Endurance training is important because it gives you the ability to perform higher intensity work and recover quickly from the associated fatigue.
Don’t confuse endurance with strength or power. Strength is the ability to exert maximum force once and power is the ability to exert lots of strength very quickly.
Endurance training is where you contract your muscles more than once, where you keep repeating an exercise until the muscles involved get fatigued. There are two types of endurance training, named according to the energy system that provides the fuels for the repeated muscle contractions.
The two fuels you can use are the long duration, low-intensity body-fat fuels, and the higher intensity body-sugar fuels. From here on in we’re going to be targeting endurance training using the anaerobic (non-aerobic) energy system that uses body sugars (glycogen) as a fuel.
The major by-product from the breakdown of glycogen as a fuel for movement is lactic acid, so this energy system is often called the lactic-acid energy system, or “lactate system”.
The kind of training we’re going to cover targets the glycogen stored in each muscle that you are using.We often call it “muscle endurance training” so people don’t think it’s the same as “aerobic endurance training”.
Muscle endurance exercises don’t burn body fat as a fuel, but they do contribute to an improvement in muscle tone, body shape, and ability to perform work with minimum fatigue.
Lactate training is where you exercise at high intensities for between 30 seconds and two minutes, or in other words where you perform 10 to 40 repetitions (“reps”) of an exercise.
The basic formula for lactate endurance training is similar to the aerobic interval training.You do some work, and then slow down to allow your body to recover. However, with anaerobic (lactate) endurance training you work much harder for a shorter period of time, and then recover.
In aerobic interval training, you keep moving slowly while your body recovers. This is called “active” recovery. In anaerobic interval training, you can keep active, or you can just rest and do nothing – called “passive” recovery.
We prefer active recovery, as you don’t get a big buildup of lactic acid in your bloodstream, leading to nasties such as dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.
Guidelines for endurance training
- Prepare your body by mobilizing your joints and warming your muscles for a minimum of five minutes, or eight minutes if the temperature is less than 15 degrees.
- If you venture outside for your warm-up, make sure you run or walk on a smooth, safe surface. If you warm up inside, try five minutes on an exercise bike, or some low-impact exercises such as knee raises, trunk rotations, bent arm rotations, walks forwards and backwards, and walks to the side and back.
- The work/rest ratio for the average exerciser will be 30 seconds of work, followed by 2 to 3 minutes of very low recovery intensity exercise. As you get fitter, you increase the length of the work period, up to a maximum of 2 minutes.
- The work interval should be at a high intensity: 80-95 percent of your age predicted maximum heart rate (remember how to work this out: 220 minus your age). Start each work interval steadily, building up the work intensity, and then maintain that intensity.
- During the work phase your muscles should get fatigued. Keep up a slow walking pace in the recovery period.
- After a work/recovery period, repeat the exercises again. This is called two “sets” of the exercise.
Try doing two “sets” of abdominal curls. Keep doing slow curls for 20 seconds, have two minutes rest, and then do another set of 20 seconds. Add these abdominal curls on to the end of your aerobic conditioning session, just before you go into your recovery phase.
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