Endurance Training for Beginners

Endurance

Endurance training focuses on the cardiovascular (i.e., heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries) and respiratory (i.e., lungs) system. Improving one’s endurance means improving your body’s ability to capture and deliver large quantities of oxygenated blood (and remove metabolic wastes) over extended periods. There are many options for endurance training from which the beginner can choose:

  • Walking
  • Stair climbing
  • Jumping rope
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Cross-country skiing

All of these rhythmic activities are suitable for increasing the heart rate into in the endurance-exercise zone. However, beginners might have to settle first for the fat burning zone until they are accustomed to higher demands and become fit enough to sustain a higher heart rate.

ZonePercent of Maximum Heart RateEffect
Warm up/cool down50-60Some decrease in body fat, lowered blood pressure, cholesterol and risk of degenerative diseases with low risk of injury. Activity relies on slow twitch muscle; 85 % of calories burned here are fats.
Fat burning60-70Higher absolute exercise intensity with more calories burned; 85 % of calories burned here are fats.
Aerobic/endurance70-80Higher cardiovascular and respiratory demand develops heart size and strength. Activity relies on slow twitch and intermediate fast-twitch muscle; calories burned here from fats drops to 50 % as carbohydrate (muscle glycogen) use rises.
Anaerobic/speed80-90Increase in the maximum amount of oxygen one can consume during exercise (VO2 max) and further improved cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Improved efficiency in removing lactic acid from muscles and resistance to muscular fatigue. Activity relies predominantly on fast-twitch muscle; calories burned here from fats fall to 15 % while carbohydrates becomes the dominant energy source during intense effort.
Maximum/power100Highest absolute exercise intensity with greatest number of calories burned.

Warming Up

It isn’t unusual that beginners assume stretching should precede a workout. The pre-workout warm-up period is actually more important than any pre-workout stretch. Warming up is light activity that raises one’s respiratory rate, increases blood flow throughout the entire body, and elevates core temperature. The effect is to loosen dormant muscles, reduces tightness in all soft tissues, and increases blood flow into and out of muscles. Five to 15 minutes of brisk walking, jumping rope, or performing some other rhythmic activity at around 50 percent of one’s maximum heart rate – a level where you’re neither sweating profusely nor gasping for air – will suffice.

Walking

Walking is the simplest endurance training choice for beginners. Although elevation, terrain and the elements matter, walking is essentially focused on distance and time. The beginner need only make one of the following vows:

  • Covering a given distance regardless of time: “I’m going to walk a mile. I don’t care how long it takes me.”
  • Moving oneself for a given time regardless of distance: “I’m going to walk for thirty minutes. I don’t care how far it is, I just need to be active.”

Walking is very accommodating: several blocks around your neighborhood, around a park, or on a treadmill at a fitness club.

Using a stop watch or even a wrist watch, you could time yourself for alternating segments of walking slowly with segments of walking quickly, perhaps in response to hilly terrain, in order to provide basic, introductory conditioning for the heart and lungs. Walking such intervals for 30 minutes, switching speed and inclination, is a comparatively safe way to elevate heart rate and prepare for eventual continuous, brisk (fast) walking or even a bit of jogging.

On a treadmill, the same approach can be used; but, with even more precision. A 1-degree incline roughly approximates typical wind resistance on level ground when outdoors. A brisk walking speed will vary between men and women, young and old, fit and infirm.

Time (minutes)Exertion and purposeSpeed (miles per hour)Incline (degrees)
5Slow walk for warm up2.5 to 3.51
2Brisk walk3.5 to 4.51
3Slow walk2.5 to 3.51
2Brisk walk3.5 to 4.51
3Slow walk2.5 to 3.51
2Brisk walk3.5 to 4.51
3Slow walk2.5 to 3.51
2Brisk walk3.5 to 4.51
3Slow walk2.5 to 3.51
2Brisk walk3.5 to 4.51
3Slow walk for cool down3.5 gradually down to 01

Stair Climbing

Stair climbing is just about as accommodating as walking: you can climb real stairs in and on structures – like steps in a multi-story apartment complex or at a nearby stadium – or use a stair-climbing machine at a fitness club or home gym. Depending on the rise height from step to step, the number of stairs, and the speed at which the stairs are climbed, stair climbing will demand varying levels of flexibility, strength, and endurance.

Warm up for 5 minutes at a slow stepping rate, regardless of whether you’re on real stairs or a machine. Thereafter, gradually increase stepping speed to raise your heart rate into the fat-burning, and if possible, endurance zone. Your stepping pace should be purposeful and brisk for the next 20 minutes. End your workout by returning to the initial, slow stepping rate and maintain that pace for a 5-minute cool down.

Time (minutes)Exertion and purposeResistance
5Slow for warm upno
20Briskno
5Slow for cool downno

Thirty minutes of these “steady stairs” is something that can be done every day. Repeat the above routine for a week, and if you aren’t nauseous or dizzy, you’ll likely be ready for more of a challenge sooner rather than later. Increase the stepping rate above the usual or do the usual stepping rate for a longer time or perform intervals. Don’t neglect the cool down.

Cycling

Cycling is also a great endurance training option for beginners. It’s accessible: most people have a bicycle or could borrow one and stationary cycles are a fixture in most home gym and fitness clubs. And, pretty much everyone knows how to ride a bike, even if they’re not on the Tour de France or in the X Games. Cycling has, like walking, two main considerations: distance and time. Start taking regular rides in or out of doors, aware of how far you go and/or how long it takes.

Jumping Rope

An attractive reason to jump rope is that:

  1. If you’ve never done it before, you can learn a basic jump – the rope makes one pass beneath as both feet leaving and reconnecting with the ground at the same time – in a few minutes and
  2. It offers endurance gains while being gentler on the body’s most sensitive joints.

Beginners should do basic jumping at intervals. Perform timed segments of greater hustle with segments of lesser hustle. As with walking, rope jumping intervals will elevate heart rate and help to prepare for eventual continuous, fast jumping. Try to do a 15-minute basic jumping session.

Other Choices

Pools and bodies of water in and out of doors make swimming a pretty good option. Although, places to swim aren’t everywhere and not everyone knows how to swim. If you do know how and have access to a safe place to swim, try swimming for distance or time. Some fitness clubs offer counter-current pools, the aquatic equivalent of a treadmill.

Whatever you decide upon, a walk, a bike ride, or an elliptical (i.e., cross country) machine, anyone can at least start endurance training with little to no equipment or instruction.

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”About the Author”]Michael Chapdelaine is a professional writer and a drug free, health-conscious athlete. He is both an equipped and a raw powerlifter who has competed in the American Powerlifting Federation (APF), United States Powerlifting Federation (USPF), and with USA Powerlifting (USAPL). Michael has qualified for and competed in national and international events such as the 2010 Raw Nationals, the 2011 Arnold Raw Challenge, and the 2011 State Games of America.[/stextbox]

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  1. physical fitness October 16, 2012
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