How to Build Up Your Endurance

by | 22 Aug 2019 | running

Perhaps you’re looking to build up your endurance as you train for a marathon, or an Ironman, or maybe you just want to be able to chase your dog around the park for longer without needing to sit down with a stiff drink in hand. Either way, we’re not here to judge – you do you. What we will do though, is give you some tips on how to build up your endurance. Because yes, whilst endurance does indeed improve with age, some of us with a race in 6 months don’t quite have the time to wait for the grey hairs to come to our rescue.



What is Endurance?


Great question! Well, it relates to the maximum amount of time that a given group of muscles can perform a certain action. Stamina is in fact very similar, but specifically the amount of time these muscles can perform a given action at or near maximum capacity. Straight forward enough, and yes, it does sound painful. Often endurance races are as much a mental test than physical, but we’ll stick to the physical side of things today.



How Can You Build Up Your Endurance?          


Well, there’s generally 3 elements to endurance training; steady state training, high intensity training and adequate rest and recovery. Looking at each session as ‘effort-based’ helps to keeps things simple and you can adapt this model to whatever sport you’re training for, be it cycling, running, swimming etc.


Steady state training: getting your heart rate up to 75% of its maximum for 30 minutes or longer. Your heart rate is simple enough to work out, it’s 220 minus your age, then times this by 0.75. Maths. Try 3 of these sessions a week. If you’re a runner you could do 2 days of medium length runs, and one longer run at the weekends perhaps.


High intensity training: short sharp sprints / intervals followed by low intensity rest periods, repeating these cycles for 15-30 minutes, 2-3 times a week. These sprints should be done at maximum effort, and the low intensity period that follows being used for recovery. Mix, this in between your steady state training days and you’re on the money.


Rest and recovery: take it easy, allow your body to repair for 1-2 days a week (not consecutively). Or, if you’re really awful at just doing nothing for a day then make sure whatever you do is low impact and low effort. A gentle swim, or a yoga class perhaps. But R&R is just as important as the training days themselves.



How Long Does It Take to Build Up Endurance?


Well, how long have you got? Ideally you would build your endurance up slowly and steadily; if you’re looking to run a marathon for instance you could increase your distance by a mile a week for your longer weekend run. It’s good to be patient, you can give your body time to adapt gradually and can build in recovery weeks as well; so, every 4th week you could skip the long run.


However, if let’s say, you don’t have all the time in the world, i.e. your event is 6 weeks away and your training hasn’t quite started…that’s okay, all hope is not lost! You can certainly still improve your endurance in 6 weeks. Mix up your training with both high intensity and steady state sessions each week, but crucially don’t go all out and train hard 7 days a week. Rest is still important, so make sure you don’t overdo it out of sheer panic.


Well, there’s quick-fire introduction to endurance training. Hopefully it’s clear that even though you’re preparing for an event which will most likely require you to go the same pace for hours on end, your training doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be like this. Mixed training, in terms of intensity and time (and even cross-training with other sports) is crucial. Variety is the spice of life, and when you’re training for a marathon or even an ultra, you need all the spice you can get!


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