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How to Increase Endurance for Summer Adventures —and Beyond

How to Increase Endurance for Summer Adventures —and Beyond

By Sylvia Karcz, Contributing Blogger

I recently mentally committed to a particular bucket-list hike that’s been on my radar for years, and it has me diving into the science of endurance like never before. I’ll be covering approximately 43 miles in two days with roughly 11,000 feet of total elevation gain —more than I’ve ever done in such a short timeframe— so needless to say, it has me in a preparation-conscious mindset, super committed to taking my endurance up a notch over the coming months. 

So, I’ve been doing my research. I’ve been looking at different training modules, potent micro-adventures, and picking the brains of incredibly fit athletes who thrive in Type II fun to devise an endurance-increasing plan of action for the summer. One that will leave me with a sense of strength and empowerment for undertaking my hiking objective. And all the future ones to come. 

If you’re in a similar boat and looking to challenge your aerobic and anaerobic capabilities —be it for a certain summer trip, or, just in general— read on for three simple but tried-and-true tips for increasing your endurance so that you can go bigger, longer, and further, no matter what your dream adventure looks like. 

1. Create Consistent Micro-Goals 

Endurance training is a complex and multifaceted journey that wildly differs from one human to the next. Some people work with their minds and others with their bodies, and

there are limits and variances to both, so there is no one-size-fits-all program; especially since everyone’s endurance goals vary. 

So, start with establishing a training habit that focuses on micro-goals for your particular objective. If you want to do a 10K trail run but haven’t pushed yourself past that two-mile mark, don’t jump right into that grander goal of running several miles at a time. Instead, create consistent, small progressions that are attainable, enjoyable, and keep the stoke high. Start by increasing your speed for the mile, for instance, and then, for two miles. Or, if you’re planning an inaugural multi-day backpacking adventure, start by taking a pack on a longer but moderate local hike. When that starts to feel easy, add some elevation gain, so your muscles get used to lugging that extra weight uphill (tip: if you don’t live in a mountainous area, you can use a stair-master at a gym!) Then, progressively add more weight and more distance. 

The incremental results you see will still help you reach that final target, but you will feel empowered each time you check off those micro-goals. 

2. Go Longer, But Slower 

People seem to always want to go higher and further faster, but the key to increasing stamina and endurance is, in actuality, slowing down. 

The reason concerns basic physiology; specifically, conditioning the body’s aerobic/anaerobic metabolic systems. By keeping the training pace slow and limiting overexertion —the rule of thumb is a heart rate of 130-150 beats per minute max, or, simpler yet, being able to hold a normal conversation while moving— we improve our oxygen utilization and movement efficiency. In turn, that optimizes our energy reserve and allows us to go longer distances.

Slowing down is easier said than done, of course; it takes patience and discipline to put time on the back burner and focus instead on consistent, slow training. If you push yourself a little bit further each session, though, the results will show, whether you’re cycling, running, swimming, or hiking. 

3. Specify— And Diversify

The key to any grand outdoor objective is twofold. While it’s essential to recognize the specific actions you’ll need to attain your goal, it's equally important to realize that a multitude of different training will aid in achieving it. 

For example, if my dream is to climb Mount Whitney in one day this summer, I’ll need to be an efficient hiker capable of covering that 20-mile roundtrip; that’s pretty clear. But in addition to that hiking-specific endurance training, I’ll also need to train my muscles to carry extra weight uphill in my pack (water, layers, etc) and train my lungs to work harder at elevation. I can accomplish this not just through hiking-specific motions, but through weight training, cardio, and interval hill training. 

Diversify your training to keep things exciting, but also to reap the far-reaching benefits of different types of movement. 

4. Dial In Your Nutrition 

Fueling your body for endurance training and longer adventures is just as important as strengthening it. 

Nutrients, vitamins, and food in general are directly responsible for how your body performs; both before, during, and after physical exertion. They enable healthy organ function, restore much-needed glycogen supply, and help build and repair muscle during training efforts. No matter what diet you adhere to and what your eating habits are, understanding the relationship of how what goes into your body (and when) maximizes performance ranks pretty high in the greater picture. 

So, if you’re serious about increasing your endurance, take time to learn about the timing of meals, various recovery supplements, and adequate water, fat, carb, and protein intake. Your nutrition is often the missing puzzle piece in enhancing your athletic capabilities. 

5. Find Community

Even if you’re the type that immensely values your personal space and solitude, when it comes to a longer-term goal that takes significant time, effort, and commitment —like endurance training!— there are endless benefits to utilizing a community of like-minded souls to aid your progression. 

In addition to an overall sense of belonging and understanding, training with another person or two—or a larger group!— can inspire and motivate, usually increases your time spent training, and, most importantly, helps hold you accountable. There is strength in numbers for a reason, and it also makes those hard moments a bit more fun!