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Endurance Training

Continuous, interval and repetition running Events

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 pole vault.

There are 4 types of endurance training, and a sound knowledge of each type of training is of paramount importance to all endurance runners and coaches.

Aerobic endurance
Anaerobic endurance
speed endurance
strength endurance

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


Aerobic means "with oxygen". During aerobic training the runners body is working at a level that the demands for oxygen and fuel can be meet 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 through the use of continuous and interval training.

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

Aerobic threshold

The aerobic threshold, or the point at which anaerobic energy pathways start to operate, is considered to be around 65% of maximum heart rate. This is approximately 40 beats lower than the anaerobic threshold.


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 after even only a small proportion of the oxygen debt has been repaid. 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.

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 a variation of continuous running in which variations of pace are 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.

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

Read our Running Programme for Beginners...

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