Go the distance – monthly feature in Health & Fitness magazine

March 26, 2015

Here are the best ways to boost your endurance:

H&F 7If you do longer events, such as marathons, Ironman competitions or cycle sportives, you’ll know you have to put in the hours of training and mentally and physically prepare yourself. Do you know the best way to improve your endurance, speed up your times and make it to the finish line though?

INCREASE YOUR STRENGTH

Increasing your overall strength will improve your performance and help you stay injury free. It can be hard to find the time and motivation for gym work when you’re clocking up the miles, but it helps maintain muscle mass and keeps your joints healthy. Do hip-dominant exercises to balance out the stress on your knees, plus single-leg variations and core work, such as the exercises below, twice a week.

INCLUDE SOME SOFT TISSUE WORK

Soft-tissue work (having regular massages or using a foam roller) keeps your tissues healthy. The foam roller won’t be as good at fascia fractioning (loosening the casing around the muscles) as massage, but will still break down adhesions that you get by doing a lot of exercise, plus improve circulation and reduce soreness, speeding up your recovery.

THINK NUTRITION

Start with a broadly Paleo diet (lots of protein and veg), which you can build on to suit your training requirements. Whether you choose to fuel yourself with carbs or by getting more of your nutrition through dietary fats, eating adequate protein and a broad base of nutrients is key. Also think about your overall energy balance, as the right foods, in the right amounts, will keep you healthy, lean and adequately fuelled. Take time to discover what works best for you.

LOOK AFTER YOUR GUT

One of the biggest reasons for people not to finish Ironman events is gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea. Endurance training is tough on the system, plus if you use gels and other supplements during races, it can make it worse. Supplementing your diet with some probiotics, digestive enzymes  and glutamine can help, as can swapping gels for more natural foods, such as dried fruit or bananas. Include interval training (shorter, more intense periods), tempo training (lactate threshold training) and fartlek training (random bursts of increased effort) for big improvements and to keep training fresh.

3 TOP EXERCISES FOR ENDURANCE

1. SPLIT SQUAT

Opens up your hips, helps your balance and single-leg stability and wards off muscle imbalances. Come into a wide split stance and glide your front knee over your toe, lowering your bum toward your front heel, keeping your front foot flat on the floor, and aim to finish with your front thigh touching your calf. 1 x 12-15 on each leg.

2. HIP BRIDGES

Recruits your glutes without loading your lower back. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips so your body’s in a straight line. Try with lighter loads for higher reps or heavier weights (barbell over the hips) for lower reps. 3 x 15-20.

3. BATWINGS

Great for trunk stability and postural correction. Do bent-over rows with dumbbells. Hinge at the hip; row the dumbbells to your ribs. 2 x 6-8 with a five second hold.

Personal trainer Jean-Claude Vacassin owns W10 Performance gym in West London. He has advised athletes, sports brands and film companies, as well as working in nutrition, functional medicine and rehabilitation.