Our ability to not only perform but to excel in athletics is largely driven by our level of endurance. It comes as no surprise that most dedicated athletes take the time to implement endurance training into their weekly workout schedule. It’s also no surprise that many athletes look to the services of a qualified personal trainer to ensure they are getting the most out of their endurance training program.
Endurance Training and the Well-Conditioned Athlete
Endurance refers to your ability to exert yourself over a period of time. A high level of endurance also refers to your ability withstand stress, pain, and fatigue. Endurance is also directly related to our cardiovascular and muscular health and our ability to complete any aerobic or anaerobic exercise.
Cardiovascular endurance allows your body to efficiently pump oxygen throughout your body for long period of time. It’s therefore a joint effort between your heart, your blood vessels, and your lungs. Appropriate endurance performance exercises allow your body to become more efficient at delivering oxygen to the working muscles and converting carbohydrate and fat to energy.
As such, endurance training not only enhances your athletic performance, but your overall health. A high level of endurance equates to improved heart function, an increased metabolism, and increased levels of energy, just for starters. Just a few of the activities that require a high level of endurance include:
- Long-distance running
- Triathlons (e.g. Ironman)
- Endurance competitions (e.g., Tough Mudder, Spartan Race Challenge, Warrior Dash, Muddy Buddy, etc.)
Training the Endurance Athlete
Training endurance athletes requires a working knowledge of everything from their lactate threshold (often the best predictor of endurance performance) to their ventilatory threshold. How you will approach endurance training with your clients will also depend on everything from their current level of fitness to the activity or sport for which they are training.
There are therefore a number of ways to approach an endurance training program for your clients:
Slow-Distance Training – Slow-distance training is the best form of endurance training for new athletes or for those athletes who must product long and sustained outputs of energy, such as marathoners and long-distance cyclists. The workout intensity is usually at about 80 percent maximum heart rate, with training periods lasting between 30 minutes and 2 hours.
Pace-Tempo Training – Pace-tempo training consists of steady training at a higher pace (just slightly higher than a race pace) for a shorter period of time (20-30 minutes), which is designed to improve energy production from both aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways.
Interval Training – Interval training consists of brief periods of intense physical exercise (3 to 5 minutes), followed by short rest periods. The work-to-rest ratio of interval training sessions should be 1:1, with a total duration of between 30 and 45 minutes due to the demanding nature of the program.
Repetition Training – Repetition training consists of a program of specific exercises that are performed in fast succession. It is the most intensive form of aerobic endurance training, with work intervals lasting between 60 to 90 seconds, followed by rest intervals of 5 minutes or more. Repetition training is often performed to improve running speed and running economy. It also helps your clients improve their lactate threshold.
Fartlek Training – Fartlek training includes a combination of the above aerobic endurance training exercises during long training sessions. High-intensity bursts of activity are often added in no specific order, although a low cycle (achieving a 70 percent maximum heart rate) is the foundation of the training session. Fartlek training is often performed to improve exercise economy and lactate threshold.
Personal Training for Endurance Athletes: What to Consider
As a personal trainer, you must consider the following factors when designing and implementing an endurance training program for your clients:
- Improving lactate threshold (often considered the most important determinant in endurance-related activities) is best accomplished by increasing training volume and then incorporating steady-state workouts (at lactate threshold) and interval workouts (at above lactate threshold).
- Training volume should be increased gradually (about 10 to 20 percent per week).
- A conservative endurance training approach helps prevent overtraining and injuries.
- The maximum training volume that your clients can achieve will depend on a number of factors, all of which can be gauged by determining their overall physical capacity and motivation/goal.
- Physical capacity is determined by factoring your clients’ training status, time, age, and body weight.
Endurance Training and Improving the Lactate Threshold: A Primer for Personal Trainers
Lactate threshold is an important term in the realm of endurance training. Your body, both at rest and under steady-state exercises, maintains a balance between blood lactate production and blood lactate removal.
The lactate threshold is the point where the blood lactate level increases. A number of studies have found a clear link between performance in endurance events and reaching a maximum steady-state workload at the lactate threshold.
Lactate threshold is often also referred to as:
- Aerobic threshold
- Anaerobic threshold
- Individual anaerobic threshold
- Lactate breaking point
- Maximal steady-state
- Onset of blood lactate accumulation
Although there remains no definitive way of ensuring your clients have reached the optimal training point for lactate threshold improvement, research has found that programs combining high-volume, steady-state, and intervals workouts have the most pronounced effect on lactate threshold.
How to Become a Personal Trainer with an Endurance Training Specialty
Endurance training has become a science, so your clients seeking an endurance training program will want to work with a personal trainer who has achieved a level of expertise in the profession. Therefore, your best bet for building a resume as a personal trainer is to complete an associate or bachelor degree in an area related to personal training.
While there are a number of degree programs in personal training, many personal trainers complete programs that are closely associated to this fitness profession, such as:
- Exercise science
- Exercise physiology
In addition to providing students with a foundation of knowledge in human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and biomechanics, among others, a degree program in a field related to personal training consists of a core curriculum that includes study in:
- Exercise pathophysiology
- Nutrition and physical fitness
- Sports epidemiology
- Adapted physical activity
- Principles of sports injury management
Personal training professional certification is widely recognized as a pathway to employment among many employers. It also signifies that you have completed a program of education and training and a level of competency directly related to your profession.
A number of organizations also offer specialty certification designed to allow you to begin presenting yourself as a specialist in endurance training:
- National Exercise and Sports Trainer Association, Functional Training Specialist
- American Sports and Fitness Association, Running Fitness Instruction
- USA Triathlon, Level I, II, II Coaching Certification