Speed and endurance workout – A guide

We already realise that how important it is to do endurance training nowadays. So, knowing more and more about speed and endurance workout or workouts is very important.

Specific forms of training are needed to optimize endurance performance and speed

Speed and endurance are at opposite ends of the performance continuum. Speed events in running are as short as 100 meters, while endurance events, such as a marathon, last 26 miles. Middle-distance events, such as the mile run, fall between these extremes and present unique challenges, since it is important for athletes to have both speed and endurance. While these examples all involve running, the types of training needed for these events are very different.

One feature that is common in advanced training programs is the need to continually challenge the body. Involvement in regular physical activity will lead to increases in cardiovascular fitness in most people, but improvements are harder to achieve once a good level of fitness has been attained (the principle of diminishing returns).

To maximize performance, it is necessary to perform more specific types of workouts that provide a greater challenge (overload) to the cardiovascular system. Serious athletes may exercise 6 or 7 days a week, but easier workouts are generally done after harder and more intense workouts. The hard workouts are generally very specific and are designed to challenge the body in different ways. Supplemental training to improve technique and effficiency are also used to enhance performance.

Long-slow distance training is important for
endurance performance

Extended periods of aerobic exercise are needed to achieve high-level endurance performance. Athletes generally refer to this type of training as long-slow distance (LSD) training. Emphasis is placed on the overall duration or length of the exercise session rather than on speed.

The reason for this is that specific adaptations take place within the muscles when used for long periods of time. These adaptations improve the muscles’ ability to take up and use the oxygen in the bloodstream. Adaptations within the muscle cell also improve the body’s ability to produce energy from fat stores. Long-slow distance training involves performances longer than the event for which you are performing but at a slower pace.

For example, a mile runner will regularly perform 6- to 7-mile runs (at 50 to 60 percent of racing pace) to improve aerobic conditioning, even though the event is much shorter. A marathoner may perform runs of 20 miles or more to achieve even higher levels of endurance. Although this 20-mile distance is shorter than the marathon race distance, research suggests that ample adaptations occur from this volume of exercise. Excess mileage in this case may just wear the body down. Long-slow distance training should be performed once every 1 to 2 weeks, and a rest day is recommended on the subsequent day to allow the body to recover fully.


Improved anaerobic capacity can contribute to performance in activities considered to be aerobic

Many physical activities commonly considered to be aerobic—such as tennis, basketball, and racquetball— have an anaerobic component. These activities require periodic vigorous bursts of exercise. Regular anaerobic training will help you resist fatigue in these activities. Even participants in activities such as long-distance running can benefit from anaerobic training, especially if performance times or winning races is important. A fast start may be anaerobic, a sprint past an opponent may be anaerobic, and a kick at the end is certainly anaerobic. Anaerobic training can help prepare a person for these circumstances.

Interval training can be effective in building
both aerobic and anaerobic capacity

High level performance requires high-level training. Interval training is commonly used by many competitive athletes. The premise behind interval training is that, by providing periodic rest, you can increase the overall intensity of the exercise session and provide a greater stimulus to the body. Interval training can be performed in different ways to achieve different training goals.

In aerobic interval training, the goal is to challenge the aerobic system to work near maximal levels for extended periods of time. Research suggests that a period of 4 to 6 minutes of activity is needed to cause the aerobic system to elicit maximal adaptations that will improve aerobic capacity ( VO˙ 2 max). The use of repeated mile runs at a faster than normal training pace would provide this type of challenge to the aerobic system.

Alternately, shorter exercise bouts can be performed with brief rest periods to achieve the same goal. For example, a series of quarter-mile repeats with short rests is suitable as long as the total time at a high intensity is similar. In this case, the rest intervals must be short enough to only allow partial recovery between intervals.

Aerobic intervals are typically conducted at paces slower than the pace an individual would use in a race. To use the schedule, locate your typical 10-km time in the left-hand column. Perform 400-meter runs at the time specified in the “Pace” column. Repeat 20 times with intervals of 10 to 15 seconds between runs. Similar schedules can be developed with other activities, such as swimming and cycling. In anaerobic interval training, the goal is to challenge the anaerobic energy systems. This is typically accomplished with repeated high-intensity bouts of activity.

In response to this training, the body improves its ability to produce energy anaerobically and improves its ability to tolerate and remove lactic acid from the blood. Anaerobic interval training can be performed with either short or long intervals. Short-interval workouts should use maximum speed with rest intervals lasting from 10 seconds to 2 minutes. These should be repeated 8 to 30 times. Long-interval training should use 90 to 100 percent speed, with rest intervals lasting from 3 to 15 minutes. These should be repeated 4 to 15 times. These plans can be modified for use with other types of activities.

Principles of interval training can be adapted for different activities

The principles of interval training can be integrated into workouts in less structured ways. Runners sometimes use fartlek training to break up their workouts. A fartlek training run incorporates bursts of higher-intensity running followed by recovery periods of lower intensity. The difference from interval training is that the intermittent bursts in fartlek training are dictated by the nature of the terrain or the feelings of the moment.

The term is from a Swedish word meaning “speed play,” because the unstructured nature is more relaxed than structured interval training. Many competitive sports involve alternating bursts of high-intensity activity followed by periods of recovery. Basketball, for example, involves intermittent sprints and jumps interspersed with periods of short recovery. Similarly, tennis involves bursts of activity separated by short recovery periods between points.

To prepare for success in sports, it is important for athletes to incorporate intermittent interval-type training into their conditioning. Simulated games that require repeated sprints up and down the basketball court are a form of interval training specific to basketball players. Tennis players can incorporate a variety of forward and lateral movements into a high-intensity agility drill to improve conditioning for tennis.

Too much strength and flexibility training may impair endurance performance

The principle of specificity dictates that adaptations are specific to the type of training that is performed. While athletes should strive for a good balance of strength and flexibility, studies show that too much training in these areas can actually cause decreases in performance. Additional muscle mass from resistance training can reduce effficiency and impair performance.

The use of weighted wristlets, ankles, or belts is also not recommended, as they may alter running mechanics and stride efficiency. Flexibility has always been thought to be important for minimizing risks for injury, but recent studies have shown that running economy (the energy cost required to run a specific speed) is not as good in people with high flexibility as in those who have poorer flexibility. Because running economy is an advantage for distance running performance, this suggests that extra flexibility may actually reduce performance.

The theory behind these findings is that stiffer muscle-tendon structures may help facilitate elastic energy return during running movements. This result shouldn’t discourage you from stretching, but it does illustrate the complexities of high-level training. Regular stretching is still of value for most runners and endurance athletes.



I hope this article helped you guys atleast to some extent. And, don’t worry as I will be writing more articles on this concept and it’s variations soon.

All the best,


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