Victoria Burgess knows a thing or two about setting goals and sticking to them. In 2018, Burgess paddled 115 miles from Cuba to Key West, Florida. The completion of the crossing landed her the record for the fastest female paddler to cross the Florida Straits via SUP.
Burgess planned out a training schedule ahead of time, and despite working a full-time job and coping with a death in the family, she ultimately stuck to her plan and completed the crossing.
While most of us don’t have athletic feats quite like Burgess’ on our bucket list, we can attest to having personal aspirations of some kind. Whether it's running a marathon, going on your first backpacking trip, or competing in a local standup paddle race, we have to prepare weeks, months, even years ahead of time to achieve our goals.
As an endurance athlete and certified sports nutritionist, Burgess is more qualified than most to give advice in this department. Here, the 33-year-old shares her top advice for tackling the physical, mental, and nutritional aspects of training for an endurance event.
When thinking about physical goals for the year, it’s important to consider both long and short term. The one thing I have learned from being an ultra-endurance athlete and working full time is that every little bit adds up for the long-term goal.
For example, a realistic goal for everyone to set out for is just baseline fitness. If you are able to get yourself on some type of schedule, even just by working out 3-4 times a week at any pace or intensity, you can develop a solid base that will allow you to set higher goals.
It’s hard after a long day at work to want to go workout, so the tip I give – and use myself – is that you have to go into what I like to call ‘robot mode.’ This is when you get home, put on your shoes, and walk back out the door. Although you don’t want to do it, you will feel much better when it’s done. Sometimes, you may have planned for a longer workout, but then something comes up, and you can’t do the full hour. But you can do 20-30 minutes. Do it. Every little bit counts.
When I am training for a big event, I take about two-three days and write out a solid training plan (physically and nutritionally) that will bring me to the date of the event. Everything is written down for specific days, that way when the day comes I just look at my calendar and see what’s written and do it. I don’t have to think about it.
When it comes to athletic training, nutrition is a huge part of the whole performance package, and one that is often overlooked or misunderstood.
A healthy diet for an active person is a balance between good carbs, fats, and protein. Carbs and fats are important as an athlete, as they are your two main sources of energy. Often, people think carbs are ‘bad’ or will make them ‘fat’ – this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Another thing I often see is athletes not eating enough, which leads to a decrease in muscle mass. Protein is also not consumed enough. It is recommended that 2.2g/kg be consumed for an athlete to promote proper muscle protein synthesis (muscle recovery).
Not everyone is the same and no nutritional strategy will work the same for one person as it will for another. The type, time, and intensity of an athlete’s workout will change the amount of macros needed in their daily diet to be able to support such workouts.
Mental strength is another big factor, in all events, short or long. Being able to really dig deep and push through uncomfortable moments, or moments when you are tired, comes from deep within.
It is tough, as most people who compete also hold jobs and have families, bills, etc. And then you add in a training program, and an event or goal, and you are really tapped to the max.
Write everything down. Mentally, this is a huge relief—I’m not storing it in my brain and I can actually plan out step-by-step what’s going to happen and when. Understand why you are doing what you are doing. Have solid answers so that in tough times you can remind yourself why you are doing it.
Look at motivational quotes on Pinterest. Think positive. Don’t beat yourself up. If you miss a workout day because you are exhausted, it’s okay!
Make time for the things you love the most. When I was training for my crossing, if the surf was up, I was out in the water. It’s the place I go that clears my mind from everything else, and when I come out I’m refreshed and ready to tackle the world.
When you are training for an endurance event, pay attention to where your mind goes on your longer days. It will likely be amplified on the day of your event, so if you can pinpoint any issues beforehand and learn ways to combat them, that will help.
Often times, it has to do with what you eat. Lack of glycogen can lead to mental fatigue (which is why I got to eat all sorts of goodies on my paddle). You’re going to get tired, you’re going to get sore, and you’re going to be bored. But you can do it. You just can’t stop moving. Keep going forward, one stroke or step at a time and you will get there.
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