Three Methods for Improving Resistance to Fatigue

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Adjust Recovery Times

Resistance to fatigue is important in training as well as racing. High levels of resistance to fatigue during training sessions permit challenging sessions to be completed at target paces, providing an optimal stimulus for physiological adaptation—especially neuromuscular optimization. When high-quality interval workouts are carried out during the initial stages of training, increasing recovery intervals can thwart fatigue and thus upgrade the capacity to hit target speeds during work intervals.

However, expanding recovery intervals simultaneously makes a training session less specific to competitive situations, and there is evidence that shortening recoveries is ultimately better for promoting resistance to fatigue.

Anecdotally, recovery manipulation is a relatively popular strategy among elite Kenyan runners. When Yobes Ondieki, for example, was preparing to break the world record in the 10K, he completed interval workouts with the work intervals set at exact world-record pace. Over time, he shortened the recoveries between work intervals until recovery time deteriorated to a meager 10 seconds. At that point, Ondieki was running almost world-record 10Ks during his training sessions, and upon breaking the world record, he reported that the record-setting race was actually easier than his preparatory workouts.

More: Reach Your Running Goals With Recovery Intervals

Runners who sprint 200 meters (.12 mile) can also improve resistance to fatigue and overall performance by using relatively short recoveries. In research carried out at Aristotle University in Greece, speed sessions were conducted three times a week for six weeks. Sprinters who used 10-second recovery intervals during workouts that featured 10-second work intervals at maximal speed were quicker during the second 100 meters of all-out 200-meter efforts than those who employed 60-second recovery intervals. In other words, a 1:1 work-to-recovery ratio produced better performances at 200 meters than a 1:6 work-to-recovery ratio. Concentrations of key anaerobic enzymes—glucose-6-phosphate and fructose-6-phosphate—were also significantly higher in the short-recovery sprinters.

Enhance Muscle's Oxidative Capacity and Lactate-Threshold Velocity

Elite East African runners have the same VO2 max values as elite Caucasian runners but have considerably greater resistance to fatigue; the best runners from East Africa can run 21 percent longer at a high-quality velocity (92 percent of maximal speed) compared with topmost Caucasian runners. These same East African runners have greater oxidative enzyme activity in their muscles despite not having higher VO2 max levels, particularly with regard to a key oxidative compound—citrate synthase—that is 50 percent higher in East African runners than in elite Caucasian runners. The East Africans also accumulate less blood lactate during strenuous running, indicating that lactate-threshold velocity is higher. Thus, it is logical to argue that high skeletal-muscle oxidative capacity and lactate-threshold speed, in concert with heavy neural drive, are factors that promote resistance to fatigue.

More: Why Lactate Threshold Is Crucial to Becoming a Better Runner

Two different types of workouts enhance skeletal-muscle oxidative capacity and lactate-threshold speed. One type includes sessions that incorporate significant segments at 100 percent of VO2 max and above, including the following:

  • vVO2 max workouts
  • Interval workouts at best 1,500-, 1,000-, and 800-meter race paces
  • Maximal-speed sessions with relatively short recoveries
  • Demanding circuit-training workouts with tough running components
  • Hill repeat and fartlek efforts

More: Beat the Competition at Your Next Race With Fartlek Workouts

A second type includes sessions that incorporate a warm-up and then about 45 minutes of intense and primarily sustained running that significantly depletes glycogen. The latter is significant because depleted intramuscular glycogen stores create a strong stimulus for aerobic enzyme synthesis within the muscles. An example of such a session for an elite Kenyan might be 7K (4.35 miles) of steady, hard running followed by a short break lasting 5 or 6 minutes and then 6K (3.73 miles) of intense effort.

An increased resistance to fatigue enhances endurance performance. Systematic use of intense, high-quality training spikes the amount and duration of neural output, and this boosts resistance to fatigue. Explosive training, extended training at goal race pace, shortened recovery times within interval workouts, and sessions that optimize muscle oxidative capacity and lactate-threshold velocity are all proven fatigue fighters. Find more information about reducing fatigue in Running Science, available in bookstores everywhere or online at

More: How to Cheat Fatigue

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