Making A Better Runner – Power Endurance

As mentioned previously. A good runner will have a combination of attributes, but compromises will be made in different areas; being good at one end of the spectrum simply means that you cannot excel to the same extent at the other.

The general idea is that you need to have a big engine and a light frame, a high power to weight ratio. The engine needs to be Strong – strong enough to get you up and down everything in a race, but that Strength needs to be able to be channeled quickly. Each foot strike is not a long time for the Strength to be transferred – so Power is pretty important. However, if you just have Strength and Power, after a short time you’ll be done, not useful for a race that lasts for more than 200m.

Going towards the other end of the spectrum, Power Endurance is the ability to pump out a hard effort continually for a period of time over and above that which would traditionally be thought of as Strength based. Think up to about 7-10 minutes.

This is not a fast endurance cruise, this is full on smashing race pace up a hill. This is tasting blood in your mouth and going all out, and yet still having the ability to recover while running and do it again.

Traditionally, in running, Power Endurance will take the form of intervals and extended efforts. Note that yes, the endurance guys have quite an advantage here, and cardiovascular efficiency will indeed win out eventually. But without some kind of strength, and the ability to channel it through the feet into the ground, simple speed will be lacking.

A key point about Power Endurance, and Speed as a whole is that large amounts of intervals at a slow speed won’t help you get faster.

When doing speed efforts I notice a couple of things – I’m not actually that fast, so my ability to channel my strength into the ground isn’t as good as it could be, and at the end of a couple of minutes worth of efforts, my form goes completely. This is not because of a lack of ability, it is a lack of Strength, a lack of Power and a lack of Power Endurance to keep everything together.

Interesting, hey? My power endurance intervals are let down by a lack of overall strength! (yes, you can read into this that I am an endurance boy at heart, and need to do more specific work on strength and speed).

I’d rather run a marathon tomorrow than do a set of 8x400m at max effort because I find them really, really, really  hard to do. Its not just about the leg strength, it’s about the ability of my body to maintain form whilst at top speed. I just don’t have the strength or stability to sustain it.

When I’m going hard up a hill, after about 200m my upper body starts swaying because I don’t have the requisite Power Endurance through my hips to keep me going – and from that I can surmise that the original Strength is probably lacking as well.

This is entirely about the ability to channel hard efforts, continually. Nailing hard repeats that last from 20 seconds to 1.5 minutes a decent number of times… yes it needs power, but it also needs endurance. And without Endurance, you aren’t going to last the distance. However if your strength gives out, your form goes and so does efficiency. Lack of form and efficiency are associated with a reduction in injury proofing form over longer distances- where you need endurance…

Yes, its all tied together.

Power Endurance workouts can be specific to running – intervals, hill repeats etc. or they can be done on rowers, bikes and ski machines to get the same sickening taste without the stress on the legs.

Next time we’ll look at Endurance.

If you have any questions / arguments you want to pick / suggestions for me / and so on and so forth, please drop me (Tim) a line on

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