Endurance Redefined

Breathe To Perform
11 min readApr 2, 2021

Phase One. Week One

The Long Game

We call this the ultimate endurance training program for a reason. The term endurance as it is currently used is a ghost of it’s potential. For many, the word means running marathons or competing in long distance swimming or cycling events. This definition robs the term of it’s ability to represent a journey of growth and development that extends beyond the racing season-and beyond our lifetime. Endurance means leaving an imprint on the world that exists after you’re dead and gone. Anything else is just survival. This program is for those who want to do more than just survive. It’s for people who want to build the mental and physical strength to experience their own potential. People like this go the distance, in sport, life, and legacy.

Maybe you’re thinking “Hey, I thought this was a race training program?” At a bare minimum, it is. You’ll build the strength and endurance to excel this racing season. If you want a straightforward guide to improving running performance just skip to the training plan. But, this alone isn’t endurance. It’s just running. The art of training is that it challenges you to explore your edges and thereby expands them. This is an ongoing process. As the philosopher Abraham Maslow said “What we can be, we must be.” Each time that we grow, we expand what we can be. Each time that we chase this new edge, we redefine what we must be. Endurance is the race to chase our own potential. We are excited to work with you this season to train the body and mind, and to redefine endurance, together.

When I think of endurance, I think of Jan Gerry. Jan is a legitimate bad ass. When she walks in the room, the room becomes lighter. When she stands up to a challenge, she backs it down. When she trains, she trains hard and smart. (A rare combination.) What makes Jan a bad-ass isn’t just that she’s fierce, driven, and impossible to stop. It’s that she embodies each of those qualities while possessing a smile as powerful in it’s authenticity as it is in wisdom.

At 82 years old, Jan exemplifies a principal that the Endurance Redefined program is built upon. If you’re not pursuing a life that leaves you genuinely fulfilled, endurance isn’t the attribute that you want to develop. We’ve all met people who’ve walked a long road and hated every second of it. Clarity is the attribute that makes endurance a valuable pursuit. Knowing where we’re attempting to go makes it possible to get there. Moving forward aimlessly leads to exhaustion, frustration, and bitterness.

The Endurance Redefined program begins with a question that will define your training. The answer may change over this 16 week program. It may change hundreds of times as you tackle the complexity of understanding yourself-a living, breathing, adaptation machine-in a world that is changing by the second.

The value in asking this question is enhanced in a world full of people that have become afraid to take themselves, or their pursuits, seriously. It will enable you to reach goals beyond sport more efficiently, and to create a greater impact in the lives of others as a result. Working toward goals that we value while being capable of providing value to the world seem to be intrinsic to deep fulfillment and long term happiness.

The strength training that you’ll be doing will leave you feeling durable, resilient, capable, and powerful. The endurance training will leave you feeling like an aerobic machine as you optimize how your body uses oxygen. Neither of these changes have the capacity to provide true value in our lives unless our body is connected to a strong, clear, and purpose driven mind. The integration of mental and physical strength with goal clarity, focus, and deep purpose builds athletes who truly go the distance.

Here’s the question:

What is your mission?

This is the equivalent of knowing which direction to head in a race. It’s the most obvious question to ask and the easiest to avoid. It’s the question that separates the pack.

I’ve answered this in my own life in different ways. I refine the answer constantly. The more clearly you can answer this question, the more your running will improve. We perform our best when we tap into flow-a state of mind in which we become fully immersed in an activity.

We can’t find flow when we’re lost. We’re lost when we don’t know where we’re going. Knowing your mission is knowing where you’re going. Throughout the program we’re going to cover a lot of ground-but, like any trail race, the most important action to take when the gun goes off is heading up the right trail. The gun for the Endurance Redefined program has officially gone off. Know which direction you’re heading towards and use this program to go the distance

“If you don’t jump out of bed in the morning on fire to be alive it’s likely that you haven’t found your mission.”- Adam Robinson, author, educator

Adam Robinson is a mentor of mine. This clip is a powerful testament to the power of knowing your mission, and the value of finding your hammer.

