Posted On:
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: Aerobic Endurance is Aerobic Endurance

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Another seven spins of the Earth, and it’s time for Coach Tip Tuesday!!

This week I would love to talk to you about something I have implemented personally, and that I then knew was safe to implement with the athletes who I work for: Aerobic endurance is aerobic endurance.

When training for long-distance endurance events (i.e. half marathons, marathons, long-course triathlons, mountain bike races, etc.), the common thought is that one must get in long distances in training for each of these things in order to be successful.  While this can certainly be true, I’m here today to tell you that that is not the only safe or effective method to train for long-distance endurance events.

I personally never run more than 15 miles unless it is actually in a marathon.  When I trained for the Great Wall Marathon, the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge, IRONMAN Louisville, the New York City Marathon, and the Wrightsville Beach Marathon, I never ran more than 14 miles in training.  Seriously.  Never.  And I successfully completed each and every one of those races, setting a few PRs along the way.

How was I able to complete the 5th hardest marathon in the world, the dopiest challenge that exists, and earn the title of IRONMAN without running more than 14 miles in a training run??  Because I had a solid ENDURANCE base in me that carried me though.  I swam, hiked, snowshoed, and biked my way to fitness in each of these training cycles, which cut down the amount of running I needed to do.

Many people tell me that they couldn't do what I did because they wouldn’t mentally feel ready.  I challenge this by saying that if you tell yourself you can do something, you can.  (“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” -Henry Ford)  If you trust the aerobic endurance base that you have, you certainly can run 26.2 miles in a marathon without running several 20 miler training runs along the way.  I say it often: endurance sports is certainly physical, but it’s equally, if not more so, mental.  

Including various aerobic activities such as cross-country skiing, cycling, hiking, running, snowshoeing, and swimming into a training plan can create a solid, varied training plan that leads to a strong aerobic endurance base.  The body does not care about how it gets aerobically fit; all it understands is that there is a load being imposed on it, and that it must adapt to that load or it will suffer.  To the body, aerobic fitness is aerobic fitness.  The greatest place where there is a discrepancy between these activities is in the mind.

Once I tested this theory several times on myself and found it to be successful, I started to implement it with the athletes who I work for.  I have coached dozens of athletes to success over the years in endurance events by introducing variability to their training in this way.  Not only does this keep them mentally engaged in their training because they are not doing the, but it also keeps them at a lower-risk of injury because they are not imposing the same repetitive, demanding forces on their body all of the time.  My number one job as a coach is to keep athletes safe, healthy, and engaged in endurance sports for as long as they wish to be.  This method has kept my track record at 100%.

Now, if you have very specific, time-based goals, then there is a time and place for specificity in the form of long training workouts.  For instance, someone looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon will need to train the body to run long at qualifying pace.  But if you’re the average age-grouper (just like I am) looking for some finishes and fun along the way, this method is worth giving a try. :)

Have questions about why the heck I’m telling you to ride your bike as you get ready for that next marathon??  You know where I am. :)


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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