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How Endurance Can Improve Your Training

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We have always been taught that if you want to get stronger, then lift more weights. If you want to get faster, run harder. If you want to get leaner, do more high intensity interval training (HIIT). But, what if you can combine all types of training and still succeed in your discipline? Travis Mash, recently introduced this concepts in his new book, “Do What You Want”. In this article, we will elaborate on the key points discussed to help elevate your training protocols.

First, lets discuss energy systems as they pertain to endurance training. Travis Mash states that, “The fuel necessary to make muscles contract is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is what makes the body do its thing. There are two main ways your body replenishes ATP for energy: anaerobically without oxygen and aerobically with oxygen…For the first 10 seconds or so of activity, the body replenishes ATP directly from phosphocreatine (PCr). This is the fastest way the body replenishes stored ATP. This is the alactic system as no lactate is produced. After that – and up to a few minutes of high intensity activity, we enter the lactate system. The anaerobic glycolytic system is the primary energy source. After that, we are relying on the oxidative system. This is aerobic activity utilizing oxygen” (p.18).

With this in mind, performing endurance training for more than several minutes will create this aerobic training effect, which will strengthen the heart and increase the amount of blood flowing through the body per pump. Additionally, when athletes perform more endurance training their capillary network to all the muscles in their body is increased significantly.  When an athlete increases their capillary network, there is more blood flow to all the muscles in the body. Mash elaborates on the benefits of this by writing, “More blood flow means better performance and recovery. This is why all functional fitness athletes should spend lots of quality time building their aerobic capacity.” (p.19). So, for many of you skipping out on those Thursday cardio workouts you’re cutting yourself short.

Finally, the last benefit of endurance training is enhancing the mitochondria. “Mitochondria are responsible for energy production at the cellular level. They produce ATP from both glucose and fatty acids… That means less glucose lost to the lactate production. Lactate is a fast source of ATP production, but it is limited in two major ways: Increased acidity can actually slow down or stop muscle movement. Lactate production of ATP runs through glucose stores much faster with the same amount of work being produced” (Mash, p. 19).

Moving forward, many of you, including myself, might be thinking that HIIT training and most CrossFit workouts would follow this aerobic type of protocol, but that is not the case. Mash explains that, “Due to muscle occlusion and straining, no blood is flowing during muscle contraction and less is being returned to the heart. So even though an athlete’s heart rate might increase, that doesn’t mean blood flow increases.” (p. 19). Therefore, by participating in more endurance and aerobic training, you will be able to handle more work for longer period of time because your body is able to tap into fat more efficiently. Also, you will be able to perform more work at the same level of fatigue or the same amount of work with less fatigue.

In conclusion, it is always important to speak to a coach and/or medical profession before starting  new types of training. For instance, it is not ideal to perform a heavy squat session, and also run sprints to help build your aerobic capacity because it will severely impact your recovery. Another example would be, as an Olympic Weightlifter training with run long distance is not beneficial because you need explosive power for your sport, and running at a slow pace for a long period of time would be counterproductive (Mash, p. 20). All in all, to avoid injury and continually enhance recovery time, please speak to a coach before you begin adding endurance training to your program.