Endurance training refers to any training designed to increase your aerobic capacity (oxygen uptake). When people think about endurance, they usually think of marathons, running, cycling and swimming, or perhaps a combination of these such as an iron man type of event. But, even if you aren't taking part in these pursuits, improving your endurance has its benefits. These can translate into other forms of training and/or overall health and wellness goals. Improved endurance can:

Aid fat loss and improve body composition.

  • Improve muscular endurance for sport and muscle building.
  • Keep your heart healthy.
  • Give you better sleep quality 

The goal of endurance training is to improve your aerobic capacity which, off-the-bat, is often genetically predetermined. It can, fortunately, be improved by focusing on two factors, namely:

  • Increasing V02 MAX – the rate of oxygen uptake during physical activity.
  • Improving lactate threshold – essentially decreasing the amount of, or rate of, lactate accumulation in the muscles.

Increasing our V02 MAX allows you to push for longer periods while training. This is because increased oxygen uptake helps to meet the additional oxygen requirements of the body during physical activity. Improved lactate threshold works in a similar fashion by allowing you to push harder for longer periods of physical activity. Lessor slower lactate accumulation means delayed muscular fatigue during these periods. Here are three methods to improve your general endurance:

  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – Short but intense bouts of activity such as treadmill sprints, spinning, jumping rope or plyometrics.
  • Switching things up – this is more relevant on the cardiovascular side of training so performing different styles of cardio.
  • Focus on progression – Within your workout plan, regardless of your chosen training style, you need to make sure you are constantly pushing more. This would be in terms of weight, volume, and intensity.

If you want to work towards a specific endurance-based event, your training needs to be more fixed and rigid. Sure, most times when you do your first event it is casual, and you’re probably just aiming to complete it more than anything else. But if you’re serious about improving your times and your performance, you need to have a routine and build up the endurance necessary to ensure your race day outcome is satisfactory. Here is an example of how you could structure your training for a 10km race:

Day 1

Rest day or jog (roughly 4-5km)

Day 2

Medium to high intensity run (roughly 8km)

Day 3

Low Intensity (10km)

Day 4

Low Intensity (4-5km)

Day 5

Medium to High Intensity Run (10km)

Day 6

Low Intensity (6-8km)

Day 7

Low Intensity or jog (12km)

The cycle repeats itself with day 8 being the same as day 1. For low intensity, you want to perform your exercise on a flat surface while medium to high intensity will have inclines, declines and be more challenging.

Every 3-4 weeks following this routine, you’ll want to decrease the week’s overall intensity about 20% and use day 1 as a rest day. The total period of training for your event will depend on the event itself and your fitness level. It would be in your best interest to record your times and strive to improve them.

Another factor to endurance training is your nutrition, because we know a car won’t run on an empty tank. Your meal prior to training should contain little to no fat and fiber with a good portion on protein and carbs. Your meal after training will also need a lean protein but your carbohydrate source can contain more fiber or be low-GI in nature. Good lean proteins include white meats or fish, egg whites or whey protein (isolate is preferential). High-GI or simple carbs (pre-training) could include honey, jelly sweets, low fiber breakfast cereals or an electrolyte-rich drink. While low-GI carbs (post-training) could include oats, sweet potato, butternut, rye bread or whole-wheat pasta. Race day nutrition is also important and would follow a similar pattern to what you’ve eaten before and after practice sessions. Depending on the length of the race or the intensity, one might opt for more high-GI, low fiber carbohydrates during the event. A decent sized, balanced meal at least three hours before the event can also add some fuel to the tank provided you don’t overeat and avoid unusual foods which may upset the intestinal tract.

Regardless of your chosen training plan, it can be beneficial to have a well-rounded approach to your fitness endeavours. By combining a few methods and styles of training which work harmoniously, you can develop a stronger physique and be more physically fit. Just like any training we might do, practice makes perfect, so being consistent will result in consistent progress.

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