While weight-lifting builds your upper arms and resistance training tones your body and forces your muscles to be more active, endurance training helps everything. It’s one of the few exercises out there that benefits you across the board.
Endurance training is considered a necessary component for training to compete in distance sports, like runners, swimmers, and soccer players. It also has immediate benefits for a range of sports, such as boxing, biking, basketball, rowing, you name it. This is because long-distance endurance boosts your anaerobic threshold, which means less lactic acid, which means your muscles can work for longer.
Bottom line: Incorporating endurance training into your exercise routine will help keep you in shape and keep you from getting fatigued when you need to stay fresh and focused.
How Fatigue Works
You get fatigued when you’ve reached the limits of both your aerobic threshold (your ability to absorb glucose and oxygen), and your anaerobic threshold, (your ability to push your body before lactic acid begins to accumulate and your muscles can’t get enough oxygen). The key to endurance training is to raise these thresholds.
Increasing Your Aerobic Endurance
Your aerobic threshold is based on your VO2 Max, which is the maximum rate you can supply oxygen to your muscles to fit their demand. As you exercise longer, your muscles need for oxygen starts to become greater than your ability to supply it. At that point, your muscles start to get sore and fatigued.
Here are some ways to raise your VO2 Max:
- Long, continuous runs. This is where marathon training comes in. Run longer, at low intensity. But at least twice per run, try sprinting to raise your heart rate
- Regular aerobic exercise
- If you cycle regularly, increase your distance 5 to 10% each week. For example, if your weekly distance is 40 km, increase that to 42-44 km next week, and so on.
- Do more. Mike Sweeney, of Livestrong.com, writes, “if you are a runner — run more, if you play football — play more, if you are a swimmer — swim more. The key is to exercise for longer periods at a lower intensity. As you progress you will notice it will become easier, which means your body’s ability to deliver oxygen is improving.”
Training Your Anaerobic Endurance
Your lactate threshold is the point at which lactate accumulation becomes greater than your body’s ability to remove it from your bloodstream. When that happens, your muscles start to hurt, and that’s bad.
To raise your lactate threshold, you can:
- Concentrate on alternating heavy running with light jogging — Remember to get your body ready by starting a long continuous jog, and then move into the alternating intervals. The longer the interval, the better the result.
- Set up a circuit training plan: come up with 3 to 4 circuits of 6-10 exercises that train different sets of muscles. These exercises should work out the upper body, lower-body, core, and entire body, in that order. Circuit training is a good example of interval training, working out the body in heavy bursts, followed by periods of lower intensity, which helps increase your anaerobic threshold.
- There is also research that suggests that isometrics and resistance training, in making more of your muscle fibres active, can have a positive effect on your endurance.
Going longer for harder
By training your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, you’ll be able to stay active and avoid fatigue and soreness for longer. By adding long-distance runs, interval training and circuit training to your exercise routine, you’ll watch your body become a better, well-oiled, more powerful machine.