Getting You Started in Endurance Sports

Getting You Started in Endurance Sports

When it comes to endurance training there are a handful of hard-and-fast rules for successful endurance training and once you have followed them, the rest is up to you. To develop and maintain aerobic fitness and build endurance, the ACSM suggests the

Aerobic Exercise


Frequency of exercise: Three to five days a week.

Intensity of training: 60 to 90 percent of maximum heart rate (MHR) or 50 to 85 percent of maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max).

Duration: 20 to 60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity (walking, hiking, running, bicycling, swimming, cross-country skiing, rowing, aerobics, etc.)

Type of training: Along with the regular program, at least two strength training sessions of moderate intensity per week. If you adopt these guidelines, a good, basic endurance training program might look like this:

  • Two weekly 30-minute runs at 70 percent of your maximum heart rate
  • Two 30-minute workouts of the same intensity in the pool or on the bike.
  • Two weight-training sessions of 30 minutes each.

Motivation and goals come first

Before you charge out the door, it is important to decide just why you are getting involved in this scene. Your reasons will be as unique as you are, driven by your priorities at the time you begin: shedding a few pounds, improving your quality of life, or being able to run after your kids without risking a coronary. It also helps to have some concrete goals. Concrete goals make it a lot easier to stick with your program. The line between goals and motivation might seem thin, but there is a distinction. Motivation is what drives you. Goals are the direction in which you'll channel that drive. Your motivation could be a desire to lose weight or trot upstairs without wheezing. Your goal might be a 10K run by the end of six months.

Base-building Program

Here is an overview of what your base-building program should accomplish. It should:

  • Get you comfortable with your sport. Developing neuromuscular coordination or "getting the feel" of your sport is an important first step toward higher performance levels.
  • Allow your whole body to ease back into the specifics of your chosen sport. 
  • Establish a baseline of aerobic strength that will support you when it is time to push harder.

In the beginning, you'll be working at an easy pace. This moderate-intensity training at 60 to 70 percent of your MHR will comprise the majority of your endurance program throughout the year. It is your job to maintain a minimum long-distance capacity and strengthen your body for hard efforts like racing and speed work.


  • Plot out your program in black and white
  • Find friends to train with 
  • Make your training program as logistically convenient as possible
  • Keep a record of your training but don't let it take over your life
  • Add some zest to your plan - allow room for alternatives
  • Start slow


Scott Tinley and Ken McAlpine. Winning Guide to Sports Endurance, Rodale Press, 1994

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