Endurance & Performance
The secret of endurance and performance
The secret to going for longer whilst maintaining performance in any event is pacing yourself. And what's meant by that is finding the right balance of intensity that will enable you to complete your entire event with the best performance you can without your energy levels crashing before the end. An energy crash will drop you to a snails pace and destroy your performance or event time. It's usually associated with long distance endurance events like running or cycling, where sudden performance drops (termed 'bonking' or 'hitting the wall') are most common, but plays a part in all sports. It can also occur from basic muscle and cardio fatigue. It's virtually impossibly to pace yourself competitively in any sport to the best of your ability without training your personal fitness levels and knowing your event inside out. So what's the secret for training for endurance and performance? Just going for longer at a lower intensity? If all you want to do is take twice as long to go the same distance or just plain lose, then that will do it. If you want to win, you need to train regularly at lower intensity AND high intensity.
High intensity bursts write history and make memorable Champions.
So often people assume the key to success with pacing yourself is just a simple case of going for longer at a lower intensity. After all HIIT is based on the principle of maximum output in the shortest space of time. HIIT is like sprinting. How is that going to help you pace yourself? Surely HIIT is all about burn out and that's exactly what you don't want to do? Whilst it's true you do take yourself to burnout doing HIIT, it's only in order to get the maximum benefits in the shortest space of time, along with all the additional benefits to personal fitness that are obtained by doing high intensity exercise. And that includes maximum cardio benefit. Cardio benefits that you won't recieve just by going for longer at a lower intensity alone. And that is what HIIT routines like The 4 Minute Max Outs are all about - getting the maximum benefits in the shortest space of time - not just burning out.
The fact is, there is always going to be the need for higher intensity bursts in any event. And it's those higher intensity bursts that can often seperate you from the pack and win the event. You need to ensure you have the reserves and level of personal fitness to make sure you can both call on, and sustain, these higher intensity bursts of activity when they are really needed or when they will really count. And there will always be times when they are needed, and there will always be times when they will really count. Going uphill for example, sprinting for a ball, over taking, sprinting for the finish, seizing an opportune moment. Timing is everything. You need to make sure you store some reserves deep down to enable you to capitalise on these moments when others can't, and that you can sustain the higher intensity long enough without getting bogged down by lactic acid build up or cardio exhaustion. That's why high intensity training is so important even for endurance events. By training at high intensity, you give yourself another level, an extra edge, the ability to step up another gear when others can't, and more importantly, the ability to sustain it. That's what will make you win. That's what will make you a Champion. It's almost always the well timed higher intensity bursts that will not just win you your event, but win it for you in memorable style.
Personal fitness and knowing your event are the keys to pacing yourself.
Basically the level of intensity that you need to pace yourself by all comes down to your own level of personal fitness and knowledge of your event or opponent. With training, you will increase the level of intensity you can pace yourself by. You should aim for this intensity you pace yourself by to be enough to maintain good general performance for a prolonged sustained period of time, whilst still saving you the reserves you need to dig deeper for the times when maximum performance really counts. The 4 Minute Max Outs can sort out the personal fitness side, by bringing you maximum benefits in the shortest space of time, but only by knowing your event can you determine when these moments of high intensity are likely to be and how frequently they may occur.
Manage your fuel reserves and always keep something up your sleeve - don't give 110%!
On a metabolic level, your body always uses blood sugar and fat in synergy as fuel. There is no either or. However lower intensities use a higher level of fat as fuel and higher intensities use a higher level of blood sugar as fuel. Your fat reserves in terms of a fuel source are never going to run out in an event, however, on their own they'll never enable you maximum performance either. Your blood sugar reserves from glycogen however, will enable you maximum performance, but can also run out, depending on how you use them. When your glycogen levels drop too low, your body preserves the remainder for vital internal organs, and so as a result your performance levels will crash suddenly. Also if you draw glycogen too fast for energy you generate a lactic acid build up that will also cause your performance to crash sharply until the build up is allowed sufficient time to be released. But it's not just about muscles, you could equally come to a halt from basic cardio exhaustion. It's no good having stacks of potential energy left in your muscles if you can't breathe! So basically, if you put in too much intensity too early you will run out of steam and simply not be able to reach high intensity output again without rest. Whilst giving 110% sounds good on paper as management nonsense, in practice, unless it's in the dieing moments, you'll simply fall short of the distance and lose badly from over exertion. Always giving 110% as they say, is not 'boxing smart'.
