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8 ways to run for longer without getting so tired

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Endurance and stamina are incredibly important for runners. The ability to run for longer without getting so tired is an important skill to master as a runner.

It pays off to be patient, consistent and persistent when it comes to training for longer distances.

Whether you’re building up to a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon, the key is to gradually build up the time and distance in which you can comfortably run without getting tired or out of breath.

Likewise, if you’re new to running, then you may be thinking how you can run for longer without getting so tired.

It may seem an unachievable goal right now, but with the right mindset, training and practice, you will get there.

Whatever stage you’re at, this guide will offer actionable tips to help you run for longer without getting so tired.

In this guide, we’ll explore:

  • What are the common causes of tiredness when running?
  • How to run for longer without getting so tired
  • Running endurance and stamina training plan
  • 8 tips to run for longer without getting so tired

Ready?

Let’s go!

run for longer without getting so tired

What are common causes of tiredness when running?

You may be asking yourself: “Why do I get tired so easily on runs?”

It’s common to experience short periods of tiredness and fatigue when running and in between runs, especially after a long or demanding run.

You may struggle to breath when running, or you may have that heavy legs feeling on a run.

Here are some common causes of tiredness and fatigue:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of adequate recovery time in between runs
  • Insufficient fuel intake
  • Poor nutrition
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Iron deficiency

Lack of sleep

A healthy sleep routine will go a long way to help you feel more refreshed not only on a run, but in your daily life.

According to a 2017 study, chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to increase the risk of a host of physical and mental illnesses.

The study added that sleep deprivation costs the healthcare system billions of dollars annually.

Aim to get between 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night and practice good sleep hygiene.

Lack of adequate recovery time in between runs

Overtraining is a common problem in the running community. Overtraining boils down to ineffective recovery in between runs on a repeated basis.

So if you’re currently going through an unexplained dip in performance, or you regularly feel tired and fatigued on your runs, you may be experiencing Overtraining Syndrome.

The important thing is to recognise the signs and symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome before it gets any worse.

Insufficient fuel intake

Food and nutrition play an integral role in all forms of exercise, not just running.

You can think of your body as an engine – simply put if you don’t give it the right type of fuel and the right amounts of fuel, it won’t be able to perform at a high level.

Aim to get the right amounts of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Poor nutrition

If you’re used to eating processed foods and consuming sugary drinks and you regularly feel fatigued on your runs, then it’s a sign you need to review your eating habits.

Poor nutrition is a common cause of tiredness and fatigue.

Aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet that supports the needs of your body.

Stress and anxiety

Whilst exercise like running has been shown to improve your mood and ease symptoms of stress and anxiety, poor mental health can have a negative affect on athletic performance.

People with anxiety tend to be more sedentary and do less intense forms of physical exercise, if any.

Hormone imbalance

According to a study on the role hormones in exercise physiology, excessive or inadequate levels of several hormones place constraints on exercise performance.

Various studies have shown the importance of hormones and the endocrine system when it comes to exercise capability.

If you have dysfunctions in your thyroid, adrenal and pituitary glands, for example, this may induce specific disorders of the neuromuscular system which could lead to tiredness and fatigue.

If in doubt, speak to your healthcare professional.

Iron deficiency

If you regularly experience periods of tiredness and fatigue, then seek help from a healthcare professional as it could be down to an underlying cause such as an iron deficiency.

Many tests can be performed nowadays to identify underlying causes of tiredness and fatigue, with blood tests being one of them.

Related: 6 tips for successfully running with a chronic illness

run for longer without getting so tired

How to run for longer without getting so tired

#1 Build your endurance and stamina

In order to run for longer without getting so tired, you need to build up your running endurance and stamina.

The golden rule to increase running stamina and endurance is consistency.

This means making running a regular habit and training consistently and progressing at regular intervals.

By training consistently, you increase your aerobic capacity (also known as your VO2 max or running economy) and strengthen your muscles.

If you do all of these things, you can expect to see a improvement within 2 to 3 months.

Related: How to increase running stamina and endurance

#2 Increase your speed

Running speed is something that many runners look to improve once they have achieved a good base level of fitness.

Speed training like interval training and tempo running are a great way to build your speed, endurance and stamina.

According to a 2020 study on training and physical performance in recreational runners, “training sessions that include continuous exercise performed at both low and high intensity levels” are beneficial for running performance.

The study added that “sessions of variable intensity represent the training methods most often used to improve performance in endurance competitive events”.

When it comes to running faster, remember that speed should always follow endurance.

In other words, work to increase running stamina and endurance first before you focus on improving your speed.

Here are two example speed training sessions:

Interval training

Interval training is basically alternating periods of high-intensity effort (fast running or sprinting) with periods of low-intensity effort (slow running or walking).

