every-day emotional impacts of life.

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6. Better Sleep

Endurance training helps with better sleep. On days I don’t train, I often have trouble sleeping. However, when I’m on a daily training schedule, running, biking, and swimming hard in all that fresh air and sunshine, World War III couldn’t wake me up at night. I also start my morning refreshed and energized.

7. More Energy

If you can train your body to propel you forward for hours on end through all types of terrain and weather, getting through the day is easy. Your body becomes efficient, and you get more done, in less time, with more energy.

8. Fountain of Youth

Exercise increases production of HGH or Human Growth Hormone. HGH has been tied to many benefits, specifically anti-aging. All exercise increases HGH, but anaerobic exercise is especially helpful. Most endurance athletes also hit the weight room to remain competitive and keep their core strong to reduce injury.

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I’m not proud of this, but I can’t tell you how many times I have been beaten by people well into their 60s. When I speak to these racing veterans, I can’t believe it when they volunteer their age. They always look and act decades younger. I can only hope that I age as gracefully!

9. Amazing Friendships

Endurance sports draw a quality crowd. You meet the type of people who encourage you to pull out the inward athlete and readily share knowledge to help you get there. Some of my best friendships have been forged under the hot sun and glued together with blood, sweat, and tears. Pushing yourself past physical limitations rips away the layers you carefully construct for the world. You become raw and real, and that forms the best foundation for strong relationships. Also, no matter where you travel, when fellow athletes meet you, you often find yourself joining them in a workout. It’s a passionate commonality that connects us.

10. Better Quality and Quantity of Life

No one can deny that regular exercise increases the quality and quantity of life. You reduce the risk of systemic disease and increase life expectancy when you begin endurance training. You enjoy better health, improved self image, clearer thinking, increased energy, mental toughness, better relationships, better sleep, stay younger longer, are happier, and enjoy amazing relationships. This translates into a better over-all existence on this planet.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to ditch the T.V. marathons for some real marathon training! Chose a race, find a club, and hit the road, gym, or pool to enjoy these benefits today.

More by this author

Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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