The endurance reserves

The endurance reserves - Alexander Streltsov                                             

          This paper received the highest award of the EAA scientific in 2002

In the last decades the world records for medium and long distances grew with a sufficiently high rate. In order to improve the results of sportsman the trainers accepted superficial decisions giving initially an appreciable effect. The decisions demanded no deep comprehensive analysis and were in accordance with the extensive development (that is, with the ‘in-breadth’ development) where the loads were primitively summated.

It was simple. To hold a new record it is necessary to train much and frequently. After a time, when the record has been established, ones need to enhance the loads again.

The world records were bettered. As a result, the duration of runner workouts was extended also. But the longer is not a better. Even after 8000-9000 km/year runs it did not always happen that the sportsman solved successfully his basic task of preparation stage - to show a high result in the main event.

At the same time in the sport (including athletics) there is another approach. This is a way of the quality and intensive development implying an essentially new kind of runner training. The approach is based on a theoretical prediction of the results to be planned and allows essentially to increase the efficiency for a training process of runners.

In the work it is offered for runner training to utilize an model based on the purposeful development of general, force, high-speed and special endurances, the oxidizing and retractive properties of the muscles and the tissue breathing in order to establish a reasonable volume-intensity balance for training process.

Statement of the task: where to search for reserves?                 

Before the training workout of a runner it is necessary to determine the level of his functional preparation with the help of program ‘ERGOTEST’. Therefore the runner should run consistently four-kilometer distances with a speed to be consecutively increased. The rest time between the distances should be invariable. Immediately after each distance the cardiac clonus frequency (CCF) is determined.

Ones draw a diagram for dependence of the CCF (in pulse/min) on the run speed (in m/sec) and find six parameters. They are:

1. The factor A specifies an actual functional condition of the sportsman at the time of testing. The factor depends on the air oxygen delivery to working muscles.

2. The factor B gives the minimum value of CCF at the rest and testifies to the runner recovery, his health and the ability to assume a following load.

3. The run speed, which is a boundary between the aerobic and anaerobic zones, allows to create a ramified vascular network and to cultivate the general endurance.

4. A magnitude of CCF at the boundary speed of run.

5. The factor K characterizes the ability for the runner to carry out a training work at the boundary speed for a long time.

6. The universal constant St shows the general level of physical readiness at the moment of the test in view of oxygen transport.

The less is the parameter A and the higher is the factor St, the sportsman is better prepared. The ranges of the obtained parameters can be determined for each level of sportive skill.

The periodical (once per 3 - 4 weeks) investigations allow to estimate very quickly each stage of runner training and to correct opportunely the training plans in order to enhance the functional state for the runner.

Advantages of the program are the simplicity and the accessibility for the trainer to apply it at any conditions, the exsanguinity and the absence of troubling influences on the organism, the pithiness of obtained information and a possibility to elaborate the individual training plans.

The ERGOTEST allows to determine a CCF and a run speed for the mixed aerobic-anaerobic zone with a high data adequacy, to estimate quantitatively a level of functional and physical readiness for the runner, to compare regularly the obtained data with the results to be modeled.

At an intensive motor activity the blood flow increases 5-6 times and can attain up to 30 litters per minute. At a run speed of 3 – 4 m/sec the vascular network is formed insufficiently. Therefore, when the sportsman increases the run speed, the oxygen-enriched blood does not managed to penetrate into vessels.

The creation of a ramified vascular network and the run speed increase are possible exclusively at a persistent running with the boundary speed (inside the mixed aerobic-anaerobic zone) provided a periodical testing. The boundary speed should be permanently raised in accordance with the test results.

The hemoglobin (that is, a protein molecule being part of the blood erythrocytes) is the unique supplier of oxygen to working muscles in the organism. In the lungs the oxygen binds with the hemoglobin thereby giving rise to an oxyhemoglobin. At blood transportation through the vessels with a low oxygen content the oxyhemoglobin dissociates and supplies the wanted oxygen to the muscles.

The reaction of air oxygen with blood hemoglobin occurs in approximately 0.8 seconds. If to assume that at such an inhalation time the exhalation takes 0.6 – 0.8 seconds, the total respiratory cycle (inhalation plus exhalation) ensuring a comfortable oxygen saturation regime for the cardiovascular and muscle systems will last from 1.4 to 1.6 sec.

