How Long Do Endurance Training Gains Last?

endurance training residual training adaptations residual training effect running training for running Jul 03, 2022

Did you ever miss a run and wonder how much it might impact your performance? Maybe you even had to take an entire week off of training and you’re worried that your fitness is declining. Or, you may be someone who doesn’t want to taper for a race because you worry you will lose fitness during that time. Luckily, this is not the case. Endurance training gains stick around for quite a while, and it may be longer than you think.


Endurance training gains have been shown to hang around for up to 30 days before diminishing. This time period includes whether you have decreased your training volume or have just entirely missed runs. The duration of these gains is much longer compared to power and speed gains, which can diminish after just 5 days. The length of time of which training gains hang around is called a residual training effect, and comparatively, the residual training effect of aerobic training is much longer than the residual training effect of power and speed training.


The length of the residual training effect of aerobic training is due to the adaptations we make while we are building an aerobic base. For example, lower intensity work increases our capillarity, aerobic enzyme concentration, and mitochondrial density. These are adaptations that are built during aerobic base training, and they are some of the main adaptations that hang around for up to 30 days before showing signs of decline.



The long residual training effect is also a principle behind an appropriate taper period for endurance athletes. Finding the perfect taper is a challenge of finding a balance between maintaining an athlete’s peak fitness and an athlete’s optimal rest to perform at the highest possible level. An appropriate taper for an endurance athlete is typically between 10-14 days, with studies showing that up to 3 weeks may even be most appropriate in some cases. Even on the longer end of a taper, considering the residual training effect of aerobic training, it is clear that these adaptations will not be lost.


VO2 Max

It is true that an endurance athlete’s VO2 max is correlated with their aerobic performance. Typically, the higher an athlete’s VO2 max, the faster and more efficient they are in their endurance sport. However, VO2 max gains are both aerobic and anaerobic. Unlike aerobic gains, anaerobic gains don’t have as long of a residual training effect. Due to the shorter residual training effect, diminishes in VO2 max can be seen as early as 10-14 days without training or with decreases in training volume. While there is correlation between a high VO2 max and strong aerobic performance, it is important to consider that there are plenty of other factors that play a role in aerobic performance outside of VO2 max, and this is just one piece to the very large puzzle.



Gains made with aerobic training can stick around for up to 30 days before showing signs of diminishing. If you miss some time training or decrease your training volume, you will not lose these gains for quite some time. This long residual training effect is also important when considering tapering, and although the optimal taper length may be highly individualized and different from athlete to athlete, these gains will stick around through a reasonable taper length as well.


Edited by Dr. Carmen Scuito


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