Most runners want to know how to run longer distances without getting out of breath, so if you want to increase your endurance, you are not alone! The best way to increase your endurance and stamina is to run regularly.
You'll need to run consistently to see a difference in your fitness. However, while this advice seems simple enough, it's easier said than done. If you're ready to start improving your endurance and start becoming a better runner, this article was written for you!
Running Endurance and Stamina: The Basics
Running endurance and stamina mean similar things, which is why the two words are often used in place of each other. Here are the definitions of both words:
- Endurance - How the body transports oxygen to the muscles as it performs a particular activity
- Stamina - How well the body provides energy while carrying out movements at maximum, or near-maximum, capacity
At their core, endurance primarily involves time, while stamina involves effort. For instance, distance runners rely on endurance, as they aim to run at a manageable pace to run for a longer period. Sprinters, on the other hand, depend on stamina more, as they need to run fast to quickly cover a 200-meter distance.
Despite their differences, runners should train for both endurance and stamina.
Why are Endurance and Stamina Critical Running Factors?
Runners will see many benefits when they increase their endurance and stamina. Other than running, aerobic exercise, like cycling and swimming, can help you improve these fitness factors.
It's recommended that runners get, at a minimum, 150-minutes of aerobic exercise every week. Getting more than 150-minutes per week is related to better well-being overall.
Some of the health benefits that can occur after improving endurance and stamina are:
- Stronger heart and lungs
- Better blood circulation and a healthier circulatory system
- Better VO2 Max (aerobic capacity)
- Improved fitness level
- Decreased risk of certain diseases, including stroke, heart disease, and diabetes
Why is Consistency So Important?
As mentioned above, one of the best ways of increasing endurance and stamina is through regular training, consistently progressing as you do so. If you prioritize consistent training and progression, you're sure to see a difference in your aerobic capacity and muscle strength.
Aerobic capacity, also known as VO2 max, is how much oxygen your muscles can utilize while you run. Volume and training effort are both important factors when it comes to increasing your aerobic fitness.
You can start easily by getting in a few more runs in each week, but don't push yourself too hard. It's best to start with easier runs, then move on to sessions where you concentrate on speed. Try to get in 3 or 4 easy runs per week, lasting for half an hour or more.
Improving Your Running Speed
Once many runners have progressed past the beginning stage, and have reached a good fitness baseline, they start to concentrate on running speed. If this sounds familiar, remember that you should focus on increasing endurance before you aim to improve running speed.
A great way of improving running speed is through speed training, which can also help you improve your endurance and stamina.
We'll cover speed training in more detail below, as well as other tips that can help you run longer and harder.
6 Ways to Help You Run Longer and Harder
Gradually Increase Longer Sessions
If you want to start improving your endurance and stamina, you need to start adding longer runs to your training regimen. These should start to increase gradually as time goes on. Marathon and half marathon training regimens tend to start increasing distance little-by-little, over a few weeks.
Aim to increase your long runs by 5 to 10-minutes each time. If you prefer distance training, add 1/2-mile to a full mile each run instead. This gradual method will improve your fitness with a lower risk of injury.
For instance, one of your longer runs might be two miles long during your first training week. You would increase the distance of this run by a mile for the next week, running 3-miles for week 2 (Find out more in this article: Will Running Two Miles a Day Get Me in Shape?).
Improve Your Form
Many beginners don't focus on proper form when they run, but poor form can follow them as they progress as a runner.
Understanding the elements of good running form can help you avoid pain and injuries later on. Any issues like these usually stem from incorrect running technique.
It can be hard to picture what proper running form looks like, but here are some tips that can help you along the way:
- Don't look at the ground while you run. Keep upright and look straight ahead
- Raise your chin and keep your shoulders positioned slightly back
- Don't let your arms cross over, but keep them relaxed and at your side. This can help you avoid stiff muscles after you run
- Avoid over-striding. Your feet should hit the ground right under you hips, or just in front of you
- Don't lock your knees, but keep them bent softly. Allow your heels to rise up from behind
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As mentioned in the previous section, runners should focus on speed training once they have developed better aerobic endurance and stamina.
Once you've done this, you can start moving on to speed training. Speed training comes in three main varieties, which are:
- Interval exercises
- Tempo runs
- Fartlek exercises
Every one of these speed training styles can be altered for all types of runners, whether they are beginners or more experienced. Despite this, if you have never done speed training before, it's best to begin with tempo runs.