Training at higher and lower intensity mimics reality.
In real life, intensity will vary unpredictably throughout your event, so you need to train to condition your body to be accustomed to these different intensities and be able to efficiently switch between them. That is you should train both in the aerobic cardio zone (lower intensity with oxygen) and the anaerobic cardio zone (higher intensity without oxygen). You need to improve your cardio ability as best you can and both train yourself, and train your body, to better manage your energy levels for the event duration and level of intensity at hand.
Training in the higher intensity zone, known as the 'maximum cardio benefit zone' for good reason, is actually what will yield the best results for improving your oxygen consumption, heart rate, lactate threshold, muscular strength, and your body's efficiency of utilising glycogen. The 4 Minute Max Outs will work your body in this higher intensity training zone. Not only will training in the higher intensity zone yield better cardio results than training in the lower intensity zone, and provide additional muscular benefits too, it will do it in a lot less time. It is also the zone whereby you burn the most calories in the time worked, making it the optimal training zone for those aiming to lose weight or burn fat and tone up.
To get your body best conditioned for lower intensity exercise you should train aerobically for long periods of time, say an hour or over at a time, at around 55% to 65% HRmax. A very fit person could even aim for up to 80% if their body has become better adapted to using fat as fuel over time and their lactate threshold has improved as a result of training. And to get your body better conditioned for high intensity exercise you need to be training over this, that is to be in the anaerobic training zone, say 85% HRmax and above for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. The lower intensity exercise could consist of long slow runs or cycling, and the higher intensity exercise, sprint intervals, a HIIT routine, such as The 4 Minute Max Outs, or sports specific sprint drills (also found in The 4 Minute Max Outs).
To train for those tougher endurance moments, you could even do a HIIT routine, such as The 4 Minute Max Outs for 28 minutes, and then go for a long slow run. This will have the added advantage of you training in a pre exhausted state with relatively depleted glycogen stores to mimic your bodies condition in the latter stages of longer endurance events.
The 'maximum fat burn zone' - It's not about weight loss!
This is where the 'maximum fat burn' heart rate zone comes into play - when training to pace yourself. And it has nothing to do with maximising weight loss - weight loss is about calories in being less that calories out over time so the more calories you burn the better. You burn more calories doing higher intensity exercise, and fat used to fuel exercise will simply be restored if you are not in a sustained calorie deficit. So although the 'maximum fat burn zone' is the heart rate zone where your body utilises the highest percentage and absolute amount of fat as fuel, it is not the best training zone to maximise weight loss.
The importance of the maximum fat burn name tag, is not to indicate you can magically lose a few more pounds of body fat (which you wont by the way), but to indicate that it is the intensity where your body is using the most fat as fuel along with a good amount of blood sugar too. So training at the upper end of the zone will provide steady increased performance (from the elevated blood sugar levels), that is also sustainable for a prolonged period of time and glycogen preserving (as fat is the primary fuel source). After this point, approximately 65% of your maximum intensity, the utilisation of blood sugar from glycogen rapidly increases and the percentage fat used drops. In this higher intensity zone you are likely to tire much quicker, as you use vastly more energy in the same space of time (making it the best training zone to maximise weight loss), use vastly more glycogen from your muscles, therefore generate lactic acid build up much quicker to bring your to a halt, and have an increasingly elevated heart rate, whilst also putting more strain on your cardio system as a whole.
For sports you should still go for long slow runs too.