The respiration corresponding to such an inspiration duration (38-43 inhalation-exhalation cycles per minute) is obtained at a fast or slow walking, at a running with the speed up to 14 km/hours.

At a higher run speed when the working muscles need the increased amount of oxygen the character of respiration is changed. The respiration becomes more rapid and less deep. It means that despite of a growing air volume going through the lungs the intensity of running results in consumptions, those are problematic for the respiratory organs. The low rate of oxygen-hemoglobin assimilation is responsible for the consumptions.

At a run speed of 14-18 km/hour or a respiration frequency of 46-55 inhalation-exhalation cycles per minute (the time of each inspiration takes 0.55-0.65 seconds) the first signs of tiredness arise. The hemoglobin has not sufficient time to bind with air oxygen because of extremely fast change in the phases of inhalation-exhalation cycle. Employing the anaerobic mechanism of energy supply the working muscles gather the deficient amount of oxygen. At the time the lactic acid begins to accumulate intensively in the runner organism.

At a run speed of 19-24 km/hour or a respiration frequency of 56-85 inhalation-exhalation cycles per minute (the time of each inspiration takes 0.35-0.54 seconds) the difference between the air inflow and the oxygen-hemoglobin assimilation becomes more significant. The lactic acid concentration rises sharply and exceeds essentially the level, which is necessary to produce the relevant physical effort.

At a run speed more than 24 km/hour or a respiration frequency more than 85 inhalation-exhalation cycles per minute the respiratory system get out completely of control. The air feeds runner’s organism in large quantities, but the oxygen (at the inhalation time about 0.3 seconds) is not assimilated practically and the anaerobic sources of energy supply suffices only for 2-5 minutes of work. The sportsman is forced to lower the speed (the avalanche-like accumulation of lactic acid results in a sharp drop of physical efficiency) or to stop the run because of the bronchus spasm.

The respiration frequency dependence on the inhalation-exhalation cycle time in the logarithmic coordinates for different run speeds is a direct line inclined to the axis X at an angle of 45 degrees. The line is described by the equation:


                          У      =       1.78   –   Х       ,                                           (1)


where Y is the decimal logarithm of the respiration frequency and X is the decimal logarithm of the inhalation-exhalation cycle time.

The negative values for Y testifies that if the respiration frequency is more than 61 inhalation-exhalation cycles per minute and the time of each inspiration is less than 0.49 seconds (that corresponds to 2.35-2.40 for 1 km) the total failure of respiratory system happens. No quality and extended work at such a speed is possible. Despite of an essential increase in the pulmonary ventilation volume, the degree of blood saturation by air oxygen is considerably reduced.

At the time the carbon dioxide, which is generated both in the gas exchange reactions O2®CO2 and in oxidation reaction of fats and carbohydrates, is accumulated in the organism because of serious difficulties for CO2 removing. In the respiratory center the excitation of CO2 sensitive nervous cells increases. Hence the respiration becomes more rapid in order to remove the excess in carbon dioxide. However the time of each inhalation decreases also.

From incoming air the oxygen is utilized in less amounts, but the carbon dioxide is accumulated because of the rapid sigh. The runner gets into a closed loop and finally drives himself in such conditions when he receives no oxygen from air and the carbon dioxide amount is so high that any further motion is practically impossible.

His deep and convulsive respiration after finish (the very rapid inhalation and the utterly slow exhalation) testifies to a lactic acid excess, which should be removed as quickly as possible.

The sportsman desires to provide an inflow of sufficient oxygen amount from air and thereby to provide a comfortable regime for work of the cardiovascular and muscle systems on the whole distance. On the other hand, attaining the high result in a medium- or long-distance race the runner is faced with a difficulty to control the respiratory center, which increases automatically the respiration frequency in order to drop the carbon dioxide concentration up to normal one.

This contradiction can be resolved only by modifying the existing respiration regime during the race. The rational management of this function in the race will allow the runners to raise considerably their fitness for work.

A new respiration technique to be considered in the work allows to supply air oxygen to the working muscles proportionally with the physical load and to postpone the moment of weariness to lower the cardiac clonus frequency and to enhance the efficiency of training process practically for any run speed.

The artificial oxygen enrichment of inhaled air is performed during the run. A stereotype for the new respiration implementation is memorized already after 3 - 4 days with the help of regular trainings (initially the consciousness controls the accordance between respiration and motional elements).

