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Training Tip Tuesday – Endurance

The Loneliness of the Long distance Runner

Needing endurance is a given when you get to running any distance past a couple of hundred metres, but what exactly is it, and how can you train it?

There are essentially two types of endurance you need to consider when it comes to running:

  • your muscular endurance – how well your muscles can repeat the same action for and extended period of time without fatiguing and losing form. The stronger you are the further you will get before this happens.
  • your cardiovascular endurance – how well your heart, lungs and circulatory system are at getting oxygen to (and waste products away from) the working muscles.

The interaction between the two is also important – your muscles have to be able to make use of the oxygen that your circulatory system delivers!

So how do you improve this?

The biology:

Those of you who know me (Laura) know that I’m a science geek, and human bodies fascinate me. So here is a bit of the science behind how your body adapts as you train for endurance. Feel free to skip it if you don’t care!

Training for endurance has a multitude of effects on your body, so I’ll summarise the main ones that affect how well you can run:

  • As you put in the time on your feet, your heart muscle, just like any other muscle, becomes stronger. This means it can pump more blood, work hard for longer, and become more efficient over time.
  • Your body produces more red blood cells to carry oxygen, which means more oxygen can be delivered to your working muscles in the same time period. Your muscles need oxygen to break down glucose and fats into usable energy, so this is pretty useful!
  • The network of capillaries that delivers blood into your muscles becomes denser, so there’s more ways for all those oxygen carrying red blood cells to get in.
  • Your muscles, tendons and ligaments become stronger as they adapt to the time you are running for, making them more robust.
  • The mitochondria (organelles within your muscle cells responsible for breaking down glucose into usable energy) become more efficient and more numerous, so they can provide more fuel for the working muscle at any given time. It also means that they can reuse more of the lactate produced as a byproduct, which slows us down if levels get too high!

The training:

Of course, knowing all the biology in the world is no good if you don’t know what to do to apply it, so here are a few things to aim for with your endurance runs:

  • Keep it comfortable. The above adaptations happen at low intensities, when your body can get oxygen in and waste products out at a sustainable rate. Think chatty pace for your weekly long run, with easily controlled breathing.
  • Think about your form. Being able to run for longer is great, but if you are going further than your body can currently cope with chances are you are losing form and teaching your muscles bad habits.
  • Use this effort level for warm ups and cool downs of harder sessions. It’ll get you some extra endurance benefits without adding too much fatigue, and will get you ready for the hard work in the middle!
  • Recover! Your body can’t make these adaptations if you are

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