Sports Training & Conditioning Zone!

Paradigm Shift in Training Endurance Athletes

By Kevin Elsey, Performance Specialist – Athletes' Performance

Traditionally, endurance athletes run, bike, or swim themselves into the ground.  Their training is often limited to the sport they are training for.  If they are a runner – they run, if they are a biker – they bike, and if they are a swimmer – they swim.  Instead of trying to improve biomechanics and core fundamental movements, many follow the traditional formula of training more and more with inefficient movement patterns - until finally their bodies break down due to various overuse injuries. 

Endurance exercise is the interplay between power, stability, nutrition, and sustainability. The only reason endurance athletes train as much as they do is to ensure that the power they are capable of exhibiting is sustained for the length of the event they wish to complete. There are 2 ways to go about this 1) run longer and farther with the existing mechanics and energy leaks and hope you have the tissue tolerance to prevent injury and make it through the entire event or 2) improve your capacity of movement patterns so you are operating at a lower relative intensity of effort. This will delay the onset of fatigue and hormonal shifts, helping you recover more effectively from one session to the next.

In other words, we know it is important for an endurance athlete to be able to move with consistent power output towards the end of their event as they do at the beginning. It is commonly accepted that stability relates to both injury avoidance as well as efficiency of movement, while power output and technique dictate how fast your athletes move. What is not commonly accepted is that increasing stability and minimizing energy leaks in your athletes' systems can potentially increase their power outputs. With an increase in stability they can run with more power and less energy expended at the same rate of perceived exertion, thus successfully improving their efficiency by lowering their effort.  And since their capacity to exhibit power over time is improved – your athletes will experience this efficiency two fold.

So, what does this all mean? Basically if they can maintain this stability and power over time (without breaking down) while at the same time maintaining proper nutrition and hydration for energy balance, your athletes should be able to continue in their events for longer periods of time. Notice the operative word here is "maintain." So now if you treat conditioning work as "power maintenance" work you are off on the right track. The only question left is how long do your athletes have to maintain it? They don't need to have a long run of 26miles in their training to prepare to run a marathon, and certainly don't need to run 50miles to prepare to run a marathon. With their newfound efficiency and nutritional strategies, that "long run" distance drops even more.

When developing your endurance training system, try to broaden your training focus to re-establish your athletes' core fundamental movement patterns, and create elasticity in their bodies while building tissue tolerance.  This will enable your athletes to train more efficiently and thus improve performance while making them resistant to injuries, illness, and long-term deterioration.  There are many ways to develop and train the various facets that affect the performance of endurance athletes – however, the first step and perhaps the key is to understand how movement mechanics, tissue tolerance, power output, nutrition and power maintenance interact during endurance events.

For more information on Athletes' Performance and the Athletes' Performance Professional Mentorship Training and Education Programs please visit Athletes' Performance is an approved CEU provider for the NSCA, NATA and ACE.