Boost Your Endurance

 

By Rick Morris

 

Does this sound familiar? You may be running to catch a flight. Maybe you are climbing stairs to your office because the elevator is out of order. You might be playing in a pick up basketball game for the first time in years. What ever the situation is you end up bent over at the waist gasping and struggling for your next breath. You tell yourself – “I’ve gotta get in shape”!

 

Getting in shape covers a lot of ground. Getting in shape can mean getting stronger, losing weight, toning your body, building muscle or running a marathon. But, when most of us utter those words – “I’ve gotta get in shape” – we are talking about improving our endurance and more specifically for runners - our running endurance. The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines endurance as “the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity”. In terms of fitness that is a fairly accurate definition. A better fitness definition may be “the ability to sustain a sub-maximal activity for a prolonged period of time.

 

There is not just one type of physical endurance. There are three primary types of physical endurance involved in running as well as other sports and fitness activities – pure endurance, stamina and speed endurance. Pure endurance is the ability to sustain a low to moderate intensity or pace for a long period of time. For example a marathon runner has a tremendous level of pure endurance. Stamina refers to the ability to sustain a higher running intensity for an extended period of time. A good example of stamina is a top level 5K or 10K runner. That type of athlete must sustain a high running speed for 3 to 6 miles. Speed endurance is the ability to hold a very fast pace or intensity level for a brief period of time. For example a 400 meter or 800 meter runner must have a high level of speed endurance.

 

Before you can build your stamina or speed endurance you need to build a base of pure endurance. That is what this article is about – boosting your pure endurance. While endurance can be improved using any aerobic activity, the most efficient way to build it is by running. The first workouts performed by all runners are endurance runs. These continuous, easy paced runs form the foundation of fitness that every training program is built upon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endurance Training Adaptations

 

Your body responds to endurance training in a number of ways.

 

It increases the number of mitochondria in the working muscles. Mitochondria are tiny structures in your muscle cells, where all energy production takes place. An increase in the number of mitochondria translates to the ability to produce more energy for running and other forms of exercise.

 

It increases the density of the capillaries in the muscles. This means there will be more blood flow and oxygen delivery to your working muscles.

 

It improves joint, tendon and ligament strength. Most running injuries involve joints and connective tissue. Stronger connective tissue means less incidence of injury.

 

It develops the slow twitch muscle fibers in your legs. Muscle fibers are either slow twitch or fast twitch. The slow twitch fibers are slower to fatigue and are the primary muscle fibers used in endurance events.

 

Endurance training increases your blood volume. This enables more oxygen to be delivered to your working muscles.

 

Endurance workouts make up the greatest percentage of all runners training programs, but they are particularly important to beginning runners because they strengthen the connective tissues, which is where most running injuries occur. Most beginning runner’s programs are entirely composed of this type of workout. Experienced runners perform these workouts throughout their training season, but they make up a larger portion of the early season workouts when rebuilding from rest periods or injury.

 

Here are two workouts that are not only great for boosting your endurance, but will also burn fat, improve your strength and tone your muscles.

 

The Big Easy

 

This is a very versatile workout that can be used for many purposes, including improving your endurance, building a base of fitness, burning calories and recovering from a hard workout or race. You should perform this workout at a pace that is moderately easy. Run at a pace that is “conversational”. You should be able to speak and carry on a conversation, but you should not be able to sing. If you cannot speak clearly, you are running too fast. If you can sing, you are running too slowly. In most cases, heart rate levels should be around 75% of maximum for this workout. Heart rate levels will fluctuate during all training runs. It is especially common for heart rates to rise during the later stages of a training run. This workout will probably follow that pattern, so do not be surprised to see your heart rate rise to 80% or even a bit higher. This workout is simple to perform. Warm up for 10 minutes and then begin running at your moderately easy running pace.

 

The Strength Circuit

 

This workout combines the benefits of an easy run with some general strength training exercises that will begin to build a base of strength that you can improve and develop. This workout is considered an endurance workout because of the low intensity of the running portions, but it is not an easy workout. You will move between the running portions and the strength portions with no rest.

