You want to increase your endurance but you’re not sure how. It’s a common conundrum. Many people just don’t feel they have the time to add endurance exercises to their already busy schedule. After all, endurance fitness requires long workouts at a moderate intensity. And if you’re new to endurance exercise, creating a fitness plan can be overwhelming. Let’s take a look at simple ways you can increase your fitness endurance.
The Gradual Approach:
If you haven’t worked out in a long time (or ever) and are starting a new fitness program, then this may be your ideal solution. This approach allows you to start out slowly and gradually build your endurance and fitness level.
Choose your exercise, for example jogging. Get on the treadmill or go outside and run at a moderate intensity level. If you have a heart rate monitor, determine your target heart rate and stay in that zone while you jog. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor then you should be able to carry on a conversation while you jog. If you’re too out of breath to talk then you’re working too hard.
The first day you may only be able to jog for ten minutes. That’s fine. You can walk the rest of the way home. Gradually increase your time jogging. By the end of the month you may be jogging the entire route slowly. You can then add more distance and time to your workout.
Intervals are periods of high intensity combined with periods of low or moderate intensity. For the sake of endurance training you might instead alternate moderate intensity with low intensity. For example, you might jog for ten minutes and walk for five. After an hour of this interval program you will have a good workout.
As your fitness level increases, you can both lengthen the amount of time you exercise at a moderate intensity as well as the length of time you work out. For example, you might jog for fifteen minutes and walk for five and lengthen your workout time to ninety minutes.
Heart Rate Monitor and Zone Training:
If you purchase a heart rate monitor, you can use it to help you with both of these approaches. With a heart rate monitor you may find that your moderate intensity effort is much faster than you originally thought, and instead of walking you may jog during your ‘rest’ interval. Heart rate monitors are invaluable tools for any fitness endurance program.
Can Periodization Help You Increase Your Fitness Endurance?
Periodization is an endurance approach used by athletes. Now you don’t need to be a professional athlete to utilize it. If you’re training for an event, then it may be the ideal approach. It has been used effectively for decades.
What Is Periodization?
Periodization is a training protocol that is designed specifically to train for an event. The training period, the time between now and when you compete, is divided into segments. Each segment serves a very specific training purpose. There are a few different periodization segments. Most models utilize five to six different phases including:
* Preparation – This phase utilizes low-intensity, moderately timed activities to gradually build your fitness back up from a resting level. Prior to this phase, after competition, you will have gone through a resting phase.
* Fitness building – During this phase you begin to improve your overall fitness and/or your sports-related fitness. For example, if in the preparation phase you were running one mile a day four times a week with some light strength training, during this phase you might increase your distance and your intensity level while continuing the light strength training.
This is a phase that gradually increases your fitness. You might start by running two miles a day and at the end of this phase, depending on what you’re training for and the amount of time you have, you may be running ten miles a day with a long twenty-mile marathon training run.
* Tapering – The periodization plan believes that it’s important to let your body rest a bit before competition. For example, if you did a twenty-mile run two days before a marathon, your marathon performance is likely to be weak. Tapering usually only lasts a week or two and it doesn’t mean you stop exercising. However, it does mean that you reduce your mileage by 80% and your frequency by 20%.
The rule of thumb is that if your competitive event lasts longer than an hour, a marathon for example, then you have two weeks of tapering. Less than an hour and you’ll have one week of tapering.
* Competition – This is the day you’ve been training for. Compete hard. Give it your full effort with the confidence that the periodization plan has helped increase both your stamina and endurance.
* Recovery – This final phase allows you to take a few days off to recuperate from your competition. Again, this doesn’t have to mean you’re sitting on the couch for a week. It depends on the event you competed in and your fitness level. If it was your first marathon, you may want to take a few days off. You can replace your usual workout with something more relaxing that still gets the blood flowing through your muscles and tissues. Walking, swimming, and yoga are often recommended.
If you’re a competitive athlete or have a race you’d like to train for, consider using the periodization plan to increase your fitness and endurance. It’s been working for people for decades and continues to be a tried and true approach.