The runner who jumps out of bed on fire to be alive has a distinct advantage in their training. They have a direction that they have to reach. This urgency is the missing link in unlocking your potential. If you’re on a long run on a back to back route, you have to get back to your car. You don’t ever think of quitting because you can’t just live in the woods. You must reach your destination and this ignites a forward momentum with none of the self talk that kills progress before it ever materializes into the passionate pursuit of the finish line that we experience in the last quarter of a race when we know we’ll finish and can feel the finish line in sight.

Answer in any way that feels right to you. It’s your mission. Our goal is to help you build the mental and physical fitness to accomplish it while training for a breakthrough running season in the process.

Training: Week One

This is a 16 week training program.

This is enough time to lay down foundations for true endurance.

You can pitch a tent in 20 minutes. Building a house takes longer. Building a fortress takes longer than that. If you want to build a body and mind with the resilience of a tent, any mileage plan from a random running magazine should do the trick. If you want to build a fortress, you need to invest time in creating a foundation. The foundation for running is the elastic components of your body that allow you to spring forward, land, apply force, absorb force, and spring forward again. These are tendons, muscles, ligaments, and bones. Each week of phase one is dedicated to helping you bulletproof these elastic structures while building an awareness of how your body functions as an integrated endurance machine.

You’ll find 3 strength training days per week throughout the Endurance Redefined program. These will begin with short, simple, and effective workouts in Phase One. This phase is about building habits, constructing systems for long term strength development, and building a body that can’t be broken as you train for the 2021 racing season.

Session Breakdown:

Breathing

Elasticity

Aerobic Development

Strength

Core

Recovery

Each week will include three training days. In Phase One you will repeat the same workout on each day. This means working the same muscles so that they can actually adapt. Imagine training for a marathon through a random mix of kayaking, juggling, parasailing, bodybuilding, and figure skating with a run or two thrown in the mix. You’d be hurting for certain on race day. Adaptation requires exposure to the same stimulus, again and again.

Every two weeks during Phase One the workouts will change, slightly. We will alter the weight used, the pace of the movements (we’ll be adding in isometrics and eccentrics) adding a few new concepts, and modifying the core training exercises.

Each phase will progress the strength training program by changing the patterns and planes that you are developing. Expect to be working in 4 week training blocks (each phase is a 4 week block) and to make tangible, visible, measurable progress that you can feel each month.

The running in Phase One will include three 16 minute sessions per week. If you are typically running more than this based on the distance that you are training for, that’s fine. You may find that you get more out of these 16 minute sessions than you do a longer run lacking the tempo elements that we adding in. The amount of running we are programming will be sufficient to make you an aerobic machine this summer. Anything else that you want to add is entirely up to you.

The running cycle is as follows. 15 seconds hard, 45 seconds easy for 16 minutes, maintaining nasal breathing for the duration of the run.

You’ll learn a lot more about the benefits of nasal breathing for mental and physical performance as the program develops. Soon, you’ll find that you’re beating old records while breathing exclusively through your nose-if you stick with the practice. What we train improves, what we ignore deteriorates over time, and no worthwhile adaptation comes easily. Trust that this will be one of the keys to a breakthrough season and invest in your progress by killing your ego and running at the pace that your ability to breathe through your nose allows. The 45 second “recovery” is a great time to steady your breathing and prepare for the next 15 second effort. (I’ve been using an app called Seconds for years. It’s either free or very inexpensive depending on what version you use. Setting a 15 second timer with a 45 second rest period will provide a bell and vocal cue that you’ll get used to to mark each round. You can use this in your headphones if you’d rather not look at your watch, especially on the trails, to mark the rounds.

As the program progresses you’ll be working hard on developing speed and power. Expect to be challenged in new ways over the course of the next 16 weeks. This phase is all about preparing for that challenge.

Here’s the training plan for week one!

(Keep in mind that you’ll repeat this for two weeks so it’s actually the plan for week one and two. Next week’s email will include more technique tips and info about energy system development and nasal breathing, but the workout will be the same for both weeks.

