If you know anyone who runs marathons, is a triathlete, or rides bikes for long distances; then you know how passionate they are for their sport. If you are an endurance athlete, then we envy your enjoyment of the sport. Not many people could do what you do and love it.
Over the years we have trained many endurance athletes. When we implemented a program that introduced these 3 things, all of them saw improvements in endurance, and speed. Every endurance athlete’s training program could benefit from these 3 things.
- Increase the variation of training – Endurance sports are repetitive and overuse is the single most common reason for decreased performance and injury in endurance athletes. Doing the same movements over and over and over leads to a maximum training effect for that movement pattern. Once that movement pattern and the muscles, tendons and central nervous system has been trained, where else is there to go?
Variation in your training program is the best way to increase the development of your body without overworking the systems you need to be at their best. You can and need to get better by practicing your sport, to a point. Diminishing returns can ruin the positive effect of your training. Effective training allows for offloading the focus while enhancing the systems needing to be developed.
Without getting too much in the weeds. Take some time and work on your cardiovascular endurance by getting on a rowing machine instead of running or biking. It works the same metabolic systems but saves the movement pattern from getting overworked.
Instead of going on that bike ride today, go throw some weight on your shoulders and climb a few hills. Build some muscle mass so you don’t have to work so hard and you can last longer on your rides.
- Train more strength – Severely misunderstood, strength training is NOT something that will slow you down as an endurance athlete. We aren’t talking about trying to become a bodybuilder.
We are talking about strength training for a couple of specific purposes. 1. It allows the muscles to use less energy while they work. Stronger muscles don’t work as hard as weaker muscles. It’s that simple. 2. More muscle mass helps your body reduce the effect of repetitive movement in your joints. With a higher number of muscles fibers to handle the stress of movement, your ligaments and tendons have to deal with less. Run or bike longer with less energy used and less damage to your body over the course of the activity.
- Add a consistent mobility routine – Lack of mobility in endurance athletes is a huge problem. It goes beyond the sport performance realm and affects quality of life for many.
Mobility is a combination of flexibility, range of motions, and motor strength. It is being able to put your body into the positions it is meant to operate in, correctly, every time, under stress.
Signs of poor mobility can be lower back pain, hip misalignment, sore knees, painful shoulders, and many others. Your performance as an athlete will suffer if you cannot put your body into good positions. Sure you may be able to run, bike, and swim, but if every part of your body isn’t moving properly when you do it, how much are you leaving on the table?
Poor mobility also points to unhealthy muscles. Tight, sore muscles do not operate efficiently. It’s like tying your arms to the side of your body, then trying to jump rope. It just doesn’t work.
Bonus: Increase your recovery time and or frequency – FACT: Performance increases only happen during rest periods. You cannot get better unless you rest. It’s science, don’t fight it. Increasing the amount you rest, can work miracles in how fast you get better at your chosen sport. More on that here:
Additionally, the common injuries among endurance athletes are repetitive use injuries like tendonitis, strains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, etc…. Don’t let these happen to you.
Take time off!
The body is complex, it is a machine that requires ALL of it’s parts to be in working order if you want it to perform at its best. Don’t spend all your time on one part of the fitness puzzle. Put the whole picture together and you will improve in your specific activity.