Your Endurance Training Needs

12 Nov Your Endurance Training Needs

I was recently at the Training Peaks Endurance Coaching Summit in Manchester. 

In amongst the forward thinking topics and latest apps and measurements to ensure we are enhancing our (and our athletes performances) was a keynote talk by Stephen Seiler. 

In it he spoke about his Hierarchy of Endurance Training Needs (an adaptation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs):

The concept being is that we should focus most of our efforts on the bottom 1-3 things on the pyramid, building this aspect up strong and only once we have mastered it should we then look to anything further up. 

I’ll start with highlighting the three key areas he has listed and the explanations are my own interpretations based on this for you:

  1. Total Frequency/Volume of Training.
    On this level, we are looking to increase our frequency or volume of training, i.e. do more. But not more in the way we are currently training. In this step we are adding more low intensity work. The traditional building up of our base.
    BUT… This is where so many of us can (and will) go wrong, our “zones” aren’t set right. An easy run for many of us is actually too hard.
    We push too hard when we should be taking it easy and the end result is fatigue, or worse injury.
    So step one after reading this is to go back to the drawing board and work out exactly where your zones are (be that pace, heart rate or power) and ensure you know where yours are and then stick to your lower zones for the majority of your workouts (the exact amount differs per person, but a 80:20 easy to hard ratio seems to suit many).
  2. High Intensity Training (or HIT)
    Now HIT has been around for YEARS, so many people speak about it as though it’s the most groundbreaking “new” thing on the block, but it’s not. The problem is our understanding of “hard” is skewed.
    For this section we are aiming to run at VO2 max (roughly 1-3 minutes hard).
    The difficulty here is ensuring you do this safely – my recommendation is perhaps to look at doing this on a rowing machine or a bike to act as cross training but with minimal injury risk. However there is no reason that if you are strong enough and have built up enough of the previous point that you shouldn’t be able to do this running. A weekly or twice weekly session will be more than sufficient to add stress to the body and fit within that 80:20 easy:hard running ratio.
  3. Training Intensity Distribution (TID)
    The TID of your training refers to varied amounts of training across specific zones. What is interesting is that Seiler refers to a 3 zone method, i.e. you are either training really easy, moderately hard (or tempo) or very hard!
    Or as I like to call it… Easy, Moderate or Max.
    Keeping your training varied is a way to ensure that you have positive effects in your training.

What else?

Well, periodisation (the art of ensuring you focus on different areas over your year, i.e. winter base, spring build and peak in the summer) comes next.

Sport specifics comes after this with micro-periodisation, in other words, those three week builds which are very common with many running plans will have a small effect on fitness, however, it is vitally important that you focus on recovery. If you are a busy runner, trying to build intensity/volume over three weeks is hard, but providing you focus on recovery then you’ll still see some enhanced results. 

Next up is training to altitude, heat training and so on. These are clearly vital if your event is at altitude or heat… But for the vast majority of us without any big Nike sponsorship deals, this kind of treatment isn’t likely to affect us regardless of what event we end up on the start line for.

Pacing training is right near the top, this refers to running your marathon training long run at marathon pace. Essentially going through your race pacing before the big day. Clearly this has a big effect on confidence but is ranked a lot lower than what we have already looked at so far.

Finally your training taper is at the top of the pyramid. The reason behind this is that tapering works if you are building toward one specific competition (i.e. your big marathon) but if you are repeating events multiple times over the year, your taper isn’t going to be the determining factor of success on the day. 

For me, this was one of the highlights of the week I spent in Manchester. The (reasonable) simplicity of the model is something we can all learn from. 

If you can focus on three things: 

Volume of training, 

Intensity and 


Then you are on the right track. 

All the other stuff which you read about in magazines and online talking about specific recovery schedules, build weeks and periodisation are GREAT, but they shouldn’t be a priority for many of us. 

There’s no point building a house if the foundations are rubbish. 

Theres no point worrying about your taper if you haven’t done the mileage. 


Coach Ant

P.S. Doing the simple stuff well is something we can all learn from, and it’s without a doubt one of my takeaway lessons from my week in Manchester. There are some amazing developments in sport science, but if we can focus on doing simple stuff well, we will improve. Often we need reminding of this before jumping on board the lastest hype.

P.P.S. On the subject of coaching, I’m reopening my coaching books for potentially the last time before xmas for a runner or triathlete. Applications can be made here:

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