For the first time the potential of the new respiration technique for the running was demonstrated in a pedagogical experiment in 1992. In February of the same year in Moscow Central Scientific Research Institute "«Sports" another research experiment was performed. Five Masters of USSR sports and Masters of USSR sports of the international class (the sports specialization is the distances of 800 m and 1500 m, the trainers are Elianov Y. I. and Styrkina S. P.) took part in the experiment.

In February 5, 1992 in the first series of experiments on running along a streaming track (tredban) the frequency of respiratory inhalation-exhalation cycles (RF), the cardiac clonus frequency, the volume flow rate of respiration (VFRR) and the concentration of lactic acid (lactate) were measured for sportsmen at speeds of 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0 and 5.5 m/sec.

At each speed the duration of running was 3 minutes. Then tredban was switched to more high speed without stopping.

On the 6-9th February the sportsmen were trained in the new respiration technique at scheduled trainings. From the methodical point of view the quality of trainings was the same. Only the natural respiration (even for the high-speed pieces) was completely replaced by the new one.

On the 10th of February the second series of experiments was carried out with the same tredban speeds and the equipment. An only distinction – the runners applied the new mastered respiration technique in running.

Naturally, essential changes in their preparation and a leap in the results are impossible after four days. However, at applying the new respiration technique, the sportsman organisms got by 30-40 percents of oxygen amount more then at natural respiration. The RF lowered by 30-35 percents, the VFRR - by 10-20 percents and the lactate amount - by 25-50 percents. All runners began to work more economically and their oxygen demand began to meet the amount of oxygen supplied to working muscles. Potentially the runners were ready to show higher results. However they could not realize psychologically and physically that.

Table 1 shows experimental results for O. Nelubova (Master of USSR sports of the international class).


Speed of tredban run

 VFRR, l/min

CCF, pulse/min

 RF, min

Lactate, millimole/l








































































Table 1. Comparison of two different respiration types for O. Nelubova (NAT – natural respiration, NEW - new respiration)


For all participants of experiment the oxygen and pulse expenses per one meter of distance has decreased by 10 - 15 percents. In particular, for O. Nelubova such a simple (only mechanical) replacement of one respiration by another has reduced the energy consumption by 12 percents.

In 1996 leading Polish marathoners Leshek Beblo (the 15th position in the world classification with the result of 2:09.41 in 1995) and Grzhegosh Gaidus (the 20th position, 2:09.49 - 20) have decided to master the new respiration technique.

On the 8th May Beblo has run 12 km with the natural respiration (30 circles in a stadium) at a speed of 3.20 for 1 km. The CCF was measured during the whole race. A blood sample for estimation of the lactic acid concentration was taken immediately after the race termination.

On the 11th and 14th of May (that is, only after two and five days accordingly) Beblo has repeated the experiment again with the new just mastered respiration technique. Table 2 shows his results.



Respiration technique

Run speed, min.sec per kilometer

Cardiac clonus frequency (pulse/min) after each race kilometer


Lactate concentration, millimole/l










































Table 2. The frequency of cardiac clonus and the lactic acid concentration for Leshek Beblo applying two different types of respiration in the race.


Five days later Beblo’s level of lactic acid has decreased more than by 60 percents. What were causes of such changes?

First of all, it is an elongation of the inhalation time by the factor from 1.5 to 3.0 and, hence, a rise in the duration of reaction between air oxygen and blood hemoglobin.

Secondly, it is an increase in the rate of oxygen assimilation from inhaled air.

Third, at the new regime of respiration for the runner a better oxygen penetration into the blood is promoted by the increase in the intralung air pressure.

Fourthly, it is a more complete removal of carbon dioxide from the organism of sportsman.

Fifthly, a smaller air volume goes through the lungs.

Sixthly, the respiratory muscles works at a cyclic instead of a statical (as for the natural respiration) regime.

Seventhly, at a cyclic regime the thorax efforts requires much less the energy than at a static one.

As a result, running 1 km with a speed of 3.20 at the new respiration regime, Beblo possessed exactly the same respiration frequency and the same energy consumption as with the natural respiration when he run 1 km at a speed of 4.20.

