Endurance Training

Endurance Training events are sometimes described as non-technical, because running is a natural activity which appears relatively simple when compared to other events such as say, pole vaulting.
There are 4 types of endurance training and a sound knowledge of each type of training is of paramount importance to all endurance runners. When I say endurance runners, I mean anyone who runs over a distance which will take them longer than about 50 seconds. It is not about the distance but how long it takes, which makes it either Aerobic or Anaerobic. So as soon as we exercise for longer than about 50 seconds, endurance starts to play a more important role. You must now be saying but I am  400m runner ! so do I really need to have more endurance.... yes you do. Have you ever been so tired in the last 75m that you slowed down...yes you have. Everyone tends to slow down but the runner with the best endurance slows down the least.

Aerobic endurance
Anaerobic endurance
speed endurance
strength endurance

The figures below will vary ! depending upon which Country or University has done the research. I found a figure of 64% Aerobic for the 400m. I have taken an average of the figures that I found from various University studies. Remember it is time not distance, when we look at the distance, we are looking at Elite runners. So that is why I said about 50 secs, because elite runners have finished their 400m dash. Remember running 400m when you were young, it seemed like miles, that is because it took sooo long.

Distance / Event % Aerobic Energy System
200 metres 5
400 metres 43
800 metres 60
1,500 metres / Mile 84
5,000 metres 95
10,000 metres 97
Marathon 99


Aerobic means "with oxygen". During aerobic training an athletes body is working at a level that the demands for oxygen and fuel, can be met by the body's intake. The only waste products formed are carbon dioxide and water, which are removed by sweating and breathing out.

Aerobic endurance can be sub-divided as follows:

Short aerobic - 2 minutes to 8 minutes (lactic/aerobic).
Medium aerobic - 8 minutes to 30 minutes (mainly aerobic).
Long aerobic - 30 minutes or more (aerobic).

Aerobic endurance is developed with continuous and interval training.

Continuous duration runs to improve maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 Max).
Interval training to improve the heart as a muscular pump.

It is well known that developing both Aerobic and Anaerobic systems are necessary for all runners, who run 400m or further or about 50 secs !


Anaerobic means "without oxygen". During anaerobic work, involving maximum effort, the body is working so hard that the demands for oxygen and fuel exceed the rate of supply and the muscles have to rely on the stored reserves of fuel. In this case waste products accumulate, the chief one being lactic acid.

The muscles, being starved of oxygen, take the body into a state known as oxygen debt. The body's stored fuel soon runs out and activity ceases - painfully. This point is often measured as the lactic threshold or anaerobic threshold or onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA). Activity cannot be resumed until the lactic acid is removed and the oxygen debt repaid.

Fortunately the body can resume limited activity fairly quickly. Since lactic acid is produced, the correct term for this pathway is lactic anaerobic energy pathway. The lactic anaerobic pathway is the one in which the body is working anaerobically but without the production of lactic acid. This pathway can exist only so long as the fuel actually stored in the muscle lasts, approximately 4 seconds at maximum effort.

Anaerobic endurance can be sub-divided as follows:

Short anaerobic - less than 25 seconds (mainly lactic)
Medium anaerobic - 25 seconds to 60 seconds (mainly lactic)
Long anaerobic - 60 seconds to 120 seconds (lactic +aerobic)

Anaerobic endurance can be developed by using repetition methods of relatively high intensity work with limited recovery.

Endurance Speed

Speed endurance is used to develop the co-ordination of muscle contraction. Repetition methods are used with a high number of sets, low number of repetitions per set and an intensity greater than 85% with distances covered from 60% to 120% of racing distance. Runners can use competition and time trials in the development of speed endurance.

Endurance Strength

Strength endurance is used to develop the your capacity to maintain the quality of your muscles' contractile force. All athletes need to develop a basic level of strength endurance. Examples of activities to develop strength endurance are circuit training, weights, hill running, harness running, Fartlek etc.
The fundamental goal in any endurance event is to maximise average speed over the course of the race, this in turn will average your exertion and save energy. Optimising the distribution of effort by maintaining the rhythm of movement is of paramount importance.

Running velocity is determined by both stride length and stride frequency.

Velocity = Stride Length x Stride Frequency

Optimum stride length obviously varies with each athlete largely determined by their physical characteristics. Whilst the frequency is determined by the runners technique, mechanics and fitness.
Specific endurance tactics in a race, vary depending upon the distance from 800m to marathon. Although you may have a specific tactic in mind, so may everyone else.

Endurance Training for Athletes and Runners

Endurance athletes must develop general endurance as well as the specific energy demands of their event.

General endurance is Aerobic. This means that the system supplying energy to the muscles is Aerobic. For the younger athlete, the emphasis should be on this energy system. Indeed many 800 metre athletes train the Aerobic system in the winter, introducing Anaerobic only after a foundation of Aerobic. A coach should apply knowledge of the energy systems, developing interesting and varied appropriate running challenges.


The most important method of training for these events is to run a variety of distances at a constant speed without rest. Fartlek is not continuous running. Fartlek is variations of pace, determined by the coach or runner as the session progresses. These sessions are normally done away from the track, so you have a variation of surfaces and incline to run on. These tend to be less strict than a standard interval session, were you have specific distances to run and a specific rest period. With fartlek sessions, the length of fast and slow running may vary and change as you run, with no set distances or rests. Don't get me wrong these sessions are hard but  really quite enjoyable, when run with a partner.

Repetitive Activities

A number of runs for which the distance, pace and rest are prescribed. These types of exercises may be divided into two main types.

Extensive repetitions: emphasis predominantly on aerobic endurance.
Intensive repetitions: emphasis predominantly on event specific endurance.

When planning a programme, loads are defined by:

Intensity Pace or running speed
Volume The distance of the reps and the total distance of the session.
Recovery The time between runs or the interval between the reps or sets of reps.

Training Load = Volume + Intensity + Rest/Recovery

Endurance refers to the maximum amount of oxygen a body can process at a given moment in time, this may be termed as your VO2 max. In order to improve ones VO2 max, one has to improve the efficiency of the body's systems, to enable faster transport and utilisation of Oxygen.

Improving you VO2 Max.

Your VO2 Max may be increased by exercising the heart at between 65% and 85% of its maximum, for a period of 30mins of duration ( longer the better ) The frequency of the sessions should be a minimum of 4 times per week ( obviously not when a beginner ) Note that your aerobic endurance may be improved steadily over years of training.  Here are a few tips to increase your VO2 max or Endurance

  • Be consistent and take it slowly, one step at a time. Train four times per week. Add just 1 mile per week to your long run and every four weeks, make it an easy week by missing the long run, then start adding again. Consistency is the key
  • Run intervals once per week, if you are training four times per week. Example  5 x 1000 @ 5km pace with 2mins rest between each interval.
  • Make every run count, think about each training session and what it is doing for you and your goals.
  • Hard day then an Easy day. Which may mean running every other day. If you are training just three times per week, you could train hard every session.
  • Run a Tempo run once per week, start at 20mins and build to 40mins. A tempo ( Lactate Threshold ) run is comfortably hard, say 80% of max heart rate. You body is on the very edge of building too much lactate, so yes this run is a hard but steady effort. According to Jack Daniels, the pace is about 27secs slower per mile, than your 5km pace.

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