Train like an Olympian: Endurance

The key to building muscular endurance is to use weights that are light enough to allow you to carry out multiple repetitions at below your maximum effort level. The aim is to improve the ability of your muscles to work over a period of time rather than bulk up. You should be able to do 15-30 easy repetitions of the exercises that involve weights here. If not, start off with lighter weights. Perform the following as a set of exercises, keeping recovery time between each to a minimum as you move from one to the next. Then repeat once.

Oblique crunches

HOW Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and place your hands at the side of your head. Engage your core muscles throughout the exercise. Using your abdominal muscles, curl up and move your elbow towards the opposite knee, before returning to the start position. Perform 15 reps on each side for a set.

WHY This move strengthens the core and abdominal muscles and improves stamina.

Gym ball sit-up

HOW Lie with a gym ball under the small of your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands at the side of your head. Engage your core muscles, then curl your upper body towards a sitting position. Return to the start position, then repeat. Be careful not to over-extend your spine. Perform 30 reps for a set.

WHY Strengthens the core and rectus abdominus muscles.

Press-ups

HOW Position yourself face-down and rest your weight on your hands (shoulder-width apart) and the balls of your feet. Keeping your body straight, lower yourself down and push back up. If this is too difficult, rest on your knees instead of the balls of your feet. Do 30 reps in a set.

WHY Promotes upper-body strength.

Leg extensions

HOW Lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Bend your knees while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Engage your core muscles by drawing your belly button towards the floor. Extend one leg slowly upwards, then return to the start position. Do six reps on each leg.

WHY Improves core stability, which is important for maintaining good running form.

Half-squat

HOW Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your back and head straight, squat down until your knees are at a 45-degree angle. Then push back up to the start position. Do 20 reps. For added resistance, hold light dumbbells by your side or a light barbell across your shoulders.

WHY Builds strength in the quadriceps and glutes.

Calf raise

HOW Stand with your toes on the edge of a step facing inwards. Place your hand on a wall for support if necessary. Keep your ankles, knees and hips in alignment. Push up on to the balls of your feet, hold for a moment then lower down. Perform 20 reps.

WHY Develops strength in the calf muscles and Achilles tendon in order to cope with the continuous propulsive phase of running. It also helps with prevention of overuse injuries to the Achilles tendon.

‘Running’ with weights

HOW Hold a light dumbbell in each hand. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, one slightly in front of the other, then move your arms in a running action. Concentrate on keeping good form and be careful not to twist your body. Perform 30 arm swings with one leg in front, then 30 with the other leg in front for a set.

WHY By loading the arms with weights while performing a running motion you will be able to maintain this action more easily when tired.

Dumbbell step-ups

HOW Hold a dumbbell in each hand by the side of your hips. Place one foot on a bench and step up, straightening your body. Then lift your other leg up to hip level at 90 degrees and return to the start position. Do 15 repetitions on each leg for a set.

WHY Develops good muscle recruitment and strength for running. It also improves muscle endurance for hill running.