The total concentration of lactic acid (3.65 millimole/l) is a veritable one and corresponds to the physical expenses at a speed of 3.20 per kilometer.

The initial value 9.4 millimole/l was due to the only fact that Beblo’s inhalation duration at the natural respiration was insufficient to provide completely the working muscles with air oxygen. Therefore Beblo’s organism was forced to apply anaerobic sources of energy supply in order to compensate these debts.

The frequency dependence on the time of respiratory cycles in logarithmic coordinates for the new respiration technique is a direct line, which is inclined to the axis X at an angle of 45 degrees and, similar to equation 1, described by the equation:


                                       У     =      1.78        -           Х    ,             (2)


where Y is the decimal logarithm of the respiration frequency at the new regime for different run speeds and the quantity X is the decimal logarithm of the time of single respiratory cycle.

Notice that in this case the region of negative values is practically absent. This region can be achieved only for a respiration frequency, which exceeds a value of 61 respiratory cycles in minute, that meets to a run speed about 2.00 per kilometer.

The new respiration is very economic. At the regime there are no excesses of lactic acid and there are conditions for the growth of sports results. But such a growth becomes rather problematic without a specialized muscle preparation.



The road to sports skill


The running is traditionally supposed to play the main role in muscle system improvement. Often ones forget that the development of muscles, those adopt rapidly to physical loads, is due to the motion. The potential of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems mismatches to the muscle one. The primitive summation of loads has no sense and goes to an unproductive spending of energy.

All dynamic workout for medium- and long-distance runners must be carried out at a regime, which admits no muscle relaxations, when the muscle pumping principle is kept. Then muscles are vastly tired (they "burn") becoming bloodshot. The workout rate - from the moderate up to above the average. The repetition number for each exercise - up to the mortal fatigue (‘to the full’), the number of approaches to the exercise - no more than two.

A special attention should be given to muscles of the buttocks and the back femur surface. These muscles push ahead the sportsman on a leg. The development of these muscle groups is very important to achieve a high result.

The crus muscles (the sural and plaice-like ones) is important also. They must possess a large strength and volume in order that, not falling on the heel, the runner could hold on the high foot for the whole distance.

From the diagram (the coordinates are: the single step time in second, the step number per minute and the step length in meter) ones can determine the most optimal and economic frequency of steps per minute. The frequency is constant for any run speed and equals 244 steps per minute. Increase of the run speed should result only in a rise in the length for each step.


Fig. 1. Change in the step length and in the step number as a function of the run speed: 1 - 500 m/min, 2 - 450 m/min, 3 - 400 m/min, 4 - 350 m/min, 5 - 300 m/min.


Knowing the optimal number of steps, those should be performed by the runner, it is very easily to calculate an exercise duration for the complete imitation of necessary efforts.

For example, for a distance 800 m it is planned to show the result 1.46,7. This result is transformed to m/sec (7.5 m/sec) and from the formula:


У         =         0.246       *          Х       ,        ( 3 )


(Y is the step length in meters, X is the run speed in m/sec, 0.246 is the correction factor) we obtain the length of each step (1.845 m). Then we divide 800 m by this quantity and calculate the number (217) of paired steps, those should be performed by the runner on this distance.

At a single exercise the sportsman carries out 217 non-stop flexions and erections (instead of 70 or even 100) by the legs. For instance, after 10 times of 70 jumps each, as a result, he has the same 70 jumps instead of 700. The same approach can be applied to running. After 8 or 10 races of 400 m each the runner has finally the same 400 m instead of 3200 or 4000 m.

The new respiration technique allow the runner to attain planned results in force training much faster since such a work is problematic at the natural respiration. This work is executed at anaerobic conditions when the carbohydrate hydrolysis results quickly in an avalanche-like accumulation of glucose blocking all efforts of the sportsman.

The new respiration technique allows the sportsman to continue his work at the aerobic regime and to mobilize the lipidic metabolism, which occurs only at a low glucose content and acts for a sufficiently long time.

For example, in the first force training the sportsman A (the sports specialization – 400 and 800 m, the 1st class) has executed a weight-lifting by legs with a weight equal to the own one (80 kg). The exercise was made 39 times on a simulator "platform" with a given rate at the “to-the-full” regime. In the 10th training the exercise was carried out 240 times already, in 18th - 240 times with a weight exceeding the own one by a factor of 1.25 (that is, 100 kg).

