During a conversation I was having with two elite athletes before going to their training, we chatted while having a coffee as one of them looked through the pages of a newspaper that wrote about several endurance races. Once read that news, he invited us to his reflection asking us: “But, why do so many people compete every weekend in so many endurance competitions around the world? We as professional athletes earn our living with it, but why do they do it?” At that moment an interesting conversation was generated that revolved around this idea: we train and compete because we were born to train and compete.
Indeed, the human being since has been evolving from that species that lived in the trees as some primates do today, has managed to develop the intelligence and with it the way of life thanks to the fact that has always been an “active being”. Many of the advances we have experienced have been closely linked to our continuous movement to hunt for food, to move to places more conducive to being inhabited and also and very important, in search of satisfying a very human characteristic: curiosity.
Nowadays, competitions of two, three or more consecutive days are observed as extraordinary, such as the Spartathlon, the Sables Marathon, the Titan Desert or the Tour de France. And in fact they are, because they suppose that an athlete reaches to the maximum, both physically and mentally, knowing him or herself to the limit, thus breaking down the barriers of a society that is marked by the words “easy”, “immediate” and “free”, just the opposite of what anyone who wears a race number and competes in one of those events mentioned or in others raced in a single day that requires a great demand: the IRONMAN or any other shorter triathlon, cycling events, marathons or trails/ultratrails.
The origins of our abilities as distance runners and of that genetic predisposition to activity come from the moment where we needed to run to eat. At that time most of the animals that could suppose food for the whole tribe were faster than us, so two qualities were needed: intelligence and… endurance. Based on a well-planned persecution that could last several days, our ancestors managed to hunt enduring more than their prey could, as they were faster but less prepared to withstand an effort as long as needed during those first competitions: hunters against preys.
It is clear that today more variables have been added to this evolutionary base since in training and competing the social part with which to belong and be accepted in a group is key for many people. Others are attracted to fashion and the consumption of sporting gear that many companies launch to the market on a frequent basis. In addition, surely everyone knows of the multiple health benefits of habits associated with sports and more and more people come to see even a true lifestyle around training and competing. And as many researches tell us, one of the essential bases of happiness lies in giving meaning to what is done each day.
Movement is natural to human being: evolving has drove us to have 656 muscles, 206 bones and 268 joints that allow us to move so being immobile is something that our body doesn’t understand. In other words, sedentary lifestyle goes against the nature of the human body and for that reason is the triggering factor of many health problems. Many years ago we had to hunt but now we have the aliments served as soon as we open the fridge or the pantry so the need for that movement to get foods disappeared and we have to balance that through, for example, physical activity.
Training is intimately associated with oxygen, the main character of life. Among other functions enables each muscle fiber to fulfill its great purpose: to contract and relax to link movements, to conquer more meters, more kilometers, more landscapes. As a result, all that activity leads to the pleasant sensations around adding one more day of training.
When you also reach the culminating moment, the competition, the metabolic processes leaded by the adrenaline accelerate even more the feeling of pleasure, achievement, challenge, something that you will want to repeat in the future by leaving a positive memory imprint.
By evolution, by health, by exiting the circle of comfort, by fashion, by socialization, by happiness, by conquest or by physiology, it is clear that we are prepared to train and compete, that at our roots we are determined for this and that by uniting the characteristics of the present moment, the resulting combination are millions of athletes challenging themselves to enjoy the next session and the next race number.