Welcome to this post: Improving Endurance and Fueling for Performance.
Fitness Performance Implications
Running and cycling outdoors both require the ability to endure a few things: elevated heart rate for a specific duration of time, muscle fatigue/cramps, perspiration, preventing dehydration, dizziness and depletion.
Hydration is perhaps the most important component, for strarters. Drinking water and replenishing electrolytes is essential, especially when exercising in the heat to avoid depletion.
Fueling the Body
In regards to prepping your body nutritionally, a few things come to mind:
- Eat foods that provide you with the optimum amount of nutrients (fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts)
- Do not consume empty-calorie foods. (foods lacking a strong nutritional value). These foods include: soda, processed foods, candy, bakery items, etc.
- When running and/or cycling on a regular basis, it is important to keep your body adequately hydrated, to restore the fluids you’ve lost during exercise to keep digestion regular, to regulate your body temperature, and to avoid dry mouth.
- Consider smoothie making. A smoothie is a fantastic way to combine several high-nutrient items in a tasty and easy to ingest way.
- Reach for superfoods.
- Foods like chia seeds, hemp seeds, acai berry, spinach, mixed berries, almonds, avocado (just to name a few) are excellent foods to keep on hand–both for smoothie making and to have as snacks.
Physical Preparation for Exercise
Adequate stretching is necessary. Before running and cycling alike, stretching your legs will not only prepare them to perform, but they will feel loose, more mobile, and ready to work. The prime movers: quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles should be main focus. Even though your upper body is not the main force moving you, it helps your overall readiness to do a few trunk twists and arm circles to get your blood flowing to all extremities.
Don’t forget to breathe! Even outside of exercise, taking deep breaths throughout the day will help maintain proper oxygen distribution to all muscle groups. Deep breathing also forces air into your lungs, which increases blood flow to and from your heart. In high school is when I became more aware of my breathing while running. Once I maintained an awareness of my breathing throughout my run (in through my nose, out through my mouth, deep breaths, frequently), my running routine was exponentially more enjoyable, not to mention my performance was increased.
Find your stride. This translates directly to running more so than cycling. For me to find my stride, I let my body “relax” into the natural way that my body advances forward. Knees aren’t too high, you’re not pounding the pavement, and your arms are not flailing. You are striding forward, cushioning your feet as they contact the ground, aware of your breathing, and settling into your authentic gait. While cycling, you can similarly find your own natural rhythm, one that gets the most power out of your legs without exhausting yourself immediately. This comes with time, but when you find your authentic gait and rhythm, you’ve reached a new level of enjoyment!
Progressing for Future Workouts
Strengthening your legs muscles should be your main focus.
Also, as my high school volleyball coach always told me “If you want to become a better jumper, jump more.” This applies directly to running and cycling. If you want to become a better runner, run more. If you want to become a better cyclist, ride more.
There is no substitute for running and cycling as the preparation for those activities, respectively. However, it will help your performance to isolate and develop each of the main muscles that your body uses to run and cycle. The single best exercise you can do to strengthen legs is a one-legged squat. Simply described, you basically balance on one leg and squat down as far as you can while maintaining balance and ability to push yourself back up. Other great exercises to strengthen legs include squats (using both legs), lunges, and calf raises. You can also do more advanced versions of these by performing squat jumps, lunge jumps, and jump roping.