A typical interval training session lasts anywhere between 5-30 minutes.

Here is a sample interval training workout:

  • Warm up
  • Run 10 minutes at a comfortable pace
  • Run 6 x 2 minutes at a very challenging pace.
  • Follow every interval with one minute of walking and one minute of jogging to catch your breath and recover.
  • Cool down

Tempo running

A tempo run, also known as a ‘threshold’ run, is a pace about 25 to 30 seconds slower than your 5k race pace.

It is designed to be a challenging pace, but not so much that you’re full out sprinting.

Here is a sample tempo running workout:

  • Warm up
  • Run for 15 minutes at a comfortable pace
  • Run for 10 minutes at your tempo pace
  • Run for 15 minutes at a comfortable pace
  • Cool down

Related: 6 interval training benefits for runners

Running endurance and stamina training plan

Now you know how to run for longer without getting so tired, here is a sample endurance and stamina training plan.

Begin by adding extra runs into your training plan each week.

The key here is to include easy and long runs first, then graduate onto more speed focused sessions like interval training.

Strength training can also be added to help improve running performance.

Weeks 1 to 4

  • 3 to 4 easy runs per week – each run should be 30 minutes or more
  • 1 long run per week – anything between 4 to 25 miles depending on the distance event you are training for.

Weeks 5 to 10

  • 3 to 4 easy runs per week – each run should be 30 minutes or more
  • 1 long run per week – anything between 4 to 25 miles depending on the distance event you are training for.
  • 1 to 2 speed training sessions per week (e.g. interval training or tempo running)
  • 1 strength training session per week

Most half marathon and marathon training plans will build up distance slowly over a matter of weeks, but you should increase your running time by 5-10 minutes or add 0.5 to 1 mile each time.

You should also run at a conversational pace, in other words, don’t overdo it! It should be easy to hold a conversation without getting out of breath.

Many runners try to complete a long run too fast and end up struggling at the end or, even worse, end up injuring themselves because it was too much too soon.

Remember that speed should always follow endurance.

Therefore you need to build a solid base of endurance before you can start tackling more challenging training sessions like intervals and tempo running. 

run for longer without getting so tired

8 tips to run for longer without getting so tired

#1 Remember to warm up

A warm up is integral to any race – whether you’re running a 5k, 10k or half marathon.

It tells your brain that you’re about to do some serious exercise and gets your muscles ready so they can perform at peak efficiency.

A warm up has one key objective: to prevent injury and to get your heart rate up and blood flowing to your muscles.

A good warm up should leave you energised but not tired. If you push it too hard you may risk injury or poor performance during your race.

There are many versions of warm ups out there depending on race duration, your fitness levels and running experience.

At its core a proper warm up consists of two main parts: jogging to get your heart racing and dynamic stretches to loosen your muscles. You can also include running drills and accelerations in this.

Here are a few example dynamic stretches and running drills that you can perform before your run:

Dynamic stretches

  • Leg swings
  • Hamstring sweeps
  • Side shuffles
  • High skips
  • Fast feet

Running drills

  • Butt kicks
  • High knees
  • A-skips and B-skips
  • Carioca drill
  • Straight leg bounds

Related: How to warm up before a run 

#2 Pace yourself

One of the challenges of longer runs is learning how to pace your run so you don’t tire yourself out too quickly.

You don’t want to run too fast, yet you don’t want to run too slow.

Pacing is all about experimentation. The more you run, the better you become judging your pace and whether you need to go faster or slower.

You will undoubtedly feel fresher at the start of a run so the temptation is to go fast from the get go, but you should try and avoid this.

Dependent upon the distance, your pace and effort will change. The first mile may feel like the slowest as your body warms up and gets used to the movement.

This is why a warm-up is so important for your run – you will soon get into your stride.

To really understand what pace you should be running at, I suggest you use a running pace calculator to work out how fast (or slow) you should be running.

A pace calculator works by giving you your pace per mile for a given distance. Simply enter any two variables – pace, time or distance – and the pace calculator will determine your pace.

I recommend the Active.com pace calculator as it allows you to work out your pace using the variables above for a range of different distances.

Related: How to pace your run

#3 Strength train

Strength training is not the most obvious choice for runners when trying to run for longer without getting so tired.

The fact is strength training makes you a stronger, faster and more efficient runner, as well as helping to prevent common running injuries.

The key to strength training for runners is to keep it simple and focus on strength workouts that target all the main muscle groups that you use when running (also called ‘compound movements’).

Here is a sample strength workout that you either do on a designated strength training day or after an easy run. Complete 3 sets of 12-15 reps of each exercise, with 1 minute rest in between each set:

  • Squat
  • Reverse lunge
  • Single-leg glute bridge
  • Kneel to stands
  • Plank (hold for 30-45 seconds)
  • Russian twist
  • Press up
  • Tricep dips

Related: 7 of the best glute strengthening exercises for runners

#4 Listen to your body

Endurance running requires a lot of physical and mental stamina.

