Endurance exercise classically means long-distance, long-duration workouts which target the cardiorespiratory aspect of fitness. For example, this might involve taking part in a marathon, a triathlon, or even cross-country skiing.
Here at Puori, some staff members recently took part in a marathon rowing event, inspired by one of the events at the 2018 CrossFit Games. It involved 42195m of rowing – some distance! As with everything we do at Puori, the team spent a good deal of time looking into what a marathon row involved and we were particularly interested in its impact on the human body. In fact, that is how this blog post was born. Read on and you will find that it provides some important tips on what we discovered from experience about the pros and cons of long-distance workouts and how you might want to approach such an event if the opportunity arises.
Do you want to commit to it?
The first thing to register is the level of commitment required to seriously participate in any endurance sport. This is both a pro and a con. Whilst there is a huge sense of accomplishment when completing an endurance event there is only a relatively small proportion of people on the planet who can say that they have actually completed one in a reasonable time. On the flip side though, an endurance event is not something you can wake up one morning and just do. Alas, the only way to train for any long event is to do lots of long workouts – long runs, or long rows, over many months. There is also a lot of planning required for workouts. For example, we increased our workload until around a week before the marathon rowing event before tapering back to allow ourselves to rest and recover before the big day.
Exercise is good for you, a marathon may not be
Although we can all agree that exercise is beneficial to the body – minimally, it helps maintain body weight, prevents muscle loss as we get older, and can help us live healthier, longer, happier lives. However, any type of marathon event is a real physical test.
In fact, you might be interested to know that part of the reason we at Puori chose to do a marathon row, was to prevent some of the physical risks associated with running a marathon. Although we really love running, in comparison to rowing it is a high-impact activity which can put a huge strain on muscles, as well as wear and tear on ligaments and soft tissues. This is especially the case with someone new to running. In any case, overuse injuries are common in endurance events – in marathons, tour cycling and other sports (1). Even by choosing marathon rowing, we were aware that this can put huge stress on our bodies – for instance, it can lead to a temporary decrease in the efficient functioning of the immune and hormonal systems, and can also cause a huge spike in inflammation in the body (2). So much so that someone participating in a marathon event may not feel like themselves for a few days as they recover.
Is weight loss your goal?
For many people, exercise is a way to socialise, stay active and clear the mind. For others, the principal aim is to lose some weight. Yet research has shown that endurance or even moderate-intensity activity may not, unfortunately, be the best option for weight loss. Amateur runners and other endurance athletes often find that shortly after a workout, they become ravenously hungry and easily match the number of calories that they have just burnt off by consuming a snack as a ‘reward’ for their efforts. So, if you really want to lose weight try high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It’s the best way to achieve weight loss as HIIT decreases hunger hormones, such as ghrelin (3).
Actually, doing a marathon row
Here are our tips for participating in an endurance event. Note, some of the Puori team did a full marathon while others did a half marathon row, and some did a full marathon row as a pair, or as a team, depending on their fitness level. But whichever endurance event you decide to participate in, be sure to choose one that is appropriate for your level of fitness.
It’s really important for you to stay hydrated. Why? Well, by doing a marathon row or run, especially on a hot and humid day, you can lose up to four litres of water through perspiration and breathing out. This loss of water puts your body at risk of severe dehydration. Subsequently, this level of dehydration can lead to overheating. So, remember, keep sufficiently hydrated all the way through the event not just at the beginning or end.
What we learnt
Here are a few more things the Puori team learnt from doing a marathon row.
- Take at least six months to train for the event. Your body needs time to get used to working out on the rower.
- Train with friends. It’s much easier to motivate yourself to train if you’re doing it as part of a group of friends or colleagues.
- Taper your training down before the event so you’re appropriately rested. This will help prevent injuries.
- One of the Puori team taped a phone to his row erg so he could watch Friends to distract himself. Alternatively, you can listen to music or a podcast to pass the time.
So, to conclude, although a marathon or other endurance activity is a huge challenge for our bodies, ultimately almost all health risks are outweighed by benefits derived from training. And the key to success is to spend time gradually working up to the event and having fun whilst doing so.
If you participate in an endurance event or fancy your chances of a marathon row in the near future, please do let us know how you get on.
- Overuse injuries in sport: a comprehensive overview. Aicale, R., Tarantino, D. and Maffulli, N., 2018.
- Acute and chronic effects of endurance running on inflammatory markers: a systematic review. Barros, E.S et al., 2017.
- High intensity training in obesity: a Meta‐analysis. Turk Y et al. 2017