From sport to success: Harnessing ultra-endurance principles in everyday life

How 30 years of athletic training can transform your approach to work and personal challenges

Benoit Lamouche
5 min readMay 20, 2024

For nearly 30 years, I have devoted a significant portion of my life to sports. It was considered that sports would be my profession when during my youth I was in a high-level sports-studies program with a few other hopefuls in my discipline at the time. Since then, despite choosing a career in a completely different field, sports continue to accompany me daily.

Over the past 20 years of practice, I have chosen to focus on ultra-endurance sports.

What is an ultra-endurance sport? A sport that usually takes place over durations or distances that exceed the standard. For example, for people who run, a marathon is considered a long distance, while an ultra-endurance athlete will focus on distances from 100 to 160 kilometers. For a cyclist, a classic race takes place over 150 to 200km, for ultra-endurance we are rather on distances from 1000 to 2000km. In mountain biking, races are done on 30 to 40km, in ultra-endurance races are rather of the order of 150 to 300 km.

My practice was initially in the field of ultra-trail, then I gradually evolved towards cycling (road, gravel, and mountain biking).

When I line up for a race, it’s usually a minimum of 30 hours waiting for me.

30 hours during which I will be completely autonomous (food, mechanics, logistics) and during which my body and my brain will be severely tested.

On many occasions, I have received comments on the relationship between my professional activity and my sporting activity like «for a guy who runs 100 miles it’s easy» or «for an enduring guy like you this subject is nothing».

It seems to me that indeed my sporting practice allows me to be potentially more «efficient» at work, but it seems to me that it has absolutely nothing to do with physical or psychic endurance.

Cutting large pieces into small pieces

One of the success factors in ultra-endurance is to always cut a huge thing into small pieces.

When you line up for a 160-kilometer ultra-trail, if you want to put all the odds on our side to go all the way, you have to cut the long distance into small pieces.

For the brain, it’s much simpler to run 16 times 10km than 1 time 160km. In the first case, we have 16 repetitions (16 remains a relatively small number) of 10km (a very easy distance for someone who trains regularly). When I start on 160km, in reality, I start on 10km and my only goal is to finish these 10 kilometers which will be very simple at the beginning of the race and much more difficult at the end of the race. And for every 10km completed I add a new one. I just add 10km. And so on.

And at work?

An ability not to make a mountain out of a molehill but on the contrary to see and analyze it as a series of small subjects. This makes everything much simpler.

Without losing sight of the final objective

This remains crucial in an ultra: keep the final objective in mind! If you start your first 10km forgetting that you will have to do 15 more after, you risk «burning out» (starting too fast, having bad food or hydration management, making the wrong choices…). In ultra, you always have to keep the final objective in mind, it’s this realism that allows you to make the right choices and make the right decisions.

And at work?

We can tend to get «lost» along the way when tackling a big project. The people I work with can tell you, I very regularly do «checkpoints» to make sure we don’t lose sight of the final objective.

In the same way that a sailor will have to tack to move forward, the life of projects can make us take a multitude of paths. The important thing is to make sure that these paths lead us to the desired destination.

The hazards and resilience

When I start a 300km mountain bike race I know things will happen to me but I don’t know what: mechanical problem, material breakage, physical problem, injury, fall, fatigue, re-routing depending on the weather, electronic or GPS problems… The list of potential complications is huge. We know it’s going to happen, on the other hand, we don’t know what or when. You have to accept it, and manage the situation in the best possible way depending on the context. Sometimes several of these «incidents» happen at the same time (for example a GPS battery breakdown in the middle of the night in the rain…). With experience and practice, we learn to manage these situations and continue the race. This is often a weak point for those who are new to ultra endurance, they tend to get discouraged and demotivated at the slightest hitch.

And at work?

The practice of ultra-endurance has certainly developed my ability to cope with the unexpected, to manage them and to tell myself that «it will be better tomorrow». Not to make a mountain of the unexpected and know how to manage them as they come.

So, should you start ultra-endurance sports?

Probably not, you will save a lot of time, injuries and premature wear on your metabolism.

However, you can apply these 4 main rules:

  1. All the most complex projects are ultimately only a succession of much simpler and more accessible small tasks.
  2. While it is sometimes said that the journey is more interesting than the destination (a principle to which I subscribe), there are also multiple paths and many opportunities to get lost, it is then important to «re-align» to ensure that our routes lead us to the desired destination.
  3. Surprises are part of project life. Accept that not everything is controllable, that it will happen, and that it will have to be managed as best as possible depending on the context. And to quote a famous French film «life is not a long quiet river».
  4. It will be better tomorrow. Everything ends up passing.

By applying these 4 principles you will put yourself in the shoes of an ultra-endurance athlete.