How to Build Cardiovascular Fitness for Long Distance, Endurance Exercise
Endurance is a term widely used in sport and can mean many different things to many different people. In sports it refers to an athlete’s ability to sustain prolonged exercise for minutes, hours or even days. Endurance requires the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply energy to the working muscles in order to support sustained physical activity.
When most people talk about endurance they are referring to aerobic endurance, which is often equated with cardiovascular fitness. Aerobic means “with oxygen” and during aerobic exercise the body uses oxygen to help supply the energy needed for exercise.
The objective of endurance training is to develop the energy production systems to meet the demands of activity for as long as they are required.
With endurance training, the body becomes better able to use oxygen efficiently through aerobic metabolism. The cardio-respiratory system and aerobic energy systems become more efficient at delivering oxygen to the working muscles and converting carbohydrate and fat to energy.
Endurance Training Programs
There are many different ways to train for improved aerobic endurance. The duration, frequency and intensity of each type of training varies and the training focuses on slightly different energy systems and skills and results in different physical adaptations.
Some of the most well known endurance training programs include:
Long Slow Distance Training
This type of training is the most common type of endurance training and the foundation for marathon runners, long distance cyclists and other sports that demand long, sustained steady energy outputs. It is also the easiest form of endurance training for new or novice exercisers.
Consists of training at a steady, but fairly high intensity just slightly higher than “race pace” for a shorter duration, usually 20-30 minutes at a steady pace.
Consists of short, repeated, but intense physical efforts (3-5 minutes followed by short rest periods).
Consists of a series of specific exercises performed for a short durations and rotated through in quick in succession with little or no rest in between. Traditional circuit training routines build both strength and endurance and can be varied in a multitude of ways to meet any athlete’s training goals.
Combines some or all of the other training methods during a long, moderate training session. During the workout the athletes adds short bursts of higher intensity work with no set plan; it’s up to how the athletes feels.
How to Prevent Injuries while Exercising
1. Have a Routine Physical / Fitness Test
Visit you doctor before beginning a new exercise program. Any new activity can stress your body. If you have undiagnosed heart disease or other conditions, you should modify your exercise accordingly. Your doctor can let you know what your limits might be and suggest an appropriate amount of exercise for you.
When starting an exercise program, many people have lots of enthusiasm initially, and go too hard, too soon. Begin with moderate exercise of about 20 minutes, 3 times a week and gradually build upon this.
If you just don’t know what to do or where to begin, a good trainer will get you started safely and help you learn enough to work out on your own if you choose. A few initial sessions may be all you need.
A proper, gradual warm up goes a long way to prevent injuries. The warm up can consist of walking, jogging or simply doing your regular activity at a snail’s pace.
While you don’t want to exercise immediately after eating a large meal, eating about 2 hours before exercise can help fuel your exercise and help you avoid fading during your workout.
Dehydration can kill your performance, so stay well hydrated. Try to drink 16oz. of water in the two hours before your workout and then take in water during your workout to replace any lost fluids.
If you experience any sharp pain, weakness or light-headedness during exercise, pay attention. This is your body’s signal that something is wrong and you should stop exercise. Pushing through acute pain is the fastest way to develop a severe or chronic injury. If you don’t feel well, you should take some time off until your body heals.
In addition to helping reduce workout boredom, cross-training allows you to get a full body workout without overstressing certain muscle groups.
10. Dress Properly for Your Sport
This includes using appropriate safety equipment for your sport, choosing proper footwear, replacing running shoes as needed and wearing clothing that draws sweat away from your body and helps keep you cool and dry.
11. Test Your Shoe
Wear a good pair of hiking boots or running shoes. Make sure they are well ‘broken in’ before the event by wearing them on practice walks. Do not wear new shoes for the event! A spare pair of broken in shoes is recommended.
12. Pack a Bag Pack Well
In training, find out what you’ll need to carry, including the type and amount of food, amount of water, etc. There is no reward for carrying more than is absolutely necessary.
13. Training Diary
Keep a training log to record the distances, sections of the trail and total time you’ve covered. This helps you find out what training works best and will provide time estimates for your support crew.
14. Ten Percent Rule
From one week to the next, do not increase your total weekly distance covered or the distance of your long ride/walk/run by more than ten percent. A big increase in distance or level of intensity greatly increases your chances of injury.
15. Cross Training
Cross training, along with regular stretching and possibly a weight training program, will reduce your risk of injury and keep the training interesting. It’s particularly important for beginners who are just starting to build their strength and endurance.
16. Take A Break
Stopping briefly for breaks during training will help you to work out the best strategy for your team, including what to eat, how long to rest, what gear changes you’ll need, etc. Use this strategy to help plan your team’s transition through the checkpoints.
17. Find A Rhythm
Use your training to establish a rhythm for the event. If you are planning to include running in the event, a popular run/walk pattern is to run 20 minutes then walk 5 minutes. Some people prefer a walk/walk or even a walk/jog pattern where you might jog the flats and walk the rest. Again, apply the pattern that you practiced in training. Nearly all teams (including the most advanced) walk the up hills –even the small hills -to conserve their energy.
18. Make It Fun
When you’re going in for the long haul, team mates or friends make for more fun. They will also help you to establish more credible team goals, and provide entertainment and encouragement. Arrange your training hike to finish at a beach or local restaurant, and then invite your support crew to join you for a small celebration.