How to Go the Distance
Discover your limits by training for physical and mental endurance
On the flip side of cardiovascular endurance is what's known as muscular endurance, or your muscles' ability to keep contracting against resistance for a long period of time. It's a natural fit with cardiorespiratory training, and it will make any endurance activity you do much easier to perform. "The longer the continuous activity in a sport, the more muscular endurance will come into play," says Matt Russ, head coach and owner of the Sport Factory in Atlanta.
To build this type of endurance in the weight room, you sacrifice heavy weight for higher reps. "Generally, two to three sets of 15 reps or more works muscular endurance," Holland says. Rest periods should be kept to 30 seconds or less. But don't think lifting weights is the only way to build muscular endurance. For the athletes McCrann works with, it's actually the last strategy. Other ways include training on hills or using resistance in your workouts (such as swimming in a drag suit). After hills or resistance, you move to intensity, which means doing intervals. For example, work at 90% of your MHR for three to five minutes, then ease down to 75% for another three to five minutes. Repeat four times for eight to 20 minutes.
Training your mind
Endurance training is tough—it's not only physically exhausting, it also challenges your mental fortitude. That's why Russ recommends giving yourself a reason for being out there. "What do you hope to get from endurance training?" he says. A leaner physique? The ability to run a half marathon? Whatever your goal, keep it in front of you. Then set short-term goals that coincide with your long-term ones so you stay in the game, such as logging three cardio endurance workouts every week or something similar.
Also, watch your attitude as you train. "Your mind's stronger than your body, so if you've got negative self-talk going on, you're going to impede progress," Holland says. When you start trash-talking yourself, kick those thoughts out of your head and replace them with positives. Then do some visualization. "The mind doesn't know the difference between what you see and what you do," Holland says. Visualize your training, and watch your performance increase.
For instance, when you're doing cardio indoors with music, close your eyes for an entire song. Picture yourself racing and succeeding. "Practice going for longer and longer periods of time with your eyes closed," Holland says. Even while you're relaxing outside the gym, visualize great performances.