If you are looking to increase running stamina and endurance, then you’re not alone. Many runners look for ways to run for longer without stopping or getting out of breath.
The golden rule to increase running stamina and endurance is consistency. This means making running a regular habit.
But how do you actually increase running stamina and endurance? How does it all fit together on a day to day level and what are the best ways to increase it?
In this guide we’ll explore:
- What are running stamina and running endurance?
- Why are stamina and endurance so important for runners?
- Why consistency is key
- How to increase your running speed
- How to increase running stamina and endurance: 6 actionable tips
- 3 bonus tips on how to improve running stamina in 2 weeks
What are running stamina and running endurance?
Running stamina and endurance are closely linked in terms of definition and are often used interchangeably.
Here is what both terms mean:
- Stamina is defined as the body’s ability to deliver energy while performing a certain action at near or maximal capacity.
- Endurance is defined as the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to muscles while performing an action for an amount of time.
Essentially, stamina is about maximising output while endurance is about maximising time while performing an activity.
For example, sprinters rely more on stamina to get them through a 200m dash, whereas distance runners will opt for endurance, running at a slower, sustainable pace in order to run for longer periods of time.
Nevertheless, it is recommended that runners train both stamina and endurance for running.
Why are stamina and endurance so important for runners?
There are many benefits when you increase running stamina and endurance. Aerobic activities like running, swimming and cycling are all recommended to build your stamina and endurance.
Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. Exercising more than 150 minutes per week is linked to additional health benefits.
By building your stamina and endurance, you will:
- Strengthen your heart
- Strengthen your lungs
- Improve your circulation and keep your circulatory system healthy
- Improve your aerobic capacity (also known as VO2 Max)
- Improves your overall fitness
- Reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Why consistency is key
As I mentioned at the start of this guide, to increase running stamina and endurance, you need to train consistently and progress at regular intervals.
If you do both of these things, you can expect to see a improvement within 2 to 3 months.
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.
How to increase running speed
Running speed is something that many runners look to improve once they have achieved a good base level of fitness.
When it comes to increasing your running speed, remember that speed should always follow endurance.
In other words, work to increase running stamina and endurance before you focus on improving your speed.
Speed training is one of the best ways to increase running speed. In the next section of this guide I explore the best types of speed training to help you do this.
How to increase running stamina and endurance: 6 actionable tips
Incrementally increase long runs
It may sound obvious, but in order to increase running stamina and endurance, you need to be incorporating long runs into your training plan that increase incrementally over time.
Most half marathon and marathon training plans will build up distance slowly over a matter of weeks.
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.
For example, during week 1 of your training, your long run might be two miles. On week 2, you’d shift up to 3 miles, and so on.
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? Here are a few simple tips:
- Try not to look at the ground when running – keep your gaze upright and forward.
- Lift your chin and retract your shoulders back slightly.
- Keep your arms by your sides (try not to let them cross your body) and keep them relaxed to avoid stiffness.
- Don’t overstride – your foot should land under your hips or slightly in front of you.
- Keep your knees soft and bent and let your heels float up behind you.
Once you have built up your aerobic fitness and stamina and endurance, it’s time to incorporate some speed training into your training plan.
There are three main types of speed training:
All these forms of speed training can be adapted for any level of runner, from beginner to advanced.
However, 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.
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.
These types of runs are key to being able to improve your running speed, especially over longer distances.
Fuel your body properly
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
- Sweet desserts
- Sugary breakfast cereals
These types of foods 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 because they have more nutrients, they’re higher in fibre and they digest more slowly.
This also makes them more filling, which is a good option for runners who need sustained levels of energy on those long runs.
Here are some examples of complex carbs:
- Whole grains
- Brown rice
- Brown pasta
- Porridge oats
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole wheat bread
After each run make sure you are eating enough protein to help repair your muscles and tissues.
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.
Foam rolling is also a great way to loosen up sore and stiff muscles the day after a long run.
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.
3 bonus tips to improve running stamina in 2 weeks
Here are 3 bonus tips to build your stamina in less than 2 weeks:
- Warm up before each run. A good warm up really does set you up for success before a run. A warm up prepares your body for the run ahead and helps to increase blood flow to your muscles, which helps to improve your stamina.
- Incorporate cross training. Cross training activities like cycling, yoga and swimming are great ways to build your stamina and improve your overall fitness
- Cool down after each run. A cool down helps with recovery after each run and helps to prevent muscle soreness and injury.
More running endurance and stamina tips:
- 8 ways to run for longer without getting so tired
- How to run faster for longer: 5 top training secrets
- The ultimate beginner half marathon training plan
- 11 things I wish I’d known before running my first half marathon
- Laura Norris Running has written a post on how to determine how many miles you should run per week.