How to Prepare Your Body For An Endurance Event

Categories Lifestyle

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The nation’s capital might be 10,000km away from Mount Everest but Canberra law student Jackson Bursill (above) is preparing to scale the world’s highest mountain this weekend . . . well, kind of.

Bursill is organising and competing in the NEVEREST Challenge at Mount Ainslie across March 31 and April 1, where teams and individuals will ascend the equivalent of Everest’s 8848m — that’s 53 repetitions of the Mount Ainslie walking track, tallying 106km in total — to raise money for Nepalese communities ravaged by earthquakes.

How do you even begin to prepare your body for that kind of punishment? Jackson has the answers.

Build a base of endurance

The first step is simple, Bursill says. “There’s no substitute for mileage. The endurance base is built up using long runs and other aerobic activity performed over a long time with low intensity. For a vertical hiking challenge like NEVEREST, some of the best training I’ve found is to load my backpack up with a bit of extra weight and do hill reps for at least three hours.”

If you’re a beginner, though, don’t go rushing to lug backpacks full of bricks just yet. “If I was getting into training for the first time I’d definitely want to take it slowly and not go too big in the first few weeks, slowly work up to it over time. It’s about working out what your body can handle and what works for you.”

Strengthen mental resilience

Psychological hurdles are easy to jump over if your drive is coming from the right place, according to Jackson. “Helping the victims of the Nepal Earthquake, was a big driver in me completing the 9000 vertical metre challenge for the first time in 2015,” explain Bursill, who’s travelling to Nepal next month with sponsor Kathmandu to see the results of his fundraising efforts. “When I first completed the challenge there were many times in the final hours of the it where I wanted to stop, I was falling over and was seeing things in the forest but we’d backed ourselves in with the fundraising and I knew I was either going to finish or be carried out.”

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Canberra’s Mt Ainslie.

Have a rest

Bursill says his training routine — just one rest day per week — is common, but it’s important to know the difference between soreness and a potential injury. “A general or global soreness, particularly one that sets in a day or two after an intensity session, is a sign that your muscles are recovering and you can probably keep training. When the pain is more acute particularly if it’s in one of the tendons, joints or ligaments, then it’s best to be conservative in any decision to keep training through the pain.”

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Fuel your body

Jackson insists nutrition as the single biggest challenge endurance athletes face, but you only need to look at the variety of advice doled out by the world’s best ultra-runners to see that it’s an individual choice. “Some people can eat more than others and some can’t handle solid foods and have to stick to the energy dense gels and liquids,” he explains. “But it’s clear that hydration, particularly electrolytes, plays a crucial role in absorbing energy and many athletes have moved towards drinking a low sugar electrolyte mix instead of water for the entire duration of endurance events. This seems to set the stomach up to be able to take on food and other energy more efficiently.”

The event itself

How do you keep your mind focused after pounding the pavement for 106km and almost 9,000 vertical metres? “Since the challenge is very repetitive, it’s important to make conversation with your team-mates and other people doing the challenge,” Bursill says. “It helps to set a schedule for each lap, look at how long it takes to up and down and try to keep the same time and not slow down too much throughout the event. It’s also really important to be strict on your breaks, set a time limit and stick to it.”

There are also events in Sydney and Melbourne as Jackson strives to raise $100,000 for Nepal. For more info, visit at the NEVEREST website at projectneverest.com