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Endurance Training for the Long Haul

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Endurance is not just for the marathon runner! Each and every one of us have endurance muscles and require endurance to get through the day. Endurance is the ability to exert energy over a prolonged period without fatigue and the ability to recover from the activity (paraphrased from Wikipedia). It is something that you can build up over time to tolerate more and more.

Although a marathon runner is a great example of extreme endurance, it is important to understand that we need endurance for daily tasks or any sport or activity that you plan to do. Depending upon what activity you are planning to do will determine what kind of endurance and how much of it you will need to complete the task.

Let’s take a look at how to get started training, what it would look like for different sports, and what to do when you feel like you’ve plateaued.

New Year, New Goals

Typically people start the new year with a resolution, to be better, do better, accomplish some new thing. If you aren’t a resolutions type of person or believe, like I do, that we should always have new goals to strive towards to make us a better, healthier version of ourselves, then use this as an opportunity to set a new goal as you learn about endurance.

Endurance is important in all aspects of life, not just athletic activities. We need endurance to withstand being on our feet long enough to cook or clean the house, get groceries, walk in/out of buildings, use stairs, and so much more. So getting started will look different for everyone. Is it a task to walk to the mailbox because you are winded or your muscles weaken before you get there? Then this is where you start. Or are you able to run 5 minutes before you have to walk? Depending on where you start to feel fatigue is where you will begin your training.

For example, if 5 minutes of running is all you can do before you have to walk then your first day or week might be running 5 minutes 5 times that week. Next week, try 6 minutes. If this seems too easy then maybe start increasing your time every day or every other day, but know that you should be fatigued by the end in order to challenge your body and increase the endurance with the specific activity.

Endurance Training for All Sports

Your tolerance is not going to increase for every activity in life just because you can run longer. It will surely help with most things, but we use different types of endurance for different activities. There are 2 main types of endurance: cardiovascular and muscular.

Cardiovascular endurance is used with prolonged activity such as walking or running. We have to build up our lung and heart capacity to effectively pump blood and oxygen to our bodies to tolerate longer bouts of these types of activity. Muscular endurance is used with prolonged or repetitive lifting, pushing, and pulling. When our muscles have to perform over and over again to complete a task we use muscular endurance.

Knowing what your goals are will help you determine what type of endurance you need to focus on improving and how to start your training.

  • If your goal is to be able to run a mile without stopping, then you need to gradually build your cardiovascular endurance by increasing the amount of time you can run without stopping.

  • If you want to be able to lift boxes into a truck over and over without stopping for work then your training needs to be focused on muscular endurance. A good place to start is strengthening the muscles you need to use when lifting boxes into a truck and gradually increase how much you can lift for more repetitions.

Keep in mind, we need a bit of both types of endurance for general life tasks: being able to bring groceries into the house using multiple trips going up/down stairs will require both types. In sports, you will need cardiovascular and muscular endurance when trail running due to the uneven surfaces and prolonged distance.

This article shows the importance of both endurance and strength training for runners. Keep in mind, building endurance is a gradual process with consistent effort.

What Happens when we Plateau?

One of the biggest frustrations when building cardiovascular and muscular endurance is when we feel like we are making all kinds of progress and then our body just stops showing many gains, we plateau. A lot of times the cause for this is our body gets used to the workouts we are doing or we aren’t increasing distance or repetitions enough to challenge our body. Whenever the body feels it is no longer a challenge, it will tend to stay there and function happily. But, if you are wanting to make gains beyond this point, you will need to find a new challenge for the body through either changing up your workouts all together, adding in interval workouts, or increasing the amount or distance drastically on occasion.

Whatever you do, continue at it with persistence and patience as endurance is a gradual gain, not a quick result.

  • "Without patient endurance, even the smallest thing becomes unbearable. A lot depends on our attitude." Dalai Lama

Keep focused on your goals for the day, week, month, and year. If you get stuck and you’re not sure what needs changing, you can reach out for help. During an initial assessment with me, we will discuss your goals and determine your current level and together develop a plan to meet your goals. You can visit my calendar here to schedule a No-Charge phone consultation so we can chat about what you have going on and where you would like to be.

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