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A beginner’s guide to endurance training

Although extremely enjoyable, getting started in a new sport can be daunting and unpredictable. It will test your patience and commitment and will challenge you both mentally and physically. So this week’s #sciencefriday is more about giving advice than science. In order to help jump start your journey, here are a few tips and tricks to follow:

1. Build-up slowly

Training can (simply) be broken down into three categories: duration, frequency and intensity. In order to avoid any injuries and/or loss of motivation long term, it is important to build these categories up layer by layer. 

Duration: measured by distance or time. For runners, this may be starting with a jog around the block until you can go without stopping. Once you’ve achieved that, lengthen the duration by 1-2 km each week. For cyclists, it may mean starting with a 30 min to 1-hour ride and increasing the duration by 30 min each week.

Frequency: the amount of times you exercise per day or week. In order to improve but not over do it, one should aim to start by training 2-3 times per week and avoid training on consecutive days to allow muscles and joints time to recover between sessions. 

Intensity: refers to how difficult a training session is. It is measured through heart rate, wattage or rating of perceived exertion (RPE). The intensity of sessions can be gradually increased by including hill climbs or riding in a group that is slightly stronger than you. Remember, this should not be the main focus point for beginners, as starting out is about getting the right feeling for the sport. 

Controlling the above aspects may be difficult for some, which is why speaking to others with experience or using our enduco app can help guide and manage your training appropriately. 

2. Listen to your body

Do not neglect your recovery time. The more experienced you become, the more you realize the importance of recovery and listening to your body. If you are not motivated to train or feel fatigued, taking an extra rest day can be just what you need. In order to adapt to training and improve performance, the body and mind need time to restore and heal. Recovery can be enhanced with stretching, good sleep, rehydration and the right nutrition.

3. Get the right equipment

Having the right equipment does not mean buying a full carbon top of the range bike or the Nike Vapourfly running shoes. Investing in a good quality pair of cycling shorts with a comfortable chamois and running shoes that are suited to your technique is an investment to consider. The right equipment can make the journey a lot more enjoyable.

4. Fuel your body right

Good nutrition is fundamental for improving performance. Both a sufficient supply of carbohydrates and protein are needed to increase energy availability before and during training and to aid recovery. Aim to include adequate amounts of wholesome grains, fruits and vegetables along with high quality proteins to your diet. Make sure to drink water throughout the day and always fill up your water bottle before a ride. When training sessions get longer and more intense, make sure to adjust your nutrition appropriately by adding a sports drink powder into your bottle or taking a snack with you in your jersey pocket.

5. Keep it social

As a beginner, trying to keep up with advanced athletes is not good for the ego or body so aim to train with others at your own speed and who can make it a fun experience. Having a community where you can share thoughts, ask questions and go for a beer after training (alcohol-free of course) will help keep you motivated and eager to progress. 

6. Challenge yourself

Bike handling skills and running technique take time to learn and perfect. When your fitness and confidence improves, find an individual or a group who are able to push you out of your comfort zone every now and then to practice your speed and skills. Mixing up your training routes with long steady or short steep hill climbs can help raise the intensity and improve your strength.

7. Include strength training 

To help support the body with the new demands of training, including strength training 1-2 per week can help strengthen muscles, support joints, improve neuromuscular coordination and economy and avoid risk of injury (1) (2). Suitable strength training exercises for endurance athletes include various versions of lunges, squats, box jumps, planking and resistance band exercises.

Sources

  1. Fleck, S. J., & Falkel, J. E., (1986). Value of Resistance Training for the Reduction of Sports Injuries. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 3(1).
  2. Yamamoto, L. M., Lopez, R. M., Klau, J. F., Casa, D. J., Kraemer, W. J., & Maresh, C. M. (2008). The effects of resistance training on endurance distance running performance among highly trained runners: A systematic review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(6), 2036–2044.