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 run, a 10k run, a half marathon or marathon, the key is to gradually build up the time and distance in which you can comfortably run without getting out of breath and without having lots of walking breaks in between.
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:
- Why a pre-run warm up is essential
- The importance of the long run
- Why pacing is crucial in order to run for longer
- Why speed and strength workouts help you run faster for longer
- The importance of proper nutrition and hydration
- Why being consistent is key
Related: How to run faster for longer
9 ways to run for longer without getting so tired
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.
Related: How to warm up before a run
Don’t forget about the long run
It may sound obvious, but the long run plays a crucial role when you are wanting to improve your stamina and endurance.
You should be aiming to complete at least one long run per week – anything between 4 to 25 miles – depending on the distance event you are looking to run and where you are in your training plan.
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! 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, so you need to build a solid base of endurance before you can start tackling more challenging training sessions like intervals and tempo running – more on those next.
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.
Related: How to pace your run
Practice interval training
If you want to run for longer without getting so tired, 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.
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 (such as interval training) represent the training methods most often used to improve performance in endurance competitive events”.
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.
Incorporate strength training
Although strength training is not the most obvious choice for runners when trying to run for longer without getting so tired, the fact is it makes you a stronger, faster and more efficient runner, as well as helping to prevent common running injuries.
Some good strength workouts include: squats, forward lunges, push-ups, plank and hip bridge. I’ve broken down some simple strength exercises for runners if you’re new to strength training and looking to get started.
Listen to your body
It’s important to listen to your body to really hone in on what it is telling you. A good way to do this 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.
Whilst running in groups is a great way to motivate yourself and provide some accountability, it’s good to try solo runs at least once a week so you can really have time to practice your breathing and listen to your body.
Related: 6 mental tips for long runs
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.
What to eat before your run
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.
What to eat after your 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:
- Healthy fats (such as avocados, nuts and salmon)
- A chocolate smoothie/milkshake is also a great post-run treat!
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.
What carbs are good to eat
The types of carbs you could eat include:
- Peanut butter
- Jacket potatoes
- Energy bars
- 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.
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.