It’s Endurance Time

The term “endurance” may mean different things to different people. But for fitness fanatics, enthusiasts and gym rats, endurance has a great deal of significance, both in a physical and a psychological sense.

Strength and endurance, when it comes to physical activity, do not mean the same thing – but there is some crossover. Think of the difference as a sprinter vs. a marathoner. Endurance is not all about speed as you probably know. No sprinter could run at their fastest pace for anywhere near a marathon distance. And, a long distance marathon runner would probably get smoked racing against someone who trains for sprinting.

If you take my Spinning or Revving classes you know that Fall is the season where we focus on Endurance Training. We don’t do too many sprints and the ones we do are short (be sure to show up for some Fartlek training – don’t worry, you’ll like it….I’ll explain more about that later). If you are training with me this season, we are focusing on keeping our pace steady and our heart rate consistent. Good idea for you to break out those heart rate monitors and try to keep your heart rate in the range of 75 – 85% of your max heart rate.

The basic formula is 220 minus your age multiplied by .75 and .85. The range in between is a good goal. For women, take 226 minus your age and continue with the equation.

If you know your resting heart rate (RHR), you can do the Karvonen formula (which is a bit more precise): Take 220 minus your age, minus your RHR, multiply by .75 and .85 then add your RHR back in.
Being able to keep our heart rates at the higher end of the spectrum without going totally anaerobic, the more we improve our Cardiovascular Endurance.
“Muscular Endurance” is our ability to cope with fatigue and tolerate high levels of lactic acid. As our muscular endurance improves, the longer we can maintain proper form and pedal at higher speeds with more resistance!

So, what will we be doing in our Spinning and Revving classes to improve our endurance? We won’t be using extremely high resistance because will make us so fatigued that we’ll need to recover (lowering or taking off resistance and reducing our heart rate). The better our endurance, the less we’ll need to recover obviously! Fatigue, incidentally, is not something we just feel in our muscles… it’s also psychological… “how much longer will this last? I don’t know if I can go on! I can’t hold on much longer!” Does this sound familiar in your head?

Here are some benefits of improved cardiovascular and muscular endurance: the body becomes better able to produce ATP (the energy your muscles need to contract) via aerobic metabolism. The body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles improves and the body’s ability to use that oxygen improves. You may have heard the term VO2Max? That is a key factor to your fitness level. The more energy your body can produce aerobically vs. anaerobically, the easier it is for your body to access fat as fuel and lessens the amount of lactic acid disturbance you feel when working out (that’s muscle burn folks!).

Back to VO2 Max for a second. VO2 max is basically your aerobic capacity and is considered the best measure of a person’s cardiovascular fitness and maximal aerobic power. Spoiler alert ladies: VO2max values are typically 40-60% higher in men than in women.

Elite endurance athletes typically have a high VO2 max and for the most part it seems to be genetically determined. However, with proper training, VO2 max can be improved by as much as 20%!

The goal of any endurance training program is to help the athlete reach their genetic upper limit for aerobic power

As you may have guessed, endurance training is important for many sports – not just the pure distance events like running, swimming and cycling for example. Even some traditional strength and power based activities are helped by having a solid aerobic base.
Happy Endurance Season everybody!

Technique Tidbit:
You’ve heard me talk about “efficiency” and “exercise economy” by now. Here’s what I mean, two athletes may have the same VO2 max and the same lactate threshold (the point during exercise where the body is accumulating blood lactate faster than it can be cleared out). Yet what is far more important is the speed or workload at which the person is exercising when they reach these points. Someone with a higher exercise economy will use expend less energy (consume less oxygen) at any given intensity. Therefore researchers believe economy of exercise – be it stride length, swimming technique or body position on a bicycle – is an important contributor to endurance performance!

Jill Brown
Jill Brown
Hi, I'm JillI am a Los Angeles based Fitness + Nutrition Coach. With 20+ years of experience in teaching, training and continuing my education, I have transformed thousands of lives through fitness and healthy lifestyle changes.