As a runner, you may have thought of ways to run for longer without getting so tired. Endurance and stamina are incredibly important for runners.
If you’re a beginner, you’re probably thinking if and when it will get easier. If you’re more advanced, you may be thinking of ways to get faster.
It’s natural for new and experienced runners alike to want to build up their endurance so they can run for longer distances.
Whether you’re building up to a 5k, a half marathon or marathon, the key is to gradually build up the time and distance in which you can run with little or no breaks in between.
To build up your endurance and increase your speed, you should not only learn to train your mind and body but wear the right gear and fuel your body in the right way.
According to a 2007 study, endurance running performance depends on a range of factors, including oxygen uptake, the ability to sustain a high percentage of VO2 max for a long period of time, and the ability to move efficiently.
In this blog, I’d like to look at the key things that can help you run for longer without getting so tired.
Fuel your body
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 and 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.
Check out my post on what to eat before a run to learn more about the strategies and foods to eat before a run.
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 fruits, vegetables and healthy fats (such as avocados, nuts and salmon). A chocolate milkshake is also a great post-run treat!
Check out my post on the best smoothie recipes for recovery for runners to enhance your recovery post-long run.
Carb loading is a key component for longer runs in the days leading up to the run.
Essentially, it’s all about giving your body extra energy reserves which it can use on your long run. As such, it is most beneficial for runs that are 90 minutes or longer.
Carb loading normally starts up to six days ahead of the run and is combined with energy-depleting exercise.
On these days, you can expect to eat an extra 1-3 servings of carbohydrates.
Think pasta, pancakes, peanut butter, bread, jacket potatoes, energy bars, porridge, wholegrain rice and salmon.
Stuck for recipes? Check out my recipe for runners – raw chocolate energy balls.
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.
Before you start your run have at least one glass of water; a sports drink is also good for giving you a burst of glucose before your run.
The goal of hydration is to reduce fluid loss through sweat, prevent fatigue, stop your muscles from cramping and prevent dehydration.
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.
Don’t forget to drink lots after your run to replace some of the fluids lost during the run (through sweat) and to rehydrate the body.
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, however, 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.
Check out my post on how to warm up before a run for more tips on getting you ready for a run.
Practice interval training
If you want to run for longer, it’s important to incorporate a range of paces and speeds in your training plan.
Your body needs to be tested in different ways, and interval training is a great way to build your speed, endurance and stamina.
Interval training typically lasts anywhere between 5-30 minutes.
It involves alternating periods of high-intensity effort (fast running or sprinting) with periods of low-intensity effort (slow running or walking).
The stop and start pattern trains your body to recover quickly between bursts of faster running.
Over time, this will gradually increase your ability to run faster for longer.
Tempo running is also a good way to experiment with your speed.
Incorporate strength training
Strength training is not the most obvious choice for runners when trying to run for longer.
It makes you a stronger, faster and more efficient runner, as well as helping you prevent injury.
Some good strength workouts include: squats, forward lunges, push-ups, plank and hip bridge.
My complete guide on strength training for runners has got you covered when it comes to running strong.
I’ve also broken down some simple strength exercises for runners if you’re new to strength training and looking to get started.
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.
Listen to your body
Get used to listening to your body and your breathing.
How to breathe when running can be tricky if you’re not used to doing it consistently.
This is why it’s important to listen to your body and practice mindful running to get used to how it feels like to really hone in on what your body is telling you.
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.
Running in groups is a great way to motivate yourself and provide some accountability.
But it’s good to try solo runs at least once a week so you can really have time to practice your breathing.
When training for a longer run, it’s important to be consistent in your training.
When life gets in the way, it can be hard to know how to fit in a run into a busy schedule.
A training plan is a good way to plan and schedule your runs each week so that you’re keeping on track and maintaining the mileage each week.
There are a variety of training plans out there for different fitness levels and running distances.
Be sure to pick one that suits where you’re at and your running goals.
Check out my post on how to set effective running goals for more ways to set yourself up for success.