If I were asked to pick a few sports that challenge muscle endurance the most, it is very likely for soccer and distance cycling to be in the top 5. As I’m sure you know, the World Cup has been going on for the past couple of weeks and is now entering the final round of competition. What some of you may not know, is that the Tour De France is also currently in progress.
Both sports are incredibly inspiring to watch. One of the things that I first noticed is that none of these athletes ever stop moving! This is a true test of endurance. Preventing your body from standing still is a lot harder than it sounds. Unlike Sprinters (who run as fast as they can, stop, and then run again), endurance athletes engage specific muscle fibers that specialize in lasting longer, fatiguing slower, and constant movement. These fibers are slow twitch (type 1) muscle fibers which are a lot leaner and longer in comparison to the average fiber types of a body builder or wrestler (who mostly have fast twitch, type 2 muscle fibers).
Endurance athletes also have to eat the right ratio of nutrients (which keep them lean) to maximize performance. The typical endurance athlete follows a diet roughly comprised of 65% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 20% fat. This is much different than a body builder’s diet which can be 55% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 20% Fat. Endurance training requires more carbohydrates and less protein than many other sports. The extra carbohydrates supply endurance athletes with a good deal of energy to assist in their long distance/duration races. The smaller doses of protein allow the athletes to move more efficiently. The more excess muscle an endurance athlete has, the more they have to work to move around. Think of the difference between a car (endurance athlete) and a truck (sprinter). Which one uses more gas? The truck uses a whole lot more! Same concept applies for endurance sports. Who wants to travel across the country in an 18-wheeler when you have a hybrid car in your garage?!?
So, if you are interested in seeing some world class endurance athletes, check out the World Cup final game this Sunday and watch the Tour De France for the next 3 weeks! Notice how those athletes are built and move differently than those who play other typically American sports such as football. And keep in mind, although it takes training and resilience, perhaps endurance training is the new sport for you!