The Benefits of Increasing Your Endurance:
You may have heard a lot about endurance exercise. Many doctors recommend it to their patients. Personal trainers and weight loss coaches often recommend it to their clients. And sports and fitness magazines commonly share information on a variety of endurance fitness programs and exercises. But what exactly are the benefits of endurance exercise and why should you consider adding it to your health and fitness approach?
Better Mental Health:
Recent studies have shown that endurance exercise reduces the risk for depression and in many cases reduces symptoms of depression. With more oxygen flowing through your body, it is thought that your hormonal systems are positively impacted. You receive a flow of endorphins, feel-good hormones. Additionally, your body is better able to manage stress. You feel better, are happier, and more relaxed.
The oxygenated blood flow doesn’t just go to your heart, lungs, and muscles – it also goes to your brain and other organs. This increased blood flow to the brain has been shown to improve cognitive ability. You think faster, your thoughts are clearer, and you may even find that you have improved creative, problem-solving and analytical skills.
Reduced Risk of Disease:
Endurance exercise utilizes your aerobic systems. This means your heart and lungs work to pull oxygen into your body and then pump it throughout. A stronger heart generally means a healthier heart and a healthier cardiovascular system. This means a reduced risk for heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, endurance exercise helps regulate and improve your metabolism, which can help you lose weight. And with a healthy diet it can reverse Type Two diabetes for many adults.
Endurance athletes often find that they have more energy throughout their day. If you wake up and work out for an hour or two, you might think you’d be exhausted the rest of the day. Actually, the opposite is true. First, you’re not working out at a high intensity level. Instead, you’re exercising at a low to moderate intensity level which doesn’t tax your systems. Second, you’re improving your metabolism and thus training your body to provide you with energy all day long. Of course a healthy diet helps too.
And improved fitness is certainly not to be left out. When you add endurance exercise to your exercise program, you’ll improve your body’s ability to work hard for longer periods of time. You may find that this translates into other areas of your life too. That long hike with your friends is suddenly a lot easier.
Finally, people who add endurance exercise to their fitness program often enjoy improved sleep. Chalk it up to healthier systems, reduced stress, and a balanced metabolism.
The Long Slow Path to Increased Endurance:
Over the past few decades a different approach to endurance fitness has emerged. The long slow distance method was introduced in the late 1960s. It’s not for everyone and is really designed for runners and cyclists. If you are active in these sports or want to improve your endurance and enjoy running or cycling, then this approach may be right for you.
What Is the Long Slow Distance Endurance Approach?
The LSD or Long Slow Distance approach builds endurance by requiring an athlete to run or bike at a low to moderate intensity level over a long distance. For example, if you’re a runner you might run at 50% of your maximum heart rate. And instead of going out for your usual 5K run you might double or triple that length, so you’d be running six or nine miles a day at a much slower pace than your normal 5K training pace.
Likewise if you’re a cyclist and you normally go out and ride for twenty miles at a moderate to intense pace, you’d double or triple that distance and reduce your intensity level. Note: with the LSD approach it’s often important to wear a heart rate monitor. It’s very difficult for a person to evaluate their intensity level, and 50% of your maximum heart rate may initially feel like you’re going too slowly. There is a learning process and it can take time to mentally adapt to the long slow distance approach.
Most people equate fitness with intensity, heavy breathing and sore muscles. You may experience the sore muscles after running two to three times your normal distance, but you won’t experience the same degree of pumping heart and tired lungs.
A heart rate monitor can help you keep your heart and intensity level in the appropriate zone. After a few weeks of training this way your body will become used to the intensity levels.
Does It Really Work to Increase Endurance?
Many endurance athletes swear by the long slow distance approach. They notice that their body gradually begins to get stronger. While it may have taken them a few hours to run ten miles initially, they watch their speed increase and their time decrease – all with the same low heart rate and intensity level. In short, they’re able to increase their fitness without pushing their heart to high intensity levels.
You’ll notice in the beginning that your pace may be one to three minutes longer than your normal one-mile pace. Meaning that if you normally ran a ten-minute mile, your new mile pace within the LSD program may be thirteen minutes. That’s okay. Track your pace with each workout. Chances are, after a few weeks of this endurance program you’ll see your pace increase. There may even be a marathon in your future!