Tempo runs, which are sometimes called threshold runs, involve running at faster than your usual pace. These runs should feel slightly challenging, but not overly so.
You should be putting the effort in, but you shouldn't feel like you're going to collapse at any point. What you want to do is to run at a challenging pace that you can stick to for half an hour. Tempo runs are important to start increasing your running speed, particularly over greater distances.
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You can not begin running more often and over greater distances without the right fuel. If you don't eat and drink the best things for your body, you won't have enough energy to be a better runner.
Running requires energy, and as this energy is used up, it needs to be replaced. Food is the best way of doing this. As your endurance and stamina improve, you'll begin to need more and more carbohydrates than other people.
Runners should aim to get around 60% of their calories from carbohydrate sources. Don't take this to mean that you can eat everything that you want, but try to be aware of your daily carb intake.
If you have a long-running session ahead, eat a meal that's mainly carbohydrates, as this will give you enough fuel to run the distance. However, you need to make sure that these carbohydrates aren't from refined sources.
Refined carbohydrates are quickly digested by the body, so they won't give you enough energy for your run. This can lead to feeling tired, irritated, and incapable of finishing your session.
Here are some examples of refined carbs you should avoid:
- White flour
- White bread
- Sweet baked treats (cakes, cookies, pies, etc.)
- Sugary morning cereals
These examples have had their nutrients removed during the production process. This makes them more likely to rapidly raise your blood sugar. After this spike, your blood sugar levels will drop down again at a fast rate, causing an energy crash.
It's best to eat complex carbohydrates which have more nutrients in them. These carb sources will be higher in protein and fiber, so the body will take more time to digest them.
The higher fiber content also makes them more satiating, so you'll feel fuller for longer. This is especially important for runners who need a constant energy supply on longer runs.
Examples of complex carbs that you should keep in your diet are:
- Brown rice
- Wheat bread
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole oats (not instant or sugary)
- Sweet potatoes
Once you've finished your running sessions, make sure the rest of your meals have enough protein. This will repair the tissues and muscles to make them stronger.
Proper Recovery and Rest
Many runners are guilty of focusing on their workouts without giving rest and recovery days the same attention. If you're aiming to increase your endurance and strength, you'll be running longer distances to accomplish your goal.
As you take on more challenging workouts, rest and recovery become even more important to become stronger overall. A rest and recovery plan should involve good nutrition, flexibility training, and proper sleep.
You may also want to include foam rolling into your routine. This can help you loosen up any soreness felt after your training.
Mind Over Matter
Most runners will understand how running is primarily a mental workout. Of course, it's an amazing physical activity. However, if you don't have the right frame of mind, when it comes to completing particular distances, your mind can give up before your legs do.
Running greater distances every week can be an intimidating prospect, particularly if it's the first time you have tried to cover that distance.
You can counter this by mentally preparing for the challenges the run will involve. An easy way of doing this is by breaking your run into sections. For instance, breaking the distance into two runs will make it seem like you have to complete two smaller sessions.
You can also handle the distance by focusing on a length that you've already completed, then adding some more miles once you've finished. For instance, if you're attempting to run a 10-mile run, you could focus on running 8-miles, then simply run slower for the last two.
Improving Your Endurance
Improving your endurance and stamina will take time, but there are some simple things you can do to achieve faster results. However, it's important to remember to avoid overtraining, as this could lead to severe injuries down the road.
Warming-up may not seem that important, but a good warm-up session can change the outcome of your run for success.
Doing this will prepare your body for the workout by increasing blood circulation to your muscles. When done consistently, you'll get a better chance of increasing your stamina.
Cross-training exercises, such as swimming, yoga, and cycling, can help you increase endurance outside of your runs.
Try adding a cross-training session to your weekly running plan, and you should notice a difference.
Running increases your heart rate, but cooling down properly will gradually decrease it to a resting level, without shocking your body.
Cooling down also helps the muscles return to their previous state, helping to avoid injury and soreness later.
If you don't cool down properly, your muscles may become stiffer, leading to decreased performance in your runs later in the week. This can affect your progression, so your endurance may not improve as much as you'd like.