This workout is designed to take exactly 35 minutes. That’s it. You’ll get a powerful training stimulus that prepares your joints, muscles, tendons, and aerobic system for a breakthrough racing season. Our goal was to create something that you could fit into any schedule and make it easy to succeed at if you’re willing to put the work in. I highly recommend training at the same time every day. It helps to build new habits and make it easy to know when to put the work in. The progress rate of athletes at The Distance Project, our training center in Freeport, Maine, who train consistently at the same time each week is vastly greater than those you “try to pop in when they can.” This almost never works, saving workouts for the end of the day is a great way for something to come up and get in the way, and building this habit now will lay a foundation for success over the 16 weeks to come.

Phase One. Week One, Training Plan. (Repeat this workout three times per week for the next two weeks. The workout will take approximately 35 minutes. We highly, highly encourage you to perform the strength training portion barefoot. Your feet are the foundation for your endurance. This is the time to train them!)

A.) Breathing (1 minute)

Technique Tips: Lie on your back with mouth closed. Reach your arms to the sky. Inhale through nose. Exhale through mouth. Feel your ribs draw down as you exhale. Without letting your ribs rise on the next inhale, work to direct air into chest and upper back. Make these areas EXPAND with your breath. On each exhale work to force a little more air out. Exhale until you feel your abs engage. Breathing is stretching from the inside. Remember this feeling of taking full, expansive breaths throughout your training session.

B.) Warm-up. (3 minutes)

8 split stance calf raises each leg. 8 walking lunges or walking med ball slams. 4 per side lateral lunge.

Technique Tips. Calf Raise: Step one foot back. Find heel of front foot and ball of back foot. Reach forward and exhale ribs down. Elevate body vertically with calf raises. Walking Lunge: Allow femur to internally rotate and foot to pronate on forward leg as you step through the lunge. Reach with opposite arm for counterbalance. Lateral Lunge: Get light on your kickstand leg and heavy on your loaded leg. Foot arches as you lunge. Femur externally rotates. Foot flattens and stretches as you return to upright.Femur internally rotates.)

C.) 15 sec hard/45 second easy run for 16 rounds. Maintain nasal breathing throughout. (16 minutes)

D.) As many rounds for quality as possible in 8 minutes. (The goal is not to go racing out of the gate like a bat out of hell in some CrossFit workout. It is to be deliberate, feel what you’re doing, and master these movements without any set number of repetitions that you “have to” perform. It will be helpful to take note of how many rounds you are able to perform, only to mark your own progress in getting comfortable enough with these movements to cycle through them more efficiently. (8 minutes)

8 Foam Roller Hover Squats

Technique Tip: You are ON YOUR TOES even if it’s not obvious in video. Inhale on the way down. Exhale on the way up!

8 Single Leg Deadlifts w/Heel Support per side

Technique Tip: Place back foot on wall. Drive bent knee toward standing leg knee as you work to bring the weight directly over the big toe of your standing leg. This allows you to sink into your stand leg hip and work the stand leg glute. Don’t let your standing leg run away from your bent leg. Imagine squeezing a small ball between the knees on the descent. Imagine bringing back pocket to knee to return up. You should feel serious glute engagement!

8 Weighted Lateral Lunge Per Side.

Technique Tip: Same as unweighted-don’t worry about bringing weight all the way to floor. Stop when you feel like you’ll lose position by continuing to descend.

E.) Foam Roller Tabata (Use the seconds app or any timer to perform a 4 minute workout with 8 rounds of 20 second effort and 10 second rest. During the 20 seconds effort you will extend one leg while pinning the foam roller to your opposite knee. This is real deal core training that forces you to be in the best position to strengthen your deep abdominal muscles.) (4 minutes)

F. 2 rounds of 8 out and back foam roller walk-outs. (2 minutes)

G.) Recovery Breathing in All Fours Position

Technique Tip: Close your mouth. Inhale through the nose. Work to breathe into the area between your shoulder blades and EXPAND your upper back. Remember, breathing is stretching from the inside. Keep this in mind when you’re on your next run. Your ability to breathe into the entirety of your ribcage opens up the doors to aerobic capacity and powerful changes in running position.

Tune into @the_distance_project on IG for technique tips on each of these movements throughout the Endurance Redefined program.

Thank you for being here and for supporting our Race for the Future on July 24th for Physiology First. We are honored and excited to be part of your training this season and we look forward to learning, training, and pushing the boundaries of our potential with alongside you this July-and to redefining endurance, together.

David, Lex, and The Distance Project Team

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