With the barrage of obstacle course events; half, full and ultra-marathons and growth in cycling and triathlons in the UK and around the globe; it is no surprise that people want to improve their endurance and mental fortitude. Events can vary from "short" sprint distances through to herculean courses that will test the toughest of athletes.
When training for these events, a lot of people will focus solely on cardio routines like cycling or running. This shouldn't be the case though, building in some power based routines will help build your lactate threshold, tolerance and mental fortitude as well.
These 3 attributes are the keys to improving your endurance alongside your normal cardio routine:
1: Combine Strength Training Days with Cardio
The more muscle tissue you get working, the more it will test your cardiovascular system and your heart.
Rather than developing cardio-only workout routines make sure you integrate training days incorporating power based exercise as well.
Most people will have one day for power based training, and another for endurance based cardio. Why not combine the two? You can start a routine with a bench press exercise, quickly linking with pull-ups and straight into a 1km run as hard as you can.
Alternatively, you could try using a skipping rope for 60 seconds, followed immediately by leg squats, into an overhead press and finally sit-ups. Keep repeating the routine until the point of failure.
Intense exercise takes a lot of energy and is a good test of your strength, endurance and mental fortitude. The more intense exercise you build into your routines, the quicker you'll see improvements in your performance.
2: Try Fast-Paced, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Interval training can be done in the gym or outside. The harder you train and the more muscle groups you activate, the more it will raise your heart rate and work the cardiac muscle tissue, which will help your endurance.
A great general interval training session is a fartlek training. Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play" and as the name suggests; you intermix a long run with preset periods of flat out sprinting and then a slower paced recovery zones. For a gentler fartlek route, you can use pre-set distances to define where you sprint and where you rest. To make things harder, you can work with times (i.e sprint for 30 seconds every 1 km) as this will ensure that you are always working harder each session.
Similar sessions can also be done on a bike or in a pool.
To target specific muscle groups, you are better off basing your interval training in a gym. Combine routines to make a hybrid workout, intermixing different exercises to meet your goals. For example, combining an overhead press ("thruster"), bouncing pull-ups, and bicep curls are excellent hybrids.
HIIT training is also excellent at boosting your metabolism where as a cardio-endurance only routine can actually reduce it as your body will try to conserve energy. *statement about why a boosted metabolism is good for endurance* To achieve this, you will still need to make sure that you are consuming enough energy and meeting your nutritional needs.
3: Cut Down the Break Between Sets
When training with predefined rest periods, in the gym between sets for example, you will often see rest periods prescribed of 30 – 60 seconds, longer if doing a longer set of exercise like a 1km row. As you get stronger and your endurance improves you can look to reduce these rest times instead of just increasing the weights.
At the end of a session you should be exhausted, you should be sweating and out of breath. If you aren't then you need to look at your routine. Reducing your rest periods is one thing that can be done to make the workout harder again to push your body further.
Add these three elements to your training routine and you will find your performance improving with the work that you put in.