Many people spend hours on stationary bikes and cannot figure out why they’re winded from a little running, while others hit the gym to build strength and still can’t meet their speed goals. The reality is that speed and stamina, especially at higher levels of fitness, are aspects of a complete training program that require focus and special workouts. Whether you’re a seasoned endurance athlete trying to up your lactate threshold, or a weekend warrior trying to shave some seconds off your lap time, there are a few things you need to know as you train your speed and stamina.
Train the Right Speed
The most functional and effective training you can do will always be specific to your goals. What this means is that when training for sports and athletic events that require speed, specificity always trumps cross-training. As you begin any speed-training program, reflect on what kind of speed you will need. A 40-yard dash requires a lot of explosive acceleration, while trying to finish first in a marathon requires more endurance to maintain speed than explosion off the line. Also consider whether the direction your body needs to generate speed is forward, upward or lateral.
Exercises for Speed
Producing speed and acceleration requires explosive power. Classic power-lifting exercises like clean-and-jerks or thrusters that require you to move heavy weights quickly increase acceleration and strength. Do one to three sets of three to six repetitions, for less than 30 seconds followed by two to five minutes of rest. Plyometric exercises like bounding runs and box jumps, or sprinting in place against a resistance band or wall also increase speed, strength and agility.
Ways to Endure
Improving stamina, like speed, requires that you choose training programs that stress the muscle groups and energy systems that you intend to use. The aerobic endurance needed for cycling, for instance, is associated with the oxidative energy system, which can be trained by performing long-term exercises, such as cycling, at varying intensities. However, this training will not also help you to do 50 pull-ups. Training to do more pull-ups requires focusing on shorter, more intense exercises that stress your anaerobic system by doing resistance training in one to three sets of ten to 15 reps, targeting muscular endurance.
To improve long-term endurance, sustained speed and markers of physical stamina like your lactate threshold and VO2max, you have to increase your aerobic stamina. Do long, easy aerobic exercise once or twice per week, building distance or time by 10-percent each week. You can also increase your stamina to sustain target speeds longer by doing shorter tempo runs in which you maintain your target speed for 20 to 30 minutes once a week. Do interval repeats once per week in which you run at your maximum two-mile pace for three minutes, then rest for three minutes and repeat for several rounds.
- NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition; Jared W. Coburn and Moh H. Malek
- PubMed.gov: Effects of Cross-Training. Transfer of training effects on VO2max between cycling, running and swimming
- ACEFitness.org: What Is Cross-Training and Why Is It Important?
- ExRx.net: Plyometric Exercises
- ACCOttawa: Plyometrics: The Bridge Between Strength and Power
- University of Washington: Training to Improve the “Big Three”
- University of New Mexico: Lactate Threshold Training