In the first training the sportsman K. has jumped out 32 times upright from the squat position, in the 4th - 48 times and in the 7th - even 75 times.

As against the force, the force endurance has no limit for the growth of sports results. Therefore the muscle system should be the main object of attention and the intensive muscle work must outstrip the distance speed.

It is necessary also to engage closely in training of the respiratory muscular system, which contribution in the final result is significant.

The training of the new respiration technique at a static body position (the sitting, standing or laying position) allows to imitate a running with any given speed and duration, to cultivate fast an breath automatism for running, to develop the intercostal muscles, to improve the pulmonary teethridge functioning, to clear the lungs, to accelerate the rehabilitation process after intense physical loads (in a sense, there is an oxygen pumping), to raise the bronchus passability, to strengthen the nervous system, to promotes a prevention from the catarrhal diseases.

Setting a certain regime of implementation, it is possible to train the respiratory muscles to the highest possible speed, which is unattainable frequently in race. It is very important that such a training would outstrip the current distance speed and be functionally adopted to this speed.

Basing on a planned result for the main competitive distance, it is offered also to apply a table of the physical and the functional potential of sportsman in order to develop the high-speed endurance and to control the training process.

Let us transform the world record table for the distances from 200 m up to the marathon in order to determine the averaged speeds per kilometer and to calculate a speed difference. As a result, training at a more intense high-speed regime and then running the same distance more slowly by 1 sec only, the runner is capable to overcome a longer interval. It takes place because at a high run speeds the muscles work more intensively and each step becomes longer. With a lower speed the step length is decreased and the muscles work already in a sparing regime.

The time, which should be shown by the runner on shorter pieces for muscle training to the result to be planned for the main competitive distance, is found from the formula, which takes into account also the physical weariness accumulated with the increase in distance length.

As an example, Table 3 gives the speed for intermediate pieces. The speed is calculated for the distance of 800 m (men).


Averaged speed in km/sec for slower run

1 km = 2.25,625

1 km = 2.15,625

1 km = 2.13,125

1 km =2.11,875

1 km = 2.08,125


Length of intermediate distance in meter

1sec = 378.3 m

1 sec = 85 m

1 sec = 85 m

1 sec = 34.5 m

1 sec = 34.5 m





































































































Table 3. The results, which should be attained for individual intermediate pieces at control starts or competitions. The competitive distance is 800 m.


To attain a result of 1.56,5 for the 800 m competition distance the sportsman is seen from Table 3 to need not to run 200 m for 25 sec and faster in the training. If he run a 200 m distance for the time of 28.8 sec he is ready physically to the planned result. Therefore it is necessary to increase the distance length: 250, 300, 350 m and up to a length where he is not able to run with a speed specified from Table 3. If the sportsman attains a required speed for the piece the distance length should be automatically increased by 50 m.

In such a training the functional qualities are developed much faster and the table allows to carry out a persistent control of training process. There are no need to run repeatedly the pieces with a speed, which is much less than calculated one.

The result 1.46,5 demands higher speeds and falls in another high-speed range. Therefore the specialized force training should be more solid.

Furthermore it is necessary to develop the tissue respiration, that is, to imitate the competitive conditions in training process (the program ‘maxi’). Although for the pieces selected in a predetermined manner the run speed exceeds the competitive one and the anaerobic threshold, because of piece shortness there is no excessive accumulation of lactic acid.

The mitochondria of cells, in which the fats and the carbohydrates are transformed in an oxidizing energy of muscles, are actively developed only under conditions of the competitive regime.

The sportsmen are forced often to develop the necessary qualities through a series of competitions, since in the spade-work period they do not know how to make an effective muscle training on the force endurance program and to increase successfully the mass and the power of cell mitochondria without an unpredictable accumulation of glucose in their organisms.

The larger is the start number, the higher is the training level. But the force endurance and the mitochondria are developed, if the start number is no less than 1 - 2 per two weeks.

If the break between competitions will be longer than three weeks the vascular network and the cell mitochondria (developed by such a hard work) begin to curtail. Hence the achieved level of the high-speed and the force endurance will drop.




Thus the model of training for medium- and long-distance runners can be represented as:


Copyright ©1998-2009. International Association of Athletics Federations
Regional Development Centre Moscow.
All rights reserved.