When you’re on a long run and you’re really struggling, it’s important to listen to your body to really hone in on what it is telling you.

Ask yourself: why are you struggling on your run today?

When training for longer distances it can be all too easy to get carried away and run all the time.

Whilst it’s great to be excited about running, overtraining can be detrimental to your performance in the long term.

A good way to combat overtraining is to practice mindful running. Mindful running is essentially about being more mentally connected with your movement and not being distracted when you run.

Try turning off your music and really listen to how it feels to run. If your legs start to tremble, for example, you know it’s time to slow down.

Likewise, if you start to feel a niggling injury, you know it’s time to put the breaks on a bit whilst you let your body recover.

Mindful running works best when you’re out on a solo run. Try it at least once a week so you can really have time to practice your breathing and listening to your body.

Related: 6 mental tips for long runs

#5 Fuel your body properly

As your mileage increases, you need to fuel your body appropriately. Your muscles need additional fuel to power you through a longer run.

Your performance on a long run suffers without proper fuel. Not fueling your body properly can put you at greater risk of injury and may affect your immune system.

If you run early in the morning, it is important to eat adequately both on the morning of and leading up to the run.

You don’t have to eat a large meal, but the goal is get a burst of energy to get you started.

Some examples of food to eat before your run include:

  • Toast with jam
  • Yoghurt and granola
  • Banana with peanut butter
  • Avocado on toast
  • A hard boiled egg and toast.

The key is to get a good mixture of carbohydrates, glucose (a form of sugar), lean protein and fats. The amount you eat will depend on how much time you have before you start your run.

If you have 30 minutes or less, the focus should be on a carb-rich snack. If you have between 1-2 hours, the focus should be on carbs, lean protein and fats.

It’s also worth noting the importance of fueling your body after a run.

A good post-recovery fuel plan optimises recovery and muscle repair. Once your run is over, eat a meal within two hours and try and include:

Related: 6 simple and delicious porridge recipes for runners

#6 Carb load

Carb loading is a key component for being able to run for longer without getting so tired.

Essentially, the process of carb loading is all about giving your body the extra energy reserves it needs to keep you going on your long runs.

Carb loading is most beneficial for runs that are 90 minutes or longer, and normally starts up to six days ahead of the run.

It is ideal for any energy-depleting exercise like running or cycling, where you know you’re going to be burning off a lot of energy in a short space of time.

In the week or so ahead of your long run, if you carb load you can expect to eat an extra 1-3 servings of carbohydrates.

The types of carbs you could eat include:

  • Pasta
  • Pancakes
  • Peanut butter
  • Bread
  • Jacket potatoes
  • Energy bars
  • Porridge
  • Wholegrain rice and salmon

Be warned, however, carb loading doesn’t give you a free pass to eat whatever you like, so choose your food options wisely!

Keep eating your greens, continue to consume lots of fruits and veggies, and stay hydrated.

Related: 4 common pre-run eating mistakes you’re probably making

#7 Stay hydrated

The goal of hydration is to reduce fluid loss through sweat, prevent fatigue, stop your muscles from cramping and prevent dehydration.

A simple way to tell if your body is dehydrated is to check the colour of your urine.

  • If your urine is a pale yellow colour, it means your body is hydrated.
  • If it’s a dark yellow or dark brown, you need to be drinking more water!

It can be difficult to get the right amount of water before a run as you don’t want to be nipping to the loo every two minutes.

My advice is to have at least one glass of water before you start your run – a sports drink is also good for giving you a burst of glucose before your run.

Don’t forget to drink lots of water after your run to replace some of the fluids lost during the run (through sweat) and to rehydrate the body.

Related: Hydration and running performance: 4 key hydration tips for runners

#8 Focus on your form

Proper running form is all about running in the most efficient way possible.

Running form looks at everything from your posture and cadence to your arm swing and foot strike.

Learning how to run properly can improve your athletic performance, it can also shave valuable seconds off your race times.

Check out my guide on proper running form to learn more about how to adopt good form during a run.

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Sumita

Saturday 15th of May 2021

Amazing tips to run longer. This blog represent the great ideas to run Long Distance.

Sumita

Saturday 15th of May 2021

Amazing tips to run longer. This blog represent the great ideas to run Long Distance. It thanks for the helpful information.

Phil

Monday 28th of December 2020

Thanks for the great advice Caroline

Madhu Basu

Sunday 27th of December 2020

Consistency may be one of the most important factors for running longer. Starting and stopping just adds to the frustration and eventually giving up. Excellent post.