Intro to Training Factors and Endurance

Regardless of the sports you participate in there are some physical fundamentals that many of us know about but may not recognize. Which of these physical fundamentals may be a strength or a performance limiter.

Romanian sports scientist Dr. Tudor Bompa developed a useful schema called “The Training Factors Pyramid”. When combined with his philosophy of periodization of training, amazing performance results are possible. Periodization is an organized method of training that involves progression of Training Factors during a specific period of time. 

I will discuss Periodization of training in later articles but the current article series will be on discovering what are the training factors and which ones may or may not be your strength in your fitness routine and training.

Training factors include force, power, speed, balance, flexibility, agility, muscular endurance and anaerobic endurance.  I will be covering each one of these factors and one secret one not mentioned above. I hope you will find my coverage of the topic easy to understand and are able to apply what you learn from these descriptions and ways to improve your weaknesses or learn how to exploit the factor if it’s your strength.

In subsequent articles I will cover the remaining factors  but will only be covering one factor in this article, Endurance.

What is endurance?

1. The fact or power of enduring or bearing pain, hardships, etc.

2. The ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina: He has amazing physical endurance.

From: Dictionary.com

So I think it’s easy to understand that reading the various definitions provided above, endurance is a very important training factor. With out the ability to endure we aren’t going to be too successful in reaching fitness or sports related goals. I think we could say that above all else we must develop our endurance.

In training and coaching terms I want athletes to develop their Aerobic Capacity to enable the ability to last longer when competing, training or exercising. When I talk of Aerobic Capacity I am talking about the development of your heart, lungs and blood vessels. All exercise no matter how moderate or intense will improve your Aerobic Capacities. Unfortunately there seems to be a growing trend among some coaches and trainers to disregard the traditional time for developing Aerobic Capacity. This is because Aerobic Capacity has become thought of as a byproduct to other training.

So how does one determine if their Endurance is a limiter or strength? Coaches, personal trainers, sports scientists and Medical Professionals have a myriad of tests they can perform to discover what an individual’s Aerobic Capacity is.

Aerobic capacity can be measured directly or it can be estimated. Measuring your aerobic capacity directly requires a clinical setting with the assistance of trained medical professionals. Direct tests are extremely accurate but expensive and can require a few days of recovery. Estimating aerobic capacity is much easier and can be done at a gym or in the field with assistance of a coach or trainer. Depending on the protocol used for estimating aerobic capacity your measures will be anywhere from 5%-20% accurate compared to direct testing. Also estimating aerobic capacity may only require 1-2 day’s recovery.

The results of these tests provide the athlete with a measurement known as your Vo2 Max, which is a term that simply means how much oxygen can your body consume during exercise. The measurement is typically expressed as millimeters of oxygen consumed per kilogram of body weight.

So what is the optimal measurement of Vo2 Max in healthy trained athletes? Well the numbers vary widely between sports, age and sexes. Professional cyclists regularly have a Vo2 Max measurement from 70-80’s where as an experienced recreational cyclist would have a measure from 40-50s.

So now that we have the jargon explained what does it all mean. Well its quite simple. If you perform a Vo2 Max test of any kind and find that you are low to average in your results you have work to do. If you test high it’s one less thing to add to your training concerns.

Here is a caveat on making Aerobic Capacity a factor in your training. If you are high or low depending on your sport it may not be of great concern. Just because you test high doesn’t mean you are now a world-class athlete it just means that other factors will need attention.

Developing Aerobic capacity is going to be very important to endurance athletes such as runners, cyclists and multi sport athletes. How do athletes in these sports improve Vo2 max?

Once a Vo2 Max measurement is in place, a coach or personal trainer can then determine training zones. Depending on your region, heart rate monitor manufacturer, coach or trainer. Your training zones maybe graded 1-3, 1-5 and even 1-7. The numbers represent the effort the athlete needs to be training in. 1 being the easiest zone (Recovery) and 7 (Maximal) being the hardest training zone.

Typically coaches and trainers working with endurance athletes will have the athletes train for 12-16 weeks primarily in Heart Rate training Zones 1-3. This work is prescribed in an effort to develop aerobic capacity prior to working on sports specific skills and more intense training factors. However with today’s busy life styles more and more coaches and trainers are pushing for higher intensity efforts to compress the volume of work that athletes would traditionally have done. This is a trend I am not fond of. As I will show in the series of articles on periodization in the future each phase of training is completed in order to prepare for the next phase. These phases are designed with the appropriate stress and rest in order to limit the chances of injury, fatigue, over training and even burn out.

The above-mentioned 12-16 weeks of training is typical of athletes who compete in a single discipline such as competitive cycling, event cycling and even long distance running. Multi sports athletes and athletes that compete in several sports over the course of a year may instead use much smaller aerobic training phases. I know as a competitive cyclist and distance runner that when I come off of a season of racing road bikes and enter the fall running season I do not need to do as much aerobic work because all of the training and racing of the previous road racing season.

I hope you found this article helpful and welcome questions and feedback. Any questions you pose will be answered in the next article! If you need questions answered sooner you can contact me through my web site listed below.

In the next article I will cover the training factors balance and flexibility. Until then have a great week and do something to improve your fitness.

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