Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Importance of Endurance Training


What Is Endurance Training?

Before getting into the benefits of endurance training, it’s useful to define exactly what endurance training is – and isn’t. In general, endurance training is any type of exercise you do with the intent of extending how long you’re able to work out. There are two types of endurance training: Muscular and cardiovascular.  

Muscular endurance refers to building muscle strength so that you are physically capable of performing the same exercise over and over again with good form. Strength is your ability to lift things and move easily, while endurance refers to how long you can lift that weight or repeat a motion.

For example, performing a plank is often difficult for people who do not have strength or endurance, as they may not be able to support their body weight, or may only be able to maintain the position for a few seconds. At the same time, someone with adequate strength may be able to hold themselves up, but only with conditioning and practice can they build their endurance to maintain the position for longer periods. Muscular endurance is increased via repetitions and adding weight, steadily increasing your workout intensity.

Cardiovascular endurance, on the other hand, refers to how well your heart, lungs, and blood vessels can provide your muscles with oxygen, which determines how long you can engage in aerobic exercise without needing to rest. As with muscular endurance, people who have been sedentary and are just beginning to work out typically don’t have a great deal of cardio endurance, and can only exercise for 10 to 15 minutes before becoming winded.

The more they exercise and build their body’s strength, the longer they can exercise. Building cardiovascular endurance is mostly a question of time: It can be developed by steadily adding time to your workouts as you build strength. For example, runners build endurance by adding time or distance to their runs gradually. As they become more comfortable running longer distances, they then start working on becoming faster.

The Benefits of Endurance Training

You might be thinking that you have no need to increase your endurance since you don’t have any plans to enter an Ironman competition or start competitive weightlifting. The fact is, though, building endurance has health benefits beyond improving your ability to compete in distance events. Improving your endurance can help you meet and exceed recommendations for regular exercise  (currently 30 minutes per session, five days per week), which has demonstrated health benefits. 

More specifically, endurance training can:

  • Improve your metabolism.  Studies indicate that endurance training can boost production of the hormone FGF21, which helps increase metabolic function.
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Any exercise can be beneficial for your heart, but research indicates that endurance exercise is particularly effective at improving the heart’s ability to pump oxygenated blood, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Increase your lifespan. A large 15 year study of runners found that people who ran for about 50 minutes per week lived longer than those who didn’t run, suggesting that endurance training can extend your life.
  • Support mental health. Although any exercise can help improve your mood and reduce the symptoms of depression, anecdotal evidence suggests that endurance can further enhance those effects. Continually building your stamina and endurance contributes to a sense of accomplishment, which in turn can boost confidence and self-esteem.
  • Improve your sleep. Exercise is also proven to help improve sleep, as it can promote the production of melatonin, a brain chemical that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Endurance training can also support better sleep by the simple fact that you’ll be more tired after working out, helping you drift off more easily.
  • Promote a youthful appearance. Research shows that exercising can actually slow the signs of aging. A study of long-distance cyclists over age 55 showed they had improved muscle mass and immunity as younger people.

How to Build Your Endurance

Many people build endurance naturally as a part of a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise. For instance, think about the first time you went for a run after a long hiatus or tried a new exercise routine. It was likely difficult, and you might have needed to take some breaks or even considered quitting altogether. The more you stuck with it, though, the easier those workouts became, and eventually, you were able to run longer and faster or complete the routine while hardly breaking a sweat.

Even though some endurance improvements happen naturally, it’s still important to work on intentionally building your endurance to continue getting the most out of your workouts. Long-distance runners, cyclists, swimmers, and anyone playing sports like football, soccer, or hockey also need to focus on their endurance.

There are several different approaches to building your stamina, and the best option for you depends largely on your fitness level and goals. The most common type of training is the long duration/moderate intensity approach. Distance runners, for instance, often use this approach to prepare for races, building up to running at a moderate pace for the distance of the race plus 30 minutes. This approach allows for a long training session without putting too much strain on the body, giving the athlete confidence in their ability to complete the event. For those who aren’t training for a race, exercising at a moderate intensity for a longer period helps regulate blood sugar, burns fat, and improves blood oxygen levels.

Other types of endurance training last for either moderate or short durations at a high intensity. Also known as interval training, this type of exercise helps build endurance with alternating periods of high-intensity exercise (at or close to your maximum capabilities) for a short period, usually a minute or less, followed by a rest period of less intense exercise.

This type of training has been shown to improve cardiovascular function, and it is beneficial to endurance athletes who are likely to face differing conditions during events. For example, runners may encounter hills during a race and need to adjust their intensity. The primary benefit of interval training is that it takes less time while still offering similar benefits to longer workouts.

Finally, resistance training is another form of endurance training designed to increase strength, power, and stamina.  Resistance training focuses on building muscular endurance using your own body weight. Exercises like planks, squats, lunges, pushups, and sit-ups are all effective at building your muscular endurance and can help increase your power during aerobic workouts while reducing the risk of injury. Increasing the number of repetitions and sets you perform during each workout gradually builds your endurance.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Benefits of Eccentric Training

Eccentric exercises are also referred to as negative training or negative work. They benefit muscles by absorbing the mechanical energy exerted by the heavy workload.  That energy is then released with what is called elastic recoil, essentially a spring-like actions that facilitates the next muscle movement.  

Eccentric muscle contraction was originally called excentric by Danish researcher Erling Asmussen in 1953 to describe the movement away ("ex-") from the center ("-centric") of a muscle. Other examples of eccentric contraction include:

  • Lowering a weight during a shoulder press  
  • The downward motion of squatting   
  • The downward motion of a push-up  
  • Lowering the body during a crunch  
  • Lowering the body during a pull-up  

Exercise Benefits

Sports physiologists believe that eccentric training can build muscle size and strength better than standard concentric-eccentric movements. By focusing solely on the downward force exerted on a muscle, you can enlist heavier weights than you might otherwise be able to lift.

As a result, you may see improvements in the weight room faster. Eccentric training can help you get stronger in certain movements.

By working on the negative phase of a pull-up, pushup, squat, or any exercise, you get more proficient in that movement. 

There may also be benefits for those trying to lose weight. While an eccentric contraction uses less energy and oxygen than a concentric contraction, the negative movement actually creates more force. This not only enhances muscle growth but also increases the rate of metabolism (the conversion of calories and oxygen into energy), promoting weight loss.

According to research from Wayne State University, a full-body eccentric workout increases the resting metabolism in athletes by 9% and for no less than three hours following the exercise.  

Eccentric training often involves a partner who aids in the lifting of weight (the concentric movement) and stabilizes you as you lower the weight on your own (the eccentric movement). Alternately, you can focus on the eccentric movement by lifting a weight or body part quickly (say, within a second) and lowering it slowly (over three to five seconds).


Eccentric exercise is also commonly used for physical therapy and rehabilitation. Because eccentric contractions create more force with less energy, it is less likely to overtax injured joints and muscles. This can be especially valuable for elderly people who haven't the physical capacity for traditional eccentric-concentric exercises.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are typically treated with eccentric exercise. The downward movement is less likely to compromise the stabilizing ligaments of the knee. Concentric movement, by contrast, places extreme stress on the joint as it is forced to simultaneously lift and stabilize the weight.

Other medical conditions for which eccentric training may be helpful include:1

  • Patellar tendonitis, also known as "jumper's knee"
  • Muscle-tendon injuries
  • Osteopenia diminished bone mineral density
  • Sarcopenia, muscle wasting related to aging
  • Tendinosis and other repetitive stress injuries

Side Effects and Risks

While beneficial, eccentric contractions are not without risks and side effects. The downward force exerted on muscle can protect against injury but will likely increase the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

This is due to micro-tears that develop as a contracted muscle lengthens, causing soreness and pain 24 to 72 hours after the exercise. Repeated training can help reduce much, if not all, of the post-exercise soreness.

Eccentric contractions may also pose a health hazard if you lift weights larger than your maximum capacity. With something as simple as biceps curl, the lowering of excessively heavy weight can cause wrist sprain, elbow strain, and shoulder injury. To avoid this, you need to determine what your ideal lifting weight is.

Your ideal lifting weight is between 50 and 70 percent of your one-repetition-maximum (1-RM). This is the maximum amount of weight you can lift with proper form.  If your 1-RM is 50 pounds, you should lift no more than 25 to 35 pounds. 


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Beat Spring Allergies


1. Limit your time outdoors.

Each spring, trees release billions of tiny pollen grains into the air. When you breathe them into your nose and lung, they can trigger an allergic reaction.  Staying inside can help, especially on windy days and during the early morning hours, when pollen counts are highest.

When you do head outdoors, wear glasses or sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes. A filter mask can help when you mow the lawn or work in the garden. Different types are available, so ask your doctor to suggest one that will work best for you.

Once you head back inside, always take a shower, wash your hair, and change 

your clothing. Otherwise, you’ll bring pollen into your house.

2. Take allergy medicine.

It can help adults and children with sniffles and a runny nose. Antihistamines, which block your body’s response to allergies, usually work in less than an hour. But read the package carefully. Some older drugs, like chlorpheniramine, clemastine, and diphenhydramine can make you drowsy.

For more severe allergies a nasal spray is suggested. But don’t expect symptoms to vanish right away, they may take a few days to work. Since they can have side effects like burning, dryness, or nosebleeds, use the lowest dose that controls your symptoms.

Your doctor may recommend allergy shots if other medicines can’t relieve your symptoms. They contain a tiny amount of the pollen and will help your body build up resistance to it. You’ll likely need to get one shot each month for 3 to 5 years.

3. Protect yourself early on.

Start taking medicine long before your eyes get watery and you’re sneezing nonstop, at least 1 week before the season begins. That way, the medicine will be in your system by the time you need it.

4. Get natural relief.

Some herbal remedies may help stave off allergy symptoms. More research is needed, but an extract from a shrub called butterbur shows promise. Biminne, a Chinese herbal formula with ingredients like ginkgo biloba and Chinese skullcap, may also help. One study found that people who took biminne five times a day for 12 weeks still felt the benefits a year later.

Tell your doctor first. Natural or alternative doesn’t necessarily mean safe. Butterbur may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to plants like ragweed and marigold. Biminne doesn’t always work well with diabetes medicines. And because it’s unclear how these herbs help, the possible long-term side effects are unknown.

5. Tweak your home.

Simple changes make a difference. Shut all windows to keep out pollen. Use an air conditioner to cool your home instead of a fan, which draws in air from outside.

Take off your shoes at the door and ask guests to do the same. That keeps allergens outside.

Clean floors with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. These filters trap 99.97% of microscopic particles in the air. And don’t line-dry clothes or sheets in warmer weather! They’ll collect pollen while they hang outside.

Finally, don’t smoke. It can make allergy symptoms worse. If you or someone you live with smokes, now is a good time to quit.