Endurance fatigue quickly. Sprinters, or speed developers, mainly utilize

Endurance and Speed Development

Tracy E. Dockery

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University of Pennsylvania


In many ways, sprinting and long distance running are
at opposite ends of the athletic spectrum. Sprinting lasts a matter of seconds
and endurance running goes on for hours. When you look at a sprinter’s and
distance runner’s body you will notice a physical difference.  Typically, a sprinter’s body has high muscle
density and is built for speed and power. 
A distance runner’s body tends to be comprised of long, lean muscle.  Sprinters and endurance runners also differ
based on physiological demands.  This
discussion will highlight key physiological requirements to be a successful
long distance runner and compare the requirements for endurance running to the physiological
needs associated with speed development.

The body contains three muscle fiber types: slow-twitch
red (type I), fast-twitch red (type IIa) and fast-twitch white (type IIb).  Dintiman and Ward (2011) state that slow-twitch
red muscle fibers, or type I fibers, produce slow muscle contractions, have
slow twitch time, have high aerobic capacity, have low power output and are
highly resistant to fatigue (high endurance).  This means long distance runners operate primarily
through the use of their slow-twitch muscle fibers.  According to Dintiman and Ward (2011) fast-twitch
white muscles fibers, or type IIb fibers, produce fast contractions, have short
twitch time, have high power output, have high anaerobic capacity and fatigue
quickly. Sprinters, or speed developers, mainly utilize fast-twitch white muscle

Our body’s use different metabolic pathways to provide
energy during different running activities: the adenosine triphosate/creatine phosphate
system (ATP/CP), lactic acid system (glycolytic system) and oxidative
system.  According to Berg (1982), the ATP/CP
system provides
energy at a rapid rate for activities lasting 15 seconds or less. The lactic
acid system, provides energy for activities lasting fifteen seconds to two
minutes. Lastly, the oxidative system provides energy for activities lasting
longer than two minutes. Hoefs
(2017) states, endurance development utilizes the oxidative system about 95
percent of the time and the glycolytic system about five percent.  Short-distance sprints use primarily the ATP/CP
system with the lactic acid system being used in middle-distance sprints like
the 400 meters.

As stated by Dintiman and Ward (2011), the anaerobic threshold,
also known as lactate threshold (LT) or lactate inflection point (LIP), refers
to the point at which exercise intensity causes lactic acid to build up in the
blood stream.  When athletes engage in
distance runs and stay below the anaerobic threshold, muscle lactate is
metabolized and little to no build-up occurs. 
This results in less fatigue and higher endurance.  During speed development, pace is increased,
lactate is produced and blood lactate accumulates in the bloodstream causing
the athlete to fatigue more quickly.

Running involves a complex number of physiological
responses.  As shown in this paper, running
is much more than speed or distance.  All
forms of running involve many processes in order to develop your athlete and
their goals.  It is amazing what the body
must do in order to execute the simplest movements, or not so simple movements,
like running.