I ran my first marathon in 2010. It was the Rock n’ Roll marathon in San Diego. Prior to that, I played baseball, football, and lacrosse throughout my high school years and even a bit at UCLA. I loved being on a team, I loved the exercise, the camaraderie, and the competition. I had no idea what was in store for me when I broke out on my own and started endurance training.
It wasn’t until I went for the long haul that I began to understand what it’s like to push myself beyond my physical limits and my mental capacity. It wasn’t until then that I learned how to understand my mind and body on a deeper level. What does it take to continue to push through the thoughts that told me I couldn’t do it? They told me I wasn’t going to make it. And they told me that I shouldn’t be running this much. They told me that it’s bad for me and that it will have negative, long term effects. Well, some of those thoughts were correct. There were definitely long term effects, they just weren’t negative. That race was 15 years ago and those effects were more positive than I could’ve ever imagined.
Upon crossing the finish line that day, I had a great realization, “If I can do this, I can do anything!” I know it sounds like an after school special, but it kind of is. I fell in love with training and later racing. I started feverishly looking at new, cool events for which I could train. I found the Malibu Triathlon. It was in my neighborhood and would add cycling and swimming to my running. MESP (Michael Epstein Sports Productions), the organizers of the triathlon, also put on the Balance Bar Adventure Racing Series. A new career was born!
Adventure Racing consists of three main disciplines, mountain biking, kayaking, and trekking or moving forward on foot. If you can run, you should, but if you need to power hike or walk, do that. It also included navigation, rappelling and the occasional swim. These events had everything I loved; being in nature, pushing myself, competition, experiencing new things, travel, community and more! Today, the sport doesn’t exist the way it used to, but the benefits of endurance training continue to enhance my life.
All that racing was 10-15 years ago and while I still run marathons, the occasional ultra marathon, long distance mountain bike races and the occasional triathlon, I truly have shifted the way I think about life, career, relationships and overall well-being. My challenge to you is to find your edge, then, safely, blow right on by it and see what lies ahead. You’ll be surprised!
Here are my 6 Life Benefits that I’ve gained from being an endurance athlete:
1. I’ve been able to create balance in my life more readily. It takes a lot of time, effort and commitment to train for these events. I am married, work more than full time and I must be incredibly precise when scheduling training otherwise all areas of life get out of whack.
2. Increased body awareness. I’m acutely aware of all the nuances in my body because I know I need to be 100% in order to compete. I’m always looking to recover properly with yoga, massages, meditation, and proper nutrition.
3. Decreases stress in my life. By experiencing intense exercise over longer periods of time, I build a tolerance to challenges and suffering. This has allowed my sensibility to life’s minutiae to diminish. I’ve been able to let go of the little things that used to bother.
4. Better physical and cardiovascular health. I know it’s obvious, but it’s still worth noting, exercise is the number one thing you can do to live healthier. It is true that you cannot exercise away a bad diet, so you have to eat right. But definitely get out and exercise, you will feel better.
5. Restful sleep has always been pretty consistent in my life, but when I started tracking my sleep with the Sleep Cycle app, I found that I slept better when I exercised during the day. And by now, we all know, studies have shown that sleeping 7-8hrs or more each day increases your well-being.
6. Become part of a community. I’ve always wanted to feel part of the “in” crowd. In the beginning of my training and even today many people scoff at how much exercise I do, but those who understand it and reap the benefits all share this incredible gift of a very unique experience of life. We’ve created our own “in” crowd. Come join us! On twitter @teddymcdonald
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