Endurance Athlete Definition Essay

Endurance can be defined as the ability to withstand stress over prolonged periods of time. An endurance sport is therefore any sport in which there is a prolonged physical stress.

Endurance Sport Requirements

The main requirement is the ability to sustain a fast pace over a prolonged period, without sustaining undue fatigue through the build up of lactic acid. Events of greater than 800 m are mainly aerobic, with an increasing aerobic demand as duration increases. The main aerobic source of energy is through the metabolism of carbohydrates (glycogen) and fats in the form of free fatty acids. Energy is also supplied from the anaerobic metabolism of glycogen to form lactate and an initial 4-6 seconds supply comes form the intra-muscular store of high-energy phosphates.

Aerobic and Anaerobic Energy Sources

In the 1500m, 5km, 10km and ½ Marathon events the contribution of aerobic and anaerobic energy sources are approximately; 80% and 20% in the 1500m, 95% and 5% in the 5km, 97% and 3% in the 10km, and 99% and 1 % in the half Marathon respectively (Maughan et al., 1997; Fallowfield and Wilkinson, 1999). Despite being small the anaerobic contribution may make a significant contribution to the relative exercise intensity sustained during the 1500m and 5km events (Fallowfield and Wilkinson, 1999) and even during longer races such as the ½ Marathon it may come into play when working hard up a hill, during mid race surges or during a sprint finish. However the majority of a middle/long distance athlete’s training time would be devoted to developing and maximising their aerobic capacity and efficiency.

An athletes level of ability, as an endurance athlete, will be determined by a number of key physiological components. These key components include:


Fallowfield, J.L. and Wilkinson, J.L. (1999). Improving sports performance in Middle and Long-Distance Running. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, LTD.

Maughan R., Gleeson M., and Greenhaf P.L. (1997). Biochemistry of Exercise and Training. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Quick. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think endurance athletics?

Is it an Ironman? Maybe it’s the Western States. How about Badwater? Maybe the Boston Marathon or Escape From Alcatraz.

Or maybe you have no idea since this is the first time you have ever heard of endurance athletics, or the events that endurance athletes participate in.

If you breakdown the term, you get a better idea of why it’s different than being a runner, swimmer or bicyclist.

Endurance means

bearing hardship; staying power, continuity or lastingness. Athletics (notice the plural) is being agile; prepared to participate in sports.

Put them together and you get

an individual with the staying power to participate in sports.

Endurance Athletes Defined

It’s actually much more than just the staying power to participate in sports. Endurance athletics is an expedition into the physical and mental frontiers of ourselves. For the Endurance athlete, the expedition never ends — it just gets deeper into ourselves. This manifests itself in the Endurance Athletes Creed.

You may be asking yourself, what constitutes an endurance event? There are many different definitions. Some range from anything over 2 hours all the way to multi-sports — events that have more than one sports within them.

For simplicity, I’ll define an endurance event as

any event where you have to eat in order to finish.

Really, I’m serious. If you have to eat in order to continue the activity, it’s probably an endurance event.

In fact, eating is probably the single hardest and most essential endurance athlete skill simply because it’s such a challenge to fuel your body while exercising. There is a reason your mom always told you to wait 30 minutes after eating before swimming.

Endurance Athletics Lexicon

As with any group, endurance athletes have their own lexicon. Some of this jargon you will see me use throughout this blog simple because it crosses over so well to endurance leadership. (Most of the phrases were taken from: Fitzgerald, Matt “Complete Triathlon Book”, Warner Books — New York 2003):

  • Active Recovery: A low intensity workout meant to allow you to recover from a hard workout or race

  • Age-grouper: An amateur triathlete that gets ranked according to how they finish within their age group

  • Attack: To increase your intensity to get up a hill or pass someone, usually on a bike

  • Base phase: The first phase of training where the endurance athlete builds up a base level of endurance

  • Body Glide: A trade name for a balm that reduce friction during long training and racing.

  • Bonk: A state of exhaustion that is reached during prolonged exercise due to dehydration and fuel depletion

  • Brick: A workout in which two events are done back to back. Usually, refers to a bike then a run

  • Build Phase: The second phase of training where the athlete maintains a constant volume of training with some high-intensity workouts mixed in

  • Butt Butter: The nickname for Chamois Butt’r, which is placed in you bike shorts to reduce chafing

  • Cadence: The rate you peddle your bike or your running form

  • Carbo Loading: Increasing your carbohydrate intake a couple of days before a race

  • Crossover Effect: Benefits from other sports or training methods on each other. For example, the benefits of swimming on biking

  • DNF: Did Not Finish. The worst three letter acronym that can be after your name, ever

  • Fartlek: A whimsical, playful running workout where the runner varies their pace randomly

  • Gu: 100 calorie energy packets used for fueling during a race

  • Hitting the Wall: The point in which you do not want to move another step. Similar to bonking but more mental than physical

  • Interval: A high intensity phase of a workout or a section of a workout.

  • Multi-sport: An event with more than one sport. For example, swimming and biking

  • Passive Recovery: Recovering by being inactive

  • Peak Phase: The third phase of training where the athlete focus on specific aspects of his sport while also resting

  • Road Rash: The scrapes you get when you fall off your bike or trip while running

  • Saddle Sore: What happens when you don’t apply enough Butt Butter. Usually related to bike riding

  • Taper: Similar to Peak but with a reduction in activity leading up to a race

The Parallels to Leadership

By now, you have probably guessed that an endurance athlete makes a pretty darn good leader. They are self-motivated, see the big picture, understand that it takes a team to be successful and endures hardship with a smile.

This blog will explore these parallels so that you can awaken the endurance leader within you. By doing this, you can then accomplish your goals while having a smile on your face and enjoying the journey — even through the pain.


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