After a warm up, exercise for 35 minutes alternating between easy running and a strength training exercise, using the following routine or a similar routine:

 

Run easy for 5 minutes

 

Push ups for 30 seconds

 

Run easy for 5 minutes

 

One leg squats for 30 seconds

 

Run easy for 5 minutes

 

Triceps press ups for 30 seconds

 

Run easy for 5 minutes

 

Abdominal crunches for 30 seconds

 

Run easy for 5 minutes

 

Bench step ups for 30 seconds

 

Run easy for 5 minutes

 

Biceps curls for 30 seconds

 

Cool down for 5 minutes

 

Descriptions of the strength training exercises are listed below:

 

Push ups - Begin face down on the floor, supporting yourself with your hands approximately shoulder width apart and your arms extended. Your feet can be together or up to 12 inches apart. Keep your body in a straight and neutral position. Do not arch your back. Contract your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine. Slowly lower your upper body until your chest touches or nearly touches the floor. Slowly return to the starting position. If you are unable to perform this type of push up, do bent knee pushups, which are the same as the regular pushup, except you are supporting your lower body on your knees instead of your feet.

 

One Leg Squats - Stand in an upright position. Contract your abdominal muscles to stabilize your trunk and spine. Place one foot (rear foot) behind you on a bench or step that is 6 to 18 inches high. Your other foot (forward foot) should be flat on the floor and directly under your center of gravity. Bend your forward knee until it is at approximately a 90-degree angle. Do not allow your knee to extend in front of your foot. Slowly straighten your forward leg and return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise switching leg positions.

 

Triceps press ups - Sit with your back to a bench or step of approximately 18 inches. Place your hands flat on the bench behind you with your elbows pointing directly behind you. Slowly press yourself up until your arms are fully extended. Slowly return to the starting position.

 

Abdominal crunches - Lie face up on a mat. Bend your knees and bring your heels close to your hips. Cross your hands over your chest and tuck your chin into your chest. Slowly curl your upper body towards your knees until your shoulder blades leave the floor. This should be a rolling, curling motion. Concentrate on strongly contracting your abdominal muscles. Hold this position for a moment and slowly return to the starting position.

 

Bench step ups - Stand in an upright position. Contract your abdominal muscles to stabilize your trunk and spine. Stand directly in front of a bench that is 18 to 24 inches high. Place one foot (lead foot) flat on the bench. With most of your weight on the heel of your lead foot, forcefully push off with your lead foot and assume a standing position with both feet on the bench. Switch leg position and repeat.

 

Biceps curls - Stand upright holding a light weight in each hand with your palms facing forward, away from your body. Contract your abdominal muscles to stabilize your trunk and spine. Keep your upper arms against your ribs and perpendicular to the floor. Slowly raise the weight by flexing your arms at your elbows. Keep your upper arms stationary. Raise the weight to the limit of your active and natural motion. Slowly return to the starting position.

 

6 Week Endurance Building Program

 

This 6 week endurance building program will increase your fitness and endurance to a level at which you can run for 1 hour without stopping as well as building your strength and burning fat. This program uses the two workouts outlined in this article in addition to rest days.

 

Week 1

 

Monday – The Big Easy - 15 minutes

 

Tuesday – The Strength Circuit

 

Wednesday – The Big Easy - 20 minutes

 

Thursday – The Big Easy - 25 minutes

 

Friday – Rest. Let your body recover. Rest is an important part of any training program. It allows your muscles to recover and strengthen

 

Saturday – The Strength Circuit

 

Sunday – The Big Easy - 30 minutes

 

Week 2

 

Monday – Rest

 

Tuesday – The Strength Circuit

 

Wednesday – The Big Easy – 30 minutes

 

Thursday – The Big Easy – 35 minutes

 

Friday – Rest

 

Saturday – The Strength Circuit

 

Sunday – The Big Easy – 40 minutes

 

Week 3

 

Monday – Rest

 

Tuesday – The Strength Circuit

 

Wednesday – The Big Easy - 40 minutes

 

Thursday – The Big Easy 40 - minutes

 

Friday – Rest.

 

Saturday – The Strength Circuit

 

Sunday – The Big Easy – 45 minutes

 

Week 4

 

Monday – Rest

 

Tuesday – The Strength Circuit

 

Wednesday – The Big Easy - 40 minutes

 

Thursday – The Big Easy - 45 minutes

 

Friday – Rest

 

Saturday – The Strength Circuit

 

Sunday – The Big Easy – 50 minutes

 

Week 5

 

Monday – Rest

 

Tuesday – The Strength Circuit

 

Wednesday – The Big Easy – 40 minutes

 

Thursday – The Big Easy – 45 minutes

 

Friday – Rest

 

Saturday – The Strength Circuit

 

Sunday – The Big Easy – 55 minutes

 

Week 6

 

Monday – Rest

 

Tuesday – The Strength Circuit

 

Wednesday – The Big Easy – 40 minutes

 

Thursday – The Big Easy – 45 minutes

 

Friday – Rest

 

Saturday – The Strength Circuit

 

Sunday – The Big Easy – 60 minutes

 

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