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During lockdown, plenty of people took to the streets, parks, oceans, and waterways to participate in solo endurance exercise around flexible working hours. 

Many high-achieving professionals enjoy the challenge and discipline required to prepare for endurance races like marathon running, swimming, cycling and ironman. In fact, preparing for an endurance event is a bit like a legal career – success is built on steady and incremental improvements. It’s also easy to burn out if you aren’t careful. Here are some training tips to keep your performance on a consistent upwards trajectory.

Hydration and diet are key

To compete in any endurance sport, your body must be properly hydrated and fueled. This means following a well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, legumes, complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins. You’ll likely need to increase your food intake (eat larger portions, plan healthy snacks throughout the day) to sustain the high nutritional requirements of endurance training. You also need to drink more water – a drop in hydration levels of just 2 per cent can dramatically impact your performance. Try to keep a water bottle with you and drink regularly throughout the work day.

If you’re not sure how to put an effective nutrition plan together, try a menu from a meal prep company such as EverFit, which is operated by Chef Michael Bakhet and ACERO gym trainer Danny Banoub. Other options include My Muscle Chef, MACROS, Chefgood or Thr1ve. These can be handy for lawyers with busy schedules and help take the guesswork out of maintaining a healthy diet. 

You still need to lift weights

A common misconception about endurance sports is that you’ll be able to quit your gym membership. But strong, flexible muscles are essential for peak performance, and can help protect your joints and limbs from injury. You should incorporate strength training into your weekly schedule with a focus on muscular endurance (higher repetitions). Include key full-body exercises such as push-ups, chin ups and squats. 

Interval training and the role of oxygen

Your body has three energy systems: Alactacid and phosphocreatine (ATP-PC), glycolysis and oxidative. ATP-PC provides effort for short, powerful sprint bursts that last less than 15 seconds. Glycolosis is the medium-length energy system, and oxidative is for long-distance training. While you need to develop each system to get the best results, the oxidative system is key for endurance athletes.

The best way to training your oxidative system is to increase your body’s ability to utilise oxygen (also known as VO2 max). Interval and sprint training are the most efficient ways to do this. Another way to improve oxygen uptake is respiratory training. This consists of breathing exercises that help you use your lungs reach their maximum capacity, strengthening endurance but also reducing stress. Some athletes also try walking underwater or swimming without taking a breath for a number of strokes.

Quality over quantity

Time is a rare and valuable commodity for my clients in the legal profession. When training for an endurance sport, avoid the trap of thinking “more is better”. Focus on deliberate and high-quality training sessions, with planned rest days or recovery sessions, rather than simply clocking up kilometres. If in doubt, consult a PT with expertise in this area.

Rest and sleep

Sleep is an essential part of training because it enables the body to repair and be fit and ready for another day. Rest involves your whole being, not just your body.  Taking rest days can decrease the likelihood of injury and overtraining.

Have fun!

When training or competing, always try to look for the light side when things get tough. It’s important to remind yourself that how you play matters more than whether you win. The real rewards of endurance sports come from appreciating the journey, not by fixating on the destination

Curtis Mackinnon is a fitness trainer at Acero gym in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. He played competitive tennis and cricket for many years before starting to train clients in 2021. He is passionate about keeping people fit and healthy through lockdowns and the global pandemic.