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What Are Endurance Sports?

By Ken Black
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Endurance sports are those sports which require a great deal of endurance, rather than brief periods of physical exertion. While there is no true classification of what makes sports endurance sports, there is a clear line. A 100-meter dash, for example, would not be an endurance sport, whereas a marathon would be.

Endurance sports generally do not capture the public's imagination like team sports do, perhaps because they are sports that center around individuals. Perhaps, also, it is because there is not the type of non-stop action most people have become accustomed to when watching sports. These sports are not action based, but training and motivation based. Further, there are generally not clear divisions of momentum, leading to wide swings in results.

However, with that said, there are some endurance sports that do receive a good deal of attention. The more popular marathons, such as those in Boston, Chicago and New York City, get a good deal of attention. While perhaps not televised live in many locations, they are covered in detail by major media outlets. Further, the marathon during the Olympics receives substantial coverage, with parts of it often shown live.

One of the most popular endurance sports is in the field road cycling. While it has only a minor following in the United States, it has a substantial fan base in many other parts of the world. The Tour de France, a 3-week bicycle race through the country, is the most popular of the cycling endurance events. However, the two other 3-week races, known collectively as the Grand Tours, the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España, also receive an avid following.

Training for these sports takes a lot of motivation and willpower because it is so demanding, yet there may only be a few events a year the top athletes compete in. For example, Lance Armstrong, during his prime cycling years, would train all year to peak in time for one race -- the Tour de France. In some years, he would ride no other competitive races at all.

While this is an extreme, it does show the lengths some athletes will go to in order to be successful at some endurance sports. Each requires a strong workout routine and a supreme level of fitness. Without these two things, it is possible that those participating in these sports will not even be able to complete the competition, not necessarily because of injury, but simply because of fatigue. This rarely happens in any other type of sporting event.

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Discussion Comments

By jabuka — On Nov 14, 2008

How fast and how much oxygen gets delivered to the muscle is especially important in endurance sports.

The maximal oxygen uptake, or VO2, is to a large degree inherited, but not fully. Training, and aerobic conditioning can increase the maximum number.

Higher number means more oxygen gets to the muscle, better aerobic fitness, better results in your endurance sport. The highest number recorded so far is 94 by a cross country skier.

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