Increasing your Endurance

Increasing endurance is a key component of CrossFit training. Learning to pace, increasing capacity, and training your lungs and heart to work for longer are keys to success in most arenas of fitness, health, and overall well-being. 

Increase your endurance to run further and workout more comfortably.

Some people hear endurance training and immediately think it means running for a long time or some other ‘boring’ activity. Compared to other parts of CrossFit, endurance training can be slightly less exciting, but that does not mean it has to be boring. You don’t have to do the same thing every day, and while long runs help build your lungs, they are just one tool of many in increasing your endurance. 

Learning to Pace

A big component of endurance is pacing. Have you ever started a CrossFit workout and gone out way too fast, only to miserably struggle through the rest of the workout? We have all been there at some point, but endurance training teaches us what paces we should hit for every different type of time domain. We should be able to tell what our bodies should feel like when starting a five- versus twenty-five-minute workout. 

Learning your Body

Once we learn to pace, we are more in tune with our bodies. We know when we can push; we know what levels of discomfort are sustainable and which ones will break us down far too quickly. We can learn to asses aches and pains in our bodies, and this all can be improved when we put time aside and give a little extra to our endurance. 

Starting Endurance Training

Many people don’t quite know when to start with their endurance. I always recommend getting into running, but if you have an injury preventing that, biking, rowing, and swimming are all good options. You don’t need to start fast, and you certainly do not need to overdo it. 

Start small: jog for one minute, walk for one (or two) minutes and complete this cycle for twenty minutes. Gradually decrease the walking time as you get stronger. If you are biking or doing a different cardio machine, do the same thing: one minute on, one minute off. 

No matter how fit you get, there is great benefit in slow running. Just because you get stronger does not mean every run must be all-out. 

Structuring a Training Plan
Zone 2 Work:

This is your ‘easy’ run (or any sort of cardio). Zone 2 work can increase your endurance (and your overall performance). It is a longer cardio session done at 60-70% of your max heart rate. It is not an all-out effort, but you are still doing work. 

For those newer to cardio training, these zone 2 sessions can involve running for one minute, walking for one minute, etc.; that way, you keep your heart rate from spiking too high. 

Zone two allows us to build a base for our fitness. If you want to increase your endurance, I recommend 1-2 sessions of zone 2 work each week. You can read more about it here in an article from Whoop. 

Aerobic Capacity Workouts

Your aerobic capacity refers to how optimally your body uses and burns through oxygen. We can increase our aerobic capacity with workouts that push the pace and then recover while still doing work, pushing the limit of where we can comfortably perform an exercise. 

Increasing your aerobic capacity will allow you to recover while still working. It will also allow you to push your ‘red-line’ zone out further and continue exercising at a higher intensity. 

An example of an aerobic capacity would be:

3 Sets:

2 Minutes Bike at 80%

1 Minute Bike at 50%

3 Minutes Bike at 80%

2 Minutes Bike at 60%

2 Minutes REST

In this workout, we get some faster paces (80% effort), and then we use a slower pace to recover. During this ‘recovery’ phase (50-60%), we are not fully resting, but we can allow our legs and lungs to flush, teaching our bodies to recover more efficiently.

Including one aerobic capacity workout each week will help you build your endurance and understand when and how to push your body. 

Interval Training

We can also leverage interval training to build our endurance. Interval work (much like aerobic capacity training) increases our ability to recover, another key aspect of fitness. Interval work involves sprinting for a shorter duration of time and then resting. After allowing yourself to recover, you will attempt to hit that same effort again. Consistency is key here—we want to avoid having a very fast first round and then falling off in the later rounds. 

Intervals can be as simple as 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off for fifteen to thirty minutes with any sort of cardio movement. We want to hit those intervals hard but still know that the 30 seconds of recovery isn’t overly long, so we will adjust accordingly. 

Intervals can also be done with a longer rest-to-work ratio, allowing for more full recovery (1 minute of work, 2 minutes of rest). We can also go the other way (2 minutes of work, 1 minute of recovery) to focus on repatriation efforts without fully recovering. 

Putting it together

We can use all these tools—zone 2, aerobic capacity, and interval work—to create a program that helps increase our endurance. Depending on your level of fitness and your goals, you can include two zone 2 training sessions per week, one aerobic capacity session per week, and one interval day. If you want to ease in slower, shoot for one zone 2 session per week, then choose either an aerobic capacity or interval workout. 

It takes some time and patience to build up your endurance, but if you commit the time you will see results. Perhaps you have a goal of doing Murph faster this next year. Use that as fuel to help increase your fitness and endurance.

Have fun, enjoy the good weather of summer, and let’s build that tank!

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