Optimizing Endurance Training

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Endurance athletes undertake distinct training types in order to optimize specific areas related to endurance performance. The adaptation that occurs through training depends on a number of factors including the duration, intensity and frequency with which training occurs (Wenger and Bell, 1986). Typically endurance training falls into the range of 60-100% VO2max or 65-100% Maximum Heart rate (HRmax). Endurance athletes undertake four main training types: 1) Moderate intensity exercise (60-80%VO2max, 65-80%HRmax), 2) Fast continuous or Lactate threshold training (80-90%VO2max, 80-90% HRmax), and 3) High Intensity Interval training (90-100% VO2max, 90-100% HRmax), 4) Strength training for endurance and skills training.

Endurance training and the risk of overtraining

Most endurance athletes know the importance of having a large training volume in order to optimise aerobic fitness. However, in order to have a high training volume, the average intensity of workouts must be kept relatively low. This is because when training intensity increases there is an associated rise in the level of catecholamines (stress hormones) that are released into the blood stream. Prolonged exposure to high catecholamine levels greatly increases the chances of succumbing to overtraining and staleness. Therefore, it is important not to train too often at intensities that bring about a significant rise in catecholamine levels.

Research has demonstrated that catecholamine levels begin to rise sharply at the point of the lactate threshold (LT) and therefore the majority of your training volume should be performed at an intensity that is at or below the LT (Schwarz and Kindermann, 1990; Coen et al., 1991; Urhausen and Kindermann, 1992).

How to reduce the risk of overtraining

  1. Do most training (>50% at below the LT – ideally around 70-80% of HR max)
  2. Perform the majority of intense training at close to the LT – around 20% of total training should be performed at the LT.
  3. Only train above the LT for short periods of time (Max of 2 sessions per week to total no more than 10% of total training volume)
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