Stronger And Longer

Looking to improve your cardiovascular fitness and enhance your muscular endurance, whether for an upcoming race or just to challenge yourself? This six-week plan will help you go the distance.
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If you’ve ever dreamed of finishing a half or full marathon, testing your mettle in a triathlon, or undertaking any number of other endurance-related competitive events, you need to start with a foundation. The body isn’t naturally built to withstand the arduous, hours-long, stamina-depleting pace and repetitive action of an endurance event, but with time and training, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.

Whether you’re a lifelong bodybuilder looking for a new challenge or an aspiring endurance athlete still deciding what competitive track to take, this expert-designed program can help you lay that foundation you need. Designed by Emily Booth, a veteran of more than 20 endurance events and master instructor and trainer at Life Time Fitness in Westminster, Colo., this program is meant to give you an endurance base to build on so that when you do pick that half marathon, triathlon, or century ride you want to compete in, the training transition will be an easy one.

The Stronger and Longer Program

An important aspect of training for endurance is that it’s all about commitment — so the beginning of the plan eases you into running more and training more. “Since your goal is to build endurance, the first two weeks, that is your focus — not strength training,” Booth explains. “We want to minimize the chance of soreness that might discourage your desire to get out for the next run.”

The subsequent weeks build on the intensity and endurance. You will also notice that there is an added focus on core training and stretching. “The exercises prescribed are designed to reinforce proper movement patterns and structural alignment so that you can avoid injury long term,” Booth says. As an option, if you’re more of a beginner, you can expand all these weeks into two, making it a 12-week program — it’s your choice.

Running/Walking: After a good five- to 10-minute warm-up, run at an easy pace for one minute, then walk briskly for 90 seconds. Repeat the pattern for 20 minutes.

Days 2 and 4 Core Workout: Perform exercises in a circuit. Begin with the first exercise listed and do the prescribed reps/time, then proceed to the next exercise, continuing one after another until you reach the end of the exercises listed. Then repeat the circuit.

Stretch: Here, as in the remainder of the eight weeks when stretching is called for, choose an array of upper- and lower-body stretches, holding each stretch for up to 30 seconds. Booth also recommends trying the foam roller for some stretches, if you’re familiar with that piece of equipment.

Exercise

Reps

Quadruped Opposite Arm/Leg Reach

12 per side, slowly

Prone Plank (on your knees or toes)

Hold for 10-20 seconds

Side Plank (split feet)

Hold for 10-20 seconds per side

Prone Swimmer

12 per side, slowly

Lying Glute Bridge

15 (2-second hold at top of each rep)

Exercise-Ball Crunch

15, slowly

Running/Walking: After a good five to 10 minutes of warming up, run at an easy pace for 90 seconds, then walk briskly for 90 seconds. Repeat for 20 minutes.

Days 2 and 4 Core Workout: Perform exercises in a circuit. Begin with the first exercise listed and do the prescribed reps/time, then proceed to the next exercise, continuing one after another until you reach the end of the exercises listed. Then repeat the circuit at least once, preferably twice, depending on your current fitness level.

Exercise

Reps

Quadruped Opposite Arm/Leg Reach

12 per side, slowly

Prone Plank (on knees or toes)

Hold 20-30 seconds

Side Plank (split feet)

Hold 20-30 seconds per side

Prone Swimmer

12 per side, slowly

Lying Glute Bridge

15 (2-second hold at the top of each rep)

Exercise-Ball Crunch

15, slowly

Running, Days 1 and 3: After a good 5- to 10-minute warm-up, run at an easy pace for two minutes, then walk briskly for 90 seconds. Repeat the pattern for 25 minutes.

Running, Day 6: This is your first long run. After a good 5- to 10-minute warm-up, run at an easy pace for three minutes, then walk briskly for 60 seconds. Repeat for 35 to 40 minutes.

Cross Training: Cross-training options include 30 to 60 minutes of a fitness class, swimming, cycling, the elliptical trainer, yoga, Pilates, or a workout of your choice, based on your preferences. This activity should be fun.

Days 2 and 4 Strength and Core Workout: Perform one set of all exercises listed, starting with the core and moving on to strength training. Rest minimally (30 to 60 seconds) between strength-training exercises. Finish with stretches of your choice.

Running, Days 1 and 3: After a good 5- to 10-minute warm-up, run at an easy pace for three minutes, then walk briskly for 60 seconds. Repeat for 30 minutes. The duration is shorter than your long run, but it has increased from Week 3’s regular runs.

Running, Day 6: This is your long run. After a good 5- to 10-minute warm-up, run at an easy, conversational pace (i.e., you can talk without losing your breath) for five minutes, then walk briskly for 60 seconds. Repeat for 45 minutes.

Cross Training: Cross-training options include 30 to 60 minutes of fitness class, swimming, cycling, elliptical trainer, yoga or Pilates based on your goals and preferences. Enjoy this workout.

Days 2 and 4 Strength and Core Workout: Perform exercises in a circuit. Begin with the first movement listed and do the prescribed reps/time, then proceed to the next exercise, continuing one after another until you reach the end of the exercises listed. Then repeat the circuit one or two times, your choice based on your ability level. Stretch afterward.

Running, Day 1: Do a 30-minute run, walking as needed (if at all) during the run.

Running, Day 3: In the parlance of endurance athletes, this workout is a mini “brick.” Run 30 minutes at a pace that enables you to talk, then immediately get on a bike and pedal at light/moderate resistance, 80 to 90 rpm, for 10 minutes.

Running, Day 6: This is your long run. Warm up for five to 10 minutes, then run at an easy, conversational pace for at least 50 minutes. Slow down to a walking pace if you feel at all breathless.

Cross Training: Your cross-training options include 30 to 60 minutes of a fitness class, swimming, cycling, elliptical trainer, yoga, Pilates, or something else of your choosing.

Days 2 and 4 Strength and Core Workout: Perform one set of all core exercises, then do two sets each of the strength-training moves, resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets. Stretch afterward.

Running, Day 1: Do a 30-minute run, walking only as needed.

Running, Day 3: Today is a mini “brick.” Run 30 minutes at a pace that enables you to talk, then immediately get on the bike and pedal against a light/moderate resistance, 80 to 90 rpm, for 15 minutes.

Running, Day 6: This is your long run — one full hour is the goal. Warm up for five to 10 minutes, then run at an easy, conversational pace as long as you can. Walk as needed.

Cross Training: Your cross-training options include 30 to 60 minutes of a fitness class, swimming, cycling, elliptical trainer, yoga, Pilates, or something else of your choosing.

Days 2 and 4 Strength and Core Workout: Perform one set of all core exercises, then do two sets each of the strength-training moves, resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets. Stretch afterward.