If you are looking to increase running stamina and endurance, then you’re not alone. Over the last 12 months many runners will probably tell you that they feel like they’ve gotten slower during the pandemic.
When you don’t have something to work towards, like a race or event, it can be hard to motivate yourself and push yourself week in week out.
The truth is, to be able to increase running stamina and endurance, you have to be consistent. This means making running a regular habit and ensuring you avoid overtraining and train smart – fuel, nutrition and adequate recovery are key here.
What feels hard now will soon become an achievable goal, so don’t be disheartened if you feel like you have lost some of your fitness over the last 12 months.
In this blog, I’d like to share some tips on how to increase running stamina and endurance.
How to increase running stamina and endurance
As I mentioned above, to increase running stamina and endurance, you need to train consistently.
By training consistently, you increase your aerobic capacity (also known as your VO2 max or running economy) and strengthen your muscles.
Your aerobic capacity is the amount of oxygen your muscles can use when running. According to a 2003 study, both training intensity and volume are stimuli for improving aerobic fitness and performance.
Begin by adding extra runs into your training plan each week. The key here is to include easy runs first, then graduate onto more speed focused sessions. Aim to include 3 to 4 easy runs each week, each run should be 30 minutes or more.
Run for longer
It may sound obvious, but in order to run further, you need to be incorporating long runs into your training plan. These long runs should be 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 injure themselves because it was too much too soon.
Speed should always follow endurance, you need to build a solid base before you can start tackling more challenging training sessions like intervals and tempo running.
Most half marathon and marathon training plans will build up distance slowly over a matter of weeks. You’ll notice that if you’re following a beginner or intermediate plan, the distance increases incrementally over time.
For each long run, you should increase your running time by 5-10 minutes or add 0.5 to 1 mile each time. This way you reduce the risk of injury. Common injuries like shin splints and IT band syndrome are caused by overtraining or big jumps in distance.
Try tempo runs
Once you have built up your base levels of stamina and endurance, it’s time to incorporate some speed sessions in your training plan.
Interval training, tempo runs, Fartlek and strides are all forms of speed training that can be adapted for any level of runner, from beginner to advanced.
If you’re new to speed training, then I suggest you start with tempo running. Tempo running (also known as threshold running) is basically running at a faster pace than at which you normally run. These types of runs are key to being able to improve your running speed, especially over longer distances.
Tempo runs should feel comfortably hard. You shouldn’t feel like you’re going to collapse at the end of the run. Instead, run at a challenging pace that you feel you can maintain for roughly 20-40 minutes.
Fuel your body
Proper nutrition is key when running longer distances and running more times each week. All the energy you are releasing needs to be replenished, and the best way to do this is through food.
When you increase your stamina and endurance, carbohydrates become your best friend. As a runner, you should focus on getting 55-65% of your calorie intake from carbohydrates. This doesn’t mean you have a hall pass to eat everything in sight, but be mindful of your carbohydrate intake and make sure it compliments your training plan.
Aim to eat a carb-based meal before a long run to ensure you have enough energy to cover the distance. If you feel cranky or unable to complete a run, this may be a sign that you are fuelling your body in the right way.
Stay clear of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white flour, pastries, sweet desserts and sugary breakfast cereals as these are stripped of their nutrients during the manufacturing process and are more likely to cause a spike in your blood sugar levels, leading to an inevitable crash.
Instead focus on eating complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice and porridge oats.
Related: What to eat before a run
Prioritise rest and recovery
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of rest and recovery when you are so focused on achieving your goal. The fact is, the further you run, the more challenging it becomes and therefore you need to prioritise rest and recovery in between each run.
A good recovery strategy includes proper nutrition, stretching and mobility and good sleep habits. After each run make sure you are eating enough protein to help repair your muscles and tissues. Foam rolling is also a great way to loosen up sore and stiff muscles the day after a long run.
Improve your running form
Running form is probably one of the most overlooked things when starting out as a new runner. By learning the basics of good running form, you will save yourself a lot of niggles, injuries and pain along the way which are almost always the result of bad running form.
But what does good running form look like? Check out my blog post below which provides 4 simple tips on how to improve running form.
Put your mind to it
I swear running is 30% physical and 70% mental. I’ve had many runs where the mental battle with myself – whether I can run a certain distance – is half the challenge!
Running further and further each week can be daunting, especially if it is the first time you have attempted such a distance. The key is to mentally prepare yourself for whatever your run will throw at you.
Some simple ways to break your run down so it seems less scary is to divide the distance into two and just think you’re doing two smaller runs. Another great way is to treat it as a distance that you can do or have previously completed, then add a little bit more on at the end. For example, run a 10k with a slow 3k added on at the end.
- Laura Norris Running has written a post on how to determine how many miles you should run per week.