How to Build Endurance: (5 Tips to Increase Your Overall Conditioning)

Building “Endurance” admittedly encompasses a lot of different training goals.

You could be looking to run your first 5k, or a seasoned ultra runner. You could just want to get up a flight of stairs without your coworkers noticing your heavy breathing, or you could be looking to push yourself to your absolute physical limit in the gym.

Whatever your endurance goals may be this article gives tips that will help increase your overall endurance across the board to give you a well conditioned base for general athletics.

1. Slowww Down

Whether you’re working a conditioning circuit in the gym or out running, biking, or swimming, pace is a huge consideration when it comes to building endurance.

If you’re too hot out of the starting gate you’ll be surprised by how quickly your session can come crashing to a halt. This is the probably the biggest beginner mistake made when it comes to any sort of endurance training.

A lot of athletes can benefit from lowering their intensity level until they learn what kind of effort they can maintain for an extended period of time. Focus on the ability to stay on your feet and work for an extended and continuous effort before you even begin to consider upping your pace.

If you’re tapping out after only 10 mins it might not be your conditioning level that needs work, but your pace.

2. Train Consistently

Endurance gains are like a high maintenance partner. Ignore them even a little and they will leave you. 

Turns out of all the physical endeavors to partake in aerobic fitness detrains the fastest. Detraining effects are typically seen starting at around 2 weeks for aerobic fitness whereas it can take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to see detraining effects in regards to strength training. On top of that it takes considerably less work per week to maintain those strength gains compared to aerobic.

And you here thought building muscle was hard.

At the end of the day if you’re serious about endurance gains you need to have a plan in action that allows you to train frequently AND consistently to give your body the proper stimulus it needs to maintain all of your hard gained endurance adaptations. This is truly “use it or lose it” training.

3. Practice the 10% Rule

You might have heard your endurance friends or fitness influencers mention “the 10% rule” in regards to things like running programming.

The idea here being that you don’t increase your overall running volume by more than 10% in total per week. So, if you ran 10 miles this week, you’d shoot for no more than 11 miles the following week.

It’s good to note that this really isn’t a #sciencebased method…but…it’s still really damn good. Sudden jumps in frequency/intensity/volume are the main causes of injuries for endurance athletes especially for common running injuries like shin splints and stress fractures.

Controlling how quickly you ramp up your training overtime can help you stay healthy for the long run (pun very much intended).

4. Train Steady State AND H.I.I.T

Steady state conditioning which favors longer and lower intensity efforts and H.I.I.T (High intensity interval training) which focuses on short bursts of high intensity effort work two different energy systems in our body.

If you’re only training steady state don’t be surprised when a quick 15 min H.I.I.T sessions knocks you on your ass. Likewise, if you favor those shorter sessions, you’re likely to be left in the dust the longer a training session continues despite your ability to work at a high intensity.

If you want truly well rounded conditioning, make sure you have a mix of both sessions involved in your training.

5. Try Utilizing Heart Rate Training Zones

Whereas lifting utilizes RPE and percentages to judge exertion levels for a given session, endurance training can utilize it’s own unique rating system in the form of heart rate training zones.

Heart training zones involve 5 different training zones which are ranked as a percentage of your heart rate max. Not only do these give you a good idea of where your current exertion level is for a given session they can also provide invaluable for competitive training.

Most fitness watches provide a decent read of your heart rate and can be utilized for this training. If you are worried about any errors with your watches reading use a heart rate chest strap and the percent error of your device will be brought down to a negligible amount.

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.