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Staying Power: Building Your Endurance

Tuesday, April 2014

Whether you’re a runner, cyclist, swimmer, or footy player, aerobic exercise requires endurance so you can keep on moving without running out of steam. So what’s the best way for you to build endurance so you can go stronger for longer? Let’s take a look at a few traditional ways you can boost that stamina of yours – along with a couple of sneaky shortcuts!

Keep on pushin’!
Endurance allows you to work out at a specific intensity for an extended period of time. This might be a 5 km run or a marathon for you – everyone’s endurance abilities are different. Of the variety of factors that make up an athlete’s “endurance profile”, the two most important are your VO2 max and lactate threshold.

VOwhat? VO2 max – the maximum rate at which your body can consume oxygen during exercise – is the most popular measurement of aerobic capacity. Although endurance ability often comes down to genetics, the good news is that maximal oxygen uptake can almost always be improved with targeted training. Remember our friend HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)? HIIT workouts have been shown to help on this front – so if you’re looking to step up your endurance game, then reacquaint yourself with this form of workout.

The next piece of the endurance puzzle is your lactate threshold – the level of exertion at which lactate accumulates in your tired muscles. Again, this is something that can be improved through training. Hooray! To improve your lactate threshold and ability to exercise harder for longer amounts of time, give tempo runs a shot: maintain a specific and consistent pace across a run, then up the pace a little on your next run!

Endurance athletes usually have a higher proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which power steady-state activities like running by using oxygen efficiently to generate more energy. So how can you benefit from this knowledge? Running long distances can train slow-twitch muscles to fuel endurance-based workouts more efficiently, while fighting fatigue more effectively. Enhance your endurance with a continuous practice of longer you’re your usual distance of run to convert fast-twitch muscles into slow-twitch friends!

Your plan of attack: Strengthen that stamina!
So now that we’ve thrown the science above at you, use it in the form of these simple tips to take your endurance to the next level. You’ll be hitting a new PB on distance before you even know it!

  • Rest. Breathe. Take it easy. Your muscles need recovery time to come back fresh for your next work out. Push yourself hard on “hard” days, and take it easy on those “easy” workout days – but try not to string hard days next to one another without enough rest time in between. Your fresh and rested body will help you go the distance!
  • Fuel (and re-fuel!) yourself properly. Carbs are king when it comes to exercise nutrition, since the body uses the glycogen in carbs for fuel when you push it hard. Once you’re all out of glycogen, your body will then look for energy from other sources, like fat (which is perfect for those with a fat-loss goal!). For extended cardio sessions like an endurance run, you’ll need to consume 30-60 grams of carbs every hour, depending on your weight. Head to the fruit bowl and go bananas - literally! Studies have also found that a mix of carbs and protein can enhance endurance performance and reduce muscle damage – win! Be sure to experiment to find the perfect combination for your body.
  • HIIT is your friend. Sometimes, less is more. The quick bouts of intense (and we mean really intense) exercise in High Intensity Interval Training can help you to improve your endurance when combined with traditional training. Spice up your workout with some stair runs, or hit the track for some sprints – just don’t forget to give yourself ample recovery time afterward!
  • Throw some strength training into the mix. Variation is vital when it comes to endurance training. Adding in resistance training can help you to strengthen all of those bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles that carry you through an endurance workout or run. Variety is key here, so chat to your Trainer about how adding a toneup session into your weekly routine will keep challenging your body while building strength.
  • Master your weaknesses. When it comes to fitness, it can be easy to find something you’re good at and just stick with it, when sometimes, you should be focussing on working on other areas that you might not be so hot at! Don’t forget to keep things varied and constantly challenge yourself. If you’re a marathon-style runner, then work on upping your speed. Only ever run over a flat distance? Find some hills and get moving. Dominate your weaknesses and watch your fitness improve across the board!
  • Be smart and adapt – gradually. The gradual adaption principle of slowly and steadily increasing distance and speed is a great way to build your endurance. Your Trainer will be able to provide you with the advice you need to do this safely while avoiding injury.

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Staying Power: Building Your Endurance