Factors of endurance performance

If a faster time is aimed over the Ironman distance, if you want to reach the finish line more quickly in the next city run or simply want to have to fight for the connection less early on bicycle rides with colleagues, an increase in endurance performance is called for. This article is intended to clarify which parameters make up endurance performance, i.e. which parameters can be sensibly adjusted to increase it.

Endurance is generally understood to be psychophysical resistance to fatigue. Endurance, as the ability of the muscle cell to resynthesize ATP (adenosin triphosphate) consumed under stress, also directly influences the recovery ability of an individual. From a physiological point of view, the amount of power that can be delivered over a longer period of time is essentially dependent on the following three factors:

  1. maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max)
  2. the maximum percentage of VO2max that can be maintained over a longer period of time – this is reflected by the performance at the anaerobic threshold, e.g. in running the speed. The anaerobic threshold in turn is determined by the VO2max and the lactate building rate VLa.
  3. Efficiency – level of oxygen consumption needed to generate a certain level of speed or power (Joyner & Coyle, 2008).
Overall schematic of the multiple physiological factors that interact as determinants of performance velocity or power output (by Joyner & Coyle, 2008, p. 37).

At this point it should be noted that the explanation of the final performance of an athlete goes far beyond a purely physiological explanations. A far more complex analysis is required for a full assessment. Thus, for example motivational, sociological, etc. factors also contribute to what performance can actually be shown.

Individual importance and determination of the main factors

It is obvious that the significance of the individual factors for endurance performance depends to a large extent on the requirement profile of the demanded load. For example, short competitions require a large maximum aerobic capacity (VO2max) with a high anaerobic capacity, while with increasing distance the sub-maximum determinants of endurance performance (lactate threshold, work economy) gain in importance. Furthermore, in sports or sub-disciplines in which tactical races and sprinting decisions may be made, anaerobic capacity is a decisive factor, whereas for long-term endurance performance a low VLa is advantageous because glycogen can be saved.

The individual expression of these factors is presented in a corresponding performance diagnosis. It is therefore advisable to undergo such a diagnosis at reasonable intervals. Based on the conclusions drawn from this, the further training process can then be sensibly designed. INSCYD maps with the VO2max, the VLa and the economy of movement the relevant parameters.

Increase endurance performance

Further blog posts will discuss what is behind these determinants of endurance performance from a physiological point of view, how they can be improved by training and which physiological mechanisms are behind them.

[1] Joyner, M.E. & Coyle, E.F. (2008). Endurance exercise performance: the physiology of champions. The Journal of Physiology, 586(1), 35-44.