Defining Endurance

If you google “What is an endurance sport?” you will come up with a wide variety of results ranging from, ‘any activity performed at sub-maximal effort levels over a long period of time’ to ‘activities that include prolonged amounts of suffering’ to ‘quickly eating as many hotdogs as you can over a long period of time.’ (For me, eating even a single hotdog is tantamount to suffering.) Some definitions bring in the psychology piece as well, noting that endurance athletics requires a certain amount of mental stamina—or ‘grit’—to work through and beyond the physical fatigue that comes with prolonged physical exertion.

Just so we’re all on the same page, can we agree that when we refer to endurance sports, we’re talking about long, challenging efforts that do not include frequent stopping and starting, nor cause you to black out due to insufficient oxygen levels in your brain?

For this website, we will lean closer to the idea that endurance athletics include those sports that require continual or maintained activity at sub-maximal effort levels over a long period of time. “What is a ‘long period of time’?” you might ask. Well, that depends on the sport—and whether we’re talking about training or competition (and/or fun!).

Here are some examples of sports that easily qualify as “endurance athletics”:

  • Distance running (road, trail, ultra)
  • Nordic skiing
  • Distance swimming
  • Biathalon, triathalon, & other ‘athalons
  • Cycling
  • Rowing

This is not an all-inclusive list to be sure. There are MANY athletic activities that include components of endurance, just to name a few:

  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Tennis
  • Alpine Skiing
  • Figure Skating
  • Dance
  • Wrestling
  • Gymnastics

So why spend the time to focus on endurance athletics? Here’s why:

Because the unique relationship between endurance training and performance/competition bears the capacity to result in both incredible, and incredibly destructive outcomes. That’s what this website, and the Athlete Wellness Center is about: discussing the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful sides of endurance athletics. For the athlete in all of us.