Although, training in the lower intensity zone will not provide optimal cardio benefit, training in the lower intensity zone for prolonged periods of time is still very important for endurance and peformance, as it will improve how efficiently your body can use fat for energy, and how efficiently your body can manage the long slow draw of glycogen which will help to improve your lactate threshold even further. These are important to enable you to keep a greater reserve of glycogen for those higher intensity bursts when needed and preventing lactic acid build until a higher level of intensity. Equally, if not even more importantly, it will also condition your muscles for the different kind of strain they will be put under when used continuously and repetitively for sustained prolonged periods of time, as opposed to short sprint bursts. And obviously, this is of vital importance if it is directly relevant to your event, for example, long distance running or cycling, as that is what you will actually be doing. In fact when you think about it, it's also relevant to virtually all team sports events. Team sports events involve mainly jogging around at a lower intensity, interspersed with short bursts of sprints or high intensity activity only when required. It's important that you condition your body for purpose. So if you are training to increase your endurance for sports events, HIIT, although it will bring you amazing benefits, wont get you optimal results in isolation. You should be going out for long slow runs too to fully condition your body to handle both types of intensity it will endure in an endurance event. As mentioned earlier, you could even do a HIIT routine, such as The 4 Minute Max Outs for 28 minutes, and then go for a long slow run. This will have the added advantage of you training in a pre exhausted state with relatively depleted glycogen stores to mimic your bodies condition in the latter stages of longer endurance or sporting events.
For day to day fitness HIIT is all you need.
In short, to best improve endurance for performance in an event, it's best to train both aerobically and anaerobically. Go for those long slow runs AND do sprint or interval training. For general fitness alone, however, you can getter much better cardio and general health improvements from higher intensity exercise in half the time compared to lower intensity exercise. And it will burn vastly more calories to help you lose weight, and it will promote muscle growth that lower intensity training will not, and it will still improve your endurance levels, even if not optimally on it's own. In other words, you could save vast amounts of time by doing HIIT routines, such as The 4 Minute Max Outs, as an all in one form of exercise to improve your all round fitness. Going for long slow runs as well, although still a great thing to do as a highly recommended way of keeping fit, unless event specific for performance, is purely optional for your own goals or leisure pursuits if you are already doing regular HIIT.
Can diet improve your endurance performance?
A balanced diet always helps with exercise, but eating slow burning carbohydrates in particular, 1 to 2 hours before you exercise will help to top up your glycogen stores before exercise. This will ensure you have more of it to draw from during your exercise. It will help you to sustain improved performance for longer at lower intensities, and enable many more short bursts of exercise at higher intensity. A good idea when performing HIIT routines such as The 4 Minute Max Outs, that will have you performing continuous short bursts of high intensity exercise throughout. Likewise, carbohydrates in the half hour after the event will serve to rapidly refill your depleted glycogen stores and help greatly to improve your recovery time. In both instances, 20 to 30 grams of protein taken aswell will vastly help muscle repair and recovery times too.
The varied training styles to improve endurance performance.
High Repetition Resistance Training.
Resistance training for endurance is optimal at 3 to 5 sets of 15 or more reps. This aims to primarily target the slow twitch muscle fibres. As you will be doing higher reps per set, you will need to use a lighter weight from the outset. For progressive overload either increase the reps or increase the weight.
Steady state cardio.
Running or cycling are excellent accessible forms of steady state cardio. The longer the session, the more you are working on your endurance. Build up to longer sessions by gradually increasing the distance you go each time to avoid injury. Be sure to keep track of your times over the same distance to keep track of your progress. Long sessions of steady state cardio will also reduce your muscle mass gradually over time as your body better adapts itself for task by reducing any unnecessary baggage to carry over longer distances. You'll notice the significant difference in body shape between a long distance runner and a sprinter. Many fall into the trap of doing endless steady state cardio in an attempt to burn fat and tone up. Steady state cardio has its merits, particularly for endurance events, but there is no need to overdo it unless you want to for general fitness. If burning fat and toning up is your end goal, you should consider doing HIIT instead.
HIIT routines, such as The 4 Minute Max Outs, are the best way of improving cardio ability and shedding excess body fat as they keep your heart rate in the 'maximum cardio benefit zone' and keep you pushing hard throughout the entire workout. Unlike steady state cardio, routines that provide targeted focus such as The 4 Minute Max Outs, rather than reduce muscle mass actually provide very similar muscular benefits to mid to high repetition resistance training at the same time as receiving maximum cardio benefits. Although hard work, they can return better results in a much shorter space of time.