There are no shortcuts to exercise. Whether you are trying to boost your strength or training for an ultra-marathon, building workout endurance will take time and patience. Attempting to speed things up beyond what your body can handle is a quick way to succumb to injury. And let’s be honest, who wants that?
How you build endurance depends on your goals. For a runner or cyclist, aerobic endurance is the key to hitting longer distance goals. Trying to go further before you are ready won’t end well or be much fun. After all, imagine running a marathon when your longest run to date is 5K or trying to bench press 250Ibs when the most you usually manage is 110Ibs. Painful is an understatement.
Read on for some PT-verified tips to increase endurance and run/cycle/swim for longer or lift heavier weights.
Extend Your Workouts Slowly
The simplest way to build aerobic endurance in running, swimming, cycling, or any other aerobic sport is by incrementally increasing the time you spend exercising. For example, if you can run for 15 minutes, do this three times, and then increase your next run to 20 minutes. Small increases in exercise duration allow the body to adapt more easily. Over time, your ability to handle the rigors of the workout will increase, and before long, a 60-minute run/bike/swim workout will feel manageable. Once you are comfortable working out two or three times a week at a low intensity, add another day into your schedule. Be consistent and you’ll see results.
Newbies often make the mistake of attacking every workout at high intensity. This is a huge mistake. The majority of your workouts should be at a low intensity. In aerobic exercise, this is a pace where you can have a conversation with someone. When lifting weights, it means using low weight, high reps. Lower intensity workouts are more about endurance than strength. There is a place for strength building and higher intensity, but make sure these workouts are a minor part of your overall regime.
Do not underestimate the importance of good nutrition. The body is an engine and without the right fuel, it can’t perform. Muscles need glycogen, which comes from the food we eat. If you eat a carb-rich meal the night before a workout, this should give you enough energy to fuel a 60-minute workout, or thereabouts. Any longer and you need to take on extra fuel. This can come in the form of energy gels, energy drinks, and similar products.
The linked blog tells you what to look for in a healthy energy drink, but common ingredients include caffeine and sugar. If you plan to exercise for longer than an hour, take some easily digestible food with you in the form of a gel or energy drink. Otherwise, you are likely to “hit the wall”. Remember, nutrition plays a key role in all endurance workouts, and anyone hoping to run, cycle, swim, ski, etc. for several hours needs to take on sufficient fuel to meet their body’s energy needs.
A Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep is critical for building endurance. Sleep is when your body recovers from the demands of exercise. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, your body won’t be sufficiently rested for the next workout. Fighting fatigue means you won’t perform as well, and your endurance will suffer.
Finally, don’t neglect strength and conditioning exercises to build flexibility and strengthen muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A strong core will help power your workouts and allow your body to perform for longer before fatigue sets in. This is especially important if you are a runner.