Endurance athletes require a higher level of fitness and nutrition than most people. Look at the shape you have to be in to start training for an Ironman. Active.com says you should already be able to swim three times a week for an hour per session and bike comfortably for an hour and a half.
All that time and dedication can come with a steep price tag. There’s always a new item or training supplement promising you’ll lift more, run faster or swim longer. You can buy equipment used, but if you’re buying top-of-the-line stuff, things can get expensive quickly.
A report from the Courier-Journal of Kentucky estimates training and equipping yourself for an Ironman costs around $17,000. You need a gym membership to train, a bathing suit, a bike, running shoes, workout clothes, a wetsuit, goggles, a fuel belt and more.
If you’re interested in endurance sports, you don’t want money to limit your performance, and you probably don’t want to throw away money on anything. Here are five money-saving hacks for endurance athletes.
1. Find like-minded people
Being in a group with fellow endurance athletes is one of the best ways to save time and money. You can to talk shop and learn about deals on gear, or what gear is not worth it. You have a built-in group to vet the latest trends and equipment before you thrown down your money. You may also be able to try out equipment other people have. For example, you could test drive a friend’s bike (read up here if you're curious about bicycle insurance), or borrow their fuel belt for a run before you purchase your own.
2. Stretch your food budget
Athletes have to eat. Food keeps you moving through those extreme workouts. Shop for fresh and in-season produce in the grocery store for the lowest prices, and avoid packaged foods that cost more. Buying in bulk also saves money. Consider a Costco or BJ’s membership.
Endurance athletes who need a lot of protein and calories can also save money by making a few food switches. Try mixing your ground beef with oatmeal and pureed beans, as Stack.com suggests. This adds more fiber to your meat so it's more filling. You can get double the burgers with the same amount of meat. It’s a nutritional and financial win.
3. Do-it-yourself snacks
Energy and meal bars are almost a religion for endurance athletes, but they can get expensive after a few purchases. To save money, learn to make your own. Here’s one recipe for bars from Bodybuilding.com. Buy the ingredients you need in bulk to save more money. Making your own bars cuts down on expenses and decreases waste, since you won’t have to deal with the cardboard boxes and individual bar wrappers.
You can also save money by skipping precut vegetables and fruits at the store. Buy your carrots, peppers and apples whole, then wash and slice them yourself. Store them in in the fridge so they’re ready to go.
4. Shop in advance
It’s not uncommon for athletes to sign up for a race or fight a year in advance. Use the time to your advantage. Shop seasonal sales for your gear, and keep an eye on prices for the most expensive things you need.
Check sites like Craigslist for discounts on used gear. You never know when something you need will end up on there for $60 instead of $160.
5. Travel hack
A lot of well-known competitions require travel. The Ironman World Championship is in Hawaii, a beautiful but expensive destination.
Start your endurance career at less expensive destinations. There’s no need to fly halfway around the world when you’re starting out. Local competitions still count.
Also consider getting a travel rewards credit card to help with your flight and hotel costs. Stay with friends, or at a lower-cost Airbnb instead of an expensive hotel. Travel hacking can save hundreds of dollars per trip.
Competing in endurance sports shouldn’t take a huge bite out of your budget. Push yourself to the limit, not your wallet.