The Five Fundamentals Of Endurance Performance - And what can you do about them.

Understand the five key drivers to help supercharge your endurance performance.

1. VO2 Max - How big is your engine?

Your VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that you can breathe in, transport and that can be used by the working muscles per minute. Your VO2 max is essentially the size of your endurance engine and is known as the benchmark of aerobic performance. A higher VO2 max enables athletes to convert more oxygen to energy so you can push harder for longer.

2. Anaerobic Threshold - How good is your engine?

Your anaerobic threshold (AnT) is the functional portion of your VO2 max. Used interchangeably with your ventilatory (VT2), or lactate threshold (LT), measuring this tells us what intensity (pace/power) you can sustain for 30-60mins, where better trained athletes are able to hold this point for long.

The goal for any endurance athlete is to increase the power or speed at the anaerobic threshold, as this is probably the best determinant of endurance performance [1]. A higher anaerobic threshold means you can sustain a higher % of your VO2 max. This means you are able to go faster or produce more power at this point.

So let’s say two runners (A and B) have the same VO2 max (65ml/min). Athlete A has an anaerobic threshold of 90% of his VO2 max, which is 6:30min/mile pace. Athlete B has an anaerobic threshold that is 80% of his VO2 max, which is 6:45min/mile pace. If they both ran at their anaerobic threshold, athlete A would be able to run faster. If athlete B ran at the same pace as athlete A’s anaerobic threshold (6:30), he would have to slow down more quickly.

3. Nutrition – Fuel, recover, adapt

Exercise is the stimulus, nutrition enhances adaptation. A proper diet that factors in the correct amount food, correct food types, timings and essential nutrients should be fundamental for any athlete, whether your goal is performance, health or just to look good. A poorly designed diet that doesn’t account for overall energy and the correct macronutrient ratio will blunt training adaptation, impede recovery, have an impact on energy levels, sleep, health and immunity. Eating the right amounts of the right foods is simply a critical step in becoming a better version of yourself.

4. Economy – be more efficient

How much oxygen you use when running at a given speed is referred to as running economy, which highlights how much energy you need at this given pace. Runners with good running economy will use less oxygen enabling them save energy. This means they can go for longer by producing more speed/power with less effort.

There are a lot of factors which contribute to improved economy (see below), which is why it is difficult to pinpoint an area that you specifically need to improve. However, if you focus on factors that you know can help such as power to weight ratio, technique, strength, mobility, training and nutrition you will at least put yourself in a stronger position to race faster.

5. Muscle fibre type – make your physiology work for you

You have a balance of fast and slow twitch muscle fibres. Slow twitch, or type I are more suited to continuous and endurance exercise and are recruited during this type of training. Slow twitch fibres contain more mitochondria, myoglobin and capillaries which enable you to use more oxygen. This makes these types of fibres ideal for endurance performance.

Type II fibres or fast twitch fibres can be split into type IIA and IIX. Type IIX fibres are more suited to faster, explosive exercise such as sprinting and weightlifting.

Type IIA fibres sit somewhere between Type IIX and Type I and will alter depending on the type of training you do. If you partake in more endurance training then these fibres will take the characteristics of slow twitch fibres, whereas if you do more sprint training and weightlifting, these fibres will elicit more type IIX characteristics.

Your genetic predisposition will dictate your fibre type composition. Unfortunately, you can’t really change your fibre type however, your training can improve the functioning of your slow twitch fibres, as well as lead to more ENDURANCE characteristics in type IIB fibres.

To be an effective endurance athlete, you need a high % of type I fibres as well as ensuring your training leads to the correct adaptation of type II fibres.

So train correctly!

To sum up

  1. Improve your VO2 max - the size of your engine

  2. Improve your anaerobic threshold - tune your engine

  3. Improve your nutrition - Fuel, recover and adapt

  4. Improve your economy - Be efficient

  5. Get the most from your physiology - Train right

In need of more help?

Are you a recreational runner, triathlete, cyclist or CrossFitter looking to improve your aerobic capacity?

We can help.

Box Endure is a testing and nutrition coaching programme for the recreational, amateur and age group endurance athletes, and CrossFit athlete’s looking to improving their capacity. Providing metabolic testing (VO2 max, thresholds and heart rate zones), nutrition coaching and strength and conditioning, Endure uses elite level testing that will help you get the most out of your endurance performance helping you become fitter, faster and stronger.

Find out more and sign up at

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