Do We Have to Endure Endurance Training?
Dr. Edythe Heus
March 4, 2023

If we want to be our best, we must push ourselves to the limit. 

This mentality is prevalent in society, especially in the fitness world. 

It rings true because it mostly is—we can train our highly adaptable bodies to become stronger, faster, and better.

But just like any other machine, pushing our bodies too far and too often, as is the custom in endurance training, can cause them to break down.

So today, we examine the risks of chronic endurance training, reexamine its necessity for improved athletic performance, and propose a new paradigm for endurance. 

What is Endurance Training?

In sports, endurance refers to the capacity for sustained activity over an extended period of time. 

It entails resisting muscular fatigue, which requires aerobic metabolism. So, endurance is typically measured in VO2 max—the maximum oxygen consumption of your muscle fibers during exercise.

The most common type of endurance training amongst both recreational and professional athletes is continuous. As its name suggests, it requires performing a cardiorespiratory exercise for at least 20 minutes while maintaining an elevated heart rate. 

Can Endurance Training Be Harmful?

Endurance training has long been regarded for its benefits in metabolic health, cardiorespiratory fitness, and overall physical and mental well-being. It has also been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.

So the more we train with this method, the more we can maximize its benefits… right? 

Actually, the research suggests otherwise. 

A longitudinal study involving previously sedentary participants found that moderate training (30-45 minutes at 75-85% of maximum heart rate) lowers blood pressure and heart rate, which are markers of cardiovascular fitness.

However, prolonging and intensifying this routine—even up to the level of competitive athletes—did not improve these measures. These results suggest a ceiling to the benefits of endurance training on circulatory control. 

More does not equal better. And emerging evidence even suggests that more could be dangerous. Here’s why:

The Risks of Excessive Endurance Training on Cardiovascular Health

A growing number of studies are shedding light on the detrimental effects of prolonged endurance exercise on the cardiovascular system.

Endurance training’s strenuous load on the cardiovascular system results in “athlete’s heart,” which is characterized by:

  • enlargement of the left ventricle,
  • increased heart muscle and blood vessel thickness, and 
  • slower heart rate and lower blood pressure.

These adaptations are favorable for increased endurance for athletes, as these are required to pump out blood faster to the cells that need oxygen to sustain energy. 

However, these structural changes in the heart also facilitate the development of cardiovascular diseases such as:

  • arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC),
  • myocardial fibrosis, and 
  • atherosclerosis.

The Risks of Excessive Endurance Training on Respiratory Health

The respiratory system is also hardly hit by too much endurance training for too long. Unlike the more adaptable cardiovascular system, exercise does not change the physiology of our lungs and airways.

Because of these structural limitations in the respiratory system, hypoxemia, or the abnormal decrease of oxygen levels in the blood, can happen during intense endurance training. 

This type of exercise can also cause inflammation in the airways. That’s why elite athletes of endurance sports develop a condition called “sports asthma.” 

This occurrence is so common that asthma has become more prevalent within this subset of athletes than in other players and even the general population.

An Efficient Body is an Enduring Body

In light of the risks associated with intense endurance training, we suggest an alternative approach to endurance: efficiency.

Like a well-oiled machine, our bodies will function much longer and much better if their movements are efficient. When we correctly recruit only the specific muscles needed for an action, we expend energy at a lower rate, allowing us to become more endurant. 

Our fascia is indispensable in optimizing our movements in this way. The fascia is a thin layer of elastic tissue protecting, separating, and connecting each of our cells and muscles with one another. 

The fascial system facilitates pain-free and efficient movement, allowing our muscles to slide and move in relation to each other and mechanical stress. Each time we move, our fascia distributes tension within the body to adapt to the motion. 

When the fascia is damaged, we experience pain in one body part during movement and compensate by using other muscles, ultimately expending more energy than needed. This compensation can also lead to injury.

In addition to saving energy due to efficient movement, the elastic nature of the fascia also makes it an energy store, which can lend to muscles when necessary. 

Because of these principles, studies have found myofascial release techniques to effectively increase athletes’ mobility. 

Enduring is not a Requirement

To finally answer the question this article’s title poses: 

No, we don’t have to endure endurance training. 

If you like steady-state aerobic exercises and simply want to improve your overall fitness, regular and moderate-intensity endurance training may be a good fit for you. 

But if you are an elite athlete looking to increase your success in endurance sports, evidence suggests that it is not a good idea to heavily rely on endurance training in the long-term.

Instead, you can supplement your training with fascial remodeling, which will increase your efficiency and allow you to perform better for much longer. 

Current fascial remodeling techniques center around physical manipulation by a therapist, but Rev6 allows you to train your fascia on your own through exercise.

Learn more about how we can help your fascia regain its elasticity and your body become more resilient here:


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