Ultra-endurance sports: a challenge for body and mind

Ultra trail runner in extreme conditions
Ultra-distance: exploring the true potential of the human being

Ultra-endurance sports push back the physical and mental limits. In these extreme conditions, how do the body and mind react? Where do we draw the line between sport for performance and sport for health? More importantly, do sportsmen and women think about insurance in the event of an accident? Éric Lacroix, a leading figure in the world of endurance sports, gives us his analysis of the interaction between body and mind in extreme conditions.

Between health and risk

The world of ultra-endurance may seem extreme, with its long-distance races, hours of intense effort and demanding courses.

The athlete must keep a “health” perspective

To avoid sport becoming harmful, it is essential to “raise our level of awareness in order to analyse the reasons that drive us to practise”. Éric Lacroix, mental trainer and neuroscience practitioner, also stresses the exploratory nature of the physical and mental experience. “It’s all about sensations. This introspection is the key to staying healthy in these ultra-endurance sports”.

Cyclist at a triathlon competition
The ability to push one’s limits depends on a deep understanding of one’s physical capacities

Fear and risk-taking in long races

Fear is a complex emotion that can play a significant role in extreme conditions. “Fear is not necessarily negative,” explains the former top-level runner. “It can be a natural reaction to a real danger, triggering a physical stress that gives us the energy we need to face it.

However, fear can sometimes develop into a persistent and damaging emotional state. On a physical level, chronic stress affects the immune and cardiovascular systems, penalising the athlete during exercise. “We need to understand the different facets of fear in order to know how they influence our behaviour,” stresses Éric, before turning to the concept of alexithymia. “This is when the brain fails to interpret emotions. The absence of fear can sometimes lead to excessive risk-taking, particularly during sporting events in the great outdoors. It is therefore essential to maintain a balance between emotional awareness and risk management.

Going beyond individual limits

The ability to push your own limits depends on many factors. These include self-confidence and a deep understanding of your physical abilities.

Giving your body time to adapt

Progressive training and an understanding of individual limits are the keys to avoiding injury. Endurance athletes need to appreciate their ability to shape their bodies to the demands of their discipline. “Genetically, the body has a remarkable capacity to adapt,” says Éric. “But this requires an intelligent training programme based on the perception of our sensations and our physical resources at a given moment.

Swimmer during a triathlon event
Athletes must gradually adapt their bodies to the constraints of their sport.

Hyper-awareness: the key to adaptability

Hyper-awareness is a key concept in the world of ultra-endurance. It’s about being aware of your own abilities, your environment and your body’s signals. This enables athletes to make informed decisions and adapt to changing situations.

Athletic performance and resilience

As well as being correlated with each individual’s objectives, performance is often based on the notion of contingency, i.e. accepting that not everything will go according to plan. “In the quest for a result or a time, some people are capable of pushing back their mental limits in order to endure the pain”, says our interviewee. “Others rely on adaptation and physical compensation to overcome these challenges.

On the edge of our physical and mental limits

Ultra-endurance sports go beyond simple physical exertion. They are an ongoing exploration of our limits, a profound quest for the true potential of the human being. “These sporting practices push back the limits of resilience, perseverance and adaptability, while highlighting man’s exploratory nature”, says the practitioner. A quest to surpass oneself and explore the extreme is a fundamental part of human nature.

Endurance runner during the Marathon des Sables
The Marathon des Sables: the ultimate long-distance running event

Sports insurance for free practice

Hiking, trail running, cycling, triathlon, open water, mountain biking, ultra-trail… In outdoor endurance sports, where the athlete explores his or her mental and physical limits, it’s important to remember the importance of sports insurance. An article on the Assure Ton Sport blog explores the subject in detail. To read it, click here.

Beyond the possible

As athletes take on increasingly extreme challenges, they are exposed to considerable risks. “Long-term health and safety must be a priority in these demanding sporting activities,” Éric stresses. Accidents can happen at any time, anywhere, putting their health at risk. That’s why it’s so important to have adequate insurance cover for the risks inherent in their sport. “This allows sportspeople to concentrate on their performance without fearing the financial consequences of an injury,” he says.

Peace of mind

The insurance policy designed by Assure Ton Sport offers peace of mind and valuable protection for those who push back the limits of their physical and mental endurance. It covers almost 400 sporting disciplines, all over the world, with assistance available 24/7. Medical transport, repatriation, legal protection, disability capital, medical and rehabilitation expenses, search and rescue, etc. Cover and formulas adapted to all types of physical and sporting activity: regular training, leisure/recreational activities, competitions, professional practice.

“We want every athlete to be able to pursue their passion with complete peace of mind. That’s why we also insure people with reduced mobility (handisport) and have introduced hospital daily allowance packages to guarantee optimum service”, stresses Rodolphe Le Claire, founder of Assure Ton Sport.

Trail runner during an ultra-distance race
Insure yourself to enjoy your sporting activity with complete peace of mind

By Charly Colin