We need endurance for such
things as love-making, long trips, grueling yardwork, sports, and the
general satisfaction that we can go the distance. How do you keep from
being winded and worn? This is not simply a benefit of youth. It is a
benefit of training, nutrition, and some lifestyle choices. Here are some
- See our article on exercise, for general fitness.
- Improve your cardiovascular condition through
sprinting, not slow-paced activities that stretch out over time. While
it might sound counterintuitive, the fact is you'll make more
endurance gains with a series of fast short runs than one long run.
The physiology behind this has a lot to do with cortisol levels and
the oxygen-carrying ability of your hemoglobin. Long-distance running
elevates cortisol (not good), while high-intensity exercise increases
the oxygen-carrying ability of your hemoglobin (good).
- Keep a positive attitude. Do this by conscious
effort to see silver linings and what's going well. A negative
attitude depresses the very hormones that give you endurance.
- Drink plenty of water--unless you are training to
endure long meetings! Water deficiencies lower your recovery ability
and the efficiency of your muscles.
- Read your labels. Avoid foods with hydrogenated
oils and added sugar. Hydrogenated oils elevate the level of free
radicals in your body--getting cancer is not a way to improve your
endurance. Processed sugar bypasses nature's carbohydrate delivery
system, and causes several negative consequences for your body.
- Don't rely on "normal" foods for
nutrition. Most food in today's supply chain is diminished in its
nutritional capacity. Thus, supplementation gives you more than
"a competitive edge." It gets you in the game. See the
supplementation category at left, and start improving your endurance
- Stay away from tobacco smoke, alcohol, and other
recreational drugs. Sure, you've heard this many times. But, are you
- Engage in relaxation activities such as yoga,
meditation, and prayer.
- When you have a goal to strive for, you empower
yourself to reach it. Simply saying, "I will exercise to improve
endurance" is one thing. Saying, "By the end of this month,
I will double the number of pull-ups I can do" is quite another.
Go for the more concrete goal.
- Learn to focus. In some cases--such as
love-making--you will need to place your entire energy into what you
are doing, live in the moment. In other cases--such as enduring
pain--you will need to focus your consciousness out of the moment. In
other cases--such as when you must overcome pain to get out one more
repetition of that barbell--you must alternate between the two. Use
- Stay active, but also get rest. That is, don't
become a couch potato, but do give yourself enough rest.
The above information assumes you want endurance
without sacrificing other physical attributes. That's a good goal for an
all-round athlete or for the average person.
If you want to be an elite endurance athlete (e.g., a
long-distance runner), then you will--after you reach a certain level of
fitness--need to make some trade-offs to go beyond the endurance level you would
obtain by following the recommendations above. Essentially, you are going to
train in a specialized manner. Some of the things you will be doing:
- Sports-specific exercises. For example, you would run
long distances to train for long-distance running. You want to fine tune your
technique, but you also want to fine tune your muscle development toward the
sport in which you want endurance.
- Avoid fast-twitch fiber development. These fibers give
you speed. If you want to be a sprinter, you develop these. But for endurance,
you focus on developing your slow-twitch fibers.
- Limit flexibility development. The more flexible you
are, the more the muscles must work to maintain stability. You need some
flexibility to prevent injury and tissue disorders. But to maximize endurance,
you want to minimize the load on the muscles.
- Read the literature on your sport, so you are up on the
training techniques that get the results you want.