Endurance, otherwise known as the body’s ability to perform for a prolonged amount of time, is something every athlete wants to maximize within their sport or activity. Whether you focus on muscular endurance or cardiovascular endurance, you will be supporting your overall health.
Increasing or building up your endurance has been shown to improve your ability to perform physical activities. Building endurance is not a quick race; it is a marathon.
Factors that help strengthen your endurance can include your training and goals, the food you consume, your recovery process, and even the performance wear you choose to exercise in.
Increasing your endurance is more complicated than simply going out a bit further or for a longer time. Your body will respond best to using a variety of techniques regularly. Here are some of the tried and true methods to mix into your training, but there are endless variations of these too.
Set Realistic Goals
Whether you are an avid runner training for a marathon or stepping into the gym for the first time and struggling to make it through a workout, fitness goals are essential. Knowing your limits is important, but you may not know your limit until you start.
After a training session, grasp how your body feels after a certain number of miles, minutes, or sets in your workout. Set a goal that does not currently seem attainable. This will help motivate you to reach that goal in the near future.
Increase the Intensity
After finding your groove and setting some goals, start to kick up the intensity of your workouts. Staying stagnant in your workouts will keep you at the same level.
If you’re focusing on cardio, begin to train for longer amounts of time at a faster pace than before. In the weight room, start minimizing the length of breaks that you are taking between lifting weights, push yourself to increase the weight, and you will see the results you are looking for.
HIIT training, or high-intensity interval training, is a great way to increase the intensity of your workouts. HIIT workouts involve quick, intense exercise followed by quick rest or active recovery.
The premise of these workouts is to train hard in a short amount of time, increasing your endurance. An example of a HIIT workout would be sprinting for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of brisk walking or light jogging.
Wear the Proper Gear when Training
What many athletes disregard, but is essential to your athletic performance, is what you wear when working out. Training and building stamina with cold muscles will not allow you to perform to the best of your ability. Wearing compression while you warm up helps keep muscles warm and moving how you need them to.
X2U provides products that help you do just that. Our Men's and Women’s Core Compression Tights allow our athletes to stay warm and stylish when working out. The Compression Calf Guards help support long-distance runners throughout their performance and recovery.
Not wearing the proper gear may not affect every athlete the same, but covering your muscles in tight garments can help you become the athlete that you want to be.
Find a Diet That Suits You
Fueling your body with the proper nutrients is key to performing as well as you would like. Professional athletes always talk about their diets, and most will track the macros or macro-nutrients they consume daily.
When building endurance, eating enough carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats will help you stay energized throughout your training. Avoiding sugary foods, drinks, and saturated fats may help remove the “sluggish” feeling many feel when working out.
Carb-loading before a big training day is common. Carbohydrates provide energy to the body, allowing you to train further, faster, and stronger. You can get these carbohydrates through healthy grains like pasta, oats, and rice. Avoid calorie-dense foods with high amounts of sugar before a workout.
Recovery and Sleep
One thing many people skip out on is a proper recovery process. After training, stretch, roll out, and refuel your body to avoid soreness and fatigue.
Purchasing a yoga mat, foam roller, stretching bands, or massage gun are all great ways to ensure you are recovering from your workouts. Our Power Recovery Tights are a great way to keep your legs fresh; supporting healthy blood flow in the most essential part of the body will help you get back on track.
When aiming to build endurance, you should be training multiple times a week, and without the proper recovery, it can be hard to stay on track. Too little sleep can jeopardize your performance.
Experts say seven to nine hours of sleep is ideal, and athletes may need more depending on the individual and their training. Sleep is when the body naturally recovers, builds muscle, and metabolizes nutrients to help maximize performance. Being well-rested allows your body to work longer and harder in your exercises, which is crucial when looking to build endurance.
Mix up Your Workouts
Another way to build endurance for your training is to use a plethora of different exercises. Finding new ways to push your body is key to staying motivated and consistent in building your endurance.
If you are a runner, swimmer, power-lifter, or whatever your niche is, try switching it up from time to time. For example, if you typically run five days a week, take one of those days and do laps at your nearest pool for an hour.
If you are a swimmer, try running a few days a week to challenge your body in new ways and activate different muscle groups that may not have been used before.
In sports science, there is a lot of talk about anaerobic and aerobic exercises. Anaerobic exercises are meant for muscle growth, like strength training and short sprints. Aerobic fitness is aimed less at growing your muscles but at strengthening them to be able to perform for extended periods. Exercises such as distance running, swimming, or even jumping rope can help the body build endurance within itself and allow you to train longer and harder.
This is a good method for those who are just starting out with an activity or new to endurance training. You simply alternate equal periods of high and low-intensity activity. For example, you might begin by alternating between two minutes of running and two minutes of walking, then extend this to three minutes of each, then three minutes of running and two of walking, then keep working up in this pattern. If you’re swimming, you might swim for a minute, then walk in the pool for a minute, or alternate between freestyle to gentle breaststroke or backstroke.
Mix up your intensity and the time taken for your intervals. Do intervals at high, medium and low intensity – for example, run very fast for 30 seconds, then jog for 60 seconds, then run at moderate pace for 45 seconds, etc. without ever actually stopping. This is often called ‘Fartlek’ (speed play) training when this is done in a random, unpredictable fashion. This is a good way to build endurance for field and court sports, where you need to be able to quickly change up your speed or intensity.
Your longer session should be at a steady pace that is up to 80% of your ‘race pace’ (i.e. the maximum you could do for that distance). It’s important to increase the distance of these sessions only a little at a time – 10% is often recommended – and alternate an increase with a slight decrease so you get a ‘gradual adaptation’ to the distance and the pace required. For example, if you ran 11km one week, you might run 8-9km the next week, before increasing to 11km.
This is interval training that is longer and slower than a sprint. The intervals should last at least 30 seconds, working up to 2-3 minutes (the longer your goal event, the longer the interval should be for most of these sessions). The rest intervals work on ‘active recovery’ – you’re still moving, but it’s very easy, so that your pulse rate comes down, but not enough to have a complete recovery between intervals. You can replace speed with a change to harder terrain, e.g. running/cycling up a hill, then coming back down at easy pace/walk or jog. Here’s another variation – the ‘cruise and sprint’ for running. Find a flat 100m and gradually accelerate so that you reach full speed at about 60m, then sprint to the 100m, then slow down gradually. Repeat until two minutes have passed, then rest 2 minutes. Try this 5-6 times.
There are many variations and definitions of tempo training, but in a nutshell, the idea is to go continuously at a pace that is “comfortably hard” – faster than moderate, but not really difficult. If you have a sports tracking watch, then this should put you into a zone that’s 85-90% of maximum heart rate. The ‘classic’ tempo run format might look something like this: an easy pace for 10 minutes, then one block of a “comfortably hard” faster pace for 20 minutes (working up to 40 minutes or more for fitter, more experienced athletes), then coming down to an easy pace for 10 minutes. Another format is tempo repetitions, which is where you might break up the harder section of your run into three blocks, with a 60-90 second rest in between blocks. This is a good way to build up to a 20-minute tempo training block, but it can also be used by those with a decent fitness base, who might do the repeats at a slightly faster pace than a one-block tempo session.
This is something for more advanced athletes, and should not be done every week. It sounds simple on paper, doing it is another story: in the last 25% or less of your long, steady pace session, try to gradually accelerate your pace. This gets your body used to the fatigue you might experience late in a race and trains you to speed up for a big finish.