Building A Better Workout: Endurance Is Your Number One Priority
Everyone is looking for something specific from their exercise regime. There are people who want to build bigger muscles or get a ripped physique, they would need different workout tips than those who want to drop a few pounds or lose the baby bump. There are also those who just want to build core strength. How you set out on your fitness quest, will depend on the results you want.
One reason so many people hire personal trainers is they know what they want, and they “kind of” know how to get it. Smart exercisers know that doing too much, too soon will cause them problems. However, they also don’t want to do less then they could. Maintaining enthusiasm is a key part of making your exercise regime effective.
If you are going to make any exercise plan work for you, you have to build your endurance. Want to be running miles rather than a mile? Lifting heavier weights? Getting in 45 minutes of yoga instead of 30? Endurance is essential to all of these and more.
What Makes Endurance So Important?
As humans, we have a tendency to look for shortcuts in everything in life. No sooner does a snack food company develop noodles that can be ready in a minute than someone is seeking to get it to 30 seconds. We lead busy lives and if we can crunch down the time something takes, we will. And that often comes at the expense of long-lasting results. Some things simply cannot be rushed. If you broke your leg and someone told you they could heal it in a couple of hours, you’d be skeptical, right? I hope you would, anyway. That takes time.
Endurance is important because it is fundamental to the amount we can exercise. Not only that, it is essential to how effective that training is. You may be exhausted after half a mile of running and decide still to push it to the full mile. The second half of that run will be pretty much worthless for your fitness levels. You stand a better chance of getting injured, and your form will suffer – meaning the muscles and systems you should be working don’t get fixed.
As much as you may want to skip a step or two – to get to the bit where you’re dropping weight or getting in real shape – they’re there for a reason. If you get pregnant, you don’t sit there thinking “well, we don’t really need the second trimester, do we? I believe we could have this baby out in about five months. Six, tops!”. Building endurance is essential because it allows you to do the rest of what you need.
How Do You Get Endurance?
While the point above about not pushing it too far remains relevant, it stands to reason that you won’t build endurance without pushing it some. It’s logical, really. Your muscles won’t get firmer or more defined without lifting something heavier. You won’t lose weight without working up a sweat. And you won’t gain endurance without having to endure a bit. The key is gradual improvement. That’s why trying a mile when you struggle to run half a mile is stupid.
- The first key point is that you must pick parts of your exercise regime in which you are weak. Getting all-around fitness means you can go through longer routines without something hurting. So if you find your calves burning after a short burst while the rest of you is fine, find exercises to build those. If you’re getting out of breath fast, work on breathing exercises and aerobics.
- Another vital step is to see the benefits of interval training. The increased intensity of these makes you fight more for every last drop of exercise. Then you stop and recover – this bit is important because it’s in the recovery that you build more endurance. You know that in the final stages of bone healing, doctors tell you to put some weight on the injured area? That’s to show the body where more bone growth is needed. Interval training works on this principle.
- Eat the right things. When you’re working out to build endurance, you’ll need more energy than at other times. So carbohydrates are vitally important. If you’re going to be doing intense cardio workouts, take approximately 50 grams of carbs for every hour you work out. Also of vital importance is protein – this will benefit your muscle recovery.
- Just as eating right is important, drinking the right things will also play a critical role. The importance of water cannot be overestimated in this. It is the single most important ingredient in body cell regeneration. In exercising, you will sweat, and you will get dehydrated – so keep topped up on a regular basis. It’s not essential to give up alcohol, but limit your intake. Its impact on muscle recovery is a negative one.
- Dress right. Yes, to some extent the obsession with expensive gym wear is problematic. You don’t need the yoga pants that are ten times more expensive than standard. But the right clothes for the exercise you’re doing are vital. If you cycle while wearing a basic t-shirt, it will begin to soak in sweat and damage your workout effectiveness. A dedicated cycle jersey will prevent this – Retro2Ride.com has details of some classics. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
- Rest is as important as work. This sounds like a mantra that people repeat to themselves to assuage the guilt of slacking off. It’s actually of enormous importance. You’ll get a more efficient workout from fresh muscles. Even if you think you’re gaining more from stacking workout on top of workout, all you’re doing is making injury and fatigue more likely.
Endurance Myths That Need Busting
It is also important to know that some of the advice given to you as you embark on an endurance training regime is less than accurate. By trying to live up to all of the information you are given, you will find that it contradicts itself in many places. Keeping things relatively simple is important if only to stop you from getting discouraged. The following are some myths that could actually be to your detriment if followed.
- “Electrolytes are as important as water.” No, they aren’t. Nothing is. And yes, you will need to replenish electrolytes after some workouts. Usually, only those that go on for longer than an hour. If it’s less than an hour, then the sugars in electrolyte drinks can prevent fat burning. Which is the opposite of what you want.
- “More reps with light weights will build endurance.” The importance of weight training in endurance is not in question. However, more reps may give you something of an aerobic workout, but it won’t do anything for your muscles. Instead, lift the heaviest weight you safely can for between six and ten reps. When you can handle heavier weights, move up a level. One of the keys of endurance is all-around fitness.
- “On days where you aren’t doing aerobic training, work on your strength.” No. Rest days are rest days, period. You can see the theory behind this idea – you’re working different muscle groups. Surely it will be more efficient to work for strength on days where you’re not tired from aerobic exercise? But no – your body needs the recovery period. Indeed, studies suggest that the best time for strength training is just before you do the aerobic stuff. It promotes production of cortisol, which helps you do more.
A lot of the information out there about working out more efficiently comes from putting together bits of what we already know. The problem with doing that is that the human body is a very complex mechanism. You can’t just graft one fact onto another and have a ready-to-go plan. The most important thing, always, is to avoid making assumptions.
You have to listen to your body. It sounds like a self-help mantra, but it is also true. Your physical health is something that depends on always giving your body what it needs. Aches, pains, and strains are some of the ways it will let you know. Be ready to stop working out one set of muscles if they are hurting too much to continue – you won’t make them stronger by pushing too hard.
Overall, remember that endurance is something that builds over time. It may be frustrating not to be able to go for bigger workouts right off the bat. But there is no part of exercise, be it weights, running or yoga, that will not get better for having more endurance. So being patient right now will gain you better results in the future. And once you’ve built that endurance, the more you work out, the more it will reward you.
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. She is the star of over 100 videos, a contributing editor at Health Magazine and a spokeswoman for many brands and causes she believes in. Kristin also appears frequently on television. A proud mom to three, she sure keeps herself busy!