Fit, Part 1: Endurance

Last week, I explained my concept of “Fit”, which encompasses all aspects of Physical Fitness.  Now I’m going to write a 3-parter that breaks down the 3 categories I put under physical fitness: Endurance, Strength, and Movement Ability.



There are multiple kinds of endurance, but they are all about putting up with something difficult for a long period of time.  On the macro-scale, we have the longevity of human beings–some of whom live for 120+ years, while others die at age 50 from lifestyle diseases–that’s a form of endurance right?  There’s the ability to endure pain, to endure stress, to endure heat or cold.  But, when I’m talking about fitness, I’m talking about the kind of endurance you build through exercise, training, and physical activity.

Cardiovascular Endurance is the ability of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels to work really hard for an extended period of time.  This is developed through any physical activity that elevates your heart rate and respiratory rate and keeps it high for a while.

Muscular Endurance is the ability of your muscles to repeat difficult contractions over an extended period of time.  When you’re doing contractions (you know, reps), you’re not just using muscles, you’re also stressing joints, bones, and connective tissues.  But, those all adapt to training along with muscles, so we can kind of lump them together under this concept.

Mental Endurance is the ability of your mind to go through something hard for an extended period of time.  Sure, you might be frustrated, bored, or “over it”, but if you manage to keep going at it until it’s done, that’s mental endurance.  This is trained by sustaining any difficult task to the end.

When endurance is something you consciously want to develop (or absolutely need to develop), I also think it’s important to understand two major aspects of endurance that are critical to endurance-development: Capacities, and Pacing.

Capacities is my term for the things you are already capable of doing.  These are the limits, based on the things your body has done previously and been able to adapt to (and the adaptations its been able to sustain).  You can increase these capacities by doing more work and doing it more often.  That’s called volume.  If your body is not up to the task of a 10k run, one way to develop that ability is by increasing your volume of walking and jogging with more frequent sessions, and gradually increasing the length of them.  The muscles, connective tissues, joints and bones that you are using for this repeated movement will all become stronger, as will the muscles of your heart and vessels that pump blood, and your lungs that pump oxygen during all that effort.

Pacing is the skill of sustaining effort over the amount of time required for the task.  This is different from capacities because it’s more of a mental skill, based on your attentiveness to physiological feedback from your body.  Pacing is all about metering your energy so it lasts until the end, but not just that, it’s also about avoiding big peaks and valleys in your energy output.  This is an efficiency skill, using your experience–and practical knowledge of your own abilities and feelings of effort–in order to manage the capacities of your body.  You can develop pacing skills by measuring pace and repeatability in your training.  I teach this with a system called “MAP” (Maximum Aerobic Power) that I learned from OPEX Fitness.

Come back on Monday and I’ll talk a bit about concepts of strength and strength development.




Published by nicnakis

Nicholas |nik-uh-luhs| n. a male given name: from Greek words meaning "victory of the people" John |jon| n. a male given name: from Hebrew Yohanan, derivative of Yehohanan "God has been gracious" Nakis |nah-kis| n. a Greek family name derived from the patronymic ending -akis (from Crete) Amha |am-hah| n. an Ethiopian given name meaning "gift", from Geez Selassie |suh-la-see| n. Ethiopian name meaning "trinity", from Geez

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