Through our hugely popular and controversial series, “The Fittest Sport”, we recently discovered which sport boasts the fittest athletes on the planet. Now, we switch our focus to endurance sports and determining what is “The Ultimate Endurance Sport”.
But first, we’ll explain the difference between fitness and endurance. One of the most significant factors in the difference between fitness and endurance is the role of the brain and the mentality of a given athlete.
While an athlete must endure training session after training session to reach peak fitness, endurance in itself is more like staying power or the inability to give up.
Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Fitness?
Strength. Stamina. Endurance. Flexibility. Power. Speed. Coordination. Agility. Balance. Accuracy.
These ten words describe the predominant characteristics of almost any activity you are likely to encounter, and therefore one’s capability in each describes fitness.
We humans are usually pretty good in a couple, mediocre in most, and horribly deficient in a few.
Improvement in some of these skills comes through training and stimulating physiological changes in your body. Others are developed through practice. Developing your nervous system to accomplish tasks within your current physical capability.
Fitness can be scientifically broken down into an individual’s capacity in the three metabolic pathways: phosphocreatine, glycolytic, and oxidative.
A metabolic pathway is just a method your body uses to produce ATP, the body’s currency of energy which is spent by your muscles. An individual is as fit as their capacity in each of these pathways.
The phosphocreatine pathway is for short, explosive ATP production. The glycolytic pathway provides energy during medium-duration exercise from 30 seconds to 4 minutes.
The oxidative pathway is one’s capability to produce energy aerobically (from oxygen). This pathway provides low amounts of energy for very long durations.
Many people are fit in a single pathway, while the fittest athletes will cover at least two, if not three pathways.
What Is Endurance?
Endurance is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to repeatedly exert force against resistance. Performing multiple repetitions of an exercise is a form of muscular endurance, as is running or swimming.
If your muscles have to contract in a similar pattern more than one time you are using muscular endurance.
Many factors contribute to muscular endurance, including strength, fibre type, training and diet.
A larger, stronger muscle can perform the same task under pressure more times than a weaker muscle.
If you can bench press 300 pounds you will be able to perform more repetitions with 100 pounds than if your maximum bench weight was 200 pounds.
The fibres in your muscles that fatigue can fail because of a lack of energy. Glycogen, or sugar, is required for both peak and sustained muscular effort.
In less scientific terms, endurance kicks in when fitness expends all of your energy.
This motion highlights the key difference between fitness and endurance because it shows how the body endures the pain and suffering of near muscle failure to power through and tap into the body’s extra energy supplies.
Training can promote muscular endurance, assuming you put in extra effort. Don’t just lengthen existing training sessions; perform another workout on your next day off, but train with only 60 percent of the volume and 60 percent of the intensity.
This will not only help you recover by increasing blood flow to your muscles but will help promote endurance by increasing your tolerance for training volume.
Combined with a proper diet, carefully calibrated training will help to increase your muscular endurance for competitive sports or recreational activities.
What The Experts Say
It’s safe to say this guy knows his stuff when it comes to fitness and endurance at an elite level.
“I think fitness is the ability to be in shape to do any task put before you. You can use fitness to play with the kids, walk the dog, run and be healthy.
Endurance is the ability to do all those things and any activity for hours or days without faltering,” said Mike.
In late 2016, Sophie Rooney became the first woman to ever run the entire length of Scandinavia.
A former elite kayaker, Sophie knows a thing or two about both fitness and endurance.
“I think the difference between fitness and endurance is actually quite subtle. Personally, I see endurance as a baseline which can be applied to anything and everything.
“Fitness is more of a relative thing. Fitness can mean different things to different people. A sprinter and a marathon runner would probably perceive fitness as completely different things. For instance, at the moment I am definitely fit enough to enter a long distance running event – but if I tried to do a kayak sprint I would probably struggle to keep up!” she added.
Aleks Kashefi became the first man to run through the entire length of Europe when he reached Tarifa in southern Spain in early 2017.
Aleks got into running through a “Couch to 5k” app and has previously done an incredible amount of work in getting fit before enduring some outstanding ultra-runs.
“Fitness is metabolic while endurance is mentality. They aren’t mutually exclusive. I don’t actually think anyone sport is an ultimate sport. Running, climbing, swimming and other sports that rely purely on the human body are the ultimate sports. You can’t coast or freewheel in these sorts of sports,” said Aleks.
Keep an eye on the PledgeSports blog as over the next six weeks we will be analysing the top six endurance